In conversation: Cherie Jerrard
Cherie Jerrard is an illustrator/graphic designer based in Shropshire. Her multi layered reportage work is full of energy and spontaneity, I got in touch to find out more about her work and process of making.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
At school age I was guided towards a career in Fashion as the most sensible option for my creative skills. After 23yrs in the fashion industry I’ve reverted to my first love, illustration. Having studied for a Masters in Illustration at Manchester School of Art I now work as a freelance illustrator / graphic artist while also working part time as a fitness instructor but most importantly I’m a single mum.
How was the transition from art student to artist?
Having worked for many years in a creative industry I had quite a commercial mind which I had to abandon in order to fully embrace the MA. Since graduating I’ve had to resurrect those buried views so as to get work. I like to think the MA has given me a better understanding of myself which has enhanced my work.
Describe your creative process.
My intention is to respond rather than construct. I try not to overthink how the image will look when it’s finished, it evolves more naturally that way. At present this process begins with sketching people then enhancing and layering it digitally with elements of photography. I prefer to sketch in the moment so the images are more lively and have a hope of capturing that persons essence. If I aim for perfection the sketch begins to look labored and overworked… it’s a fine line.
Is the process of making as important as the finished piece?
While studying (at Uni) yes but for a commission piece not so much. I’m training myself to document the process because it gives people an insight into my work.
Do you keep sketchbooks or a visual diary?
Yes the sketchbooks are starting to get out of hand, but they are a great record of a time in my life when I used that pen and stayed in that place. They tap into the full experience, the drawings remind me of so much more than a photograph would, the music that was playing, the smell, the people that came and went, their moods…it is all absorbed when you take time to observe. Occasionally I use my blog as a visual diary but it isn’t my first reference … note to self to update it !
Your work is multi layered, what the secret to successfully balancing working by hand and digitally together?
Ensuring the line is not overwhelmed by the photographic detail. Sometimes I have to erase a sketch I really like because it just doesn’t balance… I will battle with it for days before excepting it just doesn’t work. Often it is best to give it a little time so that the work isn’t so precious. When I’ve just worked on something I want to justify it’s existence… after a week I will think nah it’s not working lets change it.
Can you explain to those who may be unfamiliar about reportage. Do ever you get approached by people you may be drawing?
Ha this is the main thing to overcome ! Some days I just don’t feel brave enough. People will generally become uncomfortable and cover their face. I can only think of a few times when they have come up to me to see what I’m doing or confront me. It can be awkward. If I tell people I’m going to sketch them it alters their demeanor. I’m quite perceptive which can be a hindrance as I don’t want to irritate people. Recently I did a commission where a person went round on my behalf asking people if they minded… that was a dream because they excepted it from a third party. After a short while they seemed to forget I was there.
Do you tend to stick to cafe sort of environments to sketch on the spot?
Cafes and restaurants are good because people remain in a similar position for a while. Transport is also good for the same reason. Children are hardest because they fidget. I’m always open to try new places but it works best when movement is limited.
What do you think hinders your creativity?
Fear. Self doubt. Lack of creative stimulation. Procrastination.
How important is marketing yourself and keeping your social media platforms up to date?
It’s a gift to be able to share my work online. Only 13 years ago I worked and lived in Dalston (London) amongst other creatives and we got work through word of mouth or agencies. I remember seeing google on a computer screen and going home to look it up on my computer.
Have you any advice for students who may be struggling to move work forward?
Change your environment. A small break to a new city… perhaps stay with a friend. Sketch and don’t think about why you’re doing it. Take a mental break and the answers will come when they are ready. Indulge yourself in things you like doing and document it through a notebook/ drawings / photo’s whatever you’re into. Try to think of it as playing rather than work.
How do you know when a work is finished?
When I’ve reached the deadline ! 🙂 Sometimes an older version is better so I save my work multiple times as I’m working on it. This helps me avoid my perfectionist side which can overwork a piece.
How do you see your artwork evolving?
Lately I’ve been thinking how I could take it further. I’m thinking bolder, stronger lines to add another layer of depth. It’s tricky to sketch on the spot with messy materials.
Do you think your work can be both fine art and design?
Yes ! I had a meeting at AOI recently and it was mentioned that my work crosses into both territories. I have a lot to learn about fine art where as I am well versed in design. I’ve often felt that my work doesn’t fit the stereotypical approach to illustration but I’m determined to be myself. I intend to keep on pushing my style forward, I’ve wasted too many years trying to emulate others now it’s time to do my thing.
Thank you to Cherie for answering my questions, find out more about her work here.