2020 Festival Exhibition


Astrid Jaekel

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Astrid Jaekel is an artist and illustrator based in Dunbar, Scotland. She first heard of Wigtown when she saw the book festival’s call for an artist in residence. Having won the job, she then made her way on a journey deep into Dumfries and Galloway, where she ended up falling in love with the town, its community, and later her husband, the author Ken Ilgunas. 

Astrid has done work at the festival on three occasions, and her latest festival project, “If these Walls could Talk,” was awarded with a prestigious Association of Illustrators Award last year. This retrospective showcases Astrid’s Wigtown projects as well some other recently commissioned and self-initiated artworks.

Please note: there are some animated illustrations further down this page.

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Windows of Wigtown

In 2013 I first connected with the Wigtown Book Festival after applying for their artist’s residency and winning the job!

My idea had been to transfer the town's County Buildings into an 'open book,’ offering insights of the town and its people to the visitors of the Festival. 111 paper cut panels were made, installed in the large windows and backlit at night for some extra dramatic effect.

The plan had been to shine a light on the community and the kind and generous locals who worked tirelessly to make the festival happen, often as volunteers. I loved how the project connected visitors and locals. You could watch them continue to spin stories in front of the work.

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Wigtown peeps out

In 2014 I created a series of 9 peep boards in order to raise awareness of the international network of book towns spread across the world. 

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Each hand painted peep board featured one character relevant to the literature or culture of the book town presented; allowing visitors of the Wigtown Book Festival to slip into their role. 

Each Wigtown bookshop was given their own board which saw the shop’s name translated into the language of the international book town it had been paired up with. Reading Lasses, for example, became ‘Lesemädels’, and the character illustrated on the board is ‘Herr von Ribbeck auf Ribbeck im Havelland’, written by Theodor Fontane. Fontane himself was born in the Berlin area, close to Wünsdorf, which is now an international book town in Germany.

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If these walls could talk

For Wigtown’s 20th anniversary as Scotland’s book town I wanted to propose something special.

The aim of 'If These Walls Could Talk' was to visibly transform the town square and give visitors and residents another good excuse to connect during the Book Festival of 2018.

After collecting community stories to inspire my work, wallpapers were created to illustrate the stories of individual buildings and then applied to these very buildings.

David ’Scad’ McAdam’s ‘biggest little store in town’, for example, was decorated with a wallpaper reflecting the history of the shop, which used to be a toy shop. There’s a knight going around on a carrousel to further illustrate Scad’s generous community spirit that led to him being awarded an MBE.

It was great to see ‘If These Walls Could Talk' make it onto the front page of The Scotsman and to see it win the 2019 AOI World Illustration Awards.

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Further projects, recent and personal work

Astrid Jaekel Beachcomber2


Beachcomber was my first commission after graduating from college. 

I was terribly excited and nervous while working on it. The project was part of a scheme to regenerate Edinburgh's Rose Street whilst celebrating the work of the so called 'Rose Street Poets' who used to gather in the pubs along Rose Street. 

George Mackay Brown was associated with this group of poets and is the author of the poem Beachcomber, the words of which are illustrated in the panels. 

During my research I had come across this poem and immediately knew it was the right piece for Edinburgh’s Rose Street since it connected passers-by to the nearby shore and had a light-hearted feel to it. The design was initially created as a handmade paper cut before being transformed into large steel panels. 

Beachcomber was chosen as part of Edinburgh’s 101 most treasured objects which tell the history of the city.

Astrid Jaekel Ornithopter


I had a lot of fun creating the Vinyl record art for Aarhus-based Jazz band Ornithopter and their second album 'Tordenkaffe', which was released in 2018. The motifs were inspired by the small Danish island and cottage where the music was recorded. Lots of inky textures were made and then digitally assembled and coloured.

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Acorn Abbey

I was in the US with my family when the pandemic struck, and we ended up extending our 5 week stay to 6 months. 

Most of this time was spent in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in North Carolina, surrounded by wonderfully wild woodlands. 

The landscape and many wild creatures I got to observe inspired a series of artwork. This one shows the lovely wooden house we stayed in.

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Another piece from our sojourn in the Appalachians: I also loved checking out all the wonderfully old and wonky wooden barns in the area.

Astrid Jaekel Tinderbox


This is an illustration based Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Tinderbox’ - the moment where three monstrous dogs appear after striking he tinderbox. 

I used cut up paper and acrylic paint to make this collage.

Astrid Jaekel Moors


In early 2019 I lost my passport so instead of going on a planned hiking trip to sunny Madeira I went to a dark and breezy isle of Skye instead. 

But at least the house we stayed in was nice and warm, a welcome change from our Edinburgh flat at the time. 

I spent many hours walking through the moor landscape which inspired this piece of work.

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Sewing box

In 2018 I challenged myself to create an animation a day for 3 weeks. Many of the pieces were inspired by moveable objects I found around the house. This sewing box made a great piece to be transformed into something else.

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Another piece from my challenge. Scissors are an item that can easily be animated!

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Sometimes I just need to work on something abstract. Playing with plant shapes gives me a great feeling of comfort, and moving those shapes around the screen feels almost meditative.

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HMY Iolaire

This work is part of a series commissioned by the National Library of Scotland to raise awareness of the Iolaire disaster that took place on 1 January 1919 when 238 servicemen returning from WWI drowned on their way home to the Western Isles after their ship sank just off the coast of Stornoway. I hadn’t been aware of this incredibly sad event and learned a lot during my research for the project.

Astrid Jaekel Gustaw


I made this work on a rainy day when dog-sitting my friend’s whippet Gustaw. He turned out to be a great model for a series of collages!

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Ex libris

I was recently privately commissioned to design an ex libris for a customer. I love these little challenges and finding ways to personalise the work with the customer in mind.

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One week in April

Here’s a recent book cover design I made for Maggie Craig's 'One Week in April - the Scottish Radical rising of 1820'. 

It was published by Birlinn Books under art direction of James Hutcheson. It’s always lovely to be working on different types of projects. The advantage of this type of job is that I could work on it while traveling and no ladders were needed to complete it!

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Observational drawings

Observational drawing is something I like to dedicate time to when I can. It keeps my view on the world fresh and helps me discover themes and stories in everyday life. 

These were all done during my recent trip to the US. They were drawn directly into my sketchbook using inks, gouache and colour pencils. 

Sometimes these drawings will spark an idea to be developed at some point in the future.

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View more of Astrid's work

Instagram: @astrid.jaekel.illustration
Website: astridjaekel.com

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