Drawing Stories with Joanna Scott: 5 Minute Illustrator Interview

Drawing Stories with Joanna Scott: 5 Minute Illustrator Interview

Meet Joanna Scott

Joanna Scott has worked as an artist and illustrator for over twenty-five years. Her work has sold nationally and internationally for clients ranging from Shreds for Harrods and Selfridges to Halcyon Days Fine Enamels in Mayfair, ITV and MPD Designs for Paddington Bear & Co.

Her work in children’s books includes some of the biggest selling brands globally, and she has won a Purple Dragonfly Award for excellence in children’s literature. Joanna also works as an Art Director on publishing projects, enjoying collaboration and communication, working as part of the team, and leading where needed.

Her clients have included The World of Dinosaur Roar, fairy brand illustration for Dynamo Ltd/Orchard Books, Tom Mouse picture books, as well as poses and icons with Michelle Porte-Davies Design for Paddington Bear & Co’s Official Illustrated Brand Guide. She has worked on books for indie publishers, authors like Lynne Reid Banks, and unknown and upcoming writers.

Joanna is the Illustration Associate Expert for Fundamentally Children, creators of The Good Toy Guide.


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What do you love about your career?

I love the expression of art and illustration, how parts of yourself manifest through the drawings; I’m driven to draw, so doing it as a job is a dream come true. I enjoy creating illustrations for picture books in collaboration with the art director, graphic designers and sometimes the author; it’s an amazing process of giving birth to something bigger than any one individual. I like that illustration of a text adds another narrative for the viewer that complements the words but also has its own narrative. 

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Where do you go, or what do you do to find inspiration? 

I do like taking a sabbatical in Cornwall to do some oil painting or drawing of animals, flowers, sea and sky, and soak up the magic of the county. It’s a wild and beautiful place that gives me such inspiration. Also, I’d say just going and doing something in the arts that is completely different to publishing but is still storytelling, like an installation or issue-driven participation work. It clears your mind and gives you a new perspective to come back to book illustration.

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Who or what is your biggest artistic influence? 

Animals and the natural world have inspired me from the very beginning. I was brought up on a smallholding by my grandmother. She rescued a pit pony from the coal mines in Doncaster, and we called him Sun; he was white but had coal marks in his fur that wouldn’t come out. I always thought that was quite poignant… we also had goats and a donkey, loads of chickens, geese, guinea pigs, cats and dogs. You name it – they were all welcome. All were very much my friends and playmates as an only child; I’d draw stories about them as superheroes and villains! Animals inspire me to create, to close the gap between them and us, it’s not exactly a mission of mine, but it does come easily to me to show the humanity in animals, especially for children. We aren’t so different – animals and humans.

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You’ve won an award for your work in children’s literature. What is your favourite piece in your portfolio, and why?

I won an indie award, a Purple Dragonfly award, for an eBook I worked on with a client in Greece, who submitted it to the competition. I still like my Alice in Wonderland work, which were one-off pieces for the then Alice Gallery on St Aldates Street in Oxford, Lewis Carroll’s Old Sheep Shop site. I worked on a watercolour painting called ‘Hello Magazine Turn Up Unexpectedly’, which showed the White Rabbit trying to hide a giant Alice behind a curtain as he poses for the unexpected photoshoot… it’s a traditional/contemporary feel, one-off illustration, and it felt just right for the time of reality TV shows and the scrutiny of celebrity lives. 

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Not only are you a successful illustrator, but you have also appeared on TV demonstrating the wonders of your craft, and you run related workshops. Of all your achievements, of which are you most proud?    

Yes, I did a short stint on Create & Craft on Sky TV as a guest presenter to demonstrate drawing animal characters and watercolour painting. Breaking down the illustration into smaller shapes that you build up into a meaningful drawing was helpful for viewers. The drawing guide I created was a bit hit on the show. People want to know how to draw beautiful things by hand. It was fun and a bit nerve-wracking as it goes out live! I think, though, I am most proud of working on the illustrated brand guide for Paddington Bear with Michelle – again, the collaboration was fantastic and being part of Paddington Bear’s history means so much to me. He’s been interpreted many times over the years, and it was just lovely to be part of a new set of drawings of him, albeit for products as opposed to books.

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You are an experienced artist and illustrator; what advice would you give to someone starting a career as an illustrator?

I would say that the market for illustration changes swiftly; fashionable styles go in and out, so you must be adaptable. I’d also advise learning another skill, such as branding or coding. The Metaverse is going to be more and more important, animation and character-building software will be in demand, and I’d advise the next generation of illustrators to be ready for that. Keep your hand in with hand drawing, though, as it might become a lost skill!

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