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Q&A with Johanna Basford

Scottish Illustrator

I'm Johanna Basford and I'm an Illustrator. I spend my days drawing intricate black and white artwork in my studio in Scotland. I've been lucky enough to work with some amazing clients over the past few years such as Sony, Starbucks, Chipotle, Absolut Vodka and The Edinburgh Festival Fringe. More recently I've worked with publishers Laurence King to create a grown-up colouring book called Secret Garden which has very nearly sold 200,000 copies worldwide (I'm anxiously awaiting the email to confirm when we pass the milestone!). I've just finished the follow-up book, Enchanted Forest which will be out early next year.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I'm not sure if I was inspired to follow a creative career path, more that I just always knew this was what I wanted to do. I'm one of those annoying people that has always wanted to do (roughly) the same thing. The exact discipline may have altered a little over the years (architect, fashion designer, photographer, graphic designer etc) but I've always wanted to make things and create.

What tools do you use to organize your work?

A blend of analogue and digital.

I'm a big list maker and I carry about a notebook of scribbles and to-do lists at all times. Without it I would fail.

I also love a wall chart and my trusty post-it notes.

I also increasingly use digital tools like ical, Pinterest and WeTransfer to keep tabs on everything across different platforms and to keep me on track when I'm away from the studio.

What is your ideal work environment?

I have to confess that when it comes to working, I'm a bit of a hermit and I enjoy the isolation of working from home. I like a bright, airy and clutter free studio with just the radio and my trusty labrador snoozing at my feet to keep me company. Having said that, I now have a 3 month old daughter so the studio tends to be a bit noisier these days!

Where does your design inspiration come from? 

A lot of my work is nature inspired and takes cues from the flora and fauna I grew up with in rural Scotland.

I try not to take references from books or online sources as I think everyone tends to look at the same sorts of things which can sometimes give your work a familiar sort of look.

Who are the artists you admire most?

This changes constantly. At the moment I'm really into typography and lettering - an area I don't really work in myself. People like Jessica Hische, Seb Lester and Alex Trochut are all incredible at what they do.