Artist and illustrator Zoë Jackson created our intriguing wintry-neighbours’ cover this month – very different, I thought, and was curious how it had come about. Zoë said she took our ‘Good neighbours’ theme, and ran with it.
“I wanted to explore the idea of friendship within this cover”, she said. “The idea that a community is built on neighbours working together and becoming friends. This is especially relevant to Lewes, I think,” she added, “as it has such a strong community feel.”
Zoë likes drawing people, anyway, she tells me – as all the examples on this spread show. She likes the way you can tell a whole story with a picture – what’s the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words? “My work is a lot about people”, she says, “and their stories, with narrative being an important element in all my illustrations.”
So how does she go about, technically, telling these stories?
“I’m very much a mixed media worker”, she says. “But most of my work follows a similar process: I start with an initial sketch, then work it into an inked drawing – I’m loving blue ink at the moment! I then add a few, key, hand-painted splashes of colour. From there, I finish the image off digitally – adding final colours, neatening up the edges, and making the odd finishing touch. So, there are four distinct stages to my usual process.”
I’m struck by the colours Zoë chooses – here, and elsewhere. How are they arrived at?
“My palette for this cover”, she tells me, “is my interpretation of the month of January: with those inevitable grey skies, and that post-Christmas lull alongside the brighter, springier colours of optimism and rejuvenation – of a brand new year unfolding.”
She explained how she arrived at them. “When I first started researching for my reference, I looked out vintage photos – those were my inspiration – and I loved the monochrome images of real people. I’ve tried to capture this by keeping those two neighbours and friends in grey tones, but also surrounding them with flashes of warm colour.”
Today Zoë lives and works in Eastbourne. She freelances as an editorial illustrator on magazines, books and blogs. “I’m currently working with a travel blog”, she tells me. “I also exhibit my work regularly, with a few recent Brighton exhibitions and at the Ink Paper Print Fair at Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery.”
She used to live in Lewes – including spending some time working in the Viva office, as well as producing a couple of lovely covers for Viva Lewes before (issues 81 and 89). She’s still “a very regular visitor” to the town, she says. “I miss my studio in the Phoenix Quarter, but must say my new studio is certainly warmer!”