By: Jo Thapa  05-Apr-2012
Keywords: Paint, Ink, Illustrator

"Before I went to Massey all I could do was Hotmail. I used to lose the cursor. I'd save things to the English department files, never to be seen again."

Now, two years after graduating, she uses her advanced computer skills to create unique digital illustrations published in everything from children's books to safety pamphlets.

Jo was born in Wellington, leaving when she was 12 to spend her early years trundling through many places and jobs before coming back to study as an adult. "I did all sorts of things. I travelled, had a stained glass windows business, and worked as a bus driver in Adelaide. Travel was my biggest education. It just opened my mind to different ways of doing things."

Jo started out on her career path when she changed her major at Massey from photography to illustration. But she'd been interested in visual art from a young age.

"I really enjoyed art at school. Something like this was always in the back on my mind."

She's now busy running a one-woman business, selling her quirky creative images to a wide variety of publications. Technology continues to be a vital part of Jo's work, crucial in creating the ambience of her particular style. "It depends on your style, but for me, creating my collage-like aesthetic, programs like Photoshop and Freehand are crucial. About 80% of the work I do would require computer work."

For aspiring illustrators Jo says a passion for drawing and plenty of practical, organisational skills are both important.

"If you do illustration full time then you pretty much have to freelance. A lot of illustrators are illustrator-slash-something else, like graphic design or teaching."

She advises university students to do lots of graphic design papers and really pay attention to lectures on branding and marketing.

"You have to be like any small business owner: you have to be practical. I would recommend doing a small business course before becoming a freelancer.

"And it definitely helps to be computer savvy."

When Jo started freelancing straight out of university she initially struggled with working from home.

"If you're operating from home it can feel like you are working in a void."

She now works in a studio with four other illustrators, all bouncing ideas off each other and sharing their expertise. "Socially and creatively it really helps. It's important to get a studio with people you know who are doing similar things. Just because you freelance doesn't mean you have to be lonely."

Jo says the best thing about her job is the flexibility, while the worst thing is the irregularity of paid work.

"It's often feast or famine, in terms of paid work. On the other hand, you have power over your career. You can be as successful as you want to be."

She's already worked on a number of projects around Wellington, and would like to be involved in more projects that have a positive social impact. "I like to make a positive difference. Then sometimes it just makes you feel good that you're making people laugh."

Keywords: Childrens Illustration, Illustrator, Ink, Paint, Pencil, Scraperboard,