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The Black and White Wonderland of Ink Evangelist Johanna Basford.

Johanna Basford Illustrator and Ink Evangelist

Johanna Basford

In the words of illustrator and ink evangelist Johanna Basford:

‘ Tumble down the rabbit hole and find yourself in my inky black and white Wonderland.’

And what a Wonderland it is. An intricate world of flora and fauna cultivated by a curious imagination and a delight in the fantastic; meticulously detailed with hidden intricacies and a dash of the unexpected.

Johanna Basford Wonderlands Exhibition Dundee Contemporary Arts

Johanna Basford Wonderlands Exhibition Dundee Contemporary Arts

Johanna Basford Wonderland Illustration

Johanna Basford Wonderland Illustration

With a client list including The Scottish Government, Umbro, BrewDog, Absolut Vodka, Sony Music and Starbucks, to name but a few, it’s clear to see Johanna Basford’s graphic and quirky style has already made its indelible mark.

Johanna Basford Special Edition Beer Label for BrewDog's International Arms Race with Flying Dog

Special Edition Beer Label for BrewDog’s International Arms Race with Flying Dog

Johanna Basford Starbucks Commission Mission

A series of hand inked Starbucks cups created as part of Johanna’s commission mission

It gives me great pleasure to share with you Johanna Basford’s Wonderland.

Hi Johanna, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born in Aberdeen and grew up in rural Aberdeenshire. My parents have a freshwater fish farm there, so I had a pretty free range childhood – always outside making dens or paddling in the burn. After secondary school I studied Printed Textile design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, and then stayed in the city for another 4 years before heading back up to Aberdeenshire again.

What’s your earliest art related memory?

When I was about 3, my Dad had been using Black Tar Paint in the garden. He left the paint pot and brush in the hallway (which was painted white), so I of course came along and seized the opportunity to create my first monochrome wall mural.

Who or what made you want to study art?

I’ve just never wanted to do anything else.

What has been your career highlight?

Having my solo show Wonderlands at the DCA has been pretty darn cool. I also really loved working on the Edinburgh Fringe covers in 2010.

Johanna Basford The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Covers 2010

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Covers 2010


What is your dream project?

I’d like to get my hands on a Selfridges window…

What are you doing when you’re not creating?

I love being outdoors, so if I can escape the studio I like to take our Labrador, Simcoe (or Studio Pup as I like to call him!) for long walks. I always get my best ideas when I’m outside.

Describe a perfect day in the life of Johanna Basford.

Any day containing the following is pretty near perfection:

Limitless tea




Studio Pup

Johanna Basford Love Illustration

Love Illustration


And now for some quick-fire questions on your favourite places in Scotland :

The Royal Mile to people watch

The Degree Shows (I’m biased towards DJCAD!) to find the best art

The DCA shop or Concrete Wardrobe in Edinburgh to shop

Musa, Aberdeen to eat out

Orchid in Aberdeen (I painted the mural behind the bar!) to party

Isle of Arran (where my dad’s family is from) to relax

And finally, what’s next for Johanna Basford?

My book, Wonderlands, which I’ve co-published with the DCA is being launched on Saturday 15th June at the gallery. I’m doing a talk about my work and there’s also a Craft Fair.  The book is an inky collection of my work, old and new, featuring some lovely photographs of the gallery work by my friend Sam Brill. The book has been designed by fellow DJCAD grad Richy Lamb of Owned and Operated. Each book has a silk screen printed dust jacket that I printed by hand in the DCA print studio. This was a bigger task than I had imagined, but I’m so glad we did it!

Johanna Basford Monkey Puzzle Illustration

Monkey Puzzle Illustration

Johanna Basford Heartbreak Illustration

Heartbreak Illustration

Johanna’s exhibition Wonderlands at Dundee Contemporary Arts runs until 7 July. You can also join Johanna and Graham Domke, Exhibitions Curator at DCA, on Sat 15 June for Inside Wonderlands when they will be discussing creating the exhibition and Johanna’s career since graduating from DJCAD in 2005. This event will also mark the launch of a new publication to accompany the exhibition.

If you enjoyed this article I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’d like to subscribe to my blog it’s easy: Just enter your email address in the upper right corner of this page and that way you’ll never miss my weekly posts. If you’re on twitter you’ll find me @ByteSizeScot – it’s good to talk!


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