Sunday 30 August 2009

Bank Holiday Independent

Controversial was my first thought when I got yesterday's brief for the Independent. I was asked to illustrate the view that releasing the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was the right thing to do to protect British trade/economic interests. Having just logged onto the Indy's website (as well as the BBC, Times and Guardian) I was aware of the storm brewing over the leaked letters that insinuated such an opinion was in fact, a fact, and this knowledge contributed to my initial response.

I am often asked if I have ethical problems with any commissions I receive, or if I illustrate my own opinions and I always say that in commissioned work I create to the brief set by the art director. This was the case here, it is (in my work for the Independent) not my job to make judgements or comment on the issues, my job is to find a visually satisfying way of depicting the opinion articulated by the author on each given week. Until my name is attached to the words I am comfortable visualising their opinions, whether I agree or not. But it does concern me that sometimes people might see an image I create with a particularly strong sentiment and assume that it is my own personal opinion. I am not egotistical enough to believe that my work could ever garner such attention on a large enough scale to cause me any discomfort, but in the age of far reaching technologies one does consider this more then before. I guess that was one of the reasons behind my decision to start this blog, to give any visitors to the website a chance to learn more about the process of creating my imagery.

Generally for the Independent I am given something akin to a statement of intent, one line or sometimes even a mere word that I am asked to generate ideas around. Sometimes it is quite abstract, other times more descriptive such as this weekend's brief. But in all cases my position as illustrator is to do just that, illustrate, not push my own agenda. That is what self directed projects are for!

Some might argue that my position is a cop out, that I have a platform to say something important, but I don't view it that way. I have a role to perform and people have their right to agree or disagree with the views I illustrate on behalf of the newspaper. It is after all an opinion and debate column, not a fact and truth one, thus the ideas outlined on the page both in words and pictures are there to be discussed, ruminated on, shouted at or applauded. If comment is free (as one other newspaper declares) then I am happy to be part of that process.

Now saying all of that, yesterday's process actually went a little awry, in that the brief I was given and the direction I took became a little too similar to that given and taken by the cartoonist on the page adjacent to mine. So an 11th hour rethink was required, not the most fun of events but something to get the adrenalin pumping! I was asked to think about Gordon Brown's involvement in this scenario and after a little discussion both the art director and I decided to work with the notion that Gordon Brown had hidden the truth about the motivation for Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's release (that it was for trade purposes).

A quick round of ideas ensued and after another rapid discussion we decided I should move forward with the image that appears in today's paper; that of Gordon Brown up to his neck (or in this case nose) in oil, holding up his hands in a show of surrender or pleading innocence, depending on how the viewer sees it. Brown almost drowning in the oil is intended to have political implications, the idea that this is another case where his political career is likely to be even further damaged and that he is metaphorically drowning as PM. It is also meant to be inferred that this is another sleaze type allegation, that leaks (oil spill > leak) from within Government show up more of Brown's perceived inadequacies and that once again the Labour party is linked with behaviour that one might call oily. Obviously the most overt reason for the spilt oil is the idea that the true reason for the release of al-Megrahi was all about oil and that this truth has now been leaked. Simple really!

As for opinions in my work, sometimes I agree with the authors, sometimes I don't, but I pride myself on the quality of the work being consistent irregardless of what I personally believe.

Finally, here is a little picture of the 'oil slick' I created at the last minute yesterday using vegetable oil and cocoa powder (for colour), I was quite pleased with my ingenuity (she says modestly) and this picture provided the right texture and outlines for the final image. Illustration can be a ridiculous thing sometimes!

Sunday 23 August 2009

Inky fingers

Firstly I've just finished updating my website so if you want to check out some new pictures then please give it a visit

Today's illustration for the Independent focuses on Afghanistan, in particular current events there and how the author's support for the war has wavered in recent years. I was asked to reflect the elections that took place last week by creating an image made out of a fingerprint.

This was tricky (and messy) work, as not only did I have to compose the image I also had to make it work within the fingerprint shape and make the contours bend to show the figures. The messiness came from fingerprinting myself which I did with very little skill, leaving my finger and thumb a nice blue shade (including the fingernail). So if you should see me out and about in London this week please remember that it isn't dirt, it's just very stubborn ink!

The image itself turned out really well, again I was pleased with the sense of drama and atmosphere I managed to create. It's much more abstract then the piece last week, but generally that tends to be the way when I don't need to discuss or suggest specific people.


Wednesday 19 August 2009


I don't make a big issue about selling prints of my work, but I do actually do it, so I thought it might be worth mentioning on the blog.

Not to make this a hard sell but I currently have giclee prints available of a large range of my images in limited edition series of 10 or 20 (depending on the print).

To make this post a little more visually interesting here are a few pictures sent to me by Dan Upham, whom I recently sold (and hand delivered) a print to in New York. It was pure coincidence that his enquiry came just before my trip, so international personal delivery isn't the norm! Alongside having impeccable taste Dan happens to be a comedian and you can check him out here

If you would like to buy one of my prints please contact me via email to discuss the images on offer.

Monday 17 August 2009


Hello blog,

sorry I've been absent for a week but things have been hectic at Jemillo HQ (I wonder if I say that enough it will take off, or will it continue to sound cheesy forever?).

In fact things are still hectic, so this is a super quick post just to show the image in today's Independent. The brief focused on the news that David Cameron is keen to protect the NHS in the wake of criticism of the system by other Tories (and the Americans who are against a public health service).

I came up with the idea of Cameron as Superman, but with less muscles and more MP style trappings (socks and shoes with the tights, rather then boots) looking down on the audience with a grey city style hospital in the background and a small selection of nurses and doctors to represent his 'sidekicks'.

Colour wise I tried to keep the Tory theme with the different blues and overall I thought the image had a nice feel to it. Certainly one of my recent favourites compositionally.

Oh and if you happen to see it in print today you'll notice that I have been credited incorrectly (it's a G-Gemma, rather then a J-Jemma) but it's still me!

Thursday 6 August 2009

Is Twitter Down?

Having resisted much of the social networking trends of the past few years (I don't myspace, never Bebo'd and rarely venture onto Facebook) I occasionally looked down at those people who checked their facebook pages like I check my email. I enjoyed the technology and appreciated its significance, but never felt the need to broadcast every moment of my life to people I'd once known. As anyone with an ounce of self awareness will recognise, everyday life is not that interesting, trying to document your every movement in the manner of Heat magazine is tiresome, inane and often boring. It's hard enough sometimes writing this blog (case in point?) a few times a week and that's even with the open brief of not having to always write about myself.

So imagine my horror when I realised that I was bothered by the fact that TWITTER IS DOWN. How has it come to this? How have I become a lover of the act of tweeting? Have I given in to the media drip feed of how awesome Twitter is and started to believe the hype? Or is it that it actually has a benefit beyond finding out that Paula Abdul has quit American Idol?

Well I would say (in my defence) it has quickly become important to my working day. Although I would consider maybe half of the people I follow on there friends, a great deal are people I respect professionally or whose tweets give me food for thought throughout the day. So I follow the posts of No.10 Downing Street and Barack Obama, Creative Review and The Independent. Services like this keep me informed of developments worldwide which I may have to illustrate, or of creative output that might inspire or interest me. I follow a Guardian blogger whose articles made me laugh and a musician whose music I enjoy but who also has a fantastically original approach to engaging with her fans. I follow other illustrators and I also used twitter to make connections with people before my trip to New York, which was invaluable in giving me a chance to network and in some cases make friends.

All in all I would now call myself a fully paid up member of the Twitter fan club. I don't think Twitter can save the world (Sorry Guardian Online), and I recognise that for most it may just be a simple distraction, but if you utilise it properly the system can be a really useful tool for a freelancer and definitely one worth exploring. So earlier when I felt the need to google "Is Twitter Down?" and landed on the fantastically simple site Is Twitter Down, where the answer was Yes, I found myself rushing to my blog to bemoan the situation and share a more lengthy version of what I will post when it returns;

Jemillo: @twitter "You don't know what you've got til it's (temporarily) gone"

Disclaimer (with tongue firmly in cheek) I'd like to point out that I am not an addict and I'd also like to say that this post was in no way paid for by Twitter (I wish) or endorsed by them or anyone associated with the website.

Now if only Twitter was working I could let people know I'd written this....

Tuesday 4 August 2009


or at least definite news, is a little thin on the ground at the moment. A lot of things in the pipeline but it's limbo time (not in the fun party way) at Jemillo HQ as I wait for people to return from their holidays and for plans to be put into motion. Not the worst way to be as it has given me a little time to work on my New York animation. You can see it in its current rough state below:

This is my final contribution to the We Have A Nice Day project I worked on whilst I was in New York. I'm going to be adding my favourite images from that project to the website and blog soon, as soon as I get time to do all of the admin required and once I get this animation finished. It has taken longer then the other outcomes because I wanted to take my time and experiment with 3d space and cameras in After Effects (I've also been pretty busy since I got back, so have been squeezing in time to work on this). Generally when I animate I tend to work in 2d space and move along the horizon, so this has been a lot of work, experimentation and tutorial watching to get to this point. Ridiculously frustrating in parts but I'm quite pleased with where I'm at so far. Hopefully I'll get some time this week to go back into it and work up the backgrounds and add the next scenes.

Alongside this I did my image for the Independent, which looked a little like this yesterday:

This image is about state control/intervention. I was told that the article would mainly be about assisted suicide, but I was asked not to work with that, but to focus more on the broader topic of Government intervention in people's lives. This was the idea that was chosen by the art director and my main intention was to use the Union Jack as a set of paths, showing the character being prodded down one route by the hand of the state. It is meant to be a little reminiscent of Government propaganda and also suggest an all controlling power. I wanted to stay away from CCTV and prison like environments and was quite pleased with the way this turned out.

I also completed a full page illustration for The Ride journal last week, which I won't post here until it has been published. That was great fun though, a wide open brief and evocative story to illustrate. It was perfectly timed given that I was working on it whilst the Tour De France was coming to a close, so I worked up the rough with the inspirational feats of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish on in the background. Good times!

Right now I'm working on an image for Ink Publishing so I'd better get back to it..