At just 27, Amsterdam-born illustrator, Bodil Jane, is blazing her way through the contemporary scene with her colourful and innovative depictions of people, animals, food, fashion, interiors, plants and (among other things) maps. Aside from her extraordinary talent, of course, it’s Bodil Jane’s striking eye for colour and passion for florals and botanical patterns that caught our attention, and we clearly aren’t the only ones. Known for her trademark mixture of handmade elements and digital techniques, her distinct style has already been picked up by internationally-known brands including Apartment Therapy, Boden, Elle, Unicef and The New Yorker. Bodil Jane is represented by Folio, an illustration agency based in central London. Follow her work on Instagram at @BodilJane
Tell us about yourself, Bodil Jane, what’s your story?
I was born in Amsterdam but grew up in Haarlem in the northwest Netherlands. My parents are both freelance artists who had studios at home — my dad is an animation and sketch artist and my mum is an illustrator and paints ceramics. I was always making things as a child and even on vacation there would be scrapbooks, journals and sketchbook present. My sister and I also had a weekly crafts and drawing afternoon with the kids from the neighbourhood. Needless to say, we grew up in a very creative environment and perhaps this is why we both ended up going to art school. My sister is now a fashion graphics and print designer.
How did you begin your career as an illustrator?
I knew that I would end up working in a creative field pretty early on. After high school, I went on to study illustration at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam and in my second year, I had started doing little freelance jobs on the side. By the time I graduated, I already had some projects in the pipeline, an even a few semi-regular clients; I could start as a full-time freelancer right away! I’ve been working for magazines, fashion brands, restaurants etc. since then and Folio, a London based illustration agency, started representing me in 2015. Over the past two years, I’ve been focusing on more international projects with clients such as Unicef, Elle, Marks & Spencer and Lee Jeans.
What inspires your work?
My inspiration comes from a lot of different things; I think I’m obsessed with objects. I get really inspired by flea markets. I love postcard collections, exotic curiosities, antique tableware, wooden dolls, kitsch vases, rusty tools, vintage perfume bottles and so on. I just love things. I also get very inspired by beautiful packaging. Also, I like to visit botanical gardens (all around the world) to do sketchbook drawings.
At the moment I feel very inspired by different cultures: Mexican ornaments, Japanese portraits of women from the 1930s and Persian miniature art. As you can see also, interiors are one of my biggest inspirations.
Great artists like Henri Matisse, Raoul Dufy, Frida Kahlo, Henri Rousseau, Saul Steinberg have always had a huge influence on my work. But also Wes Anderson movies and scientific illustrations from Ernst Haeckel and Maria Sybilla Merian. I think you can easily find those influences back in my work.
“Great artists like Henri Matisse, Raoul Dufy, Frida Kahlo, Henri Rousseau, Saul Steinberg have always had a huge influence on my work.”
Can you tell us more about your individual style?
My illustrations are playful, colourful and feminine. All of my illustrations include handmade elements and digital techniques. I think they have a very handmade feel because I use a lot of textures and elements painted in watercolours. I like non-digital (looking) illustration styles that are a little clumsy and charming. I don’t like perfect things in general.
“I like non-digital (looking) illustration styles that are a little clumsy and charming. I don’t like perfect things in general.”
Tell us about your experience with Instagram…
I have been on Instagram for about three years now. It used to be a diary to me. I just wanted to keep track of all the things that I was making, like an archive. After a while, I got more and more followers. I worked for big magazines that shared my work. The more my work got shared, the bigger my account grew.
After a post on a huge blog, I got +3000 followers in one day. I never expected it to grow so fast! Instagram has been really good for my career. My agent has found me through it and I got (and still get) a lot of work through it. One of my favourite jobs that I got through Instagram is the one for Unicef. It was an online campaign to address air pollution. What I don’t like about it? Because it’s a very personal platform I get a lot of direct messages from people who want to ask me all kinds of questions. It’s not possible to answer all of those questions. I also have a few copycats – that really bother me.
“After a post on a huge blog, I got +3000 followers in one day. I never expected it to grow so fast!”
What’s your approach to posting images?
For my account (and time zone) it’s best to post an image end of the day. My posts are light and colourful. There’s a personal touch to it, but not too personal: I don’t tell much about my personal life or off-days for example. It’s mostly just a showcase of my work, an extension of my portfolio and a newsletter.
Have you had any nice surprises along the way?
I have made many friends from all over the world through Instagram. The illustration community is very close. When I visit a city it’s easy to send a fellow illustrator a message and meet up for a quick coffee. I really love that about it. By following each other, I feel like you already know each other. I’ve had many beautiful jobs through Instagram. Last month I have been working on a campaign for the United Nations Population Fund (@UNFPA) to celebrate girls around the world. I love using my Instagram for a good cause.
“I have made many friends from all over the world through Instagram. The illustration community is very close. “
We spotted that plants and flowers made a regular appearance in your work. What do you love about them, do you have a favourite?
Oh yes, flowers and plants are my favourite things to draw! I love drawing organic shapes because it’s hard to get them wrong. There’s a lot of freedom and they can all look different. The possibilities are endless. And they are just so pretty. And no, I can’t pick a favourite!