Have you ever wondered what it takes to dive deep into the world of illustrations, shape-shifting your emotions into art, and navigating the evolving demands of creativity? Today, we have a treat. We’ll uncover the journey of an artist who, trust me, is a visual maestro. From anime-inspired beginnings to mushroom rain dances – this tale is as colorful as their portfolio. Grab your sketchbook and favorite pencil, and let’s dive into Jamie Green’s world.
What was your path to becoming an illustrator?
The genesis was a combination of having a creative parent who exposed me to art/making from a young age, as well as growing up with cartoons and anime. I knew pretty early on that I wanted to go to art school, ended up doing that at Ringling College of Art + Design, got my BFA in illustration and graduated in 2020–what a year to start in the industry! I lucked out when my current agent found me online (hanging by a mental and emotional thread) and asked me if I had ever considered representation. Now three years later, I’ve been lucky enough to have steady freelance work in the childrens’ publishing industry! There’s hundreds of little things that happened in between those events leading to this specific path, but I consider those to be the highlights.
How would you describe your artistic style, and how has it evolved over time?
My style straddles this weird line of nature-based and web-inspired. It’s like if you found a tomodachi in a hollowed-out tree trunk while on a hike. I think I’ve see-sawed a lot over the last eight or so years, ranging from really bright and poppy with wonky shapes and color-blocking, to textured, earthy and naturalistic. I feel like within the last year or two I’ve found a happy balance between the two, merging them to create something curious, fun but still a little science-based.
What is the biggest challenge you face as an illustrator, and how do you overcome it?
The biggest challenge is always changing, but right now it’s managing a massive and long-term project and everything that comes with that: burnout, work-life balance, feeling isolated from those who can’t understand etc. How do I overcome it…hahaha. Can I be honest? I don’t know if I can. Or at least, I can’t completely solve it. I can cope with it, though. I make sure I find the time in my day to do the things outside of illustrating that I love, I talk to other illustrators or people in creative fields, I call my parents and scream it out when it’s really bad (thanks guys). In the end, I’m thankful to have work, and I’m learning a lot.
What do you hope people take away from your illustrations?
I hope it will spark some sort of curiosity in them. The best thing I could possibly hear is something like “your art got me into foraging”. I also just want to form a meaningful connection, for someone to see something in my work that makes them think they aren’t alone.
How do you balance your creative vision with the needs and preferences of your clients?
Confidence is key, I think. Having the courage to speak up and find a middle ground goes a long way. The client is coming to you because they like what you specifically have to offer, they want your voice, not somebody else’s! It’s important to be open to guidelines and feedback, but don’t let it box you in.
What are some of your favorite projects or collaborations that you’ve worked on, and why?
My favorite book I’ve illustrated thus far is Mushroom Rain by Laura K. Zimmerman. It’s everything I could have wanted from a subject matter standpoint. When I graduated college I was getting really into mycology/foraging and my senior thesis project was an illustrated introduction to fungi! Shortly after signing with my agent I told him I wanted nothing more than to illustrate some books focusing on nature, specifically mushrooms. He told me there was “no way a Mushroom Book would sell”, and I told him I wanted to challenge him on that (he has since admitted he was wrong, and loves to be wrong). Lo and behold just weeks later I was handed Laura’s manuscript for Mushroom Rain, a lyrical picture book all about mushrooms and how rain droplets assist in spore spreading. I had a ton of creative freedom, and every second of illustrating it felt like home to me. If you’d like to see my process on that I have a youtube video showcasing just that: https://youtu.be/r_qMHpN8f0Y
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in illustration?
- Fill your portfolio with things you want to work on. Not what you “think” an illustration portfolio should look like. Create your own dream projects and put them on a website for people to see.
- Make a list of 100 things you like to draw. I’m stealing this from my agent Chad W Beckerman who originally tasked me with this. This can be not only beneficial for clients to see what your taste is, but also very eye-opening for yourself!
- Learn the business side of things, just as much as you learn the creative/technical skills. Having an agent can massively help you out with this, but it’s good to know these things on your own to know fair rates, how to read a contract, and what certain terms mean!
What are some common misconceptions people may have about illustration or working as an illustrator?
I’m not sure I’ve really run into any misconceptions, which is incredible. Maybe that it’s not a well-paying career (it is/it can be!!)? A misconception I personally had was that you had to be one “type” of illustrator. I.e. if you are a book illustrator, you can ONLY do books and that’s it for your whole career. I was paralyzed by that fear in college–like you’re telling me I have to pick one job and stick with it?? I’m glad I was wrong. Although I have an agent for book work specifically, and I call myself a book illustrator, I’m also a tattoo artist, I’m looking into game development, I’m a character designer, I participate in galleries, I do youtube and I sculpt and I paint and….it could go on forever. You have time to do it all!
What do you enjoy most about being an illustrator?
I really enjoy my flexible schedule. Freelancing means I’m my own boss, I decide when I work and where I work. It’s currently 12:16 PM on a Thursday, and I’m sitting outside on a breezy day talking to you!
Can you share a sneak peek or hint about any upcoming projects or illustrations you have in the works?
I’m currently working on the second graphic novel in the Arden High series, called King Cheer (I’m almost done!), and coming up next is a historical nonfiction picture book, two biological creature-focused books, and two middle grade book covers about myth and adventure! I have hopes to someday author and illustrate my own book, as well as develop an indie game with other creatives. Thanks for reading, stay curious! 🙂
It’s not every day you find an illustrator who can rock nature vibes, channel their inner geek, and ink someone’s skin – all while challenging the norms of the industry. This is the embodiment of turning passion into a profession. For all of you aspiring illustrators out there, remember: carve your own niche and let your work scream your essence. This is Ryder, signing off, but reminding you – there’s always a story behind the art, and a world waiting to see it.