Career StoriesPassion 18 October 2017
Career Stories: Bodil Jane on freelancing and copy-cats
bodil jane

Yes, we’ve definitely been obsessed with the illustrations of Bodil Jane (1990) for quite some time now and we figured it was time to have a chat with this extraordinary creative freelancer whose work has been featured in campaigns, magazines, and newspapers all over the world. How does Bodil Jane find a good balance between work and private life, how did Instagram kickstart her career and how does she cope with copy-cats?

Bodil Jane is an illustrator from Amsterdam. She graduated with honors from Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, specializing in illustration (2014). She loves to illustrate food, people, animals, fashion, interiors, plants, packages, and maps. All of her illustrations include handmade elements and digital techniques. She works with big (media) brands like Unicef, De Volkskrant, Love Stories Intimates, HEMA, Casetify, ELLE and more.

As an illustrator, how did you find your personal style and did it change through the years?
Bodil Jane: “During my childhood, I have been drawing and painting a lot. I loved working with watercolors and India ink. Later at the Willem de Kooning Academy, we got a lot of room to experiment with all kinds of media. I tried screen printing, embroidery, making linocuts and so on. I liked most of them, it was hard to pick my favorite. But when we had to make 100 drawings of tools, I picked watercolors and India ink again. I loved it! It really felt like me, I had been doing it all my life. After graduating in 2014 watercolors were still my main medium. Because I worked for clients it naturally became more digital. I had to work in different layers to make corrections. So I scanned every part separately. These days I’m still mixing handmade elements and digital techniques.”

You were told at the art academy that it would be incredibly hard to be a freelance illustrator. You are a very successful freelance illustrator now. Were they wrong?
Bodil Jane: “Well, no they were not wrong. They just wanted to explain to us that being a full-time freelance illustrator means working very hard. It means being very committed and making sacrifices. There’s also a business side to it, you need to be willing to learn that part too. I think it was some kind of warning, that being an illustrator is not for everyone. It takes a lot to become fully independent and getting enough jobs to make a living out of it.”

You’ve worked with big clients like ELLE, Teen Vogue, and Unicef. What milestone are you most proud of so far?
Bodil Jane: “My first illustration for The New Yorker that I created last month. It had been a dream of mine for some time and I got very lucky to get a job from them on my Birthday. You can find my illustration in the issue of September 25th, 2017.”

After all this success, what do you struggle with now?
Bodil Jane: “It’s hard to find a good balance between work and private life when you’re a freelancer. When I’m too busy I can feel super stressed and don’t have any time to relax (or just can’t relax) or hang out with friends. When I’m not busy, I feel bored and useless. I think it’s a feeling that a lot of creatives recognize. Working satisfies me the most in life, but it’s not healthy to always be working. I’m not very good at not working. Also, I have a lot of copy-cats. They make me nervous and sad. I haven’t really figured out a way to deal with it.”

Instagram: what did it bring you and could you do without it?
Bodil Jane: “Without Instagram, I would not have been at this point in my career. My agent found me through Instagram, I’ve made friends all around the world because of Instagram and I got a lot of amazing jobs and publications through Instagram. Probably my online shop would not even exist without my followers. I got a really beautiful job for Unicef to create awareness about air pollution. I think that was an Instagram highlight for me. Could I do without it? No.”

We see that your illustrations strongly you bring up complicated social issues too. What role do you think art has in bringing up social issues like this? 
Bodil Jane: “I think art and design have a very big role in addressing social issues. Illustration is a very good tool to do this because it’s communicative but fun at the same time. Personally, I just feel a bit responsible because of my huge Instagram platform. I feel like I should also use it for good causes (like the Unicef jobs). Sometimes I do #sponsored posts, but that doesn’t give me a good feeling at all! Why supporting huge brands if you can use your Instagram to address important matters? Currently, I’m doing an Instagram campaign for the United Nations Population Fund. I have to depict five girls who live in developing countries and do something for their community. Those kind of jobs are my favorites.”

Are there any dream projects that you want to work on in the future?
Bodil Jane: “I’d love to do more illustrations for fabrics, homeware, and furniture. I like designing illustrations for products (and sell them through my online shop).”
Make sure to follow Bodil on Instagram for some great illustrations in your feed!

Photos: The Adjective

Featured image: Instagram Bodil Jane

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