Folio illustration agency, established London 1976

In the Studio: James Gilleard

Leeds, England

Combining texture with an angular, graphic style, as well as a keen eye for form, James Gilleard’s work transports the viewer to a world that is at once nostalgic and futuristic.

His background in the game and production industries built up a keen and variable skill set in animation, character, and environment design that makes him an ideal choice for a variety of briefs, be it animation, editorial, advertising, or publishing.

In the Studio: James Gilleard 8
Describe your working style in five words…

Retro, Colourful, Fun, Detailed, Precise.

How do you feel being part of an agency represented as a freelance illustrator has helped with your work to date?

I consider it the start of my illustration career, previously I worked as an artist for games companies or production companies focusing more on animation, character design, environment design and user interface for online games and websites. A lot of this was using a pre-determined style that many artists would have to work in. I wanted to do something more unique and so took the time off to work on my portfolio with a view to getting an agent – and it worked!

Since then I have had many great commissions that I would not have had without Folio, and certainly if I did get them I would not get nearly the same amount of money that Folio can. They also deal with the clients, which is a huge plus when – like me – you just want to get on with the colouring in.

When for you do illustrations hold more strength than words?

To be honest – always. I have not read a straight fictional novel in some time. I only read non-fiction and graphic novels, I guess this must have something to do with the pictures in both.

How do you feel you personal work feeds into and influences your commissioned work?

I haven’t done much personal work lately but I really want to start getting back into it, I have so much-unfinished personal work! Personal work is a time to play around and experiment, but I think more importantly for me – you can take your time. I need a time to go away and think about things then come back and work on a problem rather than sit at my computer and try and force it.

It also allows playing with time, which is vital for moving your work forward. Once you have a few pieces headed in this new direction you can apply the process to commissioned work. I also have recently found it a good idea to keep personal work going all the time while doing commissioned work as it helps me to become motivated. I will always start the day by working on something personal for an hour or so before moving to a commission, and end the day by doing the same. This is if time allows of course.

Working within illustration and creativity can have its highs and lows. What are your three constraints and three motives to work during the day?

For a period of about a month up until two weeks ago was definitely motivation. I go through increasingly bigger highs and lows with illustration and think I just came out of a dip, in which I couldn’t get started with anything at all, whatever I tried. I’m pretty sure this was due to a horrible situation with a client recently and it stopped me from wanting to work.

Getting bored with certain projects can be a bit tough, if you don’t agree with style choices or the art direction a client is pushing and feel you are not being used properly it can lead to being bored of a project very quickly.

Money used to big motivator for me. Recently though, I have been less bothered and just want to get good work out of a project – it rarely happens that I am happy with a commissioned piece.

I have a kind of big picture dream that I would like to realize – which is definitely my main motivation.

Who and what keep you inspired?

Difficult to say – so much stuff. I am quite obsessed with the 50s, 60s and 70s – art, design, cars, architecture, fashion, science, film etc. I try to feed whatever I find into my work.

Tell us one thing about yourself that not many people know…

I have just over 130 vintage shirts.

Pick three things that are most valuable to you in your working studio and explain to us why you have chosen those and what story there is behind them.

My bookshelf contains all my favourite reference books on illustration, design, architecture, animation etc. I use it everyday. It also has all my toys on it.

Computer – After I have photographed my sketches, everything is done in Illustrator, Photoshop or After Effects. Access to the internet and music!

My pencil case houses a wealth of beautiful pens and pencils that my wife’s father bought me from Japan. I top it up every time I go back.