Ana Jaks Celebrates Inclusivity with
Bold, Bright, & Colorful Illustrations
MIKE O'DONNELL / EDITOR
It’s hard not to look at WNW Member Ana Jaks work and smile. It’s in part the bold colors and playful patterns, but also the inclusivity that’s central to the projects she takes on and the characters she depicts. In our interview below, the Bristol-based illustrator and artist shares what she sees as her creative mission and what scares her most about making creativity her career. She also talks about her favorite projects so far, including her AOI World Illustration Award-winning project for Facebook, and why her dream project may be a total departure from her current bread and butter.
Tell us a bit about your creative background. Who is Ana Jaks and how did she get here?
I’ve always loved drawing but never saw it as a career option; I also never thought I was good enough to continue with it at higher education. In school my art teacher told me to “leave the drawing alone now” because he didn’t like the way I transformed everything into a cartoon. I quit school and ended up studying Art & Design in college for two years where I was convinced that fashion design or marketing was what I wanted to pursue, until the tutors kept telling me I should consider illustration. I ended up applying for Falmouth - which I loved - but still didn’t feel good enough and nearly dropped out after my first year. Everything I made was with a black fineliner, and then someone exposed me to Posca pens and Anorak Magazine and I fell in love with colour, shape, and pattern.
After my degree I freelanced and worked a full-time job for just over a year until I managed to support myself solely through my practice. I then completed an artist residency at a primary school where I built and created a mural, got a great job with Facebook where I had the chance to paint a seesaw, and got my Masters in Visual Communication to expand my skillset. The dream is to make furniture one day; I’m really into wood.
How would you describe your creative style? Do you recognize a signature style that links your projects?
Bold, bright, and colourful. I think what links a lot of my projects are the colours and flat shapes. It’s fun and people often tell me looking at my work makes them smile which I love. I’m constantly trying to evolve and develop my style because it’s a good thing to never get too comfortable. Big arms seem to occur a lot in my work too, haha.
What do you see as the turning point in your creative development and career so far?
The job I had with Livity and Facebook last year was definitely a turning point for me. Not only did it win me an AOI World Illustration Award, it made me realise that the types of projects I love working on are often visual identity briefs that are inclusive of all races, genders, and body types. Knowing what I want to achieve and continuing to work toward it is a great feeling. It’s also gotten me more work that focuses on diversity and inclusivity which is exactly what I want.
What’s your creative mission at this stage? What do you feel is missing and what do you want to take up and deliver?
I love illustration and I love that I can create something digitally and it can be printed within hours of sign-off and immediately available online or in shops. But what I really want now is to become more multidisciplinary. The reason I went back to school was to learn how to apply illustration to different mediums - mainly wood - and learn how to build. I would love to be given the opportunity to continue making wooden sculptures and have an exhibition, or to start making furniture. I love the slow and sometimes painstaking process of working with wood; you get to see something go from a pencil sketch to a three-dimensional object that can be engaged with. I don’t want to rely on my current skillset - I want it to grow!
Which of your projects are you proudest of and why?
I am most proud of the Facebook x House of Us project in collaboration with Livity. Mainly because the visual identity for the event had to be inclusive, “cool,” and work on large walls, tote bags, stickers, printed collateral, etc. It was the biggest project I had undertaken and it was received really well.
Following the Facebook project, I then got approached by Iris Prize, a UK BAFTA qualifying festival celebrating LGBT+ filmmakers. Iris got in touch because they recognised my passion for celebrating diversity and inclusivity and so I got to tackle another visual identity brief. I was proud because I had so many people reach out from the LGBT+ community telling me the illustration was perfect. I also had a lot of bald men with ginger beards say they felt happy to be represented - I love that.
Another project that I am very proud of is Babes in Barcelona, a personal project I completed this summer. It’s only a small series (3 illustrations) but it was a mini breakthrough for me style-wise. I’ve never been fully comfortable with drawing people, but that project changed a lot for me. Drawing women is one of my favourite things to do, and I want my portfolio to reflect that, so I do as many personal projects involving women as I can.
What would be your dream project or job, or is it already on your resume?
My dream project is to work on a campaign with trainers - I LOVE SHOES! I entered a competition with Talenthouse on a Nike brief and got selected which was amazing, but I’d really love to work with a creative team one-on-one. I’m really hoping someone out there wants an Ana Jaks collab. I’ve also always loved the idea of men’s ties?
Who are your biggest creative influences?
Since I was 14 I have loved WNW Member Kate Moross so, so much. Kate’s work is probably the main reason I fell in love with graphic design and illustration in the first place. Of course David Hockney has also been a huge influence. Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Design Group have also played a huge part in my creative style.
What scares you most about making creativity your career?
A lot. The continuous flood of new talent that gets released into the industry is probably one of the most scary things; feeling inadequate and “old.” I see students in their first year of study with accomplished styles getting paid work - I was nowhere near industry-ready at that age.
I also fear that the decision I’ve made to pursue a creative career (especially freelancing) is sometimes the wrong one. It can be really hard having quiet periods with no work and not knowing how best to utilise that time. Saying that, for all the hardships, the good commissions, great clients, and supportive feedback make it worth it. I feel lucky to be able to do what I do.
What’s your favorite thing on the internet this week?
There’s this video of a dog sat on a man’s lap and it’s eyes are facing different directions and it looks like a human - have you seen that? I’ve watched it almost every day this week.
What do you do when Not Working?
I’m one of those hideous people who isn’t very good at not doing something productive. Probably drinking coffee or cocktails, walking, or watching crap reality TV.
What’s something you’ve learned on your creative journey that other creatives should hear?
Stop working in your bed or on a sofa or on a chair that doesn’t make you sit up right! Nobody ever warned me about how bad your back can get. I had to see an osteopath to set me right. Be! Careful! Also, working 12 hour days isn’t impressive; give yourself a break and sleep well.
Who are some other WNW members whose work you admire and why?
I am totally in love with Dan Woodger’s style. It always looks like it takes him hours to make a piece of work. I look at his illustrations and wonder “how the hell did you do that!?” And they always make me smile; he’s created his own world which I really admire. I also love Josh McKenna and Cachete Jack. They both use colours so beautifully. As soon as you see it, you know it’s their work.
What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
I just finished up my MA; all the work is done but I have my final exhibition to design. I then have a HUGE commission lined up local to Bristol which involves murals and window design which I cannot wait to do! I’m also (hopefully) going to be moving into a studio in Bristol next month. I’ve only ever worked from home so this feels like a massive step for me.