Jack Taylor on fine-tuning his practice and working more in the style of Ligne Claire comic artists
Inspired by the aesthetics of comics like The Adventures of Tintin, Jack’s most recent work embodies this genre of drawing completely.
- Ayla Angelos
- 25 February 2021
It’s been roughly three years since we last heard from Jack Taylor, an illustrator and graphic designer who’s now fully settled into his dwelling in Berlin. Over this period, he feels as if the time has gone so quickly, even though so much has happened in synchronicity.
Over the last few years, not only has he found a community of illustrators and designers in Berlin, he’s also been involved in various residencies. This has ultimately given him the boost needed to kickstart a new way of drawing and working. “I feel very lucky to have done that,” he tells It’s Nice That, stating how he’s now sharing a studio with Max Guther, Gustav Heinsen and Leoni Hennicke to name a few. He’s also currently a visiting lecturer teaching digital illustration on the Illustration BA programme at Design Akadamie Berlin, and he’s also worked on numerous editorial and commercial projects alongside. This includes work for the likes of Bloomberg Businessweek and The New York Times, plus a personal highlight that saw his illustrations gracing the cover of The New York Times Business paper. Then there’s commissions for Ace & Tate, Buzzfeed, Die Zeit, Monocle, Place Skateboard Culture, Somerset House, Wired Magazine and The World Fair Trade Organisation, plus many others.
In terms of his style, however, Jack remarks on how this has also changed quite dramatically. He’s put a lot of thought and effort into exploring new methodologies, both in terms of the ideas and aesthetics. “With the lockdowns, I guess it all gave us a lot of time to contemplate and I feel somehow now more confident in making the work I want to make,” he says. “I’ve found a lot of comfort in focusing a lot more on what I am doing rather than comparing my work to others.” This has consequently sparked a new interest in the Ligne Claire European comic artists – the style of drawing that uses strong lines and cartoonish characters set against a realistic backdrop, pioneered by Hergé who created the infamous The Adventures of Tintin. After tapping into these influences, Jack soon realised his adoration for this style of drawing and decided to start on a new project with these references in tow.
This forms the backbone to his most recent poster series, Cartoon Explanation Vol 1, currently on show at the Australian gallery, Pass-Port. The new work arose after publishing a book with Colorama in Berlin in 2016, titled Laying In The Long Grass and featuring a mix of poetry and rough drawings. Jack had spent a large amount of time writing a long poem, so when the deadline for the book edged closer, he had to work on the drawings fast – hence the roughness. “It was fun to have a new medium of output and I wanted to continue that journey of text and image in a less candid and more finalised way with Cartoon Explanation Vol 1.” Jack enjoyed the experience of working with poetry, as well as using his texts to set his own briefs to then respond to with his drawings. Laying In The Long Grass, in this sense, was his own take on writing a love song. And Cartoon Explanation Vol 1. comparatively has more of an observational standpoint, delving into themes such as British industry and, “of course”, frog characters.
Within these works, you’ll see Jack’s signature playful style of illustration combined with a dose of functional design. Poster-like and comical, the frogs take centre stage as they go about various activities – like the one that sees an artist frog stand proudly in front of its work, or one that appears to be opening the door for a baby frog. Mixed with poetry and playful typography, everything is a little confusing. But there are some definite references to fairytale stories, including the one about woman who lived in a shoe or the myth of kissing a frog for it to turn into a prince. “I’ve felt like my approach to making these works is carrying on with how I imagine the process of writing a song,” says Jack. “The poems are the lyrics and the images are the guitar chords or melody that brings the emotional feeling to the work. I can’t write songs, so I am just living my fantasy musicians life vicariously through these posters.”
Industrial Frog Spawn and The Concrete Train Leaves The Station Again are the first of the series that he made, and also his favourites. Marked as singles from the album, Jack says how the former has been compared to the last four years and how “cruel winter in nature can be” – “enduring it and hoping the next season will bring better things”. Next he points out the pairing of the line “A failing peel, the spring won’t mend” with the image of a self-reflecting frog, which is another personal highlight of his from the series.
Jack’s work has certainly taken an interesting turn, and his works now appear to hold more grace, comedy and context than ever before. Maybe his contemplative nature has become more apparent in response to the current events unfolding around the globe, or maybe he’s always been this way and it took a few events to unlock. Whatever the reason, the next steps for Jack will involve plenty more personal and commissioned works, as well as drawings – or what he refers to as “artefacts” – that reference what is happening around us. Besides this, and an interest in collaborating more with others, he also plans to launch Cartoon Explanation Vol 2. in due course, which is definitely something to stay tuned for.
Jack Taylor: Cartoon Explanation Vol 1 (Copyright © Jack Taylor, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.