“David Brawn, the Publishing Director of Estates, really liked the illustrations and sent samples to Christopher Tolkien – J R R Tolkien’s son. Christopher Tolkien also liked my work, and a year later he asked if I could submit some illustrations for The Hobbit!”

Jemima Catlin studied a 2 year FdA in Visual Communication – (now BA Visual Communication) and a top up year in BA Illustration. She has just illustrated the new edition of ‘The Hobbit’  and the official 2014 Tolkien Calendar. We find out how a final project landed her a job illustrating the latest edition of the nations best loved classic…

So how did it all start for you, and why Visual Communication at AUB?

I come from a very creative background, my Mother is and Artist and Writer, and my Father is a Photographer. I always wanted to be an illustrator from a very young age, writing my own stories and drawing the pictures when I was 8 years old. I chose Visual Communication because I liked how diverse the course was, I enjoy everything from illustration to Graphic design and Animation – and this course allowed me to experiment with all of these. I also loved the fact that the course focused a lot on turning our talents into a future career – we always had visiting lectures and advice on how to pursue a career in our chosen art field.

I don’t think I would have had the confidence or the experience to approach publishers if I hadn’t done my course of Visual Communication at the AUB. My tutors encouraged me and gave me advice on pursuing a career in the arts.

Illustrating The Hobbit and the 2014 Official 2014 Tolkien Calendar is an amazing achievement, how did it come about and how do you feel about it?

I chose to illustrate J R R Tolkien’s short story Roverandom for my Final Major project towards the end of my course of Visual Communication. I approached the publisher HarperCollins with a few samples of my illustrations, and asked if they could send me the text as a pdf so that I could bind my project into a book for my Final Piece. David Brawn, the Publishing Director of Estates, really liked the illustrations and sent samples to Christopher Tolkien – J R R Tolkien’s son. Christopher Tolkien also liked my work, and a year later he asked if I could submit some illustrations for The Hobbit! It was really exciting!

What advice would you give to current students and what would you say to any student looking at Visual Communication?

To current students, I would recommend making full use of the lectures and advice that the tutors give – it may be very relevant to you when you start your career! Also think carefully about what you choose to do for your Final Major project – it needs to be something that reflects your chosen career path, and you never know what it may lead to!

I really enjoyed that Visual Communication included both Graphic Design and Illustration, which meant I left with experience in both skills. I actually became a Graphic Designer for a company in Poole shortly after graduating, and then a few months later I left so that I could illustrate The Hobbit. It’s great that after my course I had the option of two careers, which I wouldn’t have had if I chose a course that was specific to one field of Art.

And now?

I am currently creating a set of ink drawings inspired by the trees around Dorchester, Dorset, my home town. I am self-publishing a limited edition book of these in November which will be available through my website: www.jemimacatlin.com