on a Scottish farm
dreaming of Japanese Gardens
An abandoned barn, free range pigs and the Pentland Hills… sounds more like a alternative weekend retreat than the home of an emerging artist but not for this illustrator and designer in Edinburgh. Sharing his studio, a small wood burner and sketchbooks on top of rustic furniture. We caught up with Jack about his journey, art influences and work
co-establishing Free Company seasonal restaurant.
"My interests within drawing are all about pursuing a good idea.
I usually feel that when my mind settles on an idea that I want to create I won’t feel relaxed until I have drawn it out at least roughly.
I constantly have about four sketchbooks on the go and a myriad of loose pieces of paper floating about my studio. I get really fidgety if I haven’t drawn for a bit as I have always felt its the continuation of whatever thoughts I have going on in my head."
"I feel that my biggest influence as an illustrator has always been Herge, his Tintin stories and illustrations will always be my favourite of all time. I used to and still do spend ages pouring over his drawing working out exactly how he drew specific things. In recent years though people who’s work I like are Jesse Balmer, Jesse Moynihan, Connor Willumsen and Thomas Herpichs."
Whats your favourite work from Herge?
"My favourite work by Herge would be a toss up of the Destination moon and Explorers on the moon books or Tintin and the Black Isle, for obvious reasons. The two books Destination Moon and Explorers on the moon both are just amazing visually and story telling wise but always had a soft spot for Tintin and The Black Isle not only due to setting but also because of Ranko the Gorilla. Maybe Seven Crystal Balls as well but purely for the reason at how much that book scared me as a kid. Rascar Capac is nightmare fuel."
"I saw two people working hard at what they love and making a living off of it. Being able to experience that first hand from my parents helped me take my illustration and design practices seriously from a young age which really helped."
Whats your personal journey into art
"My personal journey really starts with my mum. She is an illustrator and designer herself. Really, from a young age, I was encouraged to create by her and the rest of my family and since then I haven’t really stopped."
How did your parents encourage you?
"Really the biggest encouragement I got from my mum (and dad) was on a day to day level. If I can take a tangent for a second I think the way art and creativity is viewed by schools (at least from my experience) isn’t the greatest. It can be viewed as a “soft subject” whatever that means. Or an easy grade etc. and peoples creativity gets railroaded into more “useful” subjects unless you have an exceptional teacher who encourages you and helps nurture your interests. Creativity isn’t about drawing nice pictures, its a mindset. That’s what I got from my mum and also my dad.
Both of them being creative, it just seemed like the obvious thing that I should be trying to be creative myself. It was their jobs to create so from a young age I never saw it as a “soft subject” or “easy grade” both my parents worked hard at making a living from the creative industry, enough so to put both me and my sister through school so it gave me a very special point of view early on."
"The King Rot special edition was completely inspired by seeing a Japanese fungus garden when I visited Kyoto. I was so taken with how weird it was that I wanted to make an image that expressed that strange little rot world i’d seen. "
You seem to really like Japan, and you had a recent trip there, what was it like?
"(Laughs), yes I do really like Japan. I have been there a few times and each time I always get something new from it. I think the biggest appeal about Japan is just how different and far away it is from Scotland. Don’t get me wrong I love Scotland but its just nice to go somewhere that is so far flung from your norm every once in a while. It is a refreshingly jarring perspective change.
The first thing I ever fell in love with Japan for was its prints and textiles, from woodblock prints to silk kimonos. I remember my grandfather coming back from a trip over there when I was younger, heaving with amazing little printed pieces of paper and odd textiles. I just loved the craftsmanship and attention to detail that they have over there. When they make something they really pour their attention into it which shows everywhere when you visit.
The culture is a really interesting one, the majority of it I don’t understand but I think that adds to my fondness of it. I like just being involved in somewhere even if I have no clue what is going on and all of this is very much helped by nearly every Japanese person being amazingly patient with me as I tried to muddle my way through places. They are fantastically forgiving for morons like me who think they have just sat down at a ramen restaurant only to be very nicely and politely told by a Japanese grandmother that I am sitting in her living room. I wake up at 3am some night still cringing about that."
How has the trip informed your future work?
"I think it has given me a stronger yearning to understand more about traditional printing methods. After seeing Japanese Ukiyo-e prints I would one day really like to become proficient in Woodblock printing."
How did you come to form your current style?
"I don’t really know. I don’t even know if I have particularly settled on a specific style. I just really like drawing and whatever ends up on the page that I am happy with is what I create I suppose. I’ve never been too stressed about having a particular style and sticking to it, really as long as I like what i’ve made then that is good enough for me."
What inspires your to make make the work you do?
"The inspiration really comes from whatever I have experienced personally on a day to day level, ranging from things I see, to things I hear, eat, touch, read or smell. It can all come together to make something if i’m interested in it."
What are you looking forward to making with 2019?
The thing that excited me the most is finally having the time to create larger projects. The past two years has been spent (really enjoyably) setting up Scotlands only fully Seasonal Restaurant and Design House called 'The Free Company’ with some friends. Now that a lot of the back breaking and nitty gritty parts of setting up this project have now been done i’m looking forward to creating large projects for the Design House as well as myself.