Olly Walker from Ollystudio
We're most excited to announce the launch of Paris Sketchbook. (To find out more please click here)
To celebrate, author and illustrator Jason Brooks has been telling us a bit about his renowned style and how it all came about...
Why did you choose to become an illustrator and how did you get in to it?
I grew up avidly drawing and making pictures, and in my late teens was faced with a difficult choice between a degree in Fine Art or in Illustration. It was tough at the time, but I opted to study Illustration because I liked its potential to communicate with a wide audience in a direct and accessible way and I reasoned that I could always explore and create personal work alongside my more commercial artwork later on. This decision led me to London and St Martin's, which was then in Covent Garden, to study Graphic Design. This turned out to be a fantastic and very formative experience and I then went on to take an MA in Illustration at the Royal College of Art. While I was at college I began travelling widely, sketchbook in hand, and was lucky enough to get quite a lot of freelance work, including regular work with Vogue, so after graduating I was more than ready to become an Illustrator.
Which websites and blogs do you visit for inspiration?
It's quite an eclectic mix but I divide my online sources of inspiration between either looking further back in time or focusing on the most modern up to date things I can find.The retrospective sources include poster collections, vintage magazine archives, museum or auction catalogues, Sotheby's being my favourite, and antiquarian book websites like Peter Harrington. I also pore over all things modern and current in fashion and design through sites like Wallpaper, ffffound, Monocle, Coolhunting, Mr Porter, The Sartorialist and fashion brand websites. I also listen to a lot of audiobooks when I'm working. Alongside this I have quite a sizeable collection of books across one wall in my studio, so for Paris Sketchbook I not only spent a lot of time in Paris drawing but also assembled books relating to Paris – from photography books to novels. I don't really look at what other contemporary illustrators are doing overly because as an artist or illustrator these days it's so important to have an individual visual identity and really the best way to do that is to follow your own star.
How would you describe your illustration style?
My work is mainly very figurative although I love drawing interiors and locations too. I seek out what I find interesting, atmospheric, beautiful or appealing on some level and try to keep a sense of optimism about everything I do.The pictures I create are often based on experiences and observations of real life but I tend to depict a rather more glamorous and idealised world, combining my imagination with 'reality'. I often find making mental connections between different things that appeal to me an inspiring way of making something new. Technically I tend to switch media and styles quite a lot from using a computer to more hand drawn work, to collage and so on. I find this an interesting way to develop and try to improve what I do. It's a bit like a musician trying different instruments. With Paris Sketchbook I have used some of these different techniques and styles and I enjoy the process of reinventing my work from time to time. The common thread is perhaps the women I draw which I'm told have become a certain recognisable 'Jason Brooks woman'. Although not conscious or intentional, perhaps that's true.
Do you have a favourite illustration from your new book Paris Sketchbook?
It is difficult to choose because really the whole book was just such a pleasure to create and now holds so many happy memories of Paris, but I like the clarity of the small black and white drawings of figures on page 79. I'm exploring that look and technique further at the moment, going through a stage of paring things back to pure line. I also like the woman in the red hat on page 68 (Paris 68!) she is in a way the figure head of the book, a bit like 'Liberty Leading the People'!
How did Paris Sketchbook come about?
It all began at a Fashion Illustration Gallery private view on Cork Street, when my friend David Downton introduced me to Helen Rochester and Simon Gwynn from Laurence King.The conversation turned to what my own my dream publishing project would be and I (probably over enthusiastically) described a long held ambition of mine, to create a series of illustrated travel journals depicting different cities around the world, starting with Paris. A week or so later I was called in for a meeting with Helen where I took along some of my sketchbooks from travels to New York, Mexico and Guatemala and after submitting a detailed proposal, Paris Sketchbook was commissioned which, for me, was a dream come true.
What’s next for you?
I'm working with a big make-up brand at the moment which is a really interesting collaboration and have started work on the next book in the City Sketchbook series which I am really excited about, as well as dreaming where my travels and artwork might take me next.