Illustrator and ‘ink evangelist’ Johanna Basford has created designs for book covers, albums, Absolut Vodka, H&M, Channel 4 and more. She’s just launched the gorgeous The Secret Garden An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book (Laurence King), a reason for grown-ups to wield their felt-tips again, see a little video about it here. It’s inspired by the flora and fauna that surrounds her home in rural Scotland.
What’s your studio like? Light and airy. I don’t like clutter so I try to keep my desk clean – when you’re working with pens and pencils and large sheets of paper you need room to move elbows etc.
We live in a converted farm in the country and the studio has large windows that overlook the surrounding fields. I’ve got a big desk, lots of pens and pencils and of course my scanner and laptop for doing the final digital tweaks to the drawings (usually erasing tea splashes and smudgy fingerprints).
I don’t like to throw away drawings, so I’ve got a two plan-chests stuffed to breaking point with every drawing I’ve made in the last five years. My extensive pen collection takes up several plastic storage boxes stacked up in one corner. I’ve got hundreds, but you can never have too many.
What was your big break? The credit crunch! Prior to being an illustrator I had a small silkscreen printing studio where I made handprinted wallpapers. I sold to high end hotels and commercial spaces (luxury boutiques etc) but when the credit crunch hit, those nice juicy interior design budgets dried up and no-one wanted hand crafted wallpapers anymore.
My only choice was to close the studio and focus on something else. I’d always loved the drawing part of the design process, so it made sense to concentrate on this and make my living from doing the thing I loved.Worked out pretty well in hindsight, thank goodness for those naughty bankers!
Describe your working process? You can watch a little video about my process here.
What are your designs applied to? Everything and everything from packaging, websites, billboards, skin, textiles, glass, fabrics, lighting, book covers, fashion, cars, iphone aps, editorial, furniture, security gates, handbags, ceramics… I’ll stick a drawing on pretty much anything (see below).
Is there another creative person that you admire? I adore the work of Sarah from Saipua. Her gorgeous floral arrangements make my heart melt and are the living version of what I aspire to capture in my own work. I would love to spend an afternoon in her garden with her.
What’s your favourite piece of design? I love the labels on Hitachino Nest beer from Japan. You simply can’t go wrong with happy little owls.
As well as illustrating I’m also pretty good…at baking gingerbread men.
What are you working on right now? ‘Wonderlands’, my first solo show at the DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts). I’m creating a comepletely new body of work which will allow people the enter into and wander around my black and white inky world. I love the idea of ‘tumbling down the rabbit hole’ and finding yourself in a surreal new world, filled with giant inky forests, crazy cuckoo clocks, an inky ship at sail and a huddle of tattooed bodies.
In another life I’d be a florist.