This week Brighton Journal spoke to Juliette Rajak, a Brighton-based illustrator who’s currently writing and illustrating her own children’s book. After completing her MA in Illustration at Brighton University, Juliette helped to form Fabula Collective and has since had her work exhibited with the group internationally. Juliette is dedicated to running her own art club for children, as well as being an artist for a charity that encourages the elderly to engage in creative activities. We discussed Juliette’s MA project, designing wine labels, and how walks along Brighton beach are a great way to spark the imagination. Take a look at her wonderful work.
What are you doing today?
In the morning, I am working as an artist for HenPower, a charity which helps older people in care homes to engage in creative activities and look after hens. We bring the hens into our art sessions too! Today we’re decoupaging picture frames and painting using water colour pigment powder.
I get back around lunchtime and go to my studio to continue sketching illustrations for a children’s book character that I’m working on.
In the late afternoon, I run an art club for children aged 7-10 yrs. It’s a great way to be creative even for those who don’t think they’re particularly arty. Today we’re decoupaging soap!
Describe where you do most of your creative work.
I do most of my work in my studio that I share with nine lovely creative people. I also work a lot at home in my study which has lots of natural light. I often do my best work very late at night as it’s so quiet and there are no distractions.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?
After I completed my MA in illustration, a group of us formed the Fabula Collective. We exhibited work in China, Korea, Hove Museum and around Brighton in open houses, the Jubilee library and the Hifest illustration fair.
I also won a competition to design a wine label which was fabulous. I was sent a crate of wine with the design and luckily the wine itself was delicious.
What made you decide to become an artist?
Growing up as an only child meant that I spent a lot of time on my own. As a result, I spent hours drawing, colouring and painting. I didn’t ever think it was an option to become an illustrator or an artist but I knew that I wanted to do something creative. I worked as an advertising creative for a while and although it was really fun and interesting, it didn’t ever give me the creative freedom that I wanted. I then re-trained and achieved an MA in Illustration at Brighton University. I created a children’s book and met a really talented group of artists who later formed the Fabula Collective.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve just finished working on a children’s book for a Canadian author and I’m embarking on writing and illustrating my own children’s book. I have a rough idea of the story but I need to edit it and determine how it will end. I am also working on the appearance of the main character.
What are the key themes in your work?
I’m not sure that I have key themes but my style is usually quirky and fun. The children’s book I completed for my MA was about a girl shrinking to the size of a germ. I like strange worlds and exaggerating reality. I am happy experimenting in different mediums and I think the colour and texture of a background is important too.
What would you like people to notice about your work?
I hope people find it fun and imaginative.
What attracts you to the medium you work in?
I hand draw all my illustrations with oil based pencils which create a strong black line instead of a silvery shiny one like most pencils. I was told that once you change to these drawing pencils, you won’t want to use any other pencil. They were right! I like to scan my drawings in and work on them using Procreate.
What equipment could you not do without?
My Faber Castell Pitt oil base pencils, tubes of water colour or gouache and some sable brushes. I also love my light box which is built into my desk at home. Digitally, I enjoy using Procreate on my iPad Pro. There are so many fabulous brushes to choose from.
Who or what inspires you?
I’ve recently been really inspired by Seng Soun Ratanvanh. Her illustrations are bursting with colour and pattern. I’m drawn to strong colour combinations and intricate patterns and designs. I love Louise Lockhart’s work too, especially in her books. Her colour choices are fabulous.
How is your work affected by living in this area?
I love living by the sea and winter seascapes create the most subtle and mesmerising shades of blue and grey. Walking by the sea helps me think creatively. Looking out onto an endless horizon feels very freeing and ideas often come more easily at this time.
There are so many illustrators and artists in Brighton which is great but can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I am constantly being inspired by talented artists and new work but it is equally harder to stand out in a place that is saturated with gorgeous and interesting art.
What’s your favourite thing to do locally?
One of my favourite things is going to Florence Road market on Saturday morning. It always has such delicious foods to try and there are lots of other unusual stalls too. There’s a lady that makes great handmade soap and shampoo bars. I often go there to buy bread and come back with all sorts of other treats I can’t resist!
I also love visiting the rockery opposite Preston Park. It’s looked after so beautifully and has a pond with fish, turtles and sometimes frogs. It’s a magical place especially in the spring and summer when all the beautiful flowers are in bloom.
What’s your favourite gallery (or place to see/experience art)?
I’ve always liked the Wellcome Collection as it has such thought-provoking exhibitions and prompts me to think differently. One of the current exhibitions explores how we play from young to old.
If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be and why?
It has to be Charlie Harper but I also love Britta Teckentrup for her beautiful simplicity. I also like the way she uses textures and layers colours. Both artists have a fabulous combination of being quirky but using scrupulously clean lines.
What’s your favourite colour?
Dark teal but I do also love yellow and the two of them together work very well.
To find out more about Juliette and her work, take a look at her website.