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My name is Jago and I've been illustrating children's books since 2003, I live in Wadebridge in the county of Cornwall (it's the small bit of the UK that sticks out into the Atlantic, probably roughly the same size as a large US shopping mall…). I work from a studio in my house, which I share with my lovely wife Alex and delightful children; Lily Peach (6) and Rudy (2). I work entirely digitally, using a Wacom Cintiq, a couple of iMacs and an iPad (see here for the details) in a secret blend of the finest textures, papers and digital paints. I could tell you how I make each picture, but then I'd have to kill you.

I also lecture part time at Truro College, on a course called FdA Digital Visualisation - I teach them all about the wonders of drawing, and Photoshop.

When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?

After a quick change of direction from Archaeology to Art & Design at the age of 18, I enrolled on a 2 year Art & Design course. During this I found that I really liked some aspects of both Fine Art and Graphic Design, then lo and behold a lecturer told me about something called 'illustration" that sort of combined the two and I was hooked! 

Who do you look up to? Who are your heroes in the industry? 

Too many to mention but here's a random selection; Shaun Tan, Oliver Jeffers, Jon Klassen, Dave McKean, James Jean, Ashley Wood, Kent Williams, Chris Riddell, Vivianne Schwartz, Chris Stonehill, Lane Smith, Mandy Millie Flockton, Ward Jenkins, Bob Staake…. I discover more everyday which I think is inspiring and despair-inducing in equal parts!

Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?

I graduated from Falmouth Art College (now University College Falmouth) in 2003 with a 1st Class Honours Degree, and since then I've learnt an awful lot by being a freelance illustrator.

How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?

I read a lot of blogs, follow quite a few illustrators on Twitter and currently I'm finding some interesting things on Pinterest too. 

Image © 2012 Kar-ben. All right reserved.

Image © 2012 Kar-ben. All right reserved.

What are some of your current projects?

For the last 12 months I've been working on a book by Sally Lloyd-Jones (who I worked with previously on The Jesus Storybook Bible), it's called Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing and it's been a joy to illustrate. It contains 101 "daily devotions" each of which has an entirely different subject to illustrate. For me it was rather like being assigned 101 editorial illustrations (which is great!). The book will be out shortly on 9th October (there's a page about it here). I've also been working on several smaller projects for educational publishers in the US and I've completed a version of Jonah & The Whale called Oh No Jonah! which came out this August. I can't say too much at this stage but I've also been somewhat involved in the development of an iPad app which I'm quite over-excited about.

Image © 2012 Kar-ben. All right reserved.

Image © 2012 Kar-ben. All right reserved.

Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?

I'm usually the proudest of the work I've created most recently, so in terms of the look and feel of the illustrations I guess I'd have to say that Oh No Jonah! and Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing are my proudest achievements…so far. Having said this I am also inordinately proud of the fact that The Jesus Storybook Bible has now sold over 500, 000 copies and has been released in a multitude of editions and languages - I still can't really believe it.

Image © 2012 Kar-ben. All right reserved.

Image © 2012 Kar-ben. All right reserved.

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?

Many! I'd like to write my own children's book one day and I'm also very interested in graphic novels so I'd love to create one of those - I have a few vague ideas for something along those lines, but I never seem to have the time to get any further with them. I'm also trying to put together a few pieces of work for a sea-themed exhibition next year. I'd like to do some more work with iPad apps, I can see they could well be the future of mass market children's books. I'm intrigued by the potential of Decanter in making iPad app development accessible to illustrators too.

Image © 2012 Kar-ben. All right reserved.

Image © 2012 Kar-ben. All right reserved.

Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?

Draw, then draw some more (repeat; for years), seriously, drawing is the most important skill you will ever have and you will never be good enough at it, I still feel I'm held back as an illustrator by my own shortcomings as a draughtsman and I definitely don't make enough time to practice it. If you're not eating or sleeping, then why aren't you drawing? I think Ira Glass sums it up perfectly in this video.

Image © 2012 Kar-ben. All right reserved.

What makes a design or illustration successful?

The combination of all the elements in just the right mixture; composition, style, colour, line, content, originality - it's hard to put your finger on it but I think it has to have all those in just the right arrangement…. Of course in reality, all these elements have to be combined along with all the stipulations from the client and within the given deadline.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?

My mortgage keeps me motivated! I don't generally have a problem with motivation, I enjoy what I do. I also teach part time and although that is quite stressful in itself, perhaps it helps me avoid burn-out with the illustration work, I'm generally happiest when I've got plenty of illustration work to do. 

Finish this sentence. "If I weren't an illustrator I would have been a..."

...unsuccessful archaeologist, wishing I was Indiana Jones and being disappointed with the reality.

And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?

Actually I don't really watch TV (no time!), but Game of Thrones was pretty cool. Now if you'd asked me which iPad app was the most interesting….. (I think I have over 500 at the last count).

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