“I’m definitely influenced by painters, perhaps more so than by contemporary illustration,” says young illustrator Jayde Perkin, who grew up by the seaside in south west England before spending the last few years in Berlin. You can see that painterly influence in her narrative illustrations; the loose lines and wispy strokes are created simply from gouache and ink.
“I paint everything in one layer. Having a final, real, and tangible ‘original’ painting at the end of a project is very satisfying,” says Perkin, who has contributed to children’s magazine Anorak, the lifestyle pages of the Guardian, and German titles such as Das Magazin.
The elegant and loose style of AIGA Medalist Maira Kalman, who also combined media, is an obvious, yet important source of inspiration. Still, most of the time she discovers her techniques wandering around museums. “Living in Germany has been great for learning about German painters,” she says, citing Max Pechstein, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Georg Tappert as particularly informative when it comes to brushstroke and color.
I first noticed Perkin’s work in the last issue of Hamish Hamilton’s literary magazine Five Dials, where her paintings swoop lightly like a feather across pages of fiction. Her modernism and expressionism-infused style suits literary texts: it’s pattern-heavy, narrative work—when I see it, I think of densely packed corridors stacked with books, expressive canvases, and floral teacups. For Double Dot magazine, a contemporary fashion and travel title that looks at two sister cities for each issue, Perkin’s loose, playful paintings take on a Warhol-esque quality that adds rich flavor to a personal essay about a prostitution ring in Paris.
“I wanted to portray what I know of Paris, a beautiful city with an undercurrent of sleaziness,” she says, discussing how she often mixes personal experience with the imagery that’s conjured by a writer. For this particular commission, the essay compares sex to “lions attacking each other,” so her first piece references that. It also contains a nod to the famous Le Chat Noir bohemian nightclub poster.
References to Perkin’s favorite image makers or historical figures are also a regular occurrence. For a recent piece for the annual Secret 7” competition, where artists submit an illustration for a cover of one of six tracks, Perkin’s illustration of The Jam’s “Art School” was one of the winners. If you look closely you can spot Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Frida Kahlo, Kate Bush, and David Bowie amongst the crowd. It’s like a list of what I imagine would be Perkins’ dream dinner party.
Mostly though, women feature in Perkin’s compositions. “On a very trivial level, I feel the paintbrush lends itself to looser shapes and beautiful curves of the female form,” she explains. “On a personal level, as a woman and feminist who makes very personal work, it feels very natural for many of my characters to be female, too. It’s quite instinctive.”
Her penchant for the personal means that Perkin doesn’t just focus on editorial work, but is also an avid comic maker, regularly publishing zines with small press Jazz Dad Books. Two months ago she released Döner Days, which depicts her boyfriend’s love affair with kebab shops.
Most recently though, Perkin’s released Breathe In Deep, a comic about grief, an initial response to the death of her mother this past March. “It was cathartic, and really difficult to make. Part of it is very much in the form of a comic, and then other parts are quite fluid and abstract,” she says. The pages are blue, candid, and honest—it’s a beautiful exploration of the nature of loss.
Perkin is a thoughtful storyteller who uses paint not just to elevate or decorate a story, but to inject it with a personal sense of emotion and feeling. Many contemporary illustrations pop or punch with color, but Perkin does something else: she creates a visual dialogue with the words of an author, adding not just a different perspective to a text, but infusing it with an intense atmosphere of personal expression.