An interview with Joanne Taylor

Over the last 2 year I have spent many hours on a site called graphicriver a place for selling design templates of all sorts, it is a great place with many talented authors so I have decided to interview artists from the site and this is one of many more to come. I hope this will help people understand how other designer work and what processes they go through. I do not censor what the artist tell me I try to keep in all they say as it is good to know how different artists work.

1. How did you get started in the design industry, and what is your advice for people thinking of doing the same?

Very gradually, almost by mistake actually. Drawing and art was the only thing that consistently interested me since childhood, and just about everything in my life takes second place to it. (Except my cat.) I got married very young and in those days a woman was expected to just settle down and do the wife thing. I tried it for 10 years and went mad, ending up a single mother with 3 little ones before i was 30; so i had to go out and get a job. A benevolent little medical ad agency took me in as a junior visualiser and i discovered i loved illustrating muscles and bones. From there i slowly drifted into illustration and the freelanced after 3 years and worked on all sorts of art, illustration and design projects for small time clients. Busking really. I would never have referred to myself as a ‘professional’.

I only began working on the computer ‘digitizing’ some of my ideas after i inherited an iMac from my younger son Ross. He died in 2010 from cancer (2 years after miraculously surviving a great white shark attack!) He gave me my first proper Photoshop lessons from his sickbed when he couldn’t see or walk anymore. It was an amazing and gift from him.

Advice for anyone wanting to do the same? Firstly, love the art and the process more than anything or anyone else. (except your pet). Secondly, know that the reward is in the process of creating, not in the income it may or may not generate. A long time ago i used to think i needed to work to make money to buy things to make me happy. Now with most of my life behind me (unless i live to be over 120!) i am really pleased that i made the creating of things my priority, rather than the buying of things.

2. What is your process for starting a new piece of work?

The question should be “Where is the process…” The answer is in bed! Most of my idea happen in that semi-conscious state between 4 and 6 am. It’s always been that way. I sleep for about 5 hours a night and then create for a few hours before getting up. I have such fully detailed images sometimes that all i have to do when i sit down at the drawing table (or computer now) is ‘copy’ what i saw.

3. Do you have any favourite websites for finding design inspiration?

I follow a few artists on Behance, and i like, but generally i try not to spend too much time online. Our connection here in South Africa is very frustrating that browsing can make a serious dent in the daily work time. Life itself is an inspiration – observing it. There is no substitute for curiousity and observation when developing your creativity.

4. What do you think are the most important skills for a designer to have/develop?

The technical skills will come with practice, but the ideas… well, i think they require empty space to be born into. For me that empty space is the hypnogogic consciousness between sleep and wake time. Like silence is to Zen practitioners. They say there are no totally new and original ideas, that everything comes from reconnections of things already experienced, but for those new connections to be made, the space must be empty. So i would say one needs to develop the faculties of observation, curiosity and silence.

5. What does your work area look like and what make it special to you?

My workspace is only a corner of my already tiny sleeping area attached to my studio. The window overlooks the Tsitsikamma mountains, and a giant mulberry tree. I have a Windows computer to work on, and Ross’s iMac is connected to the internet. My painting studio takes up 99 percent of my whole living space, and it looks different from day to day depending on what is being done. It also overlooks the mountains, and the back window is overshadowed by a huge guava tree which attracts the baboons living in the small nature sanctuary nearby.

6. What trends will emerge and be popular in 2012 in your opinion?

I don’t consider myself knowledgeable enough to predict what is trending, but i do see a lot more simplicity in illustration. I think ‘popularity’ is often an instigated thing – today it is all about celebrity and fame, and all one has to do is get something used or slandered by a famous person to become the next fad. But generally i think trends in things like design evolve behind the scenes to cater to technicalities. Minimal styles enable much faster up and downloading, are easier to see on smaller screens… that sort of thing.

7. When you are not designing what do you get up to?

Up until a couple of years ago i did a lot of roller blading to keep fit. Now i spend too much time on my computer! But i walk in this beautiful area, and cycle. We (my elder son and his wife and 2 yr old son) have a raku pottery studio, two hives of honey bees, a ‘working’ garden with a large collection of cacti and succulents, and baboons and monkeys for neighbours. There’s not much time for anything else.

8. Which piece of you work are you most proud of and why?

Thirty years of working life it is impossible to say which piece of work has given me most satisfaction. As an artist generally i suppose the last painting commission i had was the most rewarding. It was the biggest project i ever undertook, 5 panels measuring about 7ft x 4ft each. They hardly fitted in my little studio but i just started and kept going and enjoyed every stage, some of it being done on the patio under the mulberry tree. The clients were fantastic, really enthusiastic as i sent ‘work in progress’ images. You can see it being installed in the photograph.

9. What do you do when get creative block and how do you overcome it?

If i ever got such a thing i would just go to bed.

10. What are the current design goals you’re looking to achieve?

don’t know if anyone could imagine what an achievement it was for me just to get stuff accepted on Graphic River. I am a total ‘outsider’… in the artistic and horse racing sense! I’ve never planned anything in my life, just got carried along on the current, being forced into taking all sorts of directions whilst trying to forge some sort of career in art. I may never have achieved anything if other things didn’t happen.

So my current ‘design goals’ are very modest. I want to make 1000 sales by the time i get my one year badge on GR. I want to hone my personal style a bit more, instead of it looking a bit schizophrenic. (But i have said that all my life!) I want to get good enough in both Photoshop and Illustrator so that i can teach my grandson what my own son taught me.