For all its faults and frustrations, Instagram is truly a magical place. Over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to meet, connect and become “Insta friends” with so many interesting, talented and like-minded people from around the world, that perhaps I would never have been able to come to know without this visual and social portal that we all love so much. Artist and Fahsion Illustrator Jennifer Darr from Jen and Jennifer is one of those people that I have been fortunate enough to e-meet, I can’t exactly remember how I stumbled upon Jen’s Instagram account but a few scrolls, likes and comments later I fell in love with her whimsical illustrations and the joyful vibe her feed exuded. And it seems I am not alone, Jen has amassed a loyal and genuine following – or #fanclub, and the overwhelming support she has received demonstrates the impact platforms like Instagram can make. This exert was taken from one of Jen’s Instagram posts “I’ve needed to remind myself lately exactly why I use Instagram. It’s because of the kind souls that I’ve found in this community who constantly offer advice and support and bolster my confidence and creativity. It’s so I can share my art and encourage myself to create more and it’s to forge connections and friendships.”
Originally from Brisbane in Queensland, Jen has a degree in both Graphic Design and Fashion Design, she had been working in Fashion Retail, Production and Design for almost 10 years when she moved to London in 2014. At that point, she decided to take a break from the industry and luckily for her, she just sort of fell into illustration. “After moving to Melbourne last year, I finally made the switch to full-time freelancing and haven’t looked back!” I was lucky enough to do a little Q&A with this lovely lady and find out a little bit more about her new found passion.
Fashion is a reoccurring theme in your illustrations, when and why were you drawn to fashion?
I have a clear memory of sitting at the kitchen table when I was really young drawing and dreaming up beautiful gowns. I loved fashion and art from the get go – I even used to draw the outfits of all my favourite TV show characters, I probably went down the fashion instead of art route because it seemed more viable as a career! Fashion can have such a dramatic impact on our mood and self-esteem, It has always appealed to me that we can use this everyday thing and make something special from it.
Where do you find the inspiration for your illustrations?
Everywhere! A lot is just from keeping my eyes open and watching the world around me. I love Instagram and Pinterest of course but old fashion magazines, art galleries, runway shows, film, TV or music lyrics also inspire me. My best cure is to get outside and into the real world. Working from home can close off inspiration, and there’s only so much screen time this girl can handle! I love wandering my local area or catching the tram into the city to check out an art gallery or unexplored laneway.
Going through your Instagram, I am lusting all the beautiful things you have illustrated. What items are currently on your “to do” illustration list?
I have a list a mile long! In fact, I now keep a Pinterest board purely of things I want to draw. It’s so hard to keep up! Each day I add something new, whether it’s from the latest runway or an inspiring photo I’ve come across.
What is your illustration process?
I have two main styles that I currently illustrate in; watercolour or ink sketches. However, both methods generally start the same. If I’m working on a custom portrait, for example, I do plenty of research on my subject and gather as many photographs as I can so I feel like I really know what they look like. I then do a rough pencil sketch to map out the important features before laying down the ink or colour. I then scan my illustrations, this is because I only generally work on A4 paper, so digitally I can make prints in either larger or smaller sizes from the original, depending on what the client prefers.
Jen and Jennifer recently collaborated with luxury handbag brand X NIHILO and the outcome was incredible – see more here! “This was definitely one of those projects that seemed a little more play than work, and as I actually began my career in Fashion design, merging illustration and Fashion has always been a happy place for me.” Jen created three one-of-a-kind bags by adorning each one in her signature charming and whimsical style by painting on the leather. “I wanted to create a series that reflected my style and my current work but also, of course, something that I would myself love to wear. The inspiration behind the three bags was the idea of a ‘midnight garden’. I tend to collect things in my handbag, things I pick up and forget about, trinkets or ticket stubs, even leaves or flowers, it can become a bit like a memory box if I let it! So I liked the idea of painting a collection of memories or objects directly on the bags. This ended up being a mixture of the kind of creatures and flowers you’d find on a wander through a garden at night and the feeling that would evoke. Something a little bit charming and nostalgic but above all beautiful.” Very sadly the bags are not for sale, but hopefully, this is an opportunity for the future!
Do you have any tips for anyone who might want to quit their day job and fully delve into their passion?
Being your own boss is a rollercoaster, but I love it. For anyone thinking of doing the same I’d just say make sure you are absolutely driven to succeed and truly love the thing you do. It takes a lot of hard work and motivation to succeed as a full-time freelancer so there has to be an underlying passion that will drive you on the down days.
Sadly Jen is leaving our shores and relocating back to London for some new adventures – lucky. Due to Jen and Jennifer HQ relocating the online print shop will be closing on June 30th but the silver lining is she is having a SALE, free shipping Australia wide, flat rate $20 internationally and some extra special for The Essentialist readers, use the code WINTER10 at the checkout for 10% off – so get shopping here. Once Jen is settled into her new English studio, she will begin to accept commissions and selling prints, stay tuned by following Jen and Jennifer on Instagram.