Hitting the Bottle with Jo Ley

Pixel Priestess Jo Ley discusses caffeine, blogs, her recent digital creations, and life on the edge of eternal winter.

Jo, tell us a little about yourself and how you became involved in a career as an artist?

I'm originally from Manchester. It rains a lot there, so the big storms here in Sydney make me feel very at home. I like cartoons, video games and cats. My working process involves an unreasonable amount of coffee, constant music and the occasional sugar hit. I studied Illustration at the University of the Arts in London, then after graduating, I worked in a couple of London studios before going freelance, moving to Sydney and signing with the Drawing Book Studios.  

You seem to have an eclectic range of influences, from sketches, to animations to pixel art. Can you tell us a bit about what inspires you? Do you have any favourite artists or artworks? 

I follow a lot of artists who help create my favourite shows or games and use Tumblr to stay up to date with what they're are working on, but it's also important to be inspired by your own environment.  Here are some great shows to check out - Steven Universe, Bob's Burgers, Archer, Star vs. The Forces of Evil, Over the Garden Wall, Gravity Falls, Venture Bros, Bee & Puppycat, Bravest Warriors. And some favourite blogs - Hark A Vagrant, Chickensword, TimeCowboy, Indiana Jonas, Help Us Great Warrior, Dethpsun, Rebeccamock

Please tell us about your latest sketches, and how they came about?

I was learning to make pixel art, which as a process is quite restrictive and controlled, every pixel has to be carefully considered and placed with intent. I think as a reaction to spending hours moving tiny pixels around, I wanted to make some colourful and detailed work, so I started looking for objects to draw from life. 

I started with the Maneki-neko charm. I didn't really feel I was learning as much as I could just by repeating the information in front of me, so I started chopping up the studies once they were finished, and adding things that weren't there before, to see if I could use what I'd learned from observation to make them look like they fit in. 

Trying to imagine how light would behave is a lot more fun then just seeing it in front of you it, but observing it gives you the base knowledge to make that leap. I'm not saying what I've imagined is technically correct, I'm sure I'll look back and see mistakes later on, but making mistakes and learning from them is the purpose of these studies (and for them to be adorable, obviously!)

Have you had any favourite briefs you've enjoyed working on? If so, why? And, what would be your dream project?

I think any brief has the potential to teach you something new. That's the exciting thing about commercial art, you never know what you might get asked to do. A while ago I did a poster of a princess and knight. She had blue hair and a swirly pink background with diamonds all over it. That was pretty great. I also did a mural before Christmas for S1T2, and they really let me go to town with the colours. Plus it was isometric which is a style I love. My dream project would probably be to design characters for a game or show. I make up little back-stories for my characters, so it would be nice to see them in their own little world, doing their thing.  

What is something that not many people would know about you?

I dress like its winter all the time. 

Click here to view more work by Jo

Click here to see Jo's collab with S1T2