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May 12, 2021
Behind the List: Jill Delavan
By Jill Delavan

Watercolor illustrator and Directory Member Jill Delavan, shares about her artistic journey, painting techniques and more.


To make a very long story short, I got my start in illustration after spending several years in the fashion industry as a textile designer. I worked in about every department you can imagine from Childrens’ to Bedding, designing patterns and home textile products. During this time, knew I wanted to eventually pursue my own creative path and began painting on the side eight years ago. Crazily enough, I’m a self taught watercolorist. Even though I have a degree in studio arts, oil was the original medium I learned in college and it never really stuck with me. I guess it doesn’t fit with the impatient part of my personality as I often find myself literally watching paint dry!




How It Began

After spending years cultivating my personal illustration style while also working within professional design briefs in my other career, I slowly built this business from the ground up and have acquired such a unique point of view and client base. I love mixing the fine art aspect with the digital process of pattern making and am now splitting my time between hand illustrating for invitations, textiles and brands. Most recently, I’ve started dabbling in acrylics on home decor items. While my schooling and jobs have taken me all across the south and northeast it’s needless to say, I’ve picked up many an inspiration and technique along the way! Read on for a glimpse into a few of my favorites.




Must Have Supplies

Investing in quality supplies can really have a huge impact on your success in this medium. I mainly use Ph. Martin’s liquid watercolors and Arches cold press paper. Brushes don’t really matter to me as much quality wise as paper and paint, but I tend to use only round in sizes 10, 8, 4 and 0. For any type of hand lettering, I’ll use a hot press paper and water brush pens or a spotter paintbrush. For hand painting on leather or other objects such as trays, I’ll use Angelus paint.



A Technique or Two

My best work often comes from painting free hand, so I rarely sketch. That’s the beauty of watercolor. However, if I’m painting a building or landscape with a distinct perspective I’ll do light pencil marks with a hard graphite pencil. Sometimes I sketch-draw with the paint first and then fill in. I tend to paint with both a wet on wet technique for shadowing combined with a wet on dry technique which gives a lot of dimension to the illustration. For lettering, I like using the hot press paper as mentioned above because there’s no grit to the surface. It’s easier to get a clean edge on the words so that I can quickly clean them up after scanning in. Every hand written word is placed into the design separately.




Inspirations and Muses

I’m a naturally inquisitive person so I often find much inspiration in books, antique textiles and in everyday life in general. I’ve acquired so many great books over the last year during Covid when it was so difficult to be inspired. Degas and Monet are probably my most favorite painters. Illustrators…I love Ludwig Bemelmans and probably own most of the Shel Silverstein books. I’m also very into de Gournay, Cecil Beaton and Dorothy Draper…basically anything with a lot of color and pattern. I think it’s important to research old to inspire the new.




Decorating and Interior Style

My interest in interior design has skyrocketed over the last 5 years. My current favorite is Beata Heuman. I love her approach to design in that every room should reflect the travels, inspirations and personalities of the owners as my own style has a very similar eclecticism. Her mix of old with the new combined with color, pattern, artwork and bespoke furniture is a perfect mix and resonates with my penchant for collecting interesting wares. I love brightly colored Persian rugs, antiques, pattern on pattern and a true lived in aesthetic mixed with whimsical, modern art and illustrations.


Favorite Projects


It’s hard for me to pick one favorite project because there’s something I love about all of them. I’ve worked with so many creative individuals which just makes the work that much better when you combine forces. One of my top would have to be prints designed for baby pajama line Love, George. The first one is launching this week. Callie really let me have free rein of interpreting her ideas into artwork and I’m thrilled with how they’re turning out.




When I’m Not Painting

I’m rarely ever not thinking about painting. However, I also love can reading, scouring the internet for vintage/antique thrift home decor deals and traveling. My husband and I are currently house hunting as my we hop to move this year… and of course, I have so much fun dreaming of the all wallpapers I’ll use!

What’s Next

My ultimate goals have always been to get into designing custom wallpaper and textiles for interiors and potentially hand painted furniture when the space allows. I’d like to pursue a fine art illustration path all while maintaining a fresh but timeless appeal as an artist. I’m currently beginning thoughts of my first series that I’m hoping to release later this year, so stay tuned!


Click HERE visit Jill Delavan’s Directory Page and learn more.

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