Meet #Girlboss Illustrator Jo Ratcliffe


If you swiped up an issue of SUPER NASTY mag last year, you might remember that we chatted up London-based illustrator/art director/animator Jo Ratcliffe, but so much has happened since then. Admittingly, we’re most excited about her work being featured in Nasty Gal Founder and CEO Sophia Amoruso’s new book, #GIRLBOSS. In it, Jo transforms Sophia’s rules of being a #GIRLBOSS into killer pieces of art, which are equally inspirational as they are awe-inspiring. Jo is quite the #GIRLBOSS of her own, though—her clients have included everyone from Louis Vuitton to Kenzo to Katy Perry, just to name a (very select!) few. So, we caught up with Jo to find out what she’s been working on since we last chatted, and get the lowdown on what inspires all her on-point illustrations.

We first interviewed you for SUPER NASTY magazine more than a year ago. Can you give us a quick rundown of some of the biggest things that have happened for you since then?

I worked on a music video for Lady Gaga and a video for Barneys in NY and Lou Doillon—both with Inez and Vinoodh. I’m in the process of making my first zoetrope, and I’m working on my first feature film. I did a cover for Flair Italy whose covers I always love, and one of my most proud moments—which I haven’t had time to blab on about—was creating one of the logos which appears at the end of True Detective.

In that interview, you said you love creating characters. How did you envision the different girls that you drew for the #GIRLBOSS illustrations? Was there a particular girl that you’re really fond of?

I just wanted to cover what I thought would be a range of fashion attitudes. I think Nasty Gal seems to have quite a range. My favorite by far was the girl leaning on the car. Everyone liked that one, and I think I got it right because I was concentrating so hard on the car. I’m not your go-to girl for cars.

People have often noted that your work can have a dark side, even though it can be very magical and dreamy. Why do you think so many fairy tales, children’s stories—things that rely on illustration to tell a story—come with a hint of darkness?

Because that’s the way the world is. I think kids are truly excited by the darkness, even if they don’t understand why—as long as it’s not frightening the wits out of them.

What is a movie/story/work of art that is your creative ideal?

Gustave Courbet’s “Origin of the World.” Richard Kern has a photo of a girl diving into water. It’s just her bottom, but it’s such a perfect picture.

What’s the first thing you do to spark your brain when you get a new illustration job?

Try to finish the last one.

What was the last thing that you drew in your sketchbook just for fun?

My friends and my dog.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?

Yes, always. Wendy Rene, Henryk Gorecki, Bill Callahan, John Grant, my new favorite is Connan Mockasin.

What images do you have hanging above your workspace to inspire you?

Richard Kern, Raymond Pettibon and an old Rolling Stones poster with the word “obsession” written across some breasts.

Do you see illustrations in your dreams?

Sometimes. I see them before I fall asleep, in that moment.

What does being a #GIRLBOSS mean to you?

Being your own boss, I think. If you can’t be in control of everything, at least be in control of your motives.