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A Magazine for Sheffield
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Jack Donaldson Funny bones

Sheffield-based illustrator with a penchant for all things skeletal gives us an insight into his creative process.

As someone with a keen interest in anatomy and human physiology, Jack Donaldson’s illustrations are a feast for the eyes, depicting the bare bones of the human form in fantastic detail and showing them in seldom seen ways. I chatted to Jack to find out more about his artwork and what he’s working on at the moment.

As an illustrator in Sheffield, you're certainly in good artistic company. Where do you see yourself within the artistic community and who inspires you?

Sheffield is such a fantastic place to have developed as an artist. I find myself surrounded by interesting and creative people every day. I’m lucky to have close friends who work in different creative fields which I find has broadened my artistic perspective.

I’m currently trying to branch out a bit more and get to know other like minded-artists in Sheffield and establish myself and my style.I’m really inspired by the thriving music scene in Sheffield, as well as all the incredible tattoo artists and street artists. And I really love the work of Tom Newell - it’s so distinct and eye-catching and never fails to blow my mind.

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While many artists enjoy working at a larger scale, you have a certain fondness for working in miniature. What draws you to this medium?

I remember when I was a kid I would practise my handwriting as small as possible. This became a bit of a habit that seeped into my art style. Even when working at a larger scale, I love to cram as much detail in as I can. It’s something I have always appreciated in art. It draws you in and makes you really observe and appreciate the small, otherwise unnoticeable details.

When lockdown began I decided to start a second Instagram page dedicated to miniature ink drawings, which I found both satisfying and therapeutic. I love the challenge of seeing how small I can draw something. It’s a lot of fun!

Your recent work centres around the human form, specifically the skeleton. Where does this interest originate from?

When I did art at school we used to draw sheep skulls quite a lot. It was one of the few interesting objects the art department had for observational drawing. I’ve always loved drawing people and interesting characters, and within the last year I’ve really fallen in love with combining these two themes.

Skeletons and skulls are often seen as dark and macabre; I like to portray them in amusing or unexpected contexts. I find a skeleton is a very relatable thing to draw. Everyone knows what they look like, everyone has one, yet we rarely see them. It’s cool to juxtapose the macabre nature of a skeleton with normal human concepts. I find it a perfect way to express myself as well; quite often the skeleton I will draw will be a representation of myself or how I’m feeling. Aside from all this, I think they look really cool and I have a lot of fun drawing them.

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Your work marries crisp, clean lines with intricate detail. What's the process of creating a piece from scratch?

Quite often a piece will begin from a single thought. Usually ideas will pop into my head randomly, or they’ll be inspired by a song lyric or by something I read or watch. I’ll scribble down some rough thumbnails and then begin looking for reference photos. I’m gradually relying less and less on reference but it does help me out a lot to have images in front of me to really bring the idea in my head to life. After this I will sketch the piece out in pencil (very roughly as I get impatient and excited to start the inks!) and then I will lay down the ink as precisely as I can.

Crisp lines are important to me and I’ve really progressed in keeping them sharp and accurate in the last couple of years. Sometimes I will create a piece completely digitally depending on the style. Recently I have been exploring colour a bit more and using Adobe Illustrator to vectorise and colour my ink drawings and print them much larger than the original drawing, which is usually quite small. I’m trying to push myself to explore new mediums and styles at the minute.

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How's 2021 panning out for you? Any exciting projects on the horizon?

It’s looking to be a great year for me! Already things have developed a lot. I’m finding myself busier and busier with commissions and managing my Etsy store. I’ve also been selling prints in Unit 6 at Dyson Place on Sharrow Vale, which is near where I’m working. I’m hoping to get involved in some events there and meet more like-minded people and get myself and my work out there.

As well as this I’m currently in the process of working on some murals for Peaks Snooker Club, also on Sharrow Vale. That’s been a lot of fun so far. It’s been a really interesting challenge to work on a large scale as I’m so used to producing small work. I’m hoping that this will lead to more mural work as I really enjoy it.

My main goal for the year is to just push myself to do as many different things as I can, explore every artistic avenue that I come across and have fun in the process!

by Felicity Jackson (she/her)
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