Hello there! Thanks for visiting my site – I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know me a bit more through my characters and illustrations. As you may be able to tell, I LOVE drawing – it transports me out of myself and takes me to other worlds and sprinkles a bit of magic on the everyday.
My creative career has been a long and interesting road. And it’s not been a lonely one, and I wish to say a huge thanks to all those artists and dear friends who have made so much possible over the years. And someone who has been by my side for over 2 decades and has supported, encouraged, framed and transported work, whilst also chauffeuring me is my husband Andy Sunbeam – a talented photographer himself. Thankyou Mr S!
I originally studied Fine Art, as, although I loved illustration, many courses were very technical, and only for the printed form. And in addition to my dream of having own stories published, I also wanted to create artworks to adorn walls and people’s homes and express myself in a more painterly (messy) way. My Fine Art degree at DMU was so confirming of my chosen path, and my identity as a Narrative Fine Artist worked perfectly. After graduating I continued to create, joined a local artists group (Knighton Lane Artists) and continued to exhibit and even taught community arts part time.
However, that dream to have my own stories published remain strong – I just could not stop thinking about all my ideas for picture books, their characters and my love for YA books. And so in 2013 I was accepted onto the Ma in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art. It was quite an experience – I met some wonderful people, faced and conquered many challenges and learnt SO MUCH. It was there that I finally started (as do we ever stop) learning about the mechanics of picture book creation – from character creation storytelling to creating a well paced story through thumbnails.
After graduating, a period of ill health and chronic pain I decided I needed to just pause this dream, and enjoy reconnecting with the Arts Scene in Leicester and with a fellow artist set up a six month exhibition project called The Eye Exhibition Project and recruited a total of 46 other artists to take part. We were loaned a fantastic space in the local Adult Education centre, which we transformed into a gallery space (which is still used as a gallery 5 years later) and held 5 shows over the 6 months. It was quite an achievement, and I learnt so much from it – from liaising with the venue, artists, with my main responsibility was for the project’s publicity and overseeing social medial. It was a fantastic time, and so many lovely connections were made during these shows, and it brought artists together from a myriad of different artists groups across Leicester.
During these shows I was elected as a member of Leicester Society of Artists, and then was approached by the Cank Street Gallery with a view to representing me. I was delighted, as for many years I had passed by this beautiful gallery, and dreamt of having work in there. It was a blissful time, and Dayle Flude, the owner was so nurturing and encouraging, and my confidence flourished as my work sold to collectors throughout the UK. It was a blissful time, and when the gallery was forced to close in 2019, it was sorely missed as it was a real community hub and a meeting place for artists. Every time we visited, Dayle was there welcoming us in, always introducing us to someone new, or offering some advice or mentorship. Thankfully Dayle’s work for the artists in Leicester was acknowledged and she was awarded an honorary membership of the LSA, where she is an active member.
After that, I was ready for another challenge, and when I saw Leicester Print Workshop’s Artist in Residency opportunity based on the delightful work by Suzanne Balkanyi I knew I simply knew I had to apply. And much to my surprise, and delight, I was selected, and embarked on another adventure, this time relearning copper plate etching and responding (and learning from) Balkanyi’s prints. Many thanks to Alan Sekers and the Balkanyi Trust who funded my residency, and the subsequent exhibitions of both mine and Balkanyi’s prints. It was so lovely to see them both sat side by side, and a bond was formed with Balkanyi’s work which lasts to this day, and I am often revisiting her plates and prints for advice and inspiration. Thanks too to Leicester Print Workshop, and Katy Goodrich in particular who gave her time to support me and assist with the physicalities of printmaking I struggled with. Katy was instrumental in making this residency feasible, tackling all the elements in the etching process that I was unable to manage.
All of this time, my book characters waited for me to return to them. They didn’t mind, as they could see my confidence and skills growing and knew they had a part of my heart and would not leave them forever. And in 2019 I dipped my toes back into the children’s illustration waters, learning as much as I could about digital illustration and using Procreate on the iPad. In 2020, when the Covid pandemic struck, and all physical exhibitions were cancelled, I knew this was the time to pause and dedicate myself to the dream of bringing my characters to life and completing their stories. After the gap of 4 years since my Ma, I was a tad rusty, but with the help of School of Visual Storytelling and the Good Ship Illustration’s Find Your Creative Voice course I found my feet and in 2022 I was awarded a mentorship with Laura Hughes by the Association of Illustrators. It was the most insightful and jam packed 6 months, and I can’t believe how much I learnt, and how my rough skills polished up. Laura was So generous with her time, energy and knowledge, and during the residency I collated everything together into one book, and I’m still gleaning new advice from that time. You can see more of Laura’s beautiful work over on her website.
Now, I’m dedicating all of my time and energy to bringing my characters and stories to life – and loving every moment. And my characters, they are ready to be released into the world, so if you are an agent or publisher interested in seeing more, please do email me, or you can find me over on my Instagram (@janesunbeam_illustrates).
I wonder where this journey will take me next…
Sketchbook Page – It’s All About Me, an exploration of my creative inspirations
All texts and images ©Jane Sunbeam 2013-2023