Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 6, 2020

Illustrator Saturday – Jennie Poh

Jennie is a freelance Illustrator based in Surrey. She says she has the most smashing job illustrating Children’s Books as well as Greeting Cards and Gift Wrap. Clients include: Carlton, Pan Macmillan, Harrods, Noel Tatt, HallMark, The Greetings Factory, Simon Elvin, Design Deign, Milkwood Gallery, Cute Magazine, MOM Books, Glick, American Greetings, Almanac Gallery.

Jennie Poh was born in England and grew up in Malaysia. She studied Fine Art at The Surrey Institute of Art & Design as well as Fashion Illustration at Central St. Martins.

Here is Jennie discussing her process from OUR WORLD IS WHOLE:

One of the first things I receive from the editor/designer is the brief, manuscript and the the book dimensions. Some projects require a bit more micro management, others actually give you quite a lot of creative freedom. as my pencil stage is always very rough, I tend to do a couple of colour sample spreads, just so it shows the team what to expect, and to use my pencils as more of a layout/placement guide.

With the sample spreads here, you can see I have added flowers in, a bit more stylized here, and also another version that was more ‘indoorsy’ which is the one the designer went for. It all depends on the editor and team how far they would like to see conceptual ideas pushed.

The black and white pencils for spread one are done in photoshop, as you can see very very rough, but a clear layout. I may send this over a few times with some minor tweaks and amends before I get the green light to go to colour. Once painted up (in photoshop and my wacom!) this gets sent over to for comments. It could be as little as ‘move the tree away from the gutter/text’ to ‘please change the colour of the leaves, and add more flowers and other animals to the ground.’

As your final layered files are sent over to the team they are usually edited again, and a few items may change colour, or shift over a bit. You are always involved with this process too though, before you go to print.

Interview With Jennie Poh:

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating for ten years now.


What and when was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork? 

When I was taken on by my agents a lovely commission came in from a greetings card client. They asked me to produce a card range with six designs in total, which was so exciting for a new illustrator to take on.

What inspired you to study Fine Art at The Surrey Institute of Art & Design then attend Fashion Illustration at Central St. Martins? 

Fine Art seemed a very natural route for me to take after my foundation course. However it was heavily conceptual based, and I really felt I needed to paint and draw more. I actually did a course on the side where I explored illustration and figurative work.

Did you take any book illustration classes while at Central St. Martins? 

I didn’t at this point as I was in the throws of my degree, the fashion illustration and working too.

Did the school help you find work when you graduated?

Here is an area where perhaps there could have been more support. We did do a big degree show, but there was a gap between me leaving and going into illustration. I worked in retail and admin jobs while building and developing my portfolio.


Did you start your career doing greeting cards?

Yes I did, it was a fantastic way to break into the industry, gently and gradually. Getting used to working with clients on small scale projects and working with your agent too.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books? 

When I was working in retail I would often wander into bookshops on my lunch break, and I remember admiring all the beautiful art of picture books. I started to feel a real pull towards children’s book illustration.

In 2012 you illustrated Muddle Princess Palace. It has magnets that children move around. Is this considered an activity book? 

Yes it is, stickers/magnets etc are considered activity based books, and are always so much fun illustrating!

Was this your first illustrating job out of school? How did this project come your way?

No, this came about a few years after me starting. My agent sent me a message asking if I would like to do it and of course it was a yes!

Was the board book I Love You to the Moon written by Elizabeth Bennettin 2014 the first board book you illustrated?

No, but it was the first young board book I did.

How did you get that contract? 

My agent from the U.S emailed me with the commission, I think this was the beginning of me as an artist working with international clients.

Was Porcupine’s Pie (Woodland Friends) by Laura Renauldyour first picture book you illustrated?

This project came in a couple of years ago from my agent, and as illustrating any kind of woodland animal or setting is a favourite of mine, I couldn’t help being very excited to start this with Beaming Books publishing.

How did you get that contract?

I always have to thank my hard working agents finding me lovely jobs!

How long have you been represented by Arabella Stein at the Bright Children’s Agency?

The Bright Agency have represented me since the beginning of my illustration career, and I have been working with Arabella specifically for the past four years.

How did the two of you connect?

I was in the agency’s offices one day for a meeting. I just happened to ask Arabella for some advice on a story I had been working on and felt I had met my creative soulmate! I adore her drive and outlook on life, the everyday and creative.

How many books have you illustrated in this Superfairies series? Do you think there will be more books added?

There are nine books in the series , in which I illustrated all. As there are quite a few I don’t think there is any chance of doing any more soon, however I would love to do more of the series. It was really a great creative time to create a magical world. Janey Jones (the author) is an extremely talented person to work with.

You illustrated The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse (Classic Fables in Rhythm and Rhyme) published – January 1, 2019. How does the music work in the book? Is there a button that activated the music?

I believe the music is included with a button and there is a scan code to download as well.

How long did it take you to illustrate The Pirate Tree?

There was a very quick turn around with the Pirate Tree, if I remember correctly I managed to colour this up in just under two weeks!

Was MAY I COME IN your first illustrated book with Sleeping Bear Press?

Yes this was my first one with Sleeping Bear Press. they were a publisher I had been really wanting to work with. I’ve always thought how beautiful their catalogue is.

Did you use any cut paper while creating the illustrations for this book?

I didn’t, I work digitally whilst making my own textures and paintbrush from natural mark making or photographs.

This year Little Turtle and the Changing Sea written by Becky Davies was published by Tiger Tales, but a Spanish version came out in 2019 by another publisher. Is there any interesting story about how this transpired? 

I believe Becky wanted to write a story that was current to what we are all talking about, especially our children. This is a topic that should be on everyone’s radar so to speak. We wanted to create a book that had a lot of impact visually as well as dealing with a very important message about our natural world, and our responsibility to it.

Is Clarence’s Topsy-Turvy Shabbat that came out in April, a short picture book or a board book?

Clarence’s Topsy-Turvy Shabbat is a short picture book with religious content, and also a very cheeky monster in it too!

I just featured OUR WORLD IS WHOLE on Writing and Illustrating. BTW. you did a great job illustrating that book. Was this part of the contract you signed to illustrate MAY I COME IN with Sleeping Bear Press the previous year?

Thank you so much. This project came in separately, again the whole process with Sleeping Bear Press was just a delight from start to finish. They always give me so much creative freedom.

With Lulu the One and Only by Lynnette Mawhinney coming out on June 9th you have had books published in April, May, and June this year. Was it hard to juggle illustrating three books so close together?

It has certainly been a very very busy time! However I am always surprised and grateful that I am lucky enough to have work coming in, especially with such wonderful clients.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a picture books?

I’d love to! I wrote and illustrated my own book ‘Herbie’s Big Adventure’ (Capstone Press) and I hope to do more in the future.

Would you work with a self-published author to illustrate their book?

Absolutely! If I really feel that the manuscript is strong and it is material I want to work with I certainly wouldn’t shy away from an author who is self published. It takes a lot of drive and hard work to self publish and I admire that. 

What do you think is your biggest success?

I would have to say The Pirate Tree which was shortlisted for The Derby Childrens Book Award 2020,  and the Superfairies series. The Superfairies was such a huge body of work, especially as it was my first project coming off maternity leave which was a very big challenge.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I do have a love for working digitally as there are so many ways to manipulated images, but if I was working with paint it has to be indian inks as the colours are so rich and vibrant.

Has that changed over time?

I’ve certainly found that I am working digitally more, if not most of the time now.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

I have a Wacom tablet, which took me a while to get used to when I began. I love it now!

What do you think helped the most to develop your style?

Illustrating, drawing and painting everyday. It’s a bit like exercise really. Over time your style and taste can change, even if you don’t notice at the time.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

It does tend to be most days, and with a young family it is all about balance. I try and limit myself whilst the children are around by working while they are at school, or sometimes in the evening. I am mindful to rest though, as one of my agents said once, even creative brains need to rest and have a break!

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

I do. I always find myself scrolling google for accurate references, pinterest can be a god send too. I need something to wake up my creative seeds!

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would love to see a book or character come to life on screen and be animated.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a bear who is learning to ride a bicycle as well as a religious book for the U.S.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I do love finding leaves or natural textures to scan into photoshop and use as brushes. Going for a nature walk and finding anything interesting to use makes your work look more natural and less digital I find. You also can’t beat stretched paper to paint on!

 

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

I had many periods where I felt I wasn’t ever going to work as an artist, and it is all too easy to stay in a very negative frame of mind. I would listen to any words of encouragement, form yourself/friends/family and use it to fuel your fire. I told myself to never give up, there was no plan B.

Thank you Jennie for sharing your talent and expertise with us. I really appreciate all your thorough answers. Make sure to let us know about your future books and books. I would love to share them with everyone.

To see more of Jessica’s work, you can visit her at:

Blog: http://jenniesdoodles.blogspot.com/

The Bright Agency: https://thebrightagency.com/uk/publishing/artists/jennie-poh

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jenniepohillustration/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennie-poh-528a6438/?originalSubdomain=uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jenniepoh?lang=en

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jenniepohillustration/?hl=en

If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Jennie. I am sure she’d love to hear from you and I enjoy reading them, too. 

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Very cute! Herbie the Porcupine is particularly adorable. Thanks for a lovely post.

    Like


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