Some people are just born for their profession. And in the case of Bodil Jane, this is visible in both her work and life journey so far. She illustrates a variety of subjects and every single work draws you into a story. With a long list of inspiration sources and an even bigger list of commissions that she has already done, we were excited to get to know how she got to this point and what dreams she has for the future.
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I feel like your career started off incredibly fast. In 2014 you graduated from Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam and you had already commissioned work during the second year of your studies. Do you remember your first commission and how you got it?
Yes, that’s right. During my time at the Academy I already did some small assignments like window drawings, a flyer, a simple logo – that kind of stuff. However, I got my first real commission simply by sending in my portfolio. It was for VPRO Dorst, a Dutch multimedia broadcaster; they liked my work so I ended up illustrating for them. My first job after graduating was drawing the complete collection of Love Stories Intimates. The owner of the brand discovered my work online and she wanted to collaborate for the launch of their first collection. They used my illustrations for the hangtags and the lookbook.
What has changed since then? 
A lot! A teacher at the Academy introduced me to a Dutch illustration Agency and with them I did my first commercial jobs. In the meantime, I had already built up a nice network of people around me, so a big part of the assignments were in direct contact with the client – for example with magazines like ELLE and Flow Magazine. I started off working from my student apartment in Amsterdam, which was about 10m2. As the commissions became more and more, I had to move my work to bigger places. Also the clients became bigger and I wanted to be able to receive them in a professional way. A year after graduating I came across my current studio, a shared work place at the Amstel River. Since 2015 I’m also represented by Folio, an international illustration agency from London. From then on I’ve been working more with international clients. On a personal level I am much more confident about my work than I was after I graduated. Back in the days I had difficulties to negotiate or to say no to assignments, whereas now I’m more selective. There’s also more to choose from of course. Another thing is that I scheduled in more time for free work. That’s very important to keep enjoying what you do.
You have done quite some commissions for books and magazines already. This work needs to be adapted to what the client asks, but still has your style to it. How would you describe the ‘Bodil Jane identity’ that is visible in all your illustrations?
My work is feminine, playful and colourful. I think cute is also a good word to describe it. All of my illustrations include handmade elements, but I also use digital techniques. I use a lot of different patterns and textures.
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Out of all the work you’ve done, is there something that you are most proud of?
That actually changes all the time. It often has to do with the collaboration between the client and me. If the client doesn’t bring across a positive vibe, I tend to dislike the whole commission. I think this is probably one of the reasons that I have the strongest connection to my own, free work. Simply because of the fact that I don’t have to do concessions for that, I get to make every decision myself. My favourite work at the moment is Boho Boudoir
In November 2016 you did a project for UNICEF to illustrate the harmful effects of pollution on today’s children. What role do you think art has in bringing up social issues like this?
A very important role! Illustration is the perfect medium to highlight subjects like these. It can communicate very serious topics in a poetic, yet playful manner. Besides, illustration is popular so it grabs people’s attention, which is a must if you want to share an important message. I really enjoy doing assignments like these! Sometimes my job can be a bit superficial, ‘just’ drawing some images. It’s a nice to make something that matters and to use my platform for a good cause.
In what way do you use the influence of your audience on social media in your work?
The opinion of my followers on social media generally doesn’t really influence my work. I know that a ‘full colour’ drawing gets more likes than a ‘spot’ illustration, but this doesn’t affect my decision to post something online. However, for my UNICEF project it was of course important to get as much shares and likes as possible. Since people on Instagram tend to love things that are symmetrical, I applied a centre composition to my illustration. And even though personally I don’t necessarily think that a strong image has to have a centre composition, in this case it worked to reach a bigger audience.
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In July 2016 you lived for one month on a boat of the Varda Artists Residency (VAR) in Sausalito, USA, where you were completely free of the rush and online-oriented culture that we live in nowadays. What effect did this month have on you and your work?
It really felt like a sort of detox! After I graduated I had such a rapid start of my career, I worked for three years non-stop. In the beginning it was very hard to get away from this, I think for the first two weeks I only spoke and thought about work and upcoming assignments. When you’re so used to acting like this, it’s hard to take a step back and enjoy the surrounding. This month was more like a retreat for me, which is also the meaning of this specific residence I was in. During my time there I didn’t create that much, only some sketches and the Sacred Heart series. The environment and the museums I visited in San Francisco gave me a lot of inspiration from other cultures, like the Mexican. 
Getting this opportunity is not for everyone, you have to be asked. Why do you think you got this invitation?
The residence found me on Instagram and they invited me based on a Skype call. The fact that I am a woman was an advantage. In the art industry men often get more opportunities and this organisation wants to support women. The Skype meeting gave them a good feeling that I would fit with the ideals of the boat. They had never invited an illustrator before and apparently they thought I am talented! Also, I think they liked my approach to art; I’m very business like.
Would you also be interested in creating prints for fashion brands? For example like in the Valentino Spring 2017 collection.
Yes, that would be a dream!
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