Monday, June 27, 2022

From doorman at The Scotsman to one of Britain’s leading illustrators

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Exactly 30 years ago, Jill Calder spent her days visiting Edinburgh businesses and trying to persuade them to give her work.

The art school graduate was so determined to pursue a career as an illustrator that she took her portfolio on cold-calling trips around town while she was taking a break from two part-time jobs.

However, it was The Scotsman that gave her a crucial breakthrough, leading to Calder working for some of the biggest names in publishing and becoming one of Britain’s leading illustrators.

Her regular visits to what was then the newspaper’s North Bridge office paid off with a commission to accompany an article on dyslexia.

Now this illustration and the page it adorned are among the exhibits in the first major retrospective of the Dundee-born Calder’s work as illustrator and calligrapher, which has taken her around the world.

The free exhibition at Callendar House in Falkirk explores a career that has included working for magazines, campaigning for drinks brands, accompanying the work of poets and authors and – most recently – publishing children’s picture books.

Calder, who now lives in Upper Largo, Fife, can trace her own interest in illustration back to her childhood in Dundee.

She said: “I still have books that I absolutely love, like the poetry collection Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls, which featured these beautiful black and white line drawings by illustrator Tomi Ungerer, and books by American author and illustrator Richard Scarry.

“My father signed up for one of these book clubs. All these art books came into the house earlier. Some of them were weird and wonderful, but to this day I still have these beautiful large books about Van Gogh and the Impressionists. I just loved looking at them.

“I didn’t think I was good enough to get into an art school in Scotland – I didn’t even bother to apply. I ended up going to Carlisle but had to decide very quickly what I wanted to specialize in. I was at the end of the place. One minute I wanted to do theater design, then fashion.

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