CAROLINE SWANNE

Do you prefer the hand drawn or the digital?

A question that really does apply itself to most creatives in today’s world. The quirks from the hand drawn element differ from the fine cut geometric shapes. But working with both? Well of course heaps of people do, but one in particular who uses both methods is Miss Swanne. Differentiating her work between two different companies, it creates a body of work to be quite unique. With winking animations, large wallpaper designs and hand drawn cheeky characters, let’s take a peek into this creative mind.

Nicola Manuel: Hello Miss Swanne, or shall I call you Jo Bird? How are you?

Caroline Swanne: Well good morning Miss Manuel. Call me Caz – it’s a happy medium between the two. I’m ok this morning, up and out of bed before 9 so its bound to be a productive day!

NM: Working with both the hand drawn and digital must be a rewarding way of working; with a lovely bit of differentiation within your work- you must never get bored! Is there a reason why you choose to work with both mediums and with two different names?

CS:  Yes, there is a reason and it is due to the history of how I started working in this business. After graduating I worked as an illustration agent. My boss was very kind and let me be represented too, so I picked a pseudonym to hide behind. That is where the moniker Jo Bird was developed.  After a while though I started to learn digital techniques but the work I was producing was so vastly different from what came out of Jo Bird’s hands. So I decided to steal some glory back and christen the new style in my own name, Miss Swanne.

A tutorial for creating artwork by computer, published in Digital Arts.
A tutorial for creating artwork by computer, published in Digital Arts.

NM: You have produced work for many varieties of creative outcomes from television advertisements (I’m sure most would recognise your ‘Surf’ advertisements) magazines and even murals. Has there been a particular favourite of yours?

CS: Ah the soap box – well any viewers of TOWIE might be familiar with my work! It has pretty great ratings. That was a fun job and a brilliant start to last year. I got to work with a production agency who were great. Every job is different and has its highs and lows, I guess. Though the murals for Blue Hive, 9 rooms in total, were great fun to work on. That advertising agency is based in Canary Wharf and they let me be so creative, scribbling away on their walls! The project manager for that job, Charlotte Rose, even took the photos you see here of me. She was a delight to work with.

NM: Having once been an agent within an illustration agency you have taken that leap from being in charge to actually producing the work itself. What made you take the change?

CS: Well, don’t tell the boss this but my heart was never really in sales…shhhh! I loved working as an agent because I’m a busy body that loved to know what jobs were happening and with whom, but deep down I wanted to draw for all of them! The job was great for growing my confidence and eventually one day I took the scary plunge of going freelance. The timing just felt right one day.

'Surf' advertisement supporting 'The Only Way Is Essex'.
‘Surf’ advertisement supporting ‘The Only Way Is Essex’.

NM: Working in an illustration agency provides a real insight into a collective mix of illustrators. Were you influenced by any of the illustrators you were working with? Who are your main influences today?

CS: Wow, the talent over at Jelly is really incredible. Some of the illustrators I selected at the beginning are doing amazingly well, which is really satisfying to see – Matt Johnston, Damien Weighill, and Caroline Tomlinson . Over the years they have added some great people to their roster. I worked at Folio for a while too, and they represent some industry greats such a Syd Brak and Jason Brooks (whose fashion illustrations I adore.) I’m a big fan of McBess’s monochrome work and the complete whimsy of Camille Rose Garcia through to Miss Van’s fierce ladies. It’s a mixed bunch and I could go on….!*

*(Thinks of more) – Barbara Hulanicki – such a heroine of mine. Founder of Biba, her fashion illustrations are fabulous.)

NM: What are the best and worst things about working with hand drawn and digital?

CS: Hand drawn is great as mistakes can add to a piece, my Jo Bird style is pretty messy and irregular where as the Miss Swanne style needs to be more precise. The hand drawn style is nice to take out of the studio every so often too and stretch my legs, but for colour and pattern making the digital approach is key.

Hand drawn element in Jo Bird style.
Hand drawn element in Jo Bird style.

NM: Tell us one unusual fact about yourself.

CS: I love the smell of newly printed books! My Mum gives me a withering look and mutters ‘such an odd child’ when I open up a new book and have a whiff! Am I alone in this….er…….!?

NM:  Is there one thing that you have yet to do that you wish to pursue? What does the next few years hold in store for you?

CS: Great question! I have lots of lists scattered about the place. I’d love to see my illustrations on a poster campaign just for the buzz of seeing my work so large. What I would LOVE to do is travel with my illustration. I dream of going to Tokyo! It would be amazing to complete a job out there. There are lots of places I would like to see and I imagine them all with a sketch-book in hand. I’d also love to decorate some more walls with my style, perhaps a boutique fashion shop and maybe a collaboration with another illustrator at some point would be fun too…  

Another in the style of Jo Bird.
Another illustration in the style of Jo Bird.

Time for those quick round questions…

Digital or hand drawn? BOTH!

Vintage or modern? VINTAGE

Greatest achievement? Working for myself.

Sweet or savoury? SWEET (ugh such a sweet tooth)

Your favourite word? Raspberry

Me and nephew
Caroline Swanne with her nephew.

From chatting to Caroline I, myself, have been taught two things.

1. She’s a lovely, lovely lady and …

2. You don’t have to choose between working with either hand drawn or digital. Yes yes, I realised that already but by seeing the way Caroline works between two different styles proves you can successfully work both.

Want to see a little more of Caroline’s work? Head over to her website of either Miss Swanne or Jo Bird and also hear her ‘tweet’ (oh that was too lame) on her twitter too.

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