Freelance wisdom and winemaking with Jay Cover
Illustrator extraordinaire and one third of creative studio Nous Vous….introducing Jay!
Interview by Hugo Ross
Illustration by Jay Cover
May 19, 2019
VM: What is new?
JC: At the moment I’m trying to keep things in a sort of stasis work wise, in terms of my illustration practice. Just happily plodding along through regular commission work. So in a sense nothing’s new and I’m happy with that. Recently I’ve got really excited by an allotment I acquired and making hedgerow wines. So I’m trying to keep my work activity fairly stable so I can afford myself time to do these more leisurely things. Although I always inevitably end up turning leisure activities into something more serious and time-consuming by virtue of the fact that I like working hard and learning about things.
VM: How do you seek inspiration and how do you document it?
JC: I’m not the sort of person who goes out sketching. I try to do all my work and drawing in the studio, where I feel I can focus and I’m not distracted. Memory plays a big part in my work, especially when it comes to scenes of people interacting. When I’m out and about I’m people watching, looking at the environment and making mental notes. I like the mix of the inaccuracy of my memory, with my desire to be accurate in my practice. I feel it makes for a nice contrast and you get good results from this, something human and vulnerable mixed with something methodical and almost mathematic. It creates an interesting tension in the pictures. I occasionally make notes on my phone, ideas for animated scenes, which are drawn from every place imaginable. I intend, one day, to make an animation, a set of characters doing things together. Having a project in mind, even if you don’t follow through with it always gives you something to look for, this helps a lot when trying to get inspired.
VM: What daily work struggles do you have to overcome?
JC: At the moment motivation is difficult. I think due to the fact that I have taken an interest in several other things and maybe I’d prefer to be spending my time doing them. This is something that happens to me from time to time, my mind goes wandering and I feel a strong urgency to do something different. I find it’s very easy to get bored with your work - so it’s imperative that you make time to do things that stimulate you. I rent another studio with Jim Stoten and Ben Newman, where there’s no internet and we just go and make things, paintings, collages, whatever. I do really love the jobs I get and the work I’m commissioned to create, but only when I’m not doing it constantly. It’s essential to have balance. I do have a fairly good long term discipline after working, making images or something similar for over ten years now, so that helps overcome daily struggles.
VM: What is it like working in a collective? How did Nous Vous come about?
JC: It’s wonderful. Now it’s a different thing to what it started out being, but it’s always evolved and changed as we have grown and our circumstances and life expectations have altered over the years.
We all met in and around University, through mutual friends, an interest in music and art around 2006. And started working together more formally around 2007, when I graduated. Initially we were a ’sort of’ design studio, because this is what we studied, but Nous Vous has always been open to what it is, and essentially in whatever form it takes or direction we go in, it serves our needs and desires at that time in our lives. These days it’s more of an agency model, due to us living in different cities and having different priorities in terms of families and lifestyle choices.
VM: Are you particularly interested in any sub-cultures or genres and if so how do these play into your working practise.
JC: Cripes! I feel like I’m getting a bit old for sub-cultures now. Haha! Yes of course, I’ve always been interested in any DIY scene. Me, Nic and Will graduated and matured in Leeds, and the music scene there was fizzing and in some way we were part of it. That felt really good. Now my interest is more in the archaic. Growing plants, folklore, hedgerow wines and magic (when I say magic I mean growing plants and looking at things fermenting feels like a kind of magic). I think all interests shape your practice and my interests do shift about a lot. I feel that eventually you establish a kind of bubble, the bubble is made of critical thinking and if you apply critical thinking to anything you can find it interesting and absorb it into your direction. So things move in and out of my bubble quite fluidly and I tend to find most things interesting and worth talking about.
A more direct example of how my interests play into work is that I’ve started making labels for my country wines in different ways; I went out to take photographs for my Gorse wine and wanted to get a snap of the perfect bush, so I waited for a sunny day and went ambling about in some fields until I found what I was looking for, making work that is directly influenced by my interest. I made another label featuring a bee, a graphic image for my spiced metheglin, a flavoured mead made of honey. In this sense I wouldn’t be surprised at some point if I got commissioned to do something similar or someone invited me to create some work for their brand that had a similar outlook / ethos, in this sense my interests do play a very direct role in the kind of work I get.
Most of the work I produce is about people in places, I’ve always been a people watcher and interested in how environments shape activity and the idea of making places where people can interact with one-another in a positive way. So again this plays a very big role in the way I work and what I choose to make work about and importantly the kind of work that comes my way.
VM: Talk us through your perfect working day.
I tend to start my day by getting straight into work. I work from a home studio now, so this is a possibility. I found that starting my day by eating breakfast and getting ready used to frustrate me a lot and I would rush and get in a fluster, which isn’t good for you or your brain. Admittedly neither is my desire to start working straight away and getting frustrated in the first place, but I’m working on that. So now I get up and do a few hours work then relax, get some breakfast, take a shower, when I know I’ve got the ball rolling on the day and I can see what’s in front of me and how I might manage it. I think this stems from occasionally not really having a good sense of what is ahead of me that day and feeling quite anxious about it. Once I’ve got that anxiety out the way I feel good. Plus I try to limit my day to 6 hours of work if possible. Any more than this for me is too much and I become very inefficient.
My perfect days are about being as efficient as possible, with a sense of purpose, it’s the only way I seem to get any satisfaction out of my day. So getting all my emails done and out of the way, having a break for a while and a think about what I have to do, then getting into drawing and problem solving, giving myself as much time as possible to just draw and get the images right. I like to spend a long long time doing this.
It’s not perfect by any means, but neither am I and I’m constantly looking for more fulfilling ways of doing things, albeit very slowly.
VM: Who is your dream client and why?
JC: This may sound egotistical or just daft, counterintuitive maybe, but I quite honestly have no dream client. I don’t spend lots of time looking at the wider world and thinking I wish I was doing this or that. I’m much more contented to see what comes my way. Or to use an analogy: I could spend a lot of time going to a particular spot with my rod in order to catch a particular type of fish. However I much prefer to place a net in an interesting place and see what swims into it.
I like the surprise and not knowing what’s coming and take a lot of satisfaction in interesting people with interesting projects finding me and wanting to work with me.