In conversation with Illustrator Joanna Moore

Joanna Moore‘s evocative illustrations convey a strong sense of space and history. A lover of exploring, Joanna is fascinated by the stories cities tell. She has also illustrated this years Winter Festival brochure! We caught up with Joanna to find out more about her online persona The Town Mouse, her illustrations, and her love for the city.

Niharika Jain: Who is the Town Mouse?

Joanna Moore: When I started blogging anon-mously, the Town Mouse seemed a suitable personification of my actions: scampering around street corners, exploring, drawing, feeling small in the Big Smoke.

The Town Mouse - Joanna Moore
The Town Mouse – Joanna Moore

NJ: What do you most enjoy about being an illustrator?

JM: The discipline of a brief and a deadline, new challenges, working with interesting people, access to exciting places, the smell of fresh ink, seeing my work published, and being paid to draw! The list is endless!

NJ: Your work often focuses on Shoreditch, and Spitalfields – are you inspired by East London?

Christ Chruch by Joanna Moore

Christ Church by Joanna Moore

JM: I’ve lived, worked and been a student in the east end for the last year. It’s a world away from my suburban upbringing and the streets never fail to surprise me. I love the ‘old’ and ‘new’ clashing together, and cultures that live happily alongside each other. [We love East London too!]

NJ: When and how did you discover your passion for drawing?

JM: I have an early memory of my teacher at infant school being impressed that I drew a chair in perspective, aged five! It’s always made me extremely happy. I went for a few years without drawing – studying and then working in an office – looking back I was incomplete.

NJ: So what is your favourite medium to work with and why?

JM: It’s a bit like choosing food; it utterly depends on my mood. I work in lots of different mediums, sketching in charcoal pencil and wash is speedy, pen and ink for the fiddly details, monoprinting in ink for expression and mood, printing to create something wholesome.

Inside the Globe by Joanna Moore

Inside the Globe by Joanna Moore

NJ: Do you find drawing relaxing or do you think of it as work?

JM: Both. But it is also energising. I go a little bit crazy if I haven’t drawn in a while. But there are times when it feels dutiful, whether working on an illustration or being driven by the need to record something accurately before the moment has passed.

NJ: What do you most like about London?

JM: When you walk through it you can feel the history seep through your pores and skin.

Tower Bridge by Joanna Moore

Tower Bridge by Joanna Moore

NJ: Other than the city, who or what inspires you?

JM: I have old-fashioned tastes. I like the war artists and early-to-mid-century illustrators: Ravilious’s gentle tones, Ardizonne’s fluidity, Bawden’s structure and line, David Jones for dreams. As for artists: Rembrandt as master of tone and movement across a picture; Degas and Sickert as incredible draughtsmen who proved that it’s not about capturing realism, but distilling it into something so much more vivid.

I have a Victorian ancestor, Thomas Grylls, who designed stained-glass windows located all over the country. Every time I see one of his designs it makes me feel strong to know that I have art running through my genes.

NJ: Is there a particular town you would like to become the ‘Town Mouse’ of, or will London always be your home?

JM: I was born in London, but raised in the suburbs which means that the city will always seem somewhere big, often intimidating, but always exciting! I can’t imagine being anywhere else; but then again, I have fallen for several other cities, Liverpool and Glasgow spring to mind for their mixture of beauty with rough edges. [We wouldn’t want you to be away from Spitalfields for too long though!]

St John Bread and Wine by Joanna Moore

St John Bread and Wine by Joanna Moore

NJ: Currently there is an exhibition of your work at the Prince’s Drawing School – could you tell us more about the exhibition and how you came to decide what to submit for it?

JM: It’s a small selection of favourites from a busy year. I wanted to include my night drawings, a collection created over many cold winter nights, done with fingerless gloves and hipflask to hand. And monoprints, a technique that new to me but really enjoyable, one of Christ Church in Spitalfields, which felt like an expressive turning-point from the year. And another of chefs, I’ve been really lucky to draw lots of live-action chefs at work, and its real privilege to record another creator and craftsman at work.

Winter Festival leaflet - illustrated by Joanna Moore
Winter Festival leaflet – illustrated by Joanna Moore

Our Winter Festival leaflet as pictured above was illustrated by Joanna Moore, if you would like to read more about Joanna and view her beautiful illustrations, click here. You can also follow view ‘sketches by a small creature in a big city’ on The Town Mouse blog.  Joanna’s work will be on exhibit at The Prince’s Drawing School until 21st October 2011.


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