Creative Style: Jill McDonald

Today's Creative Style post is on the newest artist to join the Jennifer Nelson Artists roster, Jill McDonald!! New to JNA but not new to the world of art and design and licensing. What a great, successful story!! I was fortunate to meet Jill a few years ago at Printsource and saw what an incredibly beautiful and huge amount of work she has. And a very lovely person as well!!!

1. How did you arrive at the style you working in currently?

I’ve drawn, painted & cut things up since I was a little girl. From an early age I knew I would be an artist. After High school I went to art school. I spent my freshman foundation year at Parsons School of Design in NYC. (I liked to sew & thought I’d do fashion design) I hated the city & fashion turned into a lot of math. So, I transferred to Rhode Island School of Design.  This felt much more like home to me.  At R.I.S.D I was in the textile department & did lots of large scale silk screen work.  Focusing on flowers as the subject. (flowers continue to show up in my work today). In school I was introduced to coordinating patterns.  I enjoyed continuing to spin the main piece off in a variety of patterns. All of this was before computers were part of the curriculum.

RISD textile work 1 RISD textile work 2

My plan after graduation was to work for a high end home textile company.  Like many plans right out of school I ended up taking a different path.  I found myself back in NYC (still disliking it) and got the chance to do freelance work at Gap, Inc. And I was hired on a full time basis a few months later.  At Baby GAP I worked as a print stylist & was part of a team who bought prints from studios & recolored them (using Info Design) for Gap Kids & Baby clothing.  I missed making art so when the team couldn’t find exactly what we had in mind I’d make something. (if it was something in my wheelhouse) I had a talented, kind boss who taught me a lot & took me seriously even though I was just 23.  This was a seasonal collection I made for girls underwear & pajamas.

GAP girl sleepwear Gap present pjs gap undies

I left Gap with an enthusiasm for younger art & headed back to my hometown of Kansas City. I got a job as a illustrator/ designer for Hallmark Cards.  I worked in the gift wrap department & my experience at Gap came in really handy.  I was accustomed to working in a color palette, in repeat, understood the importance of making things coordinate & worked well under pressure. I spent 3 years at Hallmark & worked on many exciting projects. This is where I learned how to draw digitally using Photoshop & Painter. I enjoyed the chance to create collections which tends to be how I think. 

hydrangas learning to draw digitally

lillies learning to draw digitally

pretty in pink

After awhile I started to get restless & wanted to try my hand on a variety products.  I’m good at being my own task master so I was confident I could make it work. I remember seeing one of the first Land of Nod catalogs & just knowing I was going to work with them. They were one of my first clients when I started my studio. I got to bring my joy for sewing back in, sewing many of the samples I made for them.  Then scanning them in a large format scanner.  I’d offer ideas for additional accessories like rugs & pillows. 

Creatures Great and Small mock up Creaturs Great and Small catalog

Bedding was an area I have worked quite a lot since then. Working with Target on several teen collections for their old Restore & Restyle brand. (which is now Circo)

RR girls rock tween collection Target girls rock cad

I’ve always kept a sketchbook by my side and one of these pieces was purchased by Pottery Barn Kids and used on a variety of items.

A Z orignal painting a z PBK uses

As I continued painting & creating new art some of it turned into wall art for Oopsy Daisy that in turn got me noticed by an editor with Barefoot Books.

I used my cut paper collage style with painting on top for my first children’s book with them.

Whos in the Garden ART Whos in the Garden Cover Whos in the Garden finished spread

Since then I’ve gone on to illustrate many children’s books which, I really love to do!

I’ve been fortunate to work on a wide array of products and that has really helped me grow as an artist. This can feel scary as I’m often out of my comfort zone but there’s also something really fun about that.  I’ve found that trusting my instincts while working within the parameters the client puts in place continues to led to the most satisfying results. It’s been exciting to see my art applied in so many different ways.

2. Are there any other styles or techniques you are playing and experimenting with now that you think will incorporate into your work?

I missed the silk screen work I did in art school so I am taking a class now to revisit what I use to do.  Over the last year I have made a real effort to step back from the computer and start most of my work painting and collaging first.  This take more time & effort as then I need to scan it in, clean it up & most times keep building it digitally. But, I find the art looking richer and in return I believe it has a bigger impact with others.  For a couple years I tried to take my business a more commercial route focusing only on baby or really young art. But now I’m working on going back to creating art for every age. I love that there’s no one way to go about being an artist!  You try something, see how it goes, feel it out, reassess if needed & keep on moving forward.

Favorite things

Paper forest

Thank you so much Jill! I love hearing about your journey!!

See more of Jills work at her website

on instagram @missjillmcdonald

on facebook  and her blog.