A few weeks ago we met with Stroud-based illustrator Rosalie Darien-Jones, who warmly welcomed us in her home and introduced us to her wonderful baby-girl Juno and her coffee-expert husband Jerome.
Working mostly on information illustration and short stories and having a passion for reportage and travel illustration, Rosalie transforms the mundane and the everyday into evocative and powerful visuals touching on the theme of womanhood, fertility and motherhood. Sipping coffee and watching Juno playing, Rosalie talked about how motherhood opened up a whole new creative avenue for her and why being involved with community events and the Nasty Women art movement feels so important to her.
From her home, we journeyed to her secluded studio, where she showed us some of her drawings and illustrations and conversed about the work she produced for the upcoming group show, Motherhood & Metamorphosis, at Lansdown Gallery. We finished our day with a walk in the beautiful countryside and with Rosalie reminiscing about the time when Jerome's beard was much bigger and they lived in a yurt in the woods.
Tell us about Rosalie, the artist behind Rosalie Darien-Jones Illustration.
I live and work in Stroud in Gloucestershire. I studied a degree in illustration at Falmouth University and then went on to do an amazing course at The Royal Drawing School. After having my daughter Juno last September I decided not to return to my previous job and instead work totally freelance. It was a big risk for me financially but I couldn’t justify not being with Juno. It’s certainly hard work juggling a baby and my work but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
What is your most vivid childhood memory?
Drawing outside on the patio with chalks, and then watching the rain washing it all away.
What or who inspired you to pursue illustration? Are there any other artists in your family?
I used to draw a lot as a child. At college I took a lot of inspiration from artist sketchbooks, that was probably what led me to illustration. I guess as time goes on I question whether I even want to pigeonhole myself as an ‘illustrator’ anymore, I love drawing in all its forms. We have these very old sketchbooks with scratchy line drawings in that were done by my great-Grandfather and my Grandfather; they both drew a lot.
What are your major sources of inspiration?
Marlene Dumas. Egon Schiele. Artist Sketchbooks. Laura Carlin. David Hockney. Lucien Freud. Nigel Peake. The patchwork architecture of towns and cities. Travel, discovering new places.
How did the collaboration with Aimee Bea Ballinger come about? Tell us about the story behind the zine Fertility.
Aimee is a friend from Stroud who also studied in Falmouth. She had been writing a series of fertility related poems and I was only too happy to work with them. There’s so much visual stimuli when it comes to fertility; eggs, wombs, you name it, I want to draw it all. Aimee now runs an amazing independent online bookshop called Burning House Books.
What about the “Nasty Women Of Stroud” event that will take place in October. What is your involvement with it?
They were looking for people to create designs for merchandise so I got in touch with some stuff that I’d done. I also have a print in their art auction that takes place this weekend coming. It feels good to be involved with community events and the Nasty Women art movement feels very important to me.
You have created some beautiful window displays at Harriet’s House. How did your collaboration with them come about?
That’s so kind, thank you. I am lucky enough to know the lovely Harriet of Harriet’s House. She had already been stocking some of my zines and cards in the shop, but when my maternity leave ended my work situation changed and I was seeking a fresh start. I only asked in passing if Harriet had some work in the shop but she said yes. I really do owe a lot to her, she’s been incredibly supportive of me having Juno. Having an employer that understands your need for flexibility as a mother is a rare occurrence. I love working in the shop, supporting small, local businesses is so important. Harriet has poured a lot of time into sourcing locally made and designed stock and it really shows, the shop is lush.
Also, your recent illustrated book, The Narcissistic Guidebook can be found at Harriet’s House. Where did the idea for this self help guide come from?
Ha, well basically it was an outlet for me after a time when I felt I was only encountering bad eggs, it was also a kick start project after a creative block. Making zines is a great thing to do when you’re thinking about bigger projects, I find it keeps my hand in without me having to be in the studio all day.
When it comes to commissioned work, how do you draw the line between your own aesthetic taste and the expectations of a client?
I’m really lucky that my commissioned work has always been very flexible. I’ve never felt like I’ve had to conform to something that didn’t feel right. I’ve had creative freedom and I’m really thankful for that.
You are also the co-curator at Line Gallery. How important is it for you to be part of the local community of creatives?
Alas, I am no longer the co-curator at Line Gallery, but I was and it was great! It was such a good experience, I learnt so much about hanging and displaying work. I also got to work with Jessie, she’s a total babe and ran the gallery on her own for two years! It’s definitely important for me to be a part of the local creative community, I feel so lucky to have some many interesting and talented people right on my doorstep and I’d be a fool not to get involved.
You are an artist and also the mother of wonderful baby-girl Juno. How does motherhood influence you creatively?
Massively! It’s actually almost indescribable the effect motherhood has had on my creativity. It’s given me such a positive boost, it’s forced me to stop being so shy and unconfident and to start taking myself seriously. You don't have time to question yourself so much, you just have to get on with it.
Are there any particular projects that you dream to be part of?
I recently took part in a pilot for The Motherhouse. It’s the UK’s first flexible art studio with integrated childcare where children are welcome into the workspace. They are London based but are hoping to open in Stroud. I’d really like to be involved if it takes off, having a space that enables you to work and be with your child is totally invaluable.
What drives you?
Juno! Motherhood is all consuming, it’s exhausting and overwhelming and it’s very easy to slip into just being ‘mum’ and forgetting to fill yourself up with what makes you feel good. Juno is my number one priority, I want her to grow up seeing me do what I love.
What do you do or where do you go for inspiration?
I love the countryside, it's endlessly beautiful around these parts. I love to walk to highest point I can and look at the view. It’s always good to get a bit of perspective.
What are some of your favourite places to hang out in Stroud?
I love to go charity shopping, great for cheap art books and baby clothes and I usually bump into someone I know which is nice. The market on a Friday is great too! Jolly Nice do the best coffee and you can sit by the wood burner in one of their yurts.
What does a regular day look like for you?
Some days are more Juno focused than others so we might have a class in the morning and then back home for lunch and a sleep and then a relaxed afternoon. Other days I’m in the studio, it’s hard having a little one running around my feet on these days but somehow (I don’t know how) I am managing to do it. I get most of my work done when she’s sleeping and late at night. On Thursdays I work at Harriet’s House, I call this my day off as my mum takes Juno for the day and my brain is free to think and plan projects.
What was the best advice you have ever been given?
If you worry you suffer twice.
Who do you admire?
Strong fearless females. My mum, I know it’s a classic but she really is a special woman. She’s one of the hardest working women I know, endlessly positive and always supportive.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?
Ohh that’s a hard one. I’m a country girl at heart but I loved living in London, I like Bristol a lot too, it’s such a creative and bustling place. I think I’d choose Bristol all the joys of city life but still close to Stroud which will always be my home.
What would we find in your wardrobe? How would you describe your personal style?
I have so many silly dressing up clothes. I love dressing up, and now I get to dress Juno up too which is fun. I very rarely buy anything new so most of my clothes are found in charity shops or at car boots. I really appreciate quality materials and well made clothes. I’m usually looking for clothes that are simple and functional, so I guess if I’m not dressing up you could describe my style as sort of plain, definite librarian vibes.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a wordless zine for an exhibition called Motherhood & Metamorphosis coming up in November. I’m hoping to do it all in etching and monoprint.
What are your dreams and ambitions for the future?
I’d like to travel with Juno (and Jerome her dad). I think it’s so important for her to see the world and experience new places. I would also like to work on creating a community space for artists and creatives of all kinds with studios and workshops. It’s a pipe dream really but you know, never say never.
Can you recommend us:
A song: Good Name, by William Onyeabor.
A book: Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Girl, by Greyson Perry.
A film: Belleville Rendez-Vous, by Sylvain Chomet.