Monday, May 4, 2015

Super Star Interview: Victoria Johnson

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.

This month I’m pleased as punch to be catching up with the effervescent Illustrator & Designer, Victoria Johnson! I’m a long-time fan of her beautiful artwork and was thrilled to get to see her gorgeous Surtex 2014 booth in person. She is an English artist/designer in Rome. She lives there with her Italian husband and two children. Before that she lived in New York for twelve years, owning and running a design studio in NY and London. Her work has been featured on a huge variety of products, from women's and children's wear, to paper products, home furnishings and giftware and is lucky enough to have worked with some of the best known companies in the US and Europe. You can view more of her artwork here!

"C" is definitely for CUTE!

Q: How has your time living in each England, New York & London influenced and inspired your artwork?

A: I lived in NY for 12 years and worked in the Garment District, mainly designing womenswear prints.  I think this influences my work.  I gravitate towards feminine palettes that are very wearable.  I also love vintage womenswear fabrics—the way that contemporary art was so influential on fashion print trends during the 20th Century.  

Q: You've spent many years as an independent illustrator and have recently signed on with Jennifer Nelson Artists (Congrats!!). Dish with us about the pros and cons of representation vs. being independent and why you've chosen to be represented at this point in your career.

A: I was very happy being independent and would definitely recommend that route— even though it's very demanding and requires an awful lot of self-discipline.  However, it's not everyday that an agent of Jennifer's caliber presents an opportunity.  After one conversation with her I knew that my career would benefit massively from her support.  I was finding it difficult to make time to send my work out as often as I wanted and was starting to chase my tail.  I knew that Jennifer would get my work seen regularly by the companies I wanted to work with.  I felt she was 100% invested in my success and was keen to maintain regular contact with me (and her other artists), working as a partner in a joint venture.  This is unusual and offset any reservations I'd formally had about representation (that sense of sinking into a vast sea of anonymity with multiple other artists working under the name of the studio). I sensed that I was incredibly fortunate from the outset.

How adorable is this floral repeat?!

Q: Describe your artistic process. How do you begin? What comes next? How do you choose a medium and color palette?

A: I choose a medium based on the idea.  They're kind of linked.  I keep a running list of ideas in a single notebook.  I've worked like this for years.  I might be inspired by something I've seen online or in a shop (the usual sources) or want to progress from something I've already done or I might know that I need to cover a commercial theme like Christmas, Valentines, etc.  I write my ideas on my list and then decide what needs doing most urgently and what I fancy doing!  I always try to establish my palette at the outset and work very hard on making it beautiful—and hopefully a bit original.

Come fly away on a Victoria Johnson dream!!

 Q: In what ways do you balance your art career with being a mom? (As an illustrator mama myself, this is one of my favorite questions!!)

A: I struggle daily. My children are both school age so I have all their school hours to work, but my husband's away or working long hours a lot so it's difficult.  I often start work again after the kids go to bed.

Q: What advice would you give to an illustrator attending Surtex regarding prep as well as what to actually bring to the show?

A: I don't know where to begin.  I could write a whole blog post about this.  A whole book even.  In a nutshell— don't make yourself ill.  Be super organized. Make sure everything is cohesive—that it screams you and is high impact.  Go the extra mile because you will not believe how much effort people make on those stands. It blows your mind!!  Just when you think you've done as much as is humanly possible, you'll realize someone else has done MORE!!!  Also, establish relationships with key clients beforehand.  It's not like a shop where strangers just stroll by and pluck your goods from a shelf.  It's very much an opportunity to expand on and cement existing relationships and show your clients that you are professional and serious.

So lovely! So gorgeous! So fabulous!

 Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Waking up at six am, leaping out of bed and going for a 5 mile run, getting back and eating fresh, crushed raspberries, organic oatmeal and a kale smoothie before taking my children out for a very educational tour of Rome's finest art galleries.  I've NEVER done this.  EVER.  But I imagine it would be quite nice and I would feel pure and saintly afterwards.

Thank you so much, Victoria!! It’s been an absolute delight catching up with you! Wishing you all the best at Surtex!

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