Written by Standard Issue


SIM Illustrated: Jemima Williams

We’re lucky enough to have a cracking team of illustrators at Standard Issue and thought it was about time we got to know them a bit better as well as admiring their work. In the latest in a series of profiles, please give a wave to Jemima Williams.

Illustration of Jemima Williams and her teenage selfName: Jemima Williams

Age: 30

Location: London

Official job title: Illustrator/brand manager/designer

What was the first thing you wanted to be? Indiana Jones. The fact that I was a) a seven year-old girl, b) not living in the 1930s and c) NOT INDIANA JONES never occurred to me.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist/illustrator?
The last four generations of my family have been artists, so I always knew exactly what I wanted to do and felt supported in that decision. Illustration came about when I was applying for university and was too afraid to try for the costume design courses. But it all worked out well in the end, and though it’d be great to move more into costume design in future, I love where I am now.

What’s your strongest memory from school/education? Being shouted at for not being able to colour inside the lines, as a four year old. But who’s the professional colourer-inner now, eh Miss Jones? EH?

Illustration in the style of Rosie the RiveterWhen you’re not working, what else do you like to do? When I have any free time, I usually spend it drawing. That’s the wonderful and terrible thing about a job that you love, a creative job; it’s in your bones; in the nucleus of every cell. I need to do it to stay happy and sane, but it can be exhausting.

What has been your proudest creative moment to date? My first freelance job was illustrating The Golden Rules of Acting, by the fantastic Andy Nyman. Walking into a bookshop and seeing the book I had illustrated sitting on a shelf was the best feeling.

What would you like to erase from your past? My student loan.

What brings you the most joy? Making things. Good food. Good books. Hot baths. The smell of tomatoes on the vine. Fresh air. Love.

What makes you angry? Pink for girls and blue for boys. I work on the merchandise for a preschool animated show. It’s hard to fight back against the ingrained notions of what girls and boys want, as you’re struggling against licensees and retailers and buyers, who all have very good reasons for wanting to give in to the gender stereotypes. I get the eye-roll a lot for ‘banging on’ about this, but I know it’s our responsibility to make changes where we can.

Professionally, who has been your biggest inspiration? Two people: Tank Girl and Gorillaz creator Jamie Hewlett, and my dad. My father is a professional watercolour artist. Although our styles and mediums aren’t similar, he has inspired me to pursue my goals, and shown me that a career in the arts is possible.

I once met Jamie Hewlett at a Gorillaz after-party. I plucked up the courage to tell him what an inspiration he had been and he gave me a huge hug…and fell asleep on my shoulder during it. I think he must have been very tired.

Illustration of Cheryl ColeHave you ever met someone who made you go weak at the knees? Immediately after graduating I worked for two weeks on the art department and set of Doctor Who. I was walking down a long deserted corridor on location when David Tennant rounded the corner and headed towards me, in full Doctor costume. We passed each other, he grinned cheerily, and all I could think was, “I hope the cardiac arrest I’m having isn’t showing on my face.”

What advice would you give a woman who wants a career in illustration/design? My advice would be the same for a man or a woman – you just have to work your arse off, and love what you’re doing.

How do you define success? I don’t know if that’s even possible. I think if you have drive and passion you’ll always want to push for more – as long as you can sit back and enjoy your achievements every now and then.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever had? My motto is: Do No Harm, Take No Shit. I’ve cross-stitched it and framed it on my wall. I’ve always been a people-pleaser and, at times, a bit of a doormat. But being kind and empathetic is really important to me, so it’s a fine line to walk.

What’s your favourite photograph? (And can we see it?) This photo was taken at the British Animation Awards in March 2014, about two minutes after this man and I met. We had both won awards that night.

Jemima and her boyfriend-to-beHe came over to talk to me. He was very confident, direct, American. I was working, distracted, suspicious. The official photographer said we looked good together and took our picture.

In the year since that first meeting we have fallen head over heels in love with each other. I cannot believe how much my life has changed, after just one chance encounter, one London night, between two people who were usually 3,000 miles apart.

This year, on the same date, we went to the New York International Kids Film Festival. We deliberately wore the same clothes, but in this year’s photos we look younger. That’s love for you, I suppose.

Where did you go on your favourite holiday? When I was a kid my parents and brothers and I would go on holiday with another family to the west coast of Scotland. We would stay in one of the cottages on the estate of a big grand Victorian house and spend the week rampaging around the gardens, crab fishing in the loch, trying to avoid the tick-ridden bracken, swimming in rivers and riding horses. It was ridiculously idyllic.

Who can’t you live without? My parents have always been hugely supportive and encouraging of me. My brothers Sam and Harri, my two best friends Bridget and Cara, and my boyfriend Ben put up with a lot of anxiety and drama from me, and I love them forever for that.

Illustration of a woman talking to herself at breakfastWhat can’t you live without? Earl Grey tea. Something to draw on and with. Music. Human interaction.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Staying sane. Or relatively so.

Which song could be used to soundtrack your life so far? Prince Charming by Adam Ant. “Ridicule is nothing to be scared of”. And dress however the hell you want – especially if that’s as a dandy highwayman.

Of all the illustrations you’ve done for Standard Issue, which is your favourite? I like the Where’s Wally-style concept of the illustration for Jane Bostock’s article about the disappearance of Kim Jong Un.

Illustration of Kim Jong Un hiding in a crowdThe one I did for Jen Brown’s Tribute To A Mam meant a lot to me, since it was such a heartbreakingly touching article.

Illustration of a mother and daughter inside a 'Mam' heart tattooBut I think the woman doing battle with a monster of stuff in Julie Mayhew’s Bang Tidy is my favourite. I had no idea what to draw for a while, and then that idea just appeared, and seemed really fun. Illustration of a woman battling a junk monster

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Written by Standard Issue