When chatting with Jenny Nightingale one can’t help being impressed by her work, confidence and future prospects. She has mapped out a great career as an illustrator, has some very happy clients and her work is loved by children and adults alike. I’m not jealous…honest.
Jenny grew up on the Isles of Scilly enjoying a lovely childhood on the beaches of St Mary’s before heading to the mainland aged 16. “I only left the Isles of Scilly to come away to college,” she says. “It was a GNVQ in Art and Design at Camborne followed by an HNC in Illustrations and Graphic Design at Falmouth.”
It seems that from an early age Jenny caught the art bug and has never wanted to shake it off. “I love art, it was my favourite subject at school. There were other subjects I enjoyed such as childcare, but art was a favourite.” she explains. “Art was something I excelled in. I was always colouring or painting and entering art competitions. I also loved the fetés on the Isles of Scilly and the water festivals. It was obvious that art was a route I was going to go down.”
Thankfully Jenny stuck to the route. “As you grow up, it’s usual to have a lot of different ideas about what you want to do, but I knew it was going to be something creative. I thought about Graphic design and interior design,” says Jenny. “I didn’t really know about illustration or what it was when I was a teenager. It was only when I went to college and did general art and design that I discovered something called illustration.”
Jenny went on to do a degree in illustration at Falmouth University back in 2000. “The tutors were all professional illustrators. You came to the course knowing how to draw and paint but your skills get honed and I got to develop my own style.”
Another aspect to the course that Jenny enjoyed was the business practice element. “They (the tutors) were all doing illustration work for clients so I got to learn that side of things. This was really useful, as I’m not a natural business person and this all gave me a foundation to help me run my own business. I’d done a bit of business studies at school, but it wasn’t my forte.”
After her degree Jenny, like many former students, she went off travelling to Australia, New Zealand and America. “At that time I’d not had any major thoughts about setting up my own business,” she says. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.”
Whilst she was travelling Jenny was inspired by a lot of the artwork she saw. “I thought I could actually do this. So whilst I was away I began with a range of illustrations for gift products for Isles of Scilly,” explains Jenny. “Things like mugs and mousemats and activity books, tea towels and postcards those kinds of things…that was my first range. I moved back to the Isles of Scilly after travelling.”
All Jenny’s art work starts in her sketchbook. “I’m very keen to draw everything by hand in pencil. I like to develop my characters there, but I’ve developed a style where I can scan in the art work and then re-draw it using the computer,” Computers are very much a part of the process for Jenny and her art. “I really love the brightness and range of colour. I also like the way I can manipulate the lines of the drawings. I can then choose the size of digital file to email to my clients where ever they are, whether they are in America, Honk Kong or Mexico…”
Jenny’s clients get to give feedback on the sketched works and their feedback helps the direction of the work: “I then develop the final piece using the computer.”
Following Jenny developing the Isles of Scilly gift products her profile grew and now many of her clients are leisure industry based. “One of my current clients is an aquarium business. They’ve got seven aquariums and there’s a guide book for each one. Each of which uses my illustrations. I’ve also created maps of the individual sites,” Jenny says. “My work tends to work well with children, they’re possibly my main audience, not exclusively, but they like the bright colours and illustrations.”
I’ve also worked with publishers like Macmillan Education, who I originally worked with about seven years ago. They’ve commissioned some new work for a series for pre-school nursery aged children. The book’s intention is to help teach basic literacy.”
From the education based products to the leasure guides Jenny’s work always looks fun and bright and breezy. “I use two techniques in my work. One is, as mentioned earlier, where I do my sketchwork, then scan and transfer the images to the computer,” she describes. “The other technique, which creates a textured background, is something I call gum and ink. This creates a texture behind the characters. I particularly like this technique as it gives the work some depth.”
It is always good to see a plan come to fruition and see an artists hard work pay off. Some want their work to appear in the swankiest of galleries and others like Jenny seem to thrive in public and commercial world. Watching the growing smile of a child as they look at one of Jenny’s characters is a sight not often seen in the world of gallery based art.
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