Curious to discover our latest featured artist? You have probably already seen some captivating illustrations from Sarah J. Coleman of Inkymole on Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’. Such brilliant drawing is the result of total dedication to the organic line coming from nibs and ink.
Sarah, tell us about your career as an illustrator…
I arrived, with an unintentional pseudonym, at a very full-time job in illustration and typography via additional hours served in the bizarre and magical worlds of weddings, pirate radio, lecturing, youth work, Shakespearean theatre and typesetting obituaries, squeezed in at night between illustrations.
A very interesting and varied background and for sure a lot of inputs for your creations. You must have had quite a busy professional life?
Yes! My life has pretty much been defined by ‘busy-ness’! I’ve been making words and pictures for international clients for over two decades. I’ve had 12 solo and 26 group exhibitions across the UK and US, and my partner and I also have a part-time radio station, a little record label and fingers in several other pies – we’ve just made a documentary for example. It all stems from a shared history in ‘making things’! I’ve never know what’s going to be round the corner and I still don’t, but I know pens are always going to be involved somewhere along the line.
How would you define your work?
My work is organic, irreverent, dark, silly, scratchy, changeable, energetic, always made by hand, and there is a lot of it; I love ink, my weapon of choice since my ten-year-old self was given a bottle of Quink by my Dad.
What are your favourite artistic tools?
Fountain pens and nibs have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My Dad gave me an old Parker to use with his Quink, and I was hooked on the immediacy and sensitivity of this pen previously only used in school. A little later he gave me his Witch (William Mitchell) dip pen set to use, complete with monochrome hand-drawn box, and the marks I could achieve with these wide, responsive nibs paved the way for the career I have now; I used those pens continuously right up until they gave way just after my degree ended. Those Mitchells, together with the other dip pens and the original Quink bottle, are now retired in my archive, which is also home to the hundreds of antique nibs bought from eBay and scooped up at flea markets around the world. One day I may use some of these, but only if the time ever comes when Manuscript no longer make the new ones! My current most-used nib is the Leondardt 256, though the Japanese Nikko-G has been an absolute essential for years. They do very different jobs
In addition to the nibs and fountain pens, I have a vulgarly large collection of black fineliners, Japanese calligraphy pens, brushes and graffiti markers, and although black ink is my first love, I adore colour and work with a well-known British ink company using and testing their beautiful highly pigmented colours.
So what do you do with all these tools?
Well, I’ve illustrated over 350 book covers with more currently on the work schedule – I’d say it’s quite a good job I like doing them! The most recent and probably best-known is my cover for Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set A Watchman’, and before that, the 50th Anniversary Edition of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. However when I’m doing lectures or talks, it’s the fact that I did the first illustrated American Playboy cover for 25 years that people remember…which sits just as comfortably next to my big Co-op Christmas campaign as my ads for KY Lubricants and my Asda chocolate – I’m nothing if not versatile!
I always said that if I wasn’t an illustrator, I would work in the Mac (Apple) store with the machines I have loved since I was at college or at the M.A.C. make-up store, playing with lipstick and mascara all day in a special make-up holster.
I work in the Midlands, in a bright glass-roofed studio with a garden on top, and after having a four-year ‘thing’ for running, I’m now back to ‘just’ the weight training, swimming and yoga. Which I do to keep my brain from exploding and splattering the world with ink. I can’t keep it off my fingers though. Nope. They have to be bleached…for special occasions.
Have a look at the interesting gallery of Sarah’s artworks below and watch her video.