Q+A With Ana Jaks

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Ana Jaks is a freelance illustrator from the Isle of Man currently based in Bristol. Her love for shape, colour, pattern and inclusivity is reflected throughout her work. Easily adaptable, Ana has worked successfully across a diverse range of different projects from editorial to murals. Her speciality and love lie in visual identity work.

As of June 2018, Ana became an award winning illustrator after receiving the New Talent Award in the Site Specific Category of the AOI World Illustration Awards, for a visual identity project she did with Facebook.

Photo: Ana Jaks

Ana studied a BA in Illustration at Falmouth University, an MA in Visual Communications at Bath Spa and has been working independently since 2015 as a freelance illustrator. Her client list includes Facebook, Nike, HiPP, Bombay Sapphire, Stylist Magazine, The Washington Post and many more. We caught up with Ana in the wake of her recent collaboration with POC IOM.

Q1. What is your background in the arts?

I loved art in school but had never considered pursing it as a career; part way through sixth form - I thought I wanted to study medicine – I had a total change of heart, so left to join the National Diploma in Art & Design at the Isle of Man College. Toward the end of my time there, I was torn between going to study Fashion Photography or Illustration at a Higher Education level. My tutors said Illustration, so it’s what I did.

My degree was at Falmouth University and at the beginning I struggled to believe I’d made the right decision. I stuck with it, ended up loving it, but only toward the end of my time there. This meant that my growth – stylistically – was a little jilted, and what I wanted to do job wise afterwards was confused. I tried applying for in-house positions, designer jobs etc but they either asked me to copy other illustration styles or said I couldn’t do freelance work outside of that – none of which were terribly appealing. So I decided to continue working full time at a Fish & Chip shop I’d been at during my degree, and freelanced part time for financial stability until I was able to reduce my hours slightly to focus more on Illustration. Since graduating, I’ve worked at Tigerprint ( an in-house agency that does everything for Marks & Spencer) exhibited at New Designers, progressed to hand painted murals, studied a Masters Degree in Visual Communication and won a World Illustration Award. Saying all of that, I graduated in 2015 and it took me until 2019 to move to freelancing full time, so it’s been a bit of a slow career progression.

Work for Bombay Sapphire.

Image title: The Outdoors (Personal Project)

Q2. What inspires your work?

Mostly sunny places! The sea! Nature! Fashion! Women! A lot of the things I appreciate and love and care about. At the moment a lot of what is inspiring my work is what I’m missing/craving/longing for, alongside objects inside the flat that I’m constantly surrounded by. I think a lot of what I draw is a bit self-indulgent, but sometimes that’s what really gives your work a voice & style.

Image title: Love (Personal Project)

Q3. You are a professional freelance artist who has worked with some really high profile brands such as Facebook, Nike, HiPP, Bombay Saphire, Stylist Magazine, The Washington Post and many more. What do you consider to be your biggest career success so far?

I think most illustrators or creatives would find this question difficult. It’s a strange industry. Sometimes it’s hard to celebrate successes because the nature of freelance means you’re constantly waiting on the next client to come along, or next email to land in your inbox. And there’s always another dream client or dream job to try and tick off your list. Having said that, the work I did with Facebook that won a World Illustration Award was probably my biggest career success. On the flip side, I was invited to Colombia last year with the British Arts Council, to illustrate stories told by children who are being affected by drug violence, and that probably felt like the most important, fulfilling & grounding job I’ve had.

Work for Facebook.

Work for Facebook.

Work for Facebook.

Q4. Despite already having a long list of big names already behind you, who would be your dream client to work with?

Ahhhh. Anything sportswear or fashion related. Half a year ago I would’ve said LUSH, but I managed to get a brief with them – eeeeeee! However, everything has been put on hold due to Coronavirus. Hopefully those things will be released soon.

Q5. What are some of the challenges that you face as a professional artist and how do you overcome them?

Oh god, so many. You aren’t really taught about taxes, or how to negotiate fees, or how often you should send out promotional materials or that advertising is going to pay you way more and give you longer lead times than editorial work. You’re navigating an entire industry on your own without any knowledge or understanding and it’s very overwhelming at the beginning.

Image title: Urgh

I suppose the hardest part about those things I’ve just mentioned is that it will only come with time, confidence and speaking with other illustrators. It can also be quite lonely at the beginning, most people don’t have the finances to go straight into a studio – I could only justify moving into a studio late 2018 when work started to pick up - working from home can be hard – it can be good to try and find a desk share in a small studio though, so the rent is cheaper! You don’t need to be in there full time to start off with.

There’s also the constant comparison to other people’s work, especially now that we have Instagram, Twitter, Likes and Followers etc., but the latter really don’t equate to money unless what you’re doing is selling merchandise to your followers. You’re better off having a few thousand with lots of Art Directors following you, than you are having 10K regular people who have no intention of commissioning, it’s important to try and remember that.

Image title: Rainbows

I think one of the hardest things is coming to terms with the fact that longevity doesn’t always equate to success, nor does hard work. I’m in an industry that goes through trends, is over saturated and often pays very little. The drop-out rate for graduates is incredibly high, and often people with more privilege and wealth  are bound to become successors over their working-class counterparts due to small fees at the beginning of your career – or sadly, throughout it. If you have the opportunity to move home in those first few years of graduating, or find somewhere with cheap rent, I would highly recommend it. You’re better off starting slow & building up, as opposed to diving in, burning out, getting impatient and giving up. A few years ago an industry friend told me that even though I wasn’t the best illustrator – skill wise, (fair enough, hahaha) I was consistent & persistent. 

Q6. You have recently worked with POC IOM, a platform to speak out about racism experienced on the island. How did this collaboration come about?

I was loud and spoke out against racial issues that were happening within the islands’ political Facebook groups. I was having conversations with a lot of people my age from the island. My friend Daniyel Lowden – amazing photographer – is also involved with POC IOM, we went to college together and so he knows my work, and asked whether I could help out so the group had a visual identity. I’m so glad I could contribute, even in the smallest way to what POC IOM are doing. We had conversations pretty early on about me helping, but the intention always being to get a black illustrator involved as opposed to me in the long term.

Work for POC IOM

Q7. Art is a great tool for communicating and encouraging discussion. How have you used your bold and colourful style to articulate key messages and themes relating to POC IOM?

The sole purpose of me coming on board with POC IOM was to create a visual identity that felt positive, professional, uplifting & approachable. They needed people to pay attention, and to be taken seriously, which I think my work managed to do. What I created was almost used as a means of gaining momentum, so was very surface level & aesthetically pleasing. In terms of articulating key messages and themes, this is why there was a discussion very early on about me getting swapped for a black illustrator. Illustration is very personal, and what needs to be communicated here is a kind of oppression, pain, and life experience I have never faced, so it isn’t right me to try and use whatever skills I have to illustrate this.

Q8. What is next for you?

Lots and lots and lots of personal work and promoting my prints! The illustration industry has taken a huge hit since March – clients aren’t willing to spend money, and so lots of jobs are just being let go or are only offering incredibly small fees. So, I’m trying to use this time to develop my skills and push things I sell in my shop. Long term, I want to continue as a freelance illustrator for now! But I may consider teaching higher education at some point.

Work for POC IOM

Where to buy

Ana Jaks' work is available to buy from her online shop or from East End Prints where a more diverse range of work can be found.

Where to Follow

Website – anajaks.co.uk
Instagram – ana.jaks
Twitter – ana_jaks
Instagram – POC_IOM
Twitter – POC_IOM

A sponsored body of
The Department of Education, Sport and Culture
Rheynn Ynsee, Spoyrt as Cultoor
Isle of Man Government
Reiltys Ellan Vannin
Isle of man Government