What I would have exhibited at the London Book Fair

09 Mar 2020


This year I decided be proactive and really jump in to the self promotion side of my business. As I really enjoy illustrating the annual children's nature almanac for Nosy Crow and the National Trust, I thought I'd pop along to the London Book Fair. To get the most bang for my buck I decided to book some space in the illustrators gallery. Unfortunatly, I was thwarted by the coronavirus and the book fair was cancelled a few days before I was due to attend. So, in the spirit of well, petulance and a desire to make the best of a bad situation I'm going to post what I would have exhibited here on my blog. 


Click on the images to enlarge them.


What I would have exhibited at the London Book Fair, pt 1

My first panel is images taken from both of my books for Nosy Crow, including the cover art, some chapter opening double page spreads, some quarter page illustrations and some spots. I included a selection of both character pieces and the accurate natural history illustrations peppered throughout the book.


What I would have exhibited at the London Book Fair part 2


My second panel is a selection of other illustrations including some of my kids t-shirt designs for Joules Clothing, my shortlisted entry for the Poster Prize for Illustration, my artwork for Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club's 60th anniversary party, an editorial for the Cornwall Green Party, a teatowel for Seasalt and some development pieces. 


Now, it was to be my first time advertising here. If any publishing types are reading this and feeling kind please let me know if I'm on the right track with this. What kind of artworks do you want to see at book fairs? Afterall, I have a whole year now to generate new portfolio pieces....


That time I drew cheese for Prince Charles

21 Feb 2020


Section of an illustrated cheese plate for Best Artisan Cheese


It’s not every day you complete an illustration project that has to be personally approved by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, but that’s exactly what happened when the Specialist Cheesemakers Association got in touch with me. The Association were launching a new award for the Best Artisan Cheesemaker and wanted an illustration to form an integral part of the trophy which was to be a commemorative plate and did I want to be involved? To be honest, they had me at ‘cheese’.


The SCA already had one illustrated plate trophy in circulation for another award, however this one was over 25 years old and no-one could remember who had illustrated it. They needed an illustration that was a move-on from the (still lovely) colloquial style of the original plate yet still had a feel of tradition about it. The only specifications were that it put the cheese itself front and centre, that it includes The Prince of Wales’s crest and that it could complement the existing plate while evolving the look.


Now what does artisan cheese have to do with royalty you may wonder? HRH Prince Charles is the patron of the Association and heavily backed the creation of this award. Due to his interest in the project, HRH had requested that he personally review and approve the artwork for the trophy. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he is the most august a personage ever to approve my illustrations, and unless his mother gets involved in a future project I highly suspect that it will stay this way. More on this later.


I started the project as always by a period of research. This made me very hungry as I basically just looked at pictures of cheese. I also ate some cheese which I’m convincing myself was necessary to the process. (This maybe had more to do with the fact that the chairwoman of the association, Catherine Mead, runs Lynher Dairies which is only a short drive from me. They make the fantastic nettle-wrapped Cornish Yarg and Kern, which in 2017 was voted best cheese in the world! So, I had to eat my way through some due diligence on the client…).


Kern - the award winning cheese from Lynher Dairies

The award winning cheese Kern, from Lynher Dairies. Photo copyright Lynher Dairies. Source.


Because the focus is on artisan cheeses, I also wanted to focus on the different types of grasses and plants found in good natural pasture. Whatever the animals that make the cheese eat dramatically affects the quality so it made sense to me to focus both on the output (the cheese) and the input (the grasses). I looked into a range of different grasses and flowers found in a good pasture and incorporated them into my design. This in itself was satisfying as it gave me names for many of the grasses I’d seen while growing up in the country yet didn’t have a proper name for.


Next stage was producing rough artwork. I created several different roughs for the client to choose from, each with a slightly different feel. The client had specified the hierarchy of text to go on the plate but was pretty open about the fonts used. I decided to stick with one option throughout my roughs for consistency and have something fairly traditional and solid to anchor it all.


Rough Artwork for the Royal Cheese Plate

Discarded Roughs for the Artisan Cheese Plate


Once a design was approved then I started on the final artwork. For this I worked exclusively on Procreate on the iPad Pro. I’d done one other commission on the iPad at that point but I felt it necessary to move away from my normal vector process to really give a hand drawn, rustic feel to the work. Quite simply, only something artisan would befit a prize for artisan cheese.


Approved Rough for the Artisan Cheese Plate

The approved rough for the Artisan Cheese Plate


Once the artwork was finished and approved by the Association, it needed to go off for Royal Approval. As might be obvious, one cannot simply email the future heir to the throne of the British Isles with a jpg and expect him to reply within 24 hours. The artwork had to go to his Private Secretary who would then pass it on. However, for artwork approval I didn’t want to assume that whatever was printed out at Clarence House (HRH’s official residence) would reproduce the colours and tones faithfully, so I printed the roughs myself and posted them off with a letter. Luckily there is lots of information out there as to the correct etiquette of writing to the staff of royalty – I had to do my research!


As it turned out, it was good that I posted the illustration as HRH was visiting with his family in Balmoral, the Queen’s estate in Scotland at the time, so my letter was forwarded up there for his consideration. Slightly more convoluted than the regular approvals procedure but in due course the artwork was approved. It’s no secret that the UK has been going through some turbulent times these past few years and in spite of all the constitutional chaos it has been reassuring to think that at one point the phrase “approve Elly Jahnz’s artwork” was written on a royal to-do list.


Elly Jahnz with a reply letter from the Prince ('s secretary).Me very excitedly holding a royal letter...


Once it was all approved then I made the artwork fully print ready and got sent it to the client. They had organised for a pottery to produce the commemorative plate so all the was left for me to do at this point was wait.


I’m really pleased with the finished product – the pottery did a lovely job of translating my illustrations on to the plate. The first winner of the award is the Hampshire Cheese Co. I’ve not tried the winning cheese (yet) but it looks delicious. I know in the future I’ll be following this award closely and not just as an excuse to eat artisan cheese.


Final artwork for the Artisan Cheese Award Plate by Elly Jahnz


Best Artisan Cheese Plate Artwork closeup


Best Artisan Cheese Plate Artwork by Elly Jahnz

So, there you have it – certainly not the largest scale project I’ve ever worked on but one of the most prestigious and honestly, anything that contributes to the progression of fantastic cheese is totally worthy in my book.


You can see more of the artwork on my portfolio



Shortlisted for 2019 ALCS Educational Writers Award!

15 Nov 2019


Let's celebrate - Our book has been shortlisted for the ALCS Educational Writers award!


I found out today that 2019: Nature Month by Month has been nominated for the ALCS Educational Writers Award! This is the UK’s only award for educational writing which stimulates and enhances the learning experience.


The judges had some very kind words to say:


"This brilliant and colourful book is packed with engaging, informative and wonderfully varied activities for all the family, and is just the right size for putting in your pocket before you set off on an adventure. An almost bottomless treasure chest of a book to enjoy the whole year through."


There are some other fantastic shortlisted entries (my Christmas list has gotten a little bit longer...) so it'll be a tough competition. So congratulations to all other shortlisted entries and I'll be keeping everything crossed until the awards ceremony on the 3rd December!


You can read all about the other entrants and a bit more about the award on the Society of Author's blog.



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