Illustrator: Josie Sommer

Josie Sommer is an illustrator based in London. Her work draws on literature, music and art history. I initially reached out to her for a print on Etsy, but after a few conversations, I knew immediately she was the first person I wanted to interview.

What was your first commissioned piece?

My first commission was an editorial illustration for Scottish magazine called The Skinny. It was for their Clubbing Highlights page and at first, I wasn’t sure that my style of illustration really suited clubbing as a theme, but I painted two women dancing around their handbags, looking slightly uneasy (much like I would be), and I became really pleased with it. As my first job, it really stretched me in thinking about subjects that I wouldn’t normally have considered, which was really fun.

What inspired your style?

My style is inspired by the things I love – music (Bo Diddley, Shangri-Las, Link Wray…), art (modernist sculpture, expressionism and mid-century design) and literature (Carson McCullers, J.D Salinger, stuff that sparkles or quietly observes). But then there are also places, people and films that inspire me too.

Which is the piece you’re most proud of?

The piece I’m most proud of is a large painting I did earlier this year called ‘Who Do You Love?’ with ceramicist Alex Sickling. I curated an exhibition called Love (it’s love-themed…) showcasing the work of 10 contemporary female illustrators. It showed at Newcastle, Leeds and it’s going to be on in London this Autumn. It’s such a fun show and ‘Who Do You Love?’ illustrates Bo Diddley’s song. I love Bo Diddley and my greatest ambition in life is to create a work of art that looks like his music sounds. The lyric ‘I rode a lion to town’ was the initial inspiration. I turned Bo into a ‘50’s-ey looking woman riding a lion with a rattlesnake whip and then played with other elements of the song, such as an ice wagon, Bo’s love Arlene and Bo as well, of course (I couldn’t miss him out!).

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Are you working on anything for the future?

I’ve just moved to north London and I’m really enjoying visiting museums, drawing collections and particularly sculptures. I’m also planning Love for its London’s leg. As well as trying my style out in other forms of media – I’m just starting to embroider some of my illustrations of women!

What’s your most personal drawing to date?

My most personal piece would probably be a ceramic seated woman with her arm’s folded called Girl on a Stool. She’s just a bit uncomfortable and when I first made her I wasn’t all too keen on her, but there’s something about her that I’ve really warmed to. I think she looks very awkward and unsure.

To see more of Josie’s work visit her Etsy shop, website and blog.

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