Johanna Basford’s intricate illustrations of birds, butterflies, flowers and trees have won admirers and clients across the country. Now the young artist has published her first book and is the star of a major exhibition at Dundee Contemporary Arts
One morning earlier this year, Johanna Basford woke up to a strange e-mail. It read: “boat not car” – and the sender was herself.
“I always seem to have my best ideas when I don’t have a pen,” explains the illustrator, whose work has appeared on Thorntons chocolates, Crabtree & Evelyn smellies and the Fringe festival programme. “I can spend 18 hours at my desk and it’s always during the walk to the kettle that the brainwave comes.
When inspiration arrives at night, she grabs her phone and e-mails herself. “I do occasionally get up and find something I’ve sent at 3.30am.” That is where the gnomic communication about the vehicle came from. Johanna went to bed pondering her forthcoming exhibition at Dundee Contemporary Arts. “I wanted to get a white car and draw all over, make it into big inky motor. But I had so many troubles sourcing this car.” As soon as she deciphered the midnight message, the problem was solved. “I’ve bought a little rowing boat. I’ll paint it white, decorate it, make a sail, and it will be part of the exhibition.”
Johanna, now 29, has had inky fingers for as long as she can remember. Growing up in rural Aberdeenshire, she began drawing on the walls as a toddler and has never really stopped. She studied printed textiles at Duncan of Jordanstone and now lives and works from a converted steading seven miles away from her folks. Or, as she also calls them, her archivists.
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Words Anna Burnside
Wonderlands, DCA, 4 May – 7 July
Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book (Laurence King, £9.95)