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#FlorisDesign Illustrator Questionnaire: Astrid Jaekel

Posted on 13/08/2014 in Design and Illustration Fun Stuff

Astrid Header

Illustrator of…

dagger cover

Last summer Astrid became the very first winner of our very first Kelpies Design & Illustration Prize, and what a winner she was! Her awesome cover for The Sign of the Black Dagger blew the judges away and we’re thrilled that she’s agreed to give us a sneak peak into its creation.


Hi Astrid! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today! So first things first, where did you look for inspiration when designing your prize-winning cover?

Well, Edinburgh is full of inspiration when it comes to stories with a slightly dark element. I love doing first-hand research so the first thing I did was to walk over to the Royal Mile and look at the old houses and the dark closes where the story takes place. But I also studied old photographs which helped me to understand what this part of town looked like a good 200 years ago.

What a great idea, Edinburgh certainly has its fill of spooky old houses and closes! So your original cover looked a little different to the one we see on our bookshelves, how did you end up with your final design?

original cover

Astrid’s original cover design


To start with, my cover design was a lot busier and even included figures. I then bit by bit boiled it down to a minimum, focusing on the parallel world featured in the story, and on the atmosphere created through the architecture, smoke and clouds. The final colours were worked on with Floris’ Design & Production Manager, Leah McDowell.

 Well we love the final result, and here it is in all its glory!

full dagger cover

The completed cover design

Now we always ask our illustrators this: what made you want to become an illustrator?

After a very basic art training I felt the urge to do something more applied and felt that illustration combined my interests in storytelling and art. It felt good to be able to use the skills I had acquired but in a more focused way, and to be working in collaboration. I’ve not regretted it so far!

We love working with other people here at #FlorisDesign too, especially all of our brilliant illustrators! Now your art style is very unique, do you prefer to work digitally or traditionally?

My work is always based on traditional techniques and involves a lot of hand-made processes, but I have found digital techniques to be very valuable in the completion of projects, for example to add colour or if I need to get a handmade design laser cut into a different material. I still think it’s amazing what you can achieve by combining traditional and digital techniques.

We agree, it’s always good to have lots of strings to your bow too! So we know you’re brilliant at drawing buildings, smoke and lampposts, but what are your favourite things to draw?

I like drawing interiors, landscapes, people, and funny scenes that I spot. I love to go out with my sketchbook and record whatever catches my eye, filling double page spreads with scenes I observe. Check out my blog and you will get a good impression of what this looks like.

We’ll be sure to check it out! So many of your favourite things to draw can only be found in the great outdoors, do you prefer to work inside or outside?

I’ve actually just moved into a shared flat that overlooks the Meadows in Edinburgh, and at the moment I like to work at one of the big windows. But I feel I can never work in one place for too long. Especially in the early stages of a project I feel that new impressions are very important to me in order to come up with fresh ideas. I like to create my first doodles on a train or sat in a park if the weather allows. But when it comes to the paper cutting bit, I need to return to a big desk. At the moment I’m looking for a new studio space so I do spend a lot of time working at home.

It’s good to be flexible with your workspace, although it’s nice to have a big desk too! So from time to time our illustrators will face the dreaded Illustrators Block, what do you do when you’re stuck on a project?

It always helps for me to have a change of scene. Sometimes a quick cycle down to Cramond or a run up Blackford Hill will do the job. I also find it very helpful to talk an idea through with a friend; it helps me to put rather vague ideas into something more real. I also always get a boost of motivation after visiting a good exhibition.

These are some great tips! Thanks again for talking to us today, Astrid!


Astrid earned her Bachelor’s in Fine Art and Art History in Germany before coming to Edinburgh to complete her Masters in Illustration at the ECA (Edinburgh College of Art). If you’d like to see more of her brilliant work you can visit her website, her blog or follow her on Twitter.

 Posted by: Clare at Discover Kelpies



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