With the summer transfer window now finally shut, we here at Royal Blue Mersey can take a moment to draw our collective breaths and focus on the season ahead. Along with Everton adding to their squad depth, we’ve also been working on bringing in a few additions to the RBM team so that we can improve our Toffees coverage. You’ll be seeing more pieces from some new names in the coming days, but we also wanted to highlight a young illustrator whose work we’re really enjoying and would like to show Everton fans everywhere.
James, JDW Sport Designs
I am a 19 year old Blue who is trying to make it in Illustration. I have been doing what I do for over a year now and have loved every minute. My dream is to have my work featured in a fan magazine or even a matchday programme! To achieve this dream I am constantly working hard to improve all details that you see in my drawings. Whether it be studying reference images or just trying completely new things.
I have learned so much since starting out about just how much goes into illustrations. There are so many things that have to click for the final piece to really come to life and this is something that sometimes proves very difficult. Overcoming challenges like this is what really pushes me to improve my artwork and to take things to the next level.
I have also been blessed with some great opportunities to work with some incredible people who have supported me from day one. A couple of examples are working with an Everton fan group and YouTube channel on some of their badges which is something i really enjoyed as I had to slightly alter my art style so that it was suitable to feature on a physical pin badge. I have also taken part in a few projects with some very talented illustrators over on Twitter. These have been very fun to work on and I cannot thank everybody enough for getting me involved and for the great work produced by all to make these projects next level! I have made lots of new friendships through doing this and I can’t wait to hopefully connect with even more people through Illustration.
At the end of the day, I love Everton and I love to illustrate. With them two things combined I have a lot of passion for what I do and hope that one day I can have my work featured in something official by the Club. If you’d like to follow my journey then make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @JDWSportDesigns
We took the opportunity to chat with James as well as we get to know him better.
RBM - Evertonians are born not bred, the saying goes. Tell us how you became/realized you were a Blue?
James - Everton is all I have ever known. From a child I was brought up as a Blue and always had the shirts and loved pretending I was my favourite players! I remember watching the matches and falling in love with the group of players we had at the time. Cahill, Pienaar, Arteta and Baines are a few players that really got me excited when watching the game. My whole family is Blue as well, so I have always been around the general chatter about Everton and it’s just something that I fell in love with.
When you were younger as well, all you heard on the playground was Liverpool or Manchester United, but I couldn’t even imagine supporting one of them as a kid simply just because of what being a Blue meant and still means. It’s a connection that’s hard to put into words, but I’m sure any Blue reading this knows exactly what I mean. I am just so proud to support them.
RBM - For older Blues, it’s always heartening to see younger Evertonians despite our decades of futility. What keeps you going?
James - The spirit. The spirit of the club is something that’s just so inspiring and the passion that we all share is really something special. Let’s be honest, in the past 10 years or so we have seen some disappointing times. Whether that be with the results or the loss of players, even just with the way the club has been run. But as Evertonians we never lose that spirit and despite all the torment from other fans and the poor results we’ve faced, we remain united and attend every single game in full voice and with our hearts on our sleeve.
RBM - Who is your absolute favourite Everton player? Why? Do you have a story or two about how they became your favourite?
James - Wow, what a question! I think it’s hard for me to only pick one as we have had some very talented players as well as players who the fans have just instantly took to mainly due to the players attitude and character. However, I think a player that really embodies the club and one that always gave his all on the pitch was Leighton Baines. We signed the player around the time I was just properly getting into football and playing it regularly, so I knew what was going on and how exciting it was to see new faces coming in.
One memory that has always stuck with me is Baines’ free kick against Newcastle back in 2013. Seeing a goal like this, scored by an Everton player was just another little thing that made me ultimately proud to be Blue and seeing the passion that a player like Baines shared with me and every other fan is what makes him one of the best for me.
RBM - How did you discover your flair for artwork? When did you realize you could combine your passion for art and Everton into one?
James - Well I have always been quite creative. Whether that be drawing or creating things on photoshop. It’s something I have always loved doing but have never really shared any of it. Over a year ago I started to do some digital illustrations just on my phone! They weren’t the most detailed but I had fun doing them. At the time Everton had just been taken over by Carlo Ancelotti and also signed Abdoulaye Doucoure, Allan and James Rodriguez. This was a very exciting time for all Blues and these players were some of the first I drew digitally. In all the excitement and buzz around the club I decided to share these illustrations on Twitter.
I didn’t expect anything really to come of this but I kept doing them and posting them for fun. As I started to get some traction and support I was inspired to carry on and without going into all the details, I am now at a point that I never thought I’d reach and just having the opportunity to answer questions like this in an article put together by you guys is a brilliant opportunity.
RBM - Where do you see yourself going careerwise with the artwork you’re doing now?
James - A career in illustration is something I dream of. I am constantly just trying to improve and get work out onto my social media to build up a portfolio as well as documenting all my progress and achievements. I do this so that anybody can see what I do and the processes I go through to create my work, hoping that one day some work might come my way which can then be a starting point in the whole process of becoming an illustrator full time. I speak daily with illustrators who are absolutely incredible both as people and artists. These people have done some amazing pieces of work for lots of different football clubs and footballing organisations. This is something I would absolutely love to do and think it will really help me as an illustrator as well as building a pathway to my dream career.
RBM - Do you have a store where Blues can purchase your work?
James - I do! I have a store on Etsy which has received some tremendous support. Opening a store where I can sell physical prints to people is something that I find really exciting. If people would like to check it out then you can use this link here.
I’m also hoping to soon be able to ship prints to Blues who live in the US, so eyes peeled!
RBM - Finally, and this is a big question, how do you see this season panning out for Everton?
James - Despite starting the season with two defeats and a series of draws, I am still optimistic. We have brought in an excellent young talent in Amadou Onana who has already shown us what he is capable of from midfield and the signings we’ve made at the back are just what we needed. The experience and leadership that we have in Tarkowski and Coady are only going to improve the side as a whole. I also think that Alex Iwobi is going to have a good season and really help us through this new central role. Iwobi has looked very bright ever since Lampard came in and he can only get better now. Nathan Patterson is another player that I am very excited to see this season. His early performances this season have shown him to be a very confident and smart wing back.
The pace and versatility of Mykolenko and Patterson is going to be key in our offensive play and getting balls into the box for our striker. I also think that with a new striker and when Calvert-Lewin is back, Dwight McNeil can really shine in blue. Definitely a player to watch this season. Lampard has a plan in place and if we can have a solid end to this summer transfer window with bringing in a new forward or two then I think we will have a decent season!