Jesse Hodgson - Illustrator


A very gifted cheeky monkey!

What a joy it was to chat with Jesse and hear a little bit about her story, her Chronicle. I got to witness a wonderful mix of grace and beauty, with an assertive spicy and fiery side. A very talented and diligent woman, seeking to leave her mark upon the world.

Sat in her lovely home, tea in hand, we chatted about how she sees life, herself and her craft. She then went on show me some of her current work and some of her skills! After just an hour and a half with her, its pretty safe to say that I’m massively excited to see what this craftsman gifts the world. 


Q. Where your creativity has come from?

Both my parents went to art college and were creative at home. Dad was a freelance cameraman and would always critique my artwork. They have quite a passion for storytelling and so I wonder if that creativity has come from them. Possibly!


Q. Do animals bring you joy?

A lot of my inspiration comes from animals, wildlife, and things I see in nature. Animals do such weird and interesting things; there are swifts that sleep for 20 minutes at a time as they are flying round the world. I don’t think they land for something like 100 days. They just nap whilst they are flying, and catch a lift on the rising hot air!


Q. Tell me about Jesse… what makes you laugh uncontrollably?

[Laughing - clearly having just thought of something.] Probably people being silly - or silly animals doing silly things. Just silliness. 


Q. So your style is more free flow?

Yes, I usually get ideas for books when I’m outside when I’m going for a walk – that’s when ideas start flowing. There is something about the way I think that changes when I go outside into a natural environment - the freedom of thought, perhaps. It can spark an idea that leads to a tangent.


Q. So your looking for something that stimulates a journey?

Yes, it sets you off on a train of thought that I want to follow, and may end up as an idea.


Q. So what is beautiful to you? what makes you go Wow!? What is wondrous to behold?

The first thing that comes to mind is Cornwall. I love the rugged coastline and there are lots of seals! I love the wildness; the wind, the haggard rocks and the wild flowers. I feel free and most myself when I am in that environment. 


Q. Most yourself?

For example, if you strip everything else away it is your core that is left.  There is nothing else to get in the way - it is just you and nature. I often go camping in Cornwall and I feel it allows me to get back to the basics of who I am.


Q. What’s something that makes you really, really mad?

Gosh! There are so many things! I think injustices committed against women are one of the main things that make me quite mad. Because it’s so distressing I’ve actually tried to not let it overwhelm me so much on a day-to-day basis. I wrote my dissertation on it, drawing upon on my own experiences, and that helped.


Q. What is something you would love to see change in the world? 

I would want to see change in the way women are treated. I was talking with a friend recently and she felt that in a professional context, as a younger woman, your opinion can seem like it holds less value than of someone who is perhaps older and male.

Also, the other day I noticed that when I am walking I tend to frown - I do it on purpose. It is to make myself look unfriendly and to deter men from interacting with me. I used to appear more open and friendly but I have learnt to do this so as not to receive unwanted male attention.


Q. How do you fix this?

I think in our society there needs to be more honour and respect towards one another in a way that is currently missing. It’s a huge change that needs to shift in our culture. I’m not sure that I’ll ever see that dream. It is possible… eventually!


Q. How would you summarise your perspective on life… the attitude you try see life with?

I’m quite determined and hard working. If something is looking like it is going to be difficult to achieve, I'll keep working at it and wait it out. Even though now I’m not necessarily seeing all the rewards of what I am investing in now, I think in the years to come maybe some of those things will come to fruition. 


Q. What is your craft?

I’m an illustrator and I have several different ways of working. Normally I use colouring pencils and my work is quite detailed, but recently I have really enjoyed working more loosely with inks. I think it’s important for me to keep changing the way I’m working and try out new things - other wise I can get stuck in a rut. I find that if I’m just copying my own work all the time I loose part of that trail and error process.

I’m now learning how to work with watercolours. It was really hard at first and I went through a month of creating terrible drawings. I feel I have over come that hurdle now, and actually it was an important and refreshing creative process.


Q. Why did you start doing illustration?

I went to Chelsea Art College with the intention of going on to study fine art, but in my foundation year I soon learnt that fine art did not sit with me at all. I ended up studying visual communication, which is where I felt most at home.

In 2013 I entered Pongo into a children’s illustration competition called the Macmillan Prize. I received a highly recommended award for the book, and that was when I realized that perhaps I should consider pursuing children’s book illustration more seriously.


Q. So what do you love about your craft - doing children books?

I regularly visit primary schools with my book, Pongo. Its interesting how through such a simple story, more profound morals can be communicated. I didn’t write the story with all these different morals in mind, so it has been fun discovering the values of friendship, relationships, encouragement and belonging in my own writing. It's great fun being able to chat to kids about all of those things.


Q. Is there anything in your creative process that really frustrates you?

I find when I can’t draw something it is really frustrating.  I spend a lot of time researching and practicing drawing my subjects, and so when I still can’t draw them I do get quite annoyed.


Q. So where do you see yourself going with it? What's the dream?

I would like to be able to keep writing and illustrating my own children books. I would like to be able to devote all my time to that; currently it’s a bit sporadic as I’m teaching piano as well and I find that the lessons can interrupt the pace of my work. At the moment I find that just as I get into the flow of something I have to cut it off. It would be ideal to have unlimited time where I could get completely lost in that creative space.

I recently went to the Illustration cupboard, which is a little gallery in London that shows lots of original children’s illustrations. That is something I would like to be a part of and a standard to aspire to.


Q. What advice would you give to someone in your craft?

I have found having an agent helpful as I find self-marketing difficult. My agent is also a good critic of my work. We have a great relationship and they have helped me with my development. For example, when I joined them I was good at drawing animals, but to strengthen my portfolio I really needed to get better at drawing children. I have now spent two years drawing and drawing and gradually getting better. I feel I have come along way with all my practice and so I think practicing your drawing is a good thing to do.

Taking on projects that you’re interested in even if its unpaid can sometimes be a good thing. Unpaid work is difficult and I don’t want encourage that culture. However, sometimes those jobs can lead to other exciting projects.

Being in touch with other creative people in your field is a good thing.

I had a studio space where I was working alongside other freelancers who were on a similar journey as me and it was encouraging to see their success. I think it can be quite difficult to keep going if you’re not getting regular work but when you’re in a studio, you see that at some stage everyone goes through those periods.

Patience and perseverance is a really good one. Not giving up on projects, even when you think they have died.  


Q. Any final thoughts?

I like drawing. That is all.