Jake Hawkins is a gifted conceptual illustrator and in-house designer at PinkNews – and today’s BLUP50 feature. His talent includes narrating stories using visual metaphors as well as utilising his work to advocate for diversity and inclusivity. The Washington Post, The Telegraph, and Gay Times are just a few of the clients that have had the privilege of working with him.
In this interview, Jake shares his creative journey, favourite projects, and his process when tackling editorial briefs. He also talks about his passion for LGBTQ+ narratives and his dream clients. From moving to London from Somerset, to being a first-time uncle, Jake reflects on his personal and professional accomplishments in 2022 and reveals his plans for 2023.
// DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN ONE WORD.
// WHEN DID YOU REALISE ILLUSTRATION WAS SOMETHING YOU WANTED TO PURSUE (BEFORE STUDYING ILLUSTRATION AT UNIVERSITY)? HOW DID YOUR PASSION DEVELOP IN YOUR EARLY YEARS?
I’ve always enjoyed drawing, ever since I was a little boy! I remember on many occasions making my Nan join in sketching with me, which she admits isn’t her forte. However, it was in secondary school that I knew I wanted to pursue a creative career, as the only homework I enjoyed was from Art. It was later in college when I narrowed it down to the field of illustration.
// WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PROJECT YOU’VE WORKED ON OVER THE PAST 12 MONTHS?
An editorial illustration for The Washington Post. It was my first time working with them and the subject was regarding Trans healthcare. I always enjoy and feel passionate about working on projects with LGBTQ+ themes/narratives. One of my favourite things about working for printed publications is receiving the physical copy of my work, designed on page, which is usually my first opportunity to read the article in full.
// WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST TAKEAWAY WORKING FOR THE TELEGRAPH?
The soft skills it takes to be an in-house designer. It’s not just about ability or technical skills, but your capacity to negotiate, network and be adaptable.
// WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU IN YOUR INDUSTRY?
My creative friends inspire me, and we all support one another! It’s great to have people in your working field championing you.
// AS YOU PUSH FOR DIVERSITY & INCLUSION, ARE THERE ANY BRANDS OR ORGANISATIONS THAT COME TO MIND THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO COLLABORATE OR WORK WITH?
My dream client would have to be The New York Times. I’d also love to work with Netflix. They are creating lots of original, inclusive content, which helps with more authentic representation on screen.
// CAN YOU SHARE MORE ABOUT YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS WHEN TACKLING A TYPICAL EDITORIAL BRIEF?
With editorial briefs, you rarely get much copy to work off, usually just a working title. If you get the full copy, you are lucky! My creative process starts with looking for the key words in the title/text and breaking that down into visuals. I also look to see if there are any visual metaphors I can play with to give the illustration a conceptual edge. I then produce three roughs, taking a different approach with each. These will then be sent to the art director for feedback, with one concept being taken to final artwork.
// IS ILLUSTRATION SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO ‘SWITCH OFF’ FROM? OUTSIDE ILLUSTRATION, WHAT ELSE DO YOU ENJOY DOING?
I definitely like to switch off from work, but not necessarily illustration. I’m always looking at work in the industry or what’s being commissioned in publications, as this is something I enjoy. Outside of illustration, I love going to the theatre, visiting exhibitions and hanging out with friends. The great thing about living in London is there’s always something to do, which I’ve found to be a positive contrast from growing up in the countryside.
// DO YOU HAVE TO KEEP ON TOP OF TRENDS IN THE WORLD OF ILLUSTRATION? WHAT’S CAUGHT YOUR EYE RECENTLY?
I think it’s great to be aware of industry trends, but not necessarily feel the need to follow them. Obviously, there’s a big hype around text to image AI generated images at the moment. With some really creative imagery being produced. But I think it’s good to be conscious of the impact of AI on the intellectual property rights of creative workers.
// OVERALL, WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN 2022?
From a personal point of view, becoming a first-time uncle to my beautiful niece. From a career perspective, embarking on a new journey.
// WHAT’S NEXT ON YOUR BUCKET LIST FOR 2023? WOULD YOU LIKE TO EXPLORE MORE THIS YEAR?
To delve deeper into 3D illustration and animation, there is so much amazing work being produced in this field and I’d love to contribute!
FOLLOW JAKE’S JOURNEY
We enjoyed our catch up with Jake, you can delve more into his creative journey here as he pursues further projects:
Portfolio / Site: www.jakehawkins.co.uk