Gradwatch 2021: Illustrator Molly Jones, Camberwell Faculty of Arts

Molly Jones’ illustrations have the cheeky energy of a retro cartoon strip. Her loose lines, goofy yet expressive characters and trippy scenes make for an irreverent illustration style, often topped with playfully grotesque or childlike touches.

Look a little closer though and there are references aplenty that bring her work right up to date, namely in her pieces that illuminate the often sticky, chaotic aspects of the Gen Z experience.

Jones studied illustration at Camberwell College of Arts, a course she found to be full of variety and encouraged her to experiment: “I never knew how broad illustration could be before I went to uni, I feel like Camberwell really challenges what illustration is and what it can communicate.”

Her joyful cartoon style began to emerge towards the end of her second year while working on a project about Gen Z, for which she made a zine about social media.

“I distort my images a lot to create wonky lines and narratives, or to add emphasis on objects. I also try to stick with the same colour palettes. My work is playful, I’m not a serious person so I try to retain that atmosphere. I try to make it comical, while maintaining a relatable and noticeable style.” At the moment she’s keeping her colour palettes simple while she learns to screenprint from home. “I just really want to push my style to be the best it can be.”

The most useful advice she’s been given is to try to worry less. “Throughout college and uni I’ve been told I worry too much and it’s only really third year where I’ve been the most relaxed and not cared what people think,” she explains. “It’s hard to overcome but once you get over that bridge, creating work and sharing it is a lot easier.”

Another key learning has been to strip back her creations. “A tutor said this to me in second year and since then I’ve always taken that into consideration. Every time I create illustrations now I’m thinking ‘is this too much?’ and making sure it’s easily readable.”

Throughout the pandemic, Jones initially felt it was difficult to find motivation – something that can be a challenge at the best of times. “When you’re in a house full of students and [have] nowhere else to go it can be hard to switch off and make other things a priority because of distractions,” she says.

“There was a point in third year when I was writing my dissertation and I just thought that I wasn’t going to do it because I couldn’t, but I did,” Jones remembers. The routine of going to work at a supermarket helped her keep up with her studies, and she ultimately feels the challenges of her university experiences have made her a more capable and resilient creative.

Now that she’s finished her course, her sights are set on getting her work out there and maintaining her creativity. “I’m really trying to do work every day even if it’s just a little drawing, but I’m finding it quite difficult at the moment. I’m learning to expose my own screens at home so over summer I can play around with printmaking which links into my other work,” she says. “I also don’t expect to get an amazing job straightaway, but I would love to be a technician at a college or uni. So I am learning new processes and keeping my eye out for them.”

She’s staying in London for the foreseeable future with the aim of taking part in art shows and building out her links with other creatives. Looking ahead, she’s eager to see her work across different formats, whether on packaging, fashion designs or outdoors. “I’d absolutely love to do a mural! I’ve had a lot of people say to me that they could see my work on a wall. I think it would look great in a play area too,” she says.

“I’m starting to do T-shirts which I’m hoping to sell, and I’d love to do surface pattern designs. I’ve created some cushion prints already and they have been successful,” she adds. “I just want to try everything.”