This month our Artist Feature is Jamie Odum Thompson. A brilliant character artist whose illustrations were inspired by the most recognizable and renowned anime of our time. Learn about Jamie’s inspiration, desire to keep learning, and her goals for the future.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m originally from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, which is a suburb of the Twin Cities and I graduated from high school in 2004 and started attending Minnesota State University Moorhead that fall. I’ve been living in the Fargo/Moorhead area ever since. I’ll be going on 29.3 (aka. 32) this summer and have been living in the area since I was 18.
As far as interests go, I love animals, art, games, nature documentaries, reading, video games (Legend of Zelda, Mario, Ni No Kuni and the Tales games are my happy place), history and animated films/shows. I grew up on Disney and Pixar films, but became smitten when I discovered Studio Ghibli in 2004. Hayao Miyazaki has been such a huge influence on how I approach my art and how I want to approach my story telling. He’s able to capture the soul of his characters and it’s been a huge inspiration for my own journey. With Studio Ponco making it’s debut this winter, I’m discovering a new Studio Ghibli for a new generation. “Mary and the Witch’s Flower” encapsulated so much of the Ghibli spirit, that I can’t wait to be inspired by Studio Ponco for the years to come.
A few of us at Bee Paper can totally relate to Jamie’s inspiration as a kid. So Jamie, can you tell everyone what cartoons inspired you to draw and how they impacted you to make you want to pick up a pen/pencil and start your journey as an illustrator?
The first anime I ever saw was Sailor Moon back in 1992. It’s one of those shows that has stuck with me my entire life and it is something I’ve always gravitated back to. There really wasn’t as many strong, female insfluences when I was a kid compared to how many there are now. Usagi/Serena was this character that was very relatable. It was okay to be afraid, but you could see how she overcame what would be considered a weakness to become a person that fought fiercely for her friends and loved ones. Each of the Sailor Scouts had characteristics that one could find within themselves; and you could see how different types of characters could come together to protect this world.
Shortly after Sailor Moon, Pokémon came around and it became a new childhood memory. It connected with me very quickly because of my love for animals. I may not know all of the Pokémon these days, but generation one has stuck with me. Because of its influence, I was inspired to create a personal challenge for myself. I challenged myself to draw the original 151 and post the drawings on instagram to hold myself accountable to this goal. I originally started out with inktober in 2015 by drawing a pencil drawing each day in October, so this became the next big challenge I took on after figuring out where to go after inktober.
From that initial goal, I’ve been drawing and creating almost everyday after that. Fan art has just been a comfortable place for my art to go. I’ve always been drawn to the anime style which has carried on to my work today.
In what ways do you challenge yourself to become a better illustrator?
My illustrator journey started with inktober. I’ve done three total now and I try to do something different with each one. Outside of that instagram challenge, I try to set personal goals for myself. Throughout my work, there’s been an evolution of mediums. My original inktober was pencil, after that monthly challenge, I moved onto colored pencil. Even though I love that medium, I pushed myself to try copic and prisma markers, and I’m currently teaching myself watercolors. I’m hoping to completely fill my watercolor book by the end of summer.
I’ve never been strong in proportions, so I do find myself using different references to learn from so I can evolve that skill set. It’s been a way for me to build up muscle memory for when I do move into creating original characters. I have a lot of books to help, along with 3D figures that I can model and draw poses from.
Being able to pursue one’s passion isn’t always easy. Sometimes we feel stuck or get stuck in a job that is creatively draining. As someone whose experienced this, what advice can you give another artist who may be experiencing a similar situation.
What did you do to get to the point of happiness or contentment in your life? Did you have to take a leap of faith?
The biggest thing one can do in this situation is to be honest with themselves. I had to take a hard look at what I was doing and I knew that I wanted more for my career. I worked with wonderful people, but was just getting burnt out with the daily grind. I have a very good friend who worked with me and had moved on to a new opportunity at a different company. She really pushed me to do something for myself and was the person that introduced me to Instagram. I’m one of those people who prefers quality over quantity when it comes to friends and have been lucky enough to find some real gems. These people accept me for who I am and love a lot of the same things I do. Surrounding yourself with people who just like you for you, is one of the best things one can do for themselves.
With support from my friends, I refocused on updating my resume and portfolio, and really pushed to make myself stand out when I was looking for a new job. I found something new after being at the other one for five years. I really believe that everything happens for a reason. We have to take the good with the bad and work hard to be the best we can possibly be. Even when you feel trapped, you have to keep your eyes open to find that opportunity to stand out and create a positive place for yourself in the world.
Are you a full-time artist? If so, what do you do and how do you make a living?
I work as a full-time graphic designer at an agency in Fargo. We have a variety of clients that we work with, so my day changes every day. I can be designing a menu one day and an annual report another. Our clients have a range of needs, so we have the core day-to-day stuff, but we also get to tackle t-shirt designs, installations and product designs, to name a few of the random things that hit my desk. I always get really excited for the projects that are more outside the box. It allows a higher level of creativity and makes me enjoy my job even more. Our work also allows dogs at the office, so I get a puppy fix every now and then which is one of the best things when you’re under a bit of stress.
What is your favorite Bee Paper product?
My favorite bee product is the super deluxe mixed media paper. I really love the square sketchbooks and how well they cater to the instagram format. They work well with my copic/prima markers, watercolors and colored pencils. Since it’s a little bit thicker paper, it holds the color well and works great for mixing up my different tools for one complete piece.
Why do you create what you create?
I draw because of how much happier it’s made me. It’s become something I look forward to working on after working on a computer all day. The followers that have come across my page continue to be reason to move forward. I’ve discovered how much I like to help new artists figure out what to improve on, along with tools and techniques that can help them. My instagram page has been a positive influence in my desire to create. I’ve also discovered other illustrators that continue to inspire me. Through the creation process, I’ve discovered how much I want to pay it forward and support other artists that have their own small businesses. I’ve acquired a number of art books, prints and creations made by people I follow and it’s a great push to see what hard work can achieve.
You mentioned that you want to write and illustrate children’s books. Off the top of your head what would your first children’s book be about? What would you want the child to take away from reading one of your books?
As far as writing goes, I want to create a character that can learn to overcome any obstacle. I’d want to write about someone who learns to believe in themselves even though they may be scared or unsure. I’ve been picking up the books Hayao Miyzaki wrote and drew inspiration from before they were turned into films. The stories he writes evolve and speak to him as he’s creating the film.
I haven’t settled on a main character, but I would like the message to echo Miyzaki’s teachings and what defines real strength in one’s self. I want to create something that has a mix of fantasy and whimsy. Books that carry a sense of adventure have always drawn me in, so that is something I hope to recreate in my writing.
Follow Jamie on Instagram at Jthomps_sketches