I recently caught up with busy Aberdeen based ‘Ink Evangelist‘ Johanna Basford, who kindly agreed to take some time out from her current project (Wonderbeasts) to answer a few questions for us about her new book ‘Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book‘.
Firstly, thanks Johanna for taking the time to do this interview. So, please tell us about your background and what you do?
I’m an illustrator and ink evangelist who prefers pens and pencils to pixels. I create intricate, hand drawn illustrations predominately, although not exclusively, in black and white.
Every piece I create starts life as a simple pencil sketch, evolving into a rambling pen and ink drawing usually spanning several sheets of paper. I love the tactile nature of the materials I use and the joy of smudgy fingerprints. My delicate hand inked designs intend to charm and delight, inviting you to peer closer and discover the hidden intricacies.
What motivated you to create ‘A Secret Garden’?
A love of flowers and drawing!
When you were creating the drawings for Secret Garden, how did you reference your subject matter, from books, out in the field, or memory?
My grandparents were both professional gardeners with the National Trust and I inherited their vast library of horticulture books. These are amazing references for all forms of botany, particularly in the winter months when things struggle to grow!
Most of what I draw is imagined. I never claim to be botanically accurate as this can get me into trouble! Instead I prefer to take different characteristics from lots of different plants, say a petal shape or a leaf pattern, then combine them to make an imagined botanical.
What was your methodology for creating the illustrations in ‘Secret Garden’?
Big sheets of paper, lots of pencils! I had a very rough page plan, but essentially I just stood at my desk, sketched in pencil, inked, then scanned to Photoshop. Every time I completed a page, I’d print it out and stick it on the wall. By the end, my studio was lined with the pages of the book!
What influenced your choice of publisher?
The lovely people at Laurence King approached me, not the other way round. They are a truly inspirational publishing house and make some of the most wonderful art and design books, so it was a huge honour that they wanted to work with me.
What inspired you to start the ‘Wonderbeasts’ project, and what are your feelings about having exceeded the funding goal by so much?
I love a bit of co-creation, it’s just inherently more fun and more challenging than sitting in the studio drawing by myself. I was amazed by the final funding total. It’s a wonderful feeling to know so many people have faith in you and want to be part of my little drawing project.
What are your hopes and fears for such a big undertaking?
I hope to make the best piece of work I’ve created to date ( I feel I owe it to my Kickstarter backers!).
I’m a little anxious about timing, there’s a lot to do and not much time to do it in, but that’s an ongoing battle which I’m sure I’ll overcome!
Also a little worried there may be some suggestions I’m not familiar with, there’s always someone who comes up with some obscure beast or extinct fish that I’ve never heard of. Thank goodness for Google!
What do you hope to be doing in five years time?
What and who are your creative inspirations?
It’s simply impossible to list all the things that have an effect on what I do, but as a rough little snippet I’d name: Lotte & Bloom Florist, Topiary, Taxidermy, Tattooists, Emily Hogarth, Banksy, William Morris, Tord Boontje, Ruth Tomlinson Jeweller, Escher, Gustav Klimt, Si Scott, Alex Trochut, Aubrey Beardsley, Saipua Florists…
When you are not fully occupied in drawing, what do you do for fun?
Walking studio pup – my little 4 pawed companion! Also lots of exercise (important if you are sitting at a desk all day) and cooking noodles in their infinite varieties.
What words of wisdom do you have for other aspiring artists and illustrators?
Be incredibly tough skinned.
Work as hard as you possibly can.
Johanna’s book can be purchased HERE from Amazon.
Book photography by me. Originally published in Artjunky.net.