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Net-Zero Visions: Interview with Artist’s Call winner, Rosie Johnson Illustrates with Transition Exmouth

Net-Zero Visions brings together communities across Devon with the creative industries and transition experts to produce positive ‘Visions’ of six locations as carbon net-zero in 2050. These locations will have their Vision realised by acclaimed professionals in different media, including animation, illustration, interactive games, and public murals.

During this exciting time as the Visions approach completion, the commissioned artists and other contributing creatives will be interviewed for a behind-the-scenes look at their artistic process, collaboration with communities and next steps for their work.

Earlier this year, creatives were called upon to submit their own Net Zero Vision, in any media, to join the existing commissioned artists’ Visions for the Net Zero Visions project. We talked to Artist’s Call winner Rosie Johnson Illustrates, with Nicky Nicholls of Transition Exmouth, about the winning submission, ‘Call of Nature: A Community Eco-hub for Exmouth’.

See the winning submission in full here.

An illustration of the outside of the eco hub
An illustration of the outside of the eco hub.

Tell me a bit about yourself!

I’ve (Rosie) been illustrating full time since 2016 after leaving my primary teaching career of 15 years. I’m a self-taught illustrator drawing on* politics, current affairs, children’s development and mental health for inspiration. *pardon the pun!

How did you hear about the Net-Zero Visions project? Have you worked or interacted with the project in the past? 

The wonderful folk at Transition Exmouth suggested I enter the Net-Zero Visions project and I’m so glad I did! I was aware of it before but this was my first interaction.

How did you collaborate to produce the winning submission? 

The absolute powerhouse, Nicky Nicholls first approached me to bring her ideas to life. She had such an ambitious dream for what, to other people, may have looked like an abandoned toilet block with no redeeming features. It was relatively easy to translate those ideas to the page as her vision was so well formed. Firstly, we visited the site together and got excited about the possibilities. It’s close to where we both live so I went back several times to take photographs. From my photos I sketched some basic ideas and then, in collaboration with Nicky, committed them to digital form. I always draw straight onto my tablet using an inexpensive program called Procreate. I used to be a bit of a snob about digital art, but now it’s 75% of everything I do. The process took several enjoyable weeks as we tweaked the designs for the outside and interior of the building. We wanted to take into account the multi-purpose nature of the building and, of course, consider the most sustainable materials.

Are there any plans to make Call of Nature a reality, or are the ideas being incorporated in and around Exmouth in other ways? 

Transition Exmouth and Exmouth Town Council are working on making Call of Nature a reality. Look out for exciting developments in the Spring! I’m so thrilled to know that Nicky’s vision and my rendering of it have helped people see the potential in this excellent idea.

Is there anything that you’ve learned from this process, or will take forward with you? 

Whenever I take on a new project I learn something- I imagine that comes from having no formal training- I’m running my own apprenticeship! But on this project in particular, I was so invested in the idea and so excited that it might actually become a reality that I was careful to research the practicalities of the things I was drawing to make it as achievable as possible. Since creating this with Nicky I have made steps in my business to become more environmentally friendly. I have eliminated single use plastic and source all my materials as locally and sustainably as I can. I’m proud to have been awarded Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free status and will continue to look for ways of minimising my footprint.

My other takeaway from this project is that if I’m ever lucky enough to work with people as passionate and committed as Nicky again I should always say yes, no matter how busy I am. Hope is in short supply at the moment but Call of Nature offers a little shining light of hope – solar powered of course.

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