I first came across Chloe’s adorable illustrations in the window of a Monsterthreads store (an independent lifestyle store) a couple of years ago and have been keenly following her creative journey since. The vivid colour palette and playful quality to Chloe’s flora and fauna filled pieces immediately caught my eye and her charming studio is no exception.
Chloe Jasmine Harris is a freelance illustrator and children’s book author based in Sydney. Discover Chloe’s whimsical studio (serious Wes Anderson vibes!), creative process, upcoming projects and Sydney favourites below.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what led you to an illustrated life of colour and adventure.
I've always loved drawing and dreaming up worlds. I actually remember this "What do you want to be when you grow up?” poster that we had pinned up in our classroom when I was in kindy. The teacher took photos of everyone dressed up, there were kids dressed as nurses, firefighters etc, and then there was me…the one kid dressed up as an artist! So I guess I've known since I was five that this was what I wanted to do, weirdly enough!
After high school, I went to the National Art School in Sydney where I majored in printmaking. I focused mainly on etching and I feel it really helped to shape my early drawing style. I started freelancing while at uni and after graduating I knew that I wanted to try pursue a career in Illustration.
I'm pretty introverted, so I actually love the solitude that comes with being an illustrator. That's not to say that it doesn't get lonely sometimes, so I really value good conversations with great friends to get me out of my head! I also love being out in nature, listening to audio books, animals, documentaries, space movies, vegan food, strong coffee and extra dark chocolate.
Your distinctive illustrations and colour palette are so vibrant and playful. What do you consider when starting a new artwork?
There's quite a few things to consider! When creating a personal illustration I'm definitely more spontaneous about the composition and colour palette. I kind of just go for it, and pick colours based on what I'm drawn to that day. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't...but it's great for experimentation!
However, when creating a book or working for a client the process is a lot more methodical. With a children's book I spend quite a while figuring out the composition through drawing small scale thumbnails. This part can be a little time-consuming because you're not just figuring out the composition for one illustration, but you also have to consider all of the illustrations together and how the book reads from page to page.
Working at such a small scale gives you the freedom to chop and change things around, and learn what is and isn't going to work before you dive straight into the individual spreads. Another thing I consider is the colour palette. I like sticking to a set colour palette throughout the entire book. This definitely helps give continuity to the body of work.
I also consider the paper stock, paper size, and the look and feel I'm going for before I get started. I occasionally get sucked into the vortex of reference photo hunting because it's so much fun! But the endless hours scrolling through Pinterest is ok if it's for research purposes…or at least that's what I like to tell myself when I'm 3 hours in!
Where do you find inspiration?
Honestly, I know this is a very generic answer but it's true! I really do draw inspiration from anywhere and everything. There's not a set list of things that inspire me. If I had to narrow it down it would probably be life experiences, things that are happening in the world, causes that I'm passionate about and then smaller things like being out in nature, beautiful art from creatives around me, powerful song lyrics and poetry. The list is endless!
Your lovely studio is so energetic yet inviting and cosy. What went into styling the space?
Thank you! Not a whole lot really. I just love to be surrounded by other peoples art, I find it super inspiring so I cram as much of it into my tiny little studio/bedroom setup as I can! This includes children's books of course, so I have a rapidly growing collection that's slowly overtaking every shelf I own. I also love autumnal colours, so I like to fill my studio with lots of oranges, reds and yellows to brighten up the space.
What does a ‘typical’ day in the studio look like?
I like to get to work by 9.00am at the latest. I spend my days either painting, drawing, packaging up Etsy orders, or doing the admin work that I'm very good at neglecting.
I try to take a couple of breaks a day- sometimes it doesn't happen but I'm really trying to make this an everyday thing. In the afternoons I'll go for a walk along the coast headlands and then start working again until the late afternoon, often into the night if I have fast approaching deadlines!
What are you most proud of to date?
Probably my first children's book, mainly because I'd never taken on such a big project. I knew creating a children's book wouldn't be a quick or simple job, but I really had no idea how much work goes into putting one together! The process was completely new to me and there was a lot of trial an error throughout, so finishing this book felt like a big achievement. It's also been such a huge dream of mine for the longest time, so I'm incredibly grateful for the team at Walker books who believed in my story and illustrations.
Could you tell us a little bit more about your upcoming children’s book?
The book 'Maple the Brave' is set in the woodlands. It focuses on a young girl called 'Maple' who lives in a tree house, nestled high above ground. Maple is terrified of everything. Especially the scary beasts she thinks live on the forest floor. It's a story exploring the themes of courage, kindness and friendship. It's due to be released around March 2019.
Do you have a dream client or project?
I've written a story that I would absolutely love to turn into a 3rd book. The subject matter is about discrimination and acceptance. It also involves two of my favourite things - space and animals! It's a story that I think is really relevant to what’s going on in our world today, so we'll see if anything happens with it, fingers crossed.
Is there a piece of advice that you wish you were given when you were first starting out?
Probably that comparison really is the thief of joy! I always remind myself that some of the people I'm comparing myself to have been illustrating for 5, 10, 20 years longer than me, and that it took them all of those years through a lot of hard work to get to where they're now.
It takes time to develop a style and way of working that feels right for you, so it's unrealistic to except things to happen overnight!
Chloe’s Sydney Favourites:
Coffee / Tea Place: Gathered Kitchen - Glebe
Restaurant: Gigi's Pizzeria - Newtown
View of the city: Botanic Gardens - Mrs Macquarie's Chair
Swim Spot: Collins Flat Beach
Walk: The coastal cliff walk from Curlcurl Beach to Deewhy on the Northern beaches.
Way to spend a Sunday: I work Sunday mornings, but in the afternoon - op shopping, getting lost in Kinokuniya (the most amazing bookstore in Sydney), spending time with my boyfriend, and bushwalking/ocean swimming are all good options!