"...seeing how many people were there and interested on opening night was awesome, such great feedback, and genuine interest in everyone's work. I found it to be a fun and energetic exhibition to be involved in as I know others felt as well. "
The first time I met Jody Pratt, RB artist and President of Illustrators Australia, she was busily working at the Wear Art Thou opening. Wear Art Thou was a collaborative exhibition featuring Redbubble and Illustrators Australia artists at No Vacancy Gallery in Melbourne, Australia. You can see our round up of the launch night here.
Jody took some time out of her extremely busy freelancing life to discuss Wear Art Thou, Illustrators Australia, and her own artwork with us. Please share your thoughts and comments on Jody’s wonderful work in the comments below.
Congratulations on the exhibition! It was truly wonderful. Could you sum up, or describe, the motivations for Illustrators Australia to have exhibitions like Wear Art Thou?
IA is a not for profit association, we are not an agency. We help Australian and New Zealander illustrators to promote themselves throughout the industry and to the public. All our members are illustrators and we are run by illustrators (including myself), so our hearts are passionate when it comes to illustration and promoting our members. Exhibitions like Wear Art Thou are about promoting the enormous talent of these illustrators. We love the opportunity to have an exhibition, there are not many specific illustrators exhibitions around and it gives us a chance to show that there are many dimensions to illustration, including editorial, advertising, design, packaging, animation, cartooning, typography, and many more that don’t often come into the public arena. Illustrators relish an opportunity to work outside a brief, on a project in their own style and of course to try their hand at something different to just print media.
How long have you been president of IA? And how has IA grown since you’ve been president?
IA has been running since 1989 but it was decided that paying an admin instead of relying on volunteers all the time would help the association grow. I took over the administration of the office in 2008, a one person job with a volunteer committee on hand. We now have an office space at the Abbotsford Convent, beautiful views out of the window and lovely area. We are limited in office hours, I am part time, 16 hours per week and we now have another member Elena Leong helping 5 hours per week, there is a lot to do in a short amount of time, we work hard and we have volunteers and an awesome committee to help to keep up new and fresh ideas to promote and keep us growing, we hold at least one exhibition per year, a seminar, workshops, and periodically hold illustration awards and print resource books, something we are keen to keep going, we also launched the IA Pocket app last year which is exciting (you can download from App Store now)! I took over as President in 2013 as well as continuing with the administration but it is only through the ongoing dedication of the committee and members that we keep everything running and grow as an association.
I see that you’re a very talented freelance illustrator and designer yourself – what’s the highlight and lowlight of being a professional freelancer?
I have a Diploma of Visual Arts (illustration) and am currently studying a Bachelor of Visual Culture (art history) – I am an illustrator but would say nowadays I tend to paint more, exhibiting at galleries and doing private commissions, so I guess I consider myself more of a painter now. I don’t say no to illustration work (only of course when there is very little money offered) but I do like the freedom of painting what I like.
I guess the best thing about freelancing is deciding the jobs you will take on, the flexibility of hours, the fun of creating and getting to know other like minded creatives. There is definitely a downside unfortunately, and that is without a doubt clients wanting you to work for next to no money, or – the old line “but it will be great exposure for you,” there is no point having exposure if it leads to no financial rewards. We all want our work promoted of course, it’s all part of being a commercial artist but it is a career. I love working as an artist and helping other artists around me, they inspire me constantly.
Can you talk about the role of whimsy in your work? How long has this style of wonder, awe-filled energy, or imagery been used? Did you notice a time when your style developed quickly to be what it is today?
I love mixing illustration and painting to produce a certain style that’s unique to me, but it’s hard to know when this has been achieved. I am always wanting to develop more as an artist of course, I will be doing that forever. My first recollections of art was indigenous artwork, which I was taught a bit about when I was a kid by a lovely lady Myana, and it was my first introduction to a swirly pattern style unique to the area of Amata. It involved grounding the earthy coloured pigment, painting patterns, the smell of it was magic and it has stuck with me. My mum also loved art history (we had shelves full of books!), she was also an oil painter. I paint and draw what makes me happy, I love nature, so I paint it, I can hear the birds in paintings talking to me, I hear the wind blowing through the trees, that’s what I like. I like to escape from the real world into my world of nature and if I take a few others with me then all the better.
"It's very hard work and you must keep promoting yourself constantly, it's not as simple as just drawing a couple of nice illustrations, it's a business, a career and has to be treated as such - but it's also a lot of fun and can be rewarding in so many ways."
What do you wish everyone knew about freelancing as an illustrator and designer? Are there any myths or misconceptions about what you do?
Not every illustrator is a cartoonist or children’s book illustrator. There are many different kinds of illustration, it is everywhere, so keep an eye out for it.
It’s very hard work and you must keep promoting yourself constantly, it’s not as simple as just drawing a couple of nice illustrations, it’s a business, a career and has to be treated as such – but it’s also a lot of fun and can be rewarding in so many ways.
And lastly, what was your favourite part of the Wear Art Thou exhibition? What do you think worked brilliantly? What made it (hopefully) a success to you?
I think seeing how the exhibition came together, the staff at Redbubble were so positive and energetic which helped enormously. IA usually has to go these things alone so collaborating was a great experience.
Personally as an artist, seeing how many people were there and interested on opening night was awesome, such great feedback, and genuine interest in everyone’s work. I found it to be a fun and energetic exhibition to be involved in as I know others felt as well. The tees hanging around in the open space was a great idea I think, and everyone enjoyed seeing work in a different format too, it made the exhibition a really interesting space to be in. The success for me was the feedback, people found love in different designs for all sorts of reasons (as art should be) – the IA members that participated loved it and it has opened up other opportunities for them to show and sell their art on other platforms and products. Anything that promotes our wonderful world of illustration and illustrators is a success.