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Behind the Book | Jo Fernihough

last updated 02 April 2020


Jo Fernihough’s debut author illustrated picture book, The Crow and the Peacock, is a modern fable about Crow’s quest to find the happiest bird in the world. Bold and colourful, Jo’s book is bursting with beautiful illustrations using a combination of ink, paint, collage and digital media. The Crow and the Peacock, published by Oxford University Press, is out on 2nd April 2020.

We caught up with Jo to ask her about her inspiration, creative process and career.


Where do you find inspiration for your illustrations?

Inspiration for my work comes from a multitude of places. When I am walking the dogs I compose compositions in my head; often I will have to record my ideas down mid walk before I forget. I am always considering my surroundings and condisering how elements would look in my work, whether I am walking down the street or visiting galleries.

title Initial thumbnails for The Crow and the Peacock

What is your creative process?

Most importantly, I start with a cup of tea and make sure a dog is under my desk so I can warm my feet on them, then I dive in! I start with sketches to understand my characters. I consider the textures I can create that will be interesting, and then I move to rough layouts, then to finished work. There is a lot of sitting at my desk, so many tea breaks are essential! I get up and reflect on what I have done so far.

title Work in progress on the book

Were you artistic as a child? Where did the creativity all begin?

My mother was an illustrator and fashion designer so I was always surrounded by art. I remember at one point a herd of seven-foot-tall painted moose placed all around our living room! My mother was my main inspiration as a child. We spent a day each week at the local library where I would sit engrossed in children’s books and this is where my love for Eric Carle began. However, my father was also a graphic designer, my uncle worked in photography and my brother now has his own film company and is a commercials director, so I lived and breathed art. Plus, I was never very good at academic subjects at school so my options were limited.


What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?

I love creating for children. It’s such a happy place to be, surrounding myself with colours and textures to translate into characters. It is possibly the best thing in the world. When I am illustrating I find I lose myself in the story, which is great as adulting is very hard! I also love working with such great designers, editors and publishers, they are all so amazing at guiding me so the books become even more amazing than I could have ever hoped for!


What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring artist?

I believe there is a place for everyone, you don’t have to be the best of the best. Just focus on your passion and your work will flow naturally. Stop worrying or comparing yourself to other illustrators. You are great! Believe in yourself.


As an artist, why is it important to have a creative community around you?

As an illustrator it can often get lonely and isolating, but being with Bright has really helped my work progress. It is so important to surround yourself with creative people who understand your work and the industry. I have had so much great guidance from the agency; they are part of my working structure and I know I can rely on them to critique my work constructively which in turn gets the best out of me and in turn means I get more work. They are always so bubbly, helpful and enthusiastic which is a tremendous support as often being an illustrator you are plagued with doubts about everything.


How has Bright made a difference to your career?

Being with Bright has just been amazing! Originally I came on board with my fashion illustration which was used in the Art Licensing department of Bright, however, the attraction of childrens illustration lured me in, so I began to create work which eventually ended up as The Crow and the Peacock. I showed the rough images to agent Arabella Stein, and she and Freddie worked swiftly to get it noticed by publishers, until Oxford University Press commissioned it.

When Arabella emailed me to say that my debut picture book was going to be published, it was possibly the best day ever!


What are you currently working on? Can you tell us what to expect next?

I am currently working on a book all about sustainable activities, a series of dinosaur stories for an American publisher, and a series of board books to help children understand and deal with their feelings. Hopefully I will get some time soon to create another of my own books as well!

Jo is represented by Arabella Stein. To work with Jo, please get in touch.

You can see more of Jo’s work in her portfolio.

The Crow and the Peacock is out on 2nd April 2020.

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