Meet Rising Star, Jessica Courtney-Tickle…

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Buy the books!

jess-ct-coversThe Story Orchestra: Four Seasons In One Day [Frances Lincoln]
The Little Christmas Tree [Templar]

and Jessica’s author/illustrated debut; The Unexpected Visitor, publishing Feb 2017 — available to pre-order [Egmont]


Jessica Courtney-Tickle graduated from Kingston University in July 2014. She has a stand-out style, with beautiful attention to detail and the ability to create an incredible light and atmosphere in her work. Jess joins us at The Bright Emporium this month with her newly published book featuring the music of it’s names sake, The Four Seasons, by Antonio Vivaldi. A musical story time is a first for us and we are thoroughly looking forward to it. In speaking to Jess about her inspiration, music is a huge one, making this book very special to her. Here’s a bit more about the very talented Jessica… 

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Home, by Jessica Courtney-Tickle

How did you develop your signature style?

I’m not entirely sure but it’s definitely still growing. I keep seeing it change a little at a time especially over the last year! For my first project at university I chose to write and illustrate a children’s book (it was about a little old house made of wood) and I think the business of my work came from that project. You can definitely see the resemblance even though it was a lot darker then — and drawn in pencil (I hadn’t got to grips with drawing on the computer yet!) I think I’ve also found inspiration in certain artists (Henri Rousseau, Walt Peregoy and Beatrice Alemagna stand out) and I definitely take a lot of inspiration from where I live — there are a lot of wide landscapes, colourful skies and leafy trees here.

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From The Oak House, Jess’s first project at university.

You have your first author/illustrated picture book with Egmont due out next year – are you allowed to say anything about it yet?

I can! I’m quite excited about it and a little nervous too as it’s the first book I’ve written (with the help of the amazing Timothy Knapman) It’s called The Unexpected Visitor and at it’s heart is a story about the importance of sharing, not just between ourselves but between other creatures too. It’s an idea I’ve had in my sketchbook for years so I’m over the moon to see it come to life in February…

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A sneak peek from The Unexpected Visitor, written and illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, published next year by Egmont!

What was your favourite picture book when you were little?

John Burningham’s Oi! Get Off Our Train was my absolute favourite and is still today — the colours and the atmosphere of the artwork are incredible, dreamy and vibrant all at once! Books were so important in our house and that one was very special, we all used to shout it! I also loved The Mousehole Cat (by Antonia Barber and illustrated by Nicola Bayley) with the swirling waves and the warm lights of the little harbour. Both of those books seem to show how big the world is in a way, and they are beautifully done! I also loved Tig and Tag by Benedict Blathwayt  a story about two mischievous sheep and the Richard Scarry books for all the tiny details. There are so many, I expect I have forgotten a few very important ones…

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A scene from Oi! Get Off Our Train Published by Penguin Random House. Light and atmosphere play a huge part in John Burningham’s work and you can really see his influence in artwork made by Jess.

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From The Mousehole Cat, written by Antonia Barber with stunning artwork by Nicola Bayley. Published by Walker Books.

 What’s next on the horizon? 

I am excited to say I’ve started working on the second Story Orchestra book! I’m not sure if I can share which composer we are focusing on just yet but it’s got some magic within it which is so much fun to draw. I’m also working on my second author – illustrated book with Egmont which is one of my favourite ideas yet….

Are you a fan of classical music, and did you listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for inspiration? Do you listen to music whilst you’re working? 

A great question! I have found that music influences my work more than anything else. Sometimes I’ll just listen to a track and draw the image or story that it conjures in my head— it’s so much fun. I think it might be the most important part of the process because it both inspires me and keeps me going. When there isn’t music on, I really do struggle and lose the enjoyment. It was so important to listen to the Vivaldi tracks whilst working on each spread as I could match the colours and the people to the mood of his music, which in turn melds the book together a little more.

Do you work from a studio, or at home?

I work from home at my big desk most of the time. I live in the countryside so there are lots of green spaces to inspire me, but I recently got a laptop for on the go working. I’ve found that when I change up my environment it seems to bring more energy and life into my work which is really interesting to see, so I’m hoping to travel and work a little bit more in the future.

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In the studio.

What’s your creative technique and where do you normally begin on the page? As in do you start with the people and follow with all the scenery and foliage etc?

I’ll often start with the backdrop, I really love working on landscapes (as you can see in this book where they are all landscapes) and I’ll get the colours and the composition of that worked out first. Then I’ll go in with the flowers and foliage and trees. The people always, always come last. One of the things I love about digital working is the easy layering. When I worked traditionally I would layer my images into tunnel books* by hand or use a scanner to place each drawing on top of another. The people were always at the front — it’s still like that now.

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Rough spread for Spring from Four Seasons in One Day, published by Francis Lincoln.

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The same piece, worked up to colour.

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*A Tunnel Book made by Jess (above) and a Victorian paper theatre (below).

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What advice would you give to anyone just beginning their career in illustration?

This was me one year ago. So I would say good things are just around the corner, don’t give up! Social media is great for getting noticed. I’d also say try and make work that represents who you are, somebody told me this a few years ago and it helped immensely. Filling your work with the things that make up you e.g. your favourite colours and times of the day, or your favourite plants. It helps to make your work more individual (and more enjoyable to make too) Music is also a big help… 😀

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Jess recently held a Storytime Sunday at The Bright Emporium  in Clapham, London — a gallery and event space dedicated to children’s illustration and picture books, making story telling and creativity accessible to all.
See highlights from the event here.

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If you’d like to work with Jessica, you can reach her via her agent, Arabella Stein here.

You can also follow Jess on Twitter and Instagram.


With huge thanks to Jess for such a great read! LM