Jamel Akib's professional career in illustration began early. Whilst still at college, he was commissioned to illustrate the Observer's front cover which led to a regular weekly illustrations spot. From then on he's never looked back.
Question: What drew you to illustration/design? Jamel: It seemed a great alternative to being a 'fine artist', you could have all the freedom of a fine artist but manage to reach a much larger audience. Question: Do you have any formal design training? Jamel: Yes I studied at Maidstone college of art; one of the last years of the three year illustration degree course. Question: Where are you originally from? Jamel: Originally from Leigh-on-sea in Essex, but lived in North Borneo from the ages of 5 to 14. Coming back to England after that was a culture shock. Question: Where do you live now & what drew you there? Jamel: We moved out of London for a quieter life in a pretty city. So a pin in a map took us to Salisbury. A friend likened Salisbury to a mediocre marriage 'Not bad enough to leave, not good enough to stay'. So we stayed. Question: Where is your studio and can you describe it for me? Jamel: My studio is on the middle floor of our house, so there's plenty of footfall passing my door. Which I like. It's a little like an aircraft cockpit; I can sit down and reach everything I need from my easel. Question: Who or What is your biggest inspiration? Jamel: I look at a lot of painters now, addicted to it really. The internet gives us so much access to artist's galleries. I love blogs from interesting eclectic people. It gives you the opportunity to look at artists and photographers that you wouldn't usually search for. Consequently my influences change daily. Question: How do you get your ideas? Jamel: I make a lots of lists on post it notes around the studio, or I tell Michelle, my wife, to put them into her phone as we're driving somewhere. I also have a suitcase that used to belong to my mother. In that is almost all of the sketches I've ever done. It's old and battered but every now and then I'll go through it and find something will spark.
Question: Tell us about a favourite project you've recently completed. Jamel: I'm currently doing some Cityscapes of London that I'm enjoying. Painting places we've been as a family is great. A kind of visual diary, and you can flog the paintings afterwards. Question: What would be your dream job/commission? Jamel: To paint the cities of the world and be paid to visit them one by one, my family would have to be allowed to come though, otherwise it wouldn't be a dream job! Question: Who are your art heroes? Jamel: I love the paintings of Hashim Akib, but today I'm looking at the paintings of Alex Kanevsky. And now want to join the 'motion blur' school of painting, that may change by this afternoon though. Question: Who are your illustration heroes? Jamel: I think we all owe a debt to the illustrators of the mid to late eighties. People such as Sue Coe, Marshall Arisman, Brad Holland and Matt Mahurin. I think they showed that fine artist sensibilities could be applied to illustration and that should be something we try to hang on to. Question: Do you have a method for dealing with the feeling of having no ideas? Jamel: I look in to my Mother's suitcase and something will come. Question: If you could travel back in time which period would you visit & why? Jamel: Three years ago, have a cup of tea with my mum.