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Uniting The Elements: Q&A with Illustrator Clara Jonas

by Georgie Roberts

The otherworldly work of Cornish artist and illustrator Clara Jonas is instantly recognisable – a thoughtful blend of natural elements and mysticism. She took a break from her otherworldly art to talk about her background, inspirations, personal style, and collaboration with Wolf & Badger designer, Wanderlust Life. 

A lot of your illustrations have an oceanic vibe. Did you grow up by the sea?

I was born in Dorset and moved with my family when I was about ten to Boscastle in North Cornwall, a very quiet fishing village. I discovered a whole new way of being with the lifestyle of surfing and everything. I’ve lived most of my life there. It was a good move – I was pleased with Mom for that one!

As a freelancer based in sunny Newquay in Cornwall, is it hard getting a work/life balance?

When I get the fruits from it, I think it’s fantastic. But I’m either all or nothing – I either work for days on end from very, very early to very late, don’t socialise, don’t surf, don’t do anything. And then I go the other way and I just want to surf and do nothing else!

What kind of environment do you need to produce your beautiful creations?

It’s really bizarre actually! I have to totally get dressed, and I have to feel like I look nice. I have to sit myself at a table. Laptop is on the table, notebooks are at the side and I’m properly dressed and ready to go. I have to be in the zone! That’s kind of my vibe. 

What role does instinct play in your life and freelance business?

I feel like when I start operating from fear – saying “Ok I’ve got to take what I can get” – it becomes a bit self-fulfilling. All of a sudden, you’re in this spiral of saying “yes” to stuff that you really don’t identify with. You can really spin yourself out, not really sure which way is up. I’m very, very lucky to be honest. The majority of my projects I really identify with and feel so excited about.   

What does an ideal day in the life of Clara look like?

When I’m feeling on top of projects and pretty chilled out, most mornings start off with getting outside in some way. I like surfing in the mornings so it feels like I’ve completed something, then a decent lunch and work in the afternoon. I find I work so much more efficiently when I’ve given myself time outside. It feels like you drop out of your head and actually into your body. You get more of a grounded perspective.

Do you have a mantra that you’re focusing on at the moment? 

When you’re a creative freelancer, you can be so into your work that it’s like an extension of yourself and you forget about all the other beautiful things in life which inform the work and give it space to breathe. You can burn yourself out, so I’m focusing on spending time in nature, visiting different places, looking at different things. One of my mantras is “breathe a lot more space in” – to slow down and just simplify everything.

What’s next for you in terms of your creative work?

I want to do more spontaneous creativity and lots by hand, with more physical interaction with my sketchbook. I work digitally probably about 70 percent of the time, and I really want to do more personal exploration – because I feel like that’s how you improve. It’s about doing the curious creating as opposed to creating for a reason. 

When you’re lucky enough to be employed in a creative pursuit and it’s informed by a really well-balanced life, I think it becomes more meaningful. I think there’s so much more room to have more meaning within our work and more gentleness and kindness around how we work in society.

I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but I think as humans we’re not just made to be sitting at a screen all day! The pandemic highlighted so much of this stuff that just does not make sense in a modern society – like how much time we spend working when there’s a really glorious world out there which we should be connecting with. 

It seems like you’ve been able to work with a lot of brands that emphasise sustainability. What role does that play in your work and life?

It feels like the whole framework of society is changing, even if it is really uncomfortable. I think people are wanting to go back to having a more intimate connection with products that are made with more meaning and are made by people. Those kinds of products are so charged with intention. Recent years have been a reminder of how important it is to be treading lightly and consuming with care and love and intention. Even if that doesn’t manifest in black and white, I think people are realising this subliminally. It seems like in our collective psyche we’re all wanting a more natural environment to live in. It feels like there’s a massive cosmic shift happening.

Can you tell us about your jewelry collaboration with Wanderlust Life?

I followed Wanderlust Life for ages, and I just thought it was the coolest! So much of my stuff exists in the digital ether so it’s lovely to see it in tangible applications. And it was so lovely to get to do a set instead of just a one-off image. When it sits in a set I think it’s got such a power, which is really exciting.

Each image in the set spotlights the powers of the classical elements of earth, air, fire and water. It seems like you had no difficulty aligning your aesthetic with the brief.

The relevance and understanding of ancient wisdom is resonating more and more in our contemporary society, and more of us are drawn to reconnecting with earth and nature centred perspectives on the world; which are essentially in all of us. The roles of the elements and how they balance our outer and inner worlds feels like a beautiful expression of this understanding, and the brief a truly lovely one with an abundance of beautiful visuals to draw from.

Wanderlust Life’s Elemental collection is an homage to the earth, air, fire and water that makes up the world around us. Each piece is made sustainably in the UK using 100% recycled silver and ethically sourced gold.