An interview with Scottish Highlands-based illustrator Jack Spowart

We were introduced to Jack Spowart last year when Rab and Banff were looking for a talented artist to design the ‘artwork’ for the 47th edition of the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival. After launching a competition, they received many entries from talented artists, but Jack was chosen as the winner because of his complex illustrations that consisted of a combination of pen, ink and subtle use of colour. His work really stood out. I too was touched by his drawings and was curious about Jack’s ‘artwork’ and what inspires him. I contacted Jack and spoke with him last summer in Ardersier, Scotland.

Jack Spowart is a Scottish Highlands-based illustrator who draws inspiration from the outdoors and hopes to inspire others to respect nature and build a deeper understanding. His design for the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival depicts Lake Louise in Banff National Park and reflects his fascination with nature. Want to know more about Jack and his ‘artwork’? Read my interview with him here.

Jack Spowart maakt ‘artwork’ voor het Banff Mountain Festival

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started as an illustrator?

Hi, I’m Jack Spowart, I’m 31 and I live in a tiny village called Ardersier on the outskirts of Inverness, Scotland. I am a formally trained animator (DJCAD Dundee) specialising in lighting and rendering but I always preferred drawing to working on a computer. I think a main pivotal moment of me getting started as an illustrator was sitting on the banks of Lake Wanaka where I sketched the mountains in front of me in many different styles.

What inspired you to pursue a career in illustration? Was there a particular moment or experience that ignited your passion?

I’ve always enjoyed being outside, exploring, photographing and making little films about my experiences. This brought me to think about how I could combine my love for the outdoors and drawing. My time exploring Scotland definitely inspired me to pursue a career in illustration. A notable moment would be spending time in Hanmer Springs with my now wife and friends over the Christmas of 2019. Whilst converting a van into a camper I was given advice and gentle push to get things off the ground.

How would you describe your artistic style and what sets it apart from other illustrators?

I would describe my style as very precise, logical, intensive and explorative. I leave certain areas for the viewer to discover themselves. I have an interest in science/maths particularly measurements, time, graphs, patterns, angles and maps. I like to think my work inspires others and gives people a chance to connect with the landscapes around us. Established within my output is a respect for nature. I hope to inspire others to advocate that respect and build a deeper understanding of wild places.

Can you share some of the key projects or collaborations that have shaped your career as an illustrator?

Having only worked for one and half years as a full time illustrator, I haven’t picked up a huge amount of clients and collaborations so far. A key project I’ve done that has influenced and shaped my work would be getting work with Buff and Rab for the Banff Mountain Film Festival. I was asked to be their artist for the festival after submitting my work to them. I loved the experience of creating the work but also the connections I made while in Banff for the festival – I really hope to get back one day!

Are there any specific themes or subjects that you enjoy exploring through your illustrations? Why are they significant to you?

My themes and subjects are almost always places I’ve been, experienced and spent time in/on/through. It’s a place where I’ve made memories, sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes just nostalgic in nature. For example, ‘The German Soldier’ is just an oddly shaped rock at the side of the A9 south of Inverness but I have fond memories. My dad pointed it out to me on one of our endless trips up and down the A9. Now I spot it every time and think of him.

What is your creative process like? How do you approach a new project, from conceptualization to final execution?

Time researching a location is important for the conceptualisation of a new project. Where to walk, when to go, make a goal, a certain time of day. Exploring the location through physically being there, photographing and film making. I will sketch on site if it’s appropriate but generally looking for the best composition through the lens initially. I then create a detailed pencil sketch and finally into pen work. I work left to right, in a grid structure, building details slowly.

Are there any artists or illustrators who have influenced or inspired your work? If so, how have they impacted your artistic style?

I was initially inspired by artists on instagram, mostly putting out their work on this platform and seeing where it took them. A few notable creatives that I followed and took influence from are Derek Myers, David Rollyn, Sarah Hernandez, Kerby Rosanes and Kim Becker. They are masters of pen work.

Can you talk about any upcoming projects or exciting ventures that we can expect from Jack Spowart Illustrator in the near future?

There is a possibility that I’ll be working alongside a Scottish freelance filmmaker who is creating a film about the Gaelic language, music and connection to the landscape. I can’t go into too much detail though as it’s in its very early stages and still securing funding and ideas.

My most exciting venture for next year so far is I’ll be attending Scotland’s Trade Fair in Glasgow. I’ll have a booth to showcase my work in front of many of the UKs leading brands in retail. I’m hoping to do lots of networking, make connections with brands and secure some orders for shops and businesses!

How do you stay motivated and continue to evolve as an illustrator? Are there any particular strategies or practices that help fuel your creativity?

The drawing side of things I’ll never tire of, I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember and since starting the business I have less time for drawing as there are many other things to keep on top of. Therefore, when I do get to draw, it is complete joy. I am constantly looking at new avenues of promotion and development. There are many ways to promote yourself freely, I try to keep up to date with the latest trends/ideas of self promotion. Researching and networking with businesses, like yourself, help to prompt and build the brand too. To help fuel creativity, it is always important to stop now and again, reflect and get outside. Really remember why you started this all in the first place and ‘practice what you preach’ as such. Get in the hills.

More of Jack’s artwork

Want to know more about Jack Spowart’s work? Then check out his portfolio here or buy a print for yourself – or someone else – in the online shop.

Hayco Volkers
Hayco Volkers
I have practiced a multitude of sports since my youth to the present. My first sports as a child were judo and athletics. Cycling, hiking, mountain biking, kyokushin karate, diving, baseball, golf and windsurfing, rowing and krav maga were added later.

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