As plus size art gains popularity, one illustrator that’s leading the pack in creating body positive art is Jonquel Norwood. She creates illustrations inspired by plus size women and through her art, she is single-handedly showing the world that women with curves are beautiful, bold and works of art.
For our December 2015 digital cover, Jonquel created a fantastic image that captures the magic of the holiday season, and we’re honored to feature her this month in our feature interview. Keep reading as we get to know the New Orleans native, her journey towards body positive illustration and her goals for 2016.
Who is Jonquel Norwood?
I am an illustrator who does body positive plus size fashion illustration. I was born and raised in a small city outside of New Orleans which is where I discovered artistry and my love for art. I’m a big kid who reads comics most of the day and has a growing doll collection. I’m a feminist, a traveler, a teacher and a crazy cat lady. I can be very shy at times, but I’m extremely passionate about the things I believe in.
How did you first get into illustration?
I’ve been drawing my whole life. I won my first art contest when I was 5 [years old]. I later took an art class in high school, and that was all she wrote. I told my mom I wanted to paint, and she brought a bunch supplies and let me paint all the doors in the house (cartoon characters everywhere) I found my calling, and I’ve had no [other] interest since.
How would you best describe your style of illustration?
I am a geek; I love comic books, anime, and dolls. Those things have a profound influence on my drawing style. I just started doing fashion/body positive recently, before that I was a geek artist. All of my art was inspired by either Disney or anime. Even though I’ve changed subject matter, those influences are still very strong.
Please take us through your design process.
First I ask myself questions “what type of imagery do I want to see”? Sometimes I have a client, so I have to ask what the client want to see. Next I do research, its kind like shopping for the perfect outfit, but instead of buying them I’m going to draw them. Then in pencil I sketch out the pose in a stick figure, making sure it has the right amount of attitude. Once that is done, I have to decide what size my model will be. Because there is a difference between a size 14 to 22, to make sure I’m accurate, I’ll search for the imagery on social media or art books or photograph or I’ll even look up my favorite bloggers until I find the body type that captures the vision in my head. I’ll then flesh out the model, putting all the curves in the rights places (there’s never a wrong place for a curve). Next I draw on her clothes, then outline in black ink. After that, I’ll take black watercolor and lightly add the shadows to give contrast and definition. Once it’s dried, it goes into the scanner and pulled into Photoshop for coloring.
You have a special interest in plus size art. What makes this an interest of yours?
The inspiration mainly came from my own confidence journey; I struggled with my body issues my whole life. I’ve always drawn women, they just never looked like me. I used to draw the “ideal” female figure because that was what I wanted to be, I never saw beauty in myself. Because I am a plus size woman and I’m always searching for visual representation in the world. I know what it’s like to be in this world and have the world constantly point out what they conceive to be your flaws. I’ve grown from that adversity; I’m driven by it. Now I may not be able to put a plus size girl on the runway of NYFW or in the big commercial ad yet, but I can use my skill as an artist and draw her in that position.
Who have been your own biggest creative influences?
Tim Bourton and Walt Disney are two of my main influences. Other artists that inspire me include Megan Hess, Hayo Miyazaki, Koralie, Kukula, Hayden Williams, Jasmine Becket-Griffith and the history/culture of New Orleans.
What type of educational background do you have in illustration?
I have a BFA in Illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design, plus I studied painting for three years at Delgado Community College.
In your opinion, how important is art education for anyone who would like to become an illustrator?
That’s really up to the individual; I’ve seen people have great success with and without it. I personally feel I benefited from my education because I actually needed someone to guide me in my technical study and I loved a school setting. It really comes down to what type of person you are.
If you could be offered a dream project to illustrate who would it be for and what would it be of?
I have two: one is to be hired by Disney to illustrate the princesses for a major ad campaign. Number two: To illustrate a doll for Mattel (maybe a curvier doll). Okay, I lied I have a third: to collaborate and have my illustrations on handbags by a major designer and sold in high-end stores. The list goes on……big dreams.
What project(s) are you working on at the moment?
The cover art for this mag (lol), textile designs for Bene by You S/S 16 collection, greeting cards for a designer featuring her winter line and some other secret projects.
Do you have any advice for aspiring illustrators?
Spend as much time learning the business of art as you do making art. Make art all the time and don’t compare yourself to other artists, you have your own vision to create. If your soul is telling you to draw, you probably should.
What are some of your goals for 2016?
Finally, finish putting together my new portfolio. I really hope to be involved in fashion events like FFFW and TCFS Expo (fingers crossed). Also, I plan to be in several art shows throughout the year. I plan to launch a new line of makeup and clutch bags as well. I’m really optimistic about the possibility of the New Year. 2015 was a good year for me. 2015 was full of growth and changes. I can’t wait to continue this journey learn all that I can learn, experience more experiences and make 2016 even better.
If you love Jonquel’s art as much as I do, follow her online: