Jill Calder





2010 - IMAGES 34

Based in Fife, Scotland, Jill Calder has been working as an Illustrator since 1993. She is also a calligrapher, painter, digital artist and occasional lecturer with a love of drawing, ideas, colour, ink, texture, typography, book-binding, sketchbooks and yes, deadlines. Jill aims to combine traditional and digital image-making methods as seamlessly as possible to create her illustrations. 

She recently finished her first picture book about Robert the Bruce and is working on her first graphic novel. 

Her clients include Visa, The New Yorker, Billabong, Penguin, Siemens, The Royal Brompton Hospital and Benromach Whisky.

“Winning these awards has been lovely. Its great to see not just my work but the projects they are part of get recognition too. Also, I get to put Award winning illustrator’ in front of my name, which is fun.”


BRIEF: Garden Detectives was a special exhibition put on by The National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh and also in the museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride. It was designed to encourage children to explore and discover the plants and wildlife in their own garden. This was a big project with illustration designed to fit on large wall spaces, interactive built environments as well as for the accompanying printed material for promotion of the exhibition.

I was asked to create illustrations that were colourful and loose, but also accurate when depicting plants and animals as this exhibition had an educational purpose too! I drew everything from a single earthworm to the 8 metre wall illustration of a bucolic garden scene, which is what received the AOI award.

MATERIALS: I draw pretty much everything with ink on paper (Fabriano preferably but I'm not too fussy) to start with and then all these sheets of drawings get scanned and the whole set of illustrations are built in Adobe Photoshop. I like to blend pixels and paint without the joins showing.

RESEARCH: Spending quite a lot of time looking and drawing in my own garden! The National Museum of Scotland collections were a pretty big source of inspiration too, including a stuffed badger.

PROCESS: The process always involves a burst of piling lots of layers of drawings together, adding colour and being quite intuitive about bringing the whole piece together. Then there is a period when I don't look at the initial effort so I can go back and start to edit and move drawings/layers around and see more clearly what else is needed or what to bin. The big wall illustration actually came together quite quickly, I think because it was a collection of quite loose, inky drawings that all worked well together in whatever composition I tried them in.

RESISTANCES: Drawing the less colourful birds and beasties…initially. Then I realised they have their own beauty and charm. Ok, maybe the earthworm wasn't the most thrilling thing to draw.

INSIGHT: That illustration really can be used and applied anywhere, at any size and have a transformative effect on any environment - it was quite an exciting realisation when I saw the work in situ and witnessed so many people, young and old, really enjoy being in that space in the Museum. 

DISTRACTIONS: My house and studio were getting renovated at the time of doing this project and so not only did I have a less than ideal workspace but I had builders interrupting me all the time. I remember my computer kept crashing too, due to some of the file sizes I was working on! Not stressful at all, no.

NUMBERS: For this project I had 7 folders on my Mac, containing a total of 18 sub folders, containing a total of 483 sheets of drawings, tests and final artwork, weighing in at 24.01GB.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This project was a game changer for me. It stretched me as an illustrator and I got involved in all sorts of other large-scale illustration projects as a result. It was a belter of a project to be part of!

Calder Calder