Catching Up With... Guru Jords
Illustrator and concept artist Guru Jords chats to us about life and work: from overcoming creative block through crochet and to finding inspiration in the wild landscapes of Cape Town.
Hey Jords! Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself, including where your artist name, Guru Jords, came from?
I started my art page on Instagram in 2017, I had just finished high school and honestly didn’t know what to call myself. I never wanted the page to be my actual name, as I wanted it to be separate from my personal Instagram page as well as be separate from me. I remember watching The Love Guru and joked that my name is Guru Jords because I am a guru in art. My friends really liked the name so I decided to stick with it. When I first started my art page I never really took it seriously, it was more a page for freedom of creativity so to put thought into a name never occurred to me.
What did your journey into graphic design and illustration look like?
I have grown up in a creative family, with my mother being a creative director and my two brothers mural artists. I have always used graphic design and illustration as a hobby, I never thought to study it since it was so common to me. After seeing there was an audience for my art page and I was offered a lot of jobs through it I thought it was a good path to take since I enjoy it so much. Every day I am more appreciative of the journey I'm on.
Describe your style of work in three words.
Psychedelic. Nostalgic. Modern.
...and in emojis?
Your illustrations include lots of motifs surrounding nature, music, spirituality, psychedelia, etc. Is this where you draw most inspiration from?
I listen to a lot of music, 24/7. I feel most inspired and creative when I listen to older music – such as the late 60s and 70s. My favourite musicians are The Doors and Led Zeppelin. I also listen to modern-day psychedelic rock such as Thee Oh Sees. It really depends on the music and how creative I am. I also draw a lot of my inspiration from nature. I live in Cape Town, which is an absolutely stunning city. We have some of the best beaches and best wild landscapes up the West Coast and in the Cederberg.
And there are positive affirmations and mantras in the mix too, like ‘Let yourself shine, ‘Do it for yourself’ and ‘Let’s grow together’. How do you want people to feel when they look at your work?
I want my viewers to feel loved.
Do you have a career highlight? Or a favourite piece of work that you’ve created?
My highlight would be joining the Adobe Creative Residency Fund for February 2021. Since then, I have felt more confident in my work and I felt it was a milestone in my career. I learned so much during that time and since then my successes have been higher than before.
Who are your favourite illustrators?
How do you overcome creative block?
I usually take a break from illustrating. I once had a creative block for almost a month and didn't draw once. I take a break from thinking creatively and focus on other creative outlets. I've been enjoying crocheting lately. It makes me a lot happier when I'm in a creative block and helps boost my creativity so I can illustrate again.
What’s a typical process in making an illustration? Mainly hand drawn or digital?
All digital baby! I love my iPad Pro. I could not live a day without it. I use Procreate daily but I have found that using the Adobe suite on the iPad is a mission. When I need to use Photoshop or Illustrator, I switch to my MacBook.
How do you stay authentic when working with clients?
Transparency. I communicate with my clients regularly and I state everything and anything that could benefit or impact the final design.
Clients are quite lenient when they are filled in on every detail. If you start to hide things from clients or delay communication you will end up with a difficult client.
Who would be your dream client?
Vans or Spotify!
What's the weirdest brief you've ever been given?
I have never really received any weird briefs but I must admit, when I used to do design work for small bands in Australia I did receive weird requests. I guess they're also creative but some of the requests were ideas coming out of dreams and I would often think ‘How am I going to illustrate this and still make it look nice?’.
How do you balance personal projects with working for clients?
I manage my time quite well, I follow to-do lists everyday! I remember in college my lecturer said ‘Never work weekends, even if you're freelancing’. I was guilty of this in the beginning, working 24/7, but now I remember what she said and I'm out of that habit.
When you're freelancing, you feel you need to get the work done ASAP so you can be paid. You often forget that it's OK to take a break.
Now I manage my time accordingly and still have plenty of time for my personal life and client artworks.
What advice would you give to a graphic designer who is just starting out?
Every time I meet a student or a junior graphic designer, they tend to not feel confident in their art and compare themselves to others. I understand where they are coming from as I used to be in that exact position. My advice would be to never doubt yourself. If you've created an awesome design, then share it! Let the world see it! It's OK if you don't feel it's your best. Put yourself out there rather than hide away until you feel you're ready because you’ll never feel ready. I've been in the industry for almost four years and I still have times when I don't feel confident but it doesn't stop me from putting myself out there.
I always tell graphic designers who are just starting out to create an art page just like I did.
Post everything and anything you do, build your profile and once you’ve found your groove you can filter out the ones you want to share or archive.
We have the opportunity to use social media as our brand presence and if you get it right, you can go far!
Is there anything about the creative industries that you’d change?
I do think the graphic design industry can be pretentious when it comes to meeting other graphic designers. I find that other designers are not easily approachable or that they gatekeep art techniques. I understand there is competition in any industry but I don’t think it's a healthy way to approach these situations. I would change the creative industry by allowing us to share our art and techniques to help each other grow as artists.
What are you working on at the moment that you’re excited about?
I am currently building a website for Guru Jords. I have been talking about it for ages but i think it's best I start! Life of an artist! I'm hoping to add my online shop and portfolio there too.
Guru Jords also illustrated our series on how to start a creative business, which you can read here.
Guru Jords (aka Jordan Schiffer) is an illustrator and concept artist based in Cape Town. With a background in graphic design, Jords uses modular patterns such as checkered backgrounds or optical illusions in her designs, along with geometric shapes and inspiration from the natural world.