Meet The Maker: Clara Jonas

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Clara Jonas is a jack of all illustrative trades and a truly humble graphic designer from my wonderful homeland of Cornwall. I met Clara whilst studying illustration & graphics at Truro College back in 2013. Since then, Clara started studying at Falmouth University and has developed into a well known designer amongst the surf lifestyle industry, including working with the likes of Wavelength Magazine.

She has an array of work spread under her rainbow of talent such as tattoo designs, packaging for coffee roasters & hot chocolate brands, advertising for local businesses and brush lettering for the Women & Waves Surf Club based in Newquay. After noticing her work on social media, I decided to get back in touch with Clara to find out how she’s getting on as a thriving artist. 

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Hello! You’ve been a busy lady since we left Truro College! How are you? 

I’m good! It has all gone pretty fast and I am still not quite sure what’s going on, but I’ve been lucky enough to go to some exciting places and do some exciting things.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about your background? 

My family and moved down to North Cornwall in time for me to start secondary school. I found myself immersed in a different sort of lifestyle and discovering some new passions. I am super lucky to have a very creative family and a Mum that has always encouraged curiosity and questioning of things. I think the combination of lifestyle and upbringing has definitely flavoured my current approach to life and creating.

I absolutely adore you artwork, I always have! Such a surf girl theme, how have you developed your style?

In the beginning I definitely drew directly from my interests and styles that I liked, but when I started my degree and design became more a part of my life and what I offered I wanted things to feel a little less cliché and ’surfy’. I wanted to look at classic imagery and give it a twist of my own. I found myself responding to a lot of ambiguous visuals and thinking about how I could unite them and transfer them into my style. I like a feeling of aesthetic, natural space and elegance. Trying to make sure I keep making things with my hands as opposed to purely digitally is really important to me, and I am working to get away from my laptop and overstimulation as much as possible. To find inspiration in the space in between. 

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I can tell our readers are going to love your aesthetic illustrations! Can you tell us where we can buy you work?

Haha. I am constantly meaning to get stuff printed and make a real go with it but struggle with the time and initial money. I currently have some very limited prints online with The North Coast Asylum Gallery, but am hoping for there to be more emerging online with them and my own website this year. In the meantime directly contacting me for a print on demand is how I have been doing it recently.

What has been your most exciting project so far? 

It has been super enjoyable having both the design and illustration being worked on at similar times as I feel they both inform and broaden the other. Design wise it has been lovely to work with some very cool, organic farms in Greece with some exciting ideas on ways of living. For illustrative projects I have really enjoyed the recent ink style work that I did for Origin Coffee through A-side studio, it was lovely to push and experiment with ink and watercolour a little further.

How has your creative process changed since the start? 

I think I have become far more specific and immersed in it, which I think is both a good and bad thing. I feel like I have definitely become more adept at gathering inspiration from many different places and thinking more laterally, however I also feel that I care far more about what I am creating due to it having to be created to a brief and a deadline. Recently I have really been trying to get off the laptop and create physically and pursue a lot of the personal work ideas that I have had. I think creating personal work is so so important as that will shape the work you are commissioned in the future. 

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Have you always been into illustration and design? 

I always knew I was into art and creativity but wasn’t sure what path I wanted to pursue until I took illustration and graphics at A-level and I felt far more able to place my work in the world. I think the lines between art, design and illustration are interesting to blur and experiment with.

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Why has social media been an important platform for you to use? 

It has been an easy, non-committal way to share work in an informally without having to organise projects uber professionally to put on portfolio/networking sites etc, and at the point I am at in my life has been a relaxed way to connect and share. I like the infusion of personality social media has as well and the idea of a person you can get from their accounts. 

Who inspires your work? 

Ah so many people! Originally I think it was the incredible illustrator and lettering/typography artist Gemma O’Brien, but recently I have found myself looking at other types of artists work. I am always very excited by bizarre photography, particularly as interesting reference imagery. Beyond people, a rich source of inspiration for me is mythology and folk culture. The symbolism and esoteric nature of folktales and cultural myth have this lovely ambiguity and poetry which I try and weave into my work, respectfully of course. 

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Do you have any favourite pieces of work? 

Recently I put together some pieces of work for The Cruel & Curious Sea exhibition in North Cornwall. I did a series of four pieces that were inspired by the myth and lore surrounding the sea. I was really happy with how they turned out and the design led style the illustrations had. 

What do we hope to see coming up in the near future? 

Hopefully finishing university as painlessly as possible and a smooth transition into full time (ish) freelance (ish) life. In between now and then will doubtlessly be some questionable university work and angst, but I am really hoping to get some experimental personal work out there and push my style some more. 

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Do you have a typical working day? 

I often ask myself this. Things seem to be constantly changing at the moment and pinning down a routine can become quite hard, but I think a recipe of working creatively for a few hours, a couple of hours of admin, some fresh air and some good food seems to do the trick. Order varies. Considerably.

What’s been your biggest struggle? 

Sometimes it feels like it is nothing but a struggle. I think the balancing act of freelancing, uni and life is something I do struggle with and being strict with self-management. I know as I put more efforts into freelance after university I am going to need to be more disciplined but at the moment I am just trying to make use of the time I have. Creativity wise, I do feel that now it has become something I make money from, it does put a little more pressure on producing and efficiency which I can really struggle with. 

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Do you have any advice for upcoming illustrators in Cornwall?

I’m not sure I am qualified or relevant enough to give advice, but I guess if I was to impart some words of wisdom (questionable) it would be that at the end of the day let go of the fear around something, the worst thing that can happen eg: criticism, money issues, rejection is always so much worse in your head. Slowing down, recognising the fearful habits and moving on is something that I am really trying to address. Things don’t matter as much as you think they do. 

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If you’d like to check out Clara’s work please visit her portfolio page at /Instagram: @clara.m.jonas.

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