Five questions for creatives

Jelena Jordanovic-Lewis

Jelena Jordanovic-Lewis is an illustrator, born in Yugoslavia who grew up in Germany. She learnt art when she was young from a classical Serbian artist but she focussed on science in her studies and has only just recently returned to her passion of drawing and painting. Jelena’s main focus is illustrating children’s books and creating cute adorable characters using watercolour. Jelena lives with her brave, adventurous baby girl and her lovely husband in St Neots but tends to move where the winds of life take her.

How did you get into the creative industry, and was there a defining point in your career that led you on that path?

I am self taught so feel like i’ve sneaked in to the creative industry. I’ve only recently started to work as an illustrator and started without any live projects or a day job. To explain in more detail — I have an education in science and was working as a researcher and I was recently asked to find funding for my own job. I realised I didn’t actually care at all about the outcome and so I started to think about the type of job that I would feel more passionate about. This was slightly difficult and a pretty exhausting task. However I couldn’t (and didn’t) see what was staring me in the face: drawing, a hobby that I had once found embarrassing now made me think I could do it for a living. I didn’t trust that I could improve upon my skills but it was down to my husband who gave me the nudge I needed and convinced me I could do it. I’m now more confident and finding clients to work with and looking forward to making this my long-term career.

Is there anything you would change in your current career and if so why?

I would like to expand by working for more clients, maybe in a team, or have my own drawn characters and possibly my own books. I am currently working with one publisher and am really grateful for the projects i’m involved with. With the publisher I’m free to develop the storyboard and characters based on a manuscript. But I would also like to gain some experience working for other types of publications, or as part of a team — bouncing ideas and creating storyboards together. Making my own books would be a great experience with the benefit of having much more control and influence on the interplay between story and pictures.

Where do you see yourself, and your career in five years time?

I hope that some of the answers to the previous question come true — working with a team, a variety of publishers and having self-published three of four books by that time.

Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?

Yes, I keep a weekly calendar to ensure I don’t put too much on my plate. Time is not really abundant when you have a toddler to take care. I write down one main focus of the week. It usually has to do with the current book I am illustrating and that focus is prioritised over any other work connected to the book. This way, the pleasant and the unpleasant (boring) tasks get finished. I also have a time tracker, that shows when it is time for a break. This makes me more focused during work periods, and I like the feeling I deserved a little break.

What tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in the creative industry?

Look for inspiration in other artists, but don’t compare yourself to them. Only compare yourself to your old self and try to be better than yesterday. Give yourself little tutorials or tasks that you can work on when you have some spare moments. For example you want to improve in anatomical study, or colour theory. Treat it like a default drawing topic you pick up, which can save you thinking and decision making time and then stick with it for a while. If you compare drawing to sport it makes more sense that steady training, with an aim, will get you much further than trying to train for that one big race. Another tip for creatives who tend to get distracted a lot is try to minimise the amount of decisions you make during the day and save your energy for decisions that matter.

To find out more about Jelena visit her blog: