Hi Jo, how are things! You’re an illustrator currently living in Nagoya, Japan, is that right?
Hello! I actually live a little out the way in a more rural area - Nagoya is the closet major city. I’ve only been here a few months, but there’s a nice relaxed pace to life outside of the big cities - or ‘inaka’ as they say here, and feels more obviously different to the UK.
You are originally from Tokyo, or were born there, but then you grew up in Derbyshire in the UK and had some time in Australia too. How has your background influenced who you are as a person, but also your illustration work?
Yes, I was born in Tokyo, but my family moved to Derbyshire when I was about 5. Growing up in the UK, being half-Japanese was what I perceived as the thing that made me ‘unique’ and tried to embrace it as much as possible. Our house was full of Japanese woodblock prints, fabrics and crafts so I think I viewed art as the link back to that part of my background whilst living in England. Having always loved drawing, by incorporating Japanese influences into my work, it became a way of staying connected to and learning more about that aspect of my culture. Maybe now I’m living in Japan, my work will end up having lots of bulldogs and Union Jacks appearing in them!
And you’re working professionally as an illustrator now, right? Where do most of your commissions come from or is it a bit of a mix?
I currently work in both illustration and design, so projects and commissions are pretty varied. As my illustration work tends to focus on portraiture, it lends itself quite well to editorial clients when they can’t easily get a photo of someone because it involves a bit more of an abstract concept. So most commissions come from magazines, but also private clients who want portraits doing. I also get a lot of requests to draw people’s cats and dogs!
Jo Fallon at work
Do you find a difference doing it professionally as opposed to just doing it for yourself?
As with any job that is very close to your heart, I think you have to take a bit of professional detachment just to make sure things get done - the addition of deadlines make a huge difference!
Are there any projects that you’ve completed that have been a highlight for you?
The illustration of The Who probably stands out as a highlight for me. It was a completely self-indulgent personal project, but I think it’s the image that really feels the most true to how I want to express myself, interests and style through art, so was really enjoyable to work on. It’s kind of become my ‘benchmark’ project that I compare all others against now!
How about the future - do you have any dreams or goals with your illustration?
Absolutely! I’d love to do covers for music magazines and develop my ‘Big In Japan’ series with enough images to publish as a book one day. I’m also keen to experiment with cross-medium projects and collaborations, and see what I learn from those.
Finally, is there a particular quote or saying that really defines who you are and what you do?
Not so much one that defines me, but “keep on keeping on” from a Bob Dylan lyric I’ve always thought has been pretty sound advice!
- Jo Fallon
Portfolio at jofallonillustration.com