Illustrations © Vector That Fox 2020 from The Folio Society edition of Jurassic Park
Illustrated by Vector That Fox
Product Details: Bound in printed paper with soft-touch lamination and textured spot varnish • Set in Dante with Manito as display • 448 pages • 6 full-page colour illustrations, 1 black & white illustrated title double-page spread • 27 integrated black & white graphics • Textured paper slipcase • 9½˝ x 6¼˝
The book that launched a phenomenal global franchise, Michael Crichton’s landmark 1990 sci-fi adventure Jurassic Park is now available in a stunning and perfectly illustrated new collector’s edition courtesy of The Folio Society, to tie in with the 30th anniversary of the novel.
To celebrate the release, we caught up with artist and illustrator Vector That Fox towards the end of last year to discuss working on the new edition, the creative process and their career to date.
Tell us a little about your background? How did you get started in the industry?
I studied Graphic Design & Illustration at university, during which I started to get client work. Following that I got an in-house illustration job at The Sunday Times newspaper, drawing whatever the news was that week! I continued to freelance alongside that until 2018, where I swapped to teaching part-time on the illustration course at my old university, and freelance / sell illustrated prints and merchandise the other half of the week.
When did you first discover you had a talent for illustration?
Everyone is into drawing at the beginning, but as people grow up, the drawing practice often tends to stop. My mum is an illustrator and potter, her brother is a games designer, their mother was a typesetter and painter, and their father was a calligrapher and sign painter. My evenings and weekends growing up often involved drawing; exploring my mum’s first iMac G3; joining her on trips to paint murals in houses and schools, and scanning hundreds of pages of line work (sometimes helping to add colour digitally, or with watercolours). I was raised in an environment where adults would draw every day. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise that this wasn’t normal for everyone.
Where did the name Vector That Fox come from?
I work under the alias ‘Vector That Fox’, which is something I had written on a to-do list for so long; it stuck. I think it’s more interesting and memorable than the human name I’ve heard all my life, and it was important to me from the start to have a brand that I could use effectively across all of the creative things I do and make.
How would you describe your style?
This is always a hard question! I aim for my work to look as technically, anatomically correct as possible, and yet as far away from photo-realistic as it can be. If what you want to show already exists as a photograph, or can be replaced by one – then what’s the point of it? I like to think that by use of intuitive line work and levels of detail, experimental colours and tone then it can become something different.
Can you tell us a little bit about this collaboration with The Folio Society and how it came about?
My brilliant art director, Sheri Gee, found me via my website! I am a real dinosaur nerd anyway and so I’m guessing previous dinosaur drawings acted as good bait. The job got the green light on my birthday, which really did feel like an amazing present.
Many people will only know Jurassic Park from the films. Were you familiar with Michael Crichton’s novel before you began working on this project?
Yes, I’m a huge fan of Crichton’s work and had read the book a few times already. He has a very visually-descriptive style of writing, which is incredibly useful when attempting to draw his work! Reading it again knowing I was going to draw it was a little intimidating, but also super exciting.
How do you feel the novel differs from the film?
There’s quite a few differences in the first book and the first film, some of which get explored in the later films, and some don’t. I really recommend reading it (The Folio Society edition, of course) to find out what they are! If you’ve only watched the films, it’s like getting bonus content – a real treat.
With illustrating a novel that inspired such an iconic film, do you feel your illustrations for this project were influenced by the visuals of the Jurassic Park films? Or was that something you tried to avoid?
It’s probably my favourite film as well as my favourite fiction book. I’d already seen Jurassic Park 50+ times (including at the Royal Albert hall with a live orchestra), and I knew it would influence me whether I wanted it to or not, but I tried to control that as much as I could. As soon as I heard about the project, I didn’t let myself watch the films again until I was finished. The next time I did watch it, with company, I was incredibly annoying and announced the differences throughout.
How did you go about selecting which parts of the novel to illustrate?
Firstly I read the book, but I made notes where there was character, setting and building descriptions. Crichton has always had a great way of drip feeding visual descriptions into his narratives, so this was helpful, but also meant I knew it would be hard to re-find those details quickly later on. Just really rough scribbles with page numbers mainly came first. I also paused during reading and did shockingly bad drawings at any time I felt there was a really strong visual picture painted in my mind.
Next I translated those scribbles into ideas in a nerdy spreadsheet, split by various things like scene description, weather, mood (typically this was either nice or really scary), and whether it was similar or different to the films. I can’t imagine many people who haven’t seen the films, but I don’t actually know that many people who’ve read the book (until this one came out, I hope). It was really important to me to think about these jarring moments of difference, as well as the overlapping iconic moments.
Can you talk us through your illustration process? How do you prepare and what materials do you work with?
I’m left handed so I tend to ruin anything I draw on real paper, plus it’s a slow process, and so I tend to work digitally. In this case I did start with very very rough scribbles with a biro on notepaper whilst reading through the book, but I then translated those to slightly more presentable roughs using Photoshop and a Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet. It mainly stays in Adobe Photoshop after that, CS6 because I don’t like how CC updates and moves things. Sometimes I’ll use Adobe Illustrator to build guide shapes and grids for myself as well.
Who would you say have been your main inspirations and influences throughout your career?
I’d say there’s too many to name. Lots of old painters, comic book artists, animators and editorial illustrators. The ones I keep going back to, though, are the ones who I can tell have more patience than me; commercial illustrators like Sr Salme (http://srsalme.com/), Guy Shield (https://www.guyshield.com/), Tegan White (https://www.teaganwhite.com/), Adrian Tomine (http://www.adrian-tomine.com/) and pretty much any of the artists who work with Mondo (https://mondoshop.com/).
What is the hardest part of the illustration process?
In drawing this book, it was including some human figures! I was so excited to draw all the dinosaurs, Sheri Gee had to (rightfully) encourage me to add more human presence to the chosen scenes. I think choosing colours is still something that challenges me, more generally. That and having enough harddrives to store my stupidly big files.
What have been your favourite projects to date?
Jurassic Park! It was an unbelievable dream come true. Aside from that I really love doing editorial work – quick turnaround images in response to articles and stories. I love the challenge of translating written details into visual ones.
What advice would you give for anyone hoping to pursue a career in the art and illustration industry?
Where to begin? You have to naturally be really curious. Curious about how everything works, how things move, how other artists work, how tools behave, how to visualise concepts etc. Alongside that you have to really enjoy the act of drawing, not just the attention a drawing might get you. My mum is 60 and still learning, there’s a reason it’s called a ‘practice’.
What’s next for Vector That Fox?
Good question! I’m always too late in making Christmas cards, so I’m tempted to try and get a head start on 2021. At the moment, I’m working on a few quick magazine projects, and a few top secret bigger things that I won’t be able to talk about for a long time. I’m hoping in the gaps I can make and add some new things to my (web)shop too.
The Folio Society edition of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, illustrated by Vector That Fox, is available exclusively from