James Mathie

Illustration BDes (Hons)

Collage and abstract print illustration, focusing on attention to detail in the pursuit of building intriguing and well-rounded worlds for the story I want to tell.


During my time at Duncan of Jordanstone, I have pushed myself into experimenting with different styles of illustration which I would not have tried prior to my enrolment. My new experience with digital collage has taught me a great deal about the role of imagery in illustration. It being a great means of communicating appropriate tone, themes and story without being too literal and still possessing that sense of mystery. I also explored abstract illustration heavily throughout these projects. I am an admirer of printmaking, so I wanted my illustrations to have that option of being printed in physical form if ever the chance should arrive.

Abstraction has taught me how to focus on how I can best communicate a complex matter in a simplified manner. How to prioritise certain elements over others and what detail can do for world-building in your picture story. I find that a minimal colour palette can create a strong tone for a piece dictating the overall feeling of an illustration, unspoiled by intrusive colours. I enjoy limited colour palettes as it forces the illustrator to utilise value to its potential.

Throughout these briefs, I was encouraged to follow my instinct over what I should explore as inspiration for each project. Nature and our environment are subjects which I am intrigued by, hence its common prevalence in my work

Personal project: Editorial illustrations

James Mathie featured image
Double page spread
Double page spread

My reinterpretation of existing issues of BBC science focus magazine, consisting of the issues cover and their featured articles opening double spread.

Picture book: The Selfish scholar

Page 1, Establishing view of old Kyoto home and garden. Page 2, close up of mans face meditating
Page 1, Japanese man walks through the Japanese country side during the day. Page 2, the man is hime in his metaphoric peaceful bubble surrounded by his possessions and making tea. He is happy.
Page 1 & 2, the man imagines walking to different places. These destinations appear as floating islands which orbit his head.
Double page spread

The beginning of the book which tells the story of a popular Japanese folk tale of a Shinto scholar who isolates himself from society.

Glasgow women’s library

A coastal Orkney town situated right by the sea. The sun is rising and warm yellows dominate the scene.
Young woman attempts to voice her open to her shop keeper boss but the boss doesn’t listen. Metaphoric brick wall blocks her speech bubble.
Double page spread

A series of illustrations which accompany ‘An innocuous tale of love and romance’. A short story by Alison Miller

Diary of young naturalist - Full cover spread

‘Diary of a young naturalist’ by Dara McAnulty. A book has a life of its own as the pages from within the book fold into paper birds which then fly away.