This Girlboss Found Success by Owning Her Feminine Style
Illustrator Bodil Jane has made a habit of scouring flea markets across the world and scattering her finds (everything from rusty metal to vintage perfume bottles) throughout her Amsterdam studio—each piece a unique source of inspiration for her vibrant drawings. Her aesthetic, which she calls “playful, colorful, and feminine,” incorporates digital and handmade elements, quirky watercolor combinations, and ample texture. The effect, as her many fans would agree, is nothing short of delightful.
As it turns out, her creativity is innate: Both of her parents are artists whose lifestyles showed Jane “it is possible to do whatever you love doing—and make a living out of it.” A graduate of Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, she now counts Unicef, ELLE, LEE jeans, and Boden among her clients—yet embracing her feminine aesthetic took some time. “I used to be ashamed of making such female drawings and using ‘cute’ colors,” she says. “Now, I’m proud of it. The same is true in my personal life. I like being a girly and feminine woman.”
“It is possible to do whatever you love doing—and make a living out of it.”
Have you always known you wanted to follow a creative path?
My parents are both freelance artists. My dad works in advertising, creating storyboards, while my mom is a decorative illustrator and paints ceramics. They both had an atelier space at home. Growing up, I was always making things—when we went on vacation, I always brought along scrapbooks, journals, and drawing books. From a young age, I knew that I was going to work in a creative field.
What was knowing exactly what you wanted to do like? Did you ever have doubts?
It was actually a little weird. Compared to my friends, I had a very clear idea about what I wanted. I think having my parents as an example—and just seeing that it is possible to do whatever you love doing and make a living out of it—made me a lot more confident. Also, I just didn’t know anything about a 9-5 job. It didn’t really feel like an option to do something different.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
I’m obsessed with objects. I get really inspired by flea markets. I love postcard collections, exotic curiosities, antique tableware, freaky dolls, kitsch vases, rusty tools, vintage perfume bottles, and so on. I just love things. I also get very inspired by beautiful packaging.
In my studio, I’ve collected some of my favorite finds: a silver box in the shape of an apple, a collection of eight porcelain horses, a crochet hooks case in the shape of a little man, and a ceramic swan planter.
What inspires your illustrations of women? What characteristics do you give them?
I want the girls to look beautiful, strong, and interesting. I would never draw a boring-looking woman. But it took some time to embrace the feminine side of my work. I really love pink and I used to be ashamed of making such female drawings and using ‘cute’ colors. Now, I'm proud of it.
How does your studio influence your creativity?
My studio is a shared space. The other people working here are all creatives: graphic designers, photographers, journalists. I’m the messiest one. As you can see, the space around my desk is surrounded by books and drawings. All the other desks are very, very tidy.
I love working in a shared studio. It’s very nice to have a lunch break and talk about work or collaborate on small projects. We have a courtyard where we have lunch in the sun when it’s summer. And we’re close to the Amstel River in Amsterdam, so when it’s warm I can take a dive after a working day. It’s my favorite place in the city.
When did you decide to start selling your work?
At some point, people started emailing, wanting to buy prints or ceramics. So I decided to open up shop. I just really enjoy the idea of other people framing a print of mine and putting it up the wall. Or sending one of my postcards to a friend. I personally really enjoy buying art from an indie brand, so the idea of others also enjoying buying a unique piece makes me very, very happy.
You’re an avid freelancer—how did those jobs come about? Do you find that cultivating personal relationships is important when it comes to freelancing?
I wasn’t shy at all. I would email my favorite magazines or send them a parcel filled with some prints. Later on, those little things started to pay off. I talked a lot to everyone, and I still do. It’s very important to get yourself out there. I learned that from my parents: Being shy just doesn’t help!
Do you feel you’ve encountered any difficulties that a male artist might not?
A downside of being a freelance woman is that sometimes I feel like I have to prove myself more. Guys are often surprised that I run my own business and can make a living out of it. I really have to explain to them that I'm not just a girl who likes to draw. I'm actually more of a business woman.
Another thing is, male clients sometimes used to ask me not to make my illustration look too girly. But now I think people hire me because of that. Most of my clients are female or for a female target group. I think that’s great.
You have over 55k Instagram followers. Do you consider social media a distraction from your work? Or does it enhance your creativity?
Both. But mostly it enhances my creativity. I get very motivated by likes and followers. And Instagram is such a good platform to show your work. I get a lot of jobs through it, and that makes me happy.
You’re from a family of creatives. What's the best artistic advice you've received?
That you will always feel slightly insecure about your work. That will never go away. So there’s no reason not to show your art to the world and just go for it.
Photography by The Adjective.