Spotlight on: JOL Illustrations

Holly is an abstract artist with Freidrich's ataxia, and together with Josh they create digital art

Josh and Holly are the duo behind JOL Illustrations, combining their unique expertise to craft their illustrations.

Holly has Friedrich’s ataxia (FA) – a neurodegenerative condition which affects motor skills, such as coordination and balance. She has faced numerous challenges since her diagnosis, including limited mobility in her arms and legs and deterioration of her eyesight. This has led to difficulties in drawing fine details, so Holly has had to adapt her style continually.  

The first project Holly and Josh worked on together, a cookbook featuring Holly's art. The left page has a drawing of pizza slices and on the right side is a recipe for pizza, with a photograph of two pizzas at the bottom.
Josh’s cookbook that he created for his university project

Despite the progressive limitation of her eyesight and fine motor control, Holly has built a very strong muscle memory. In her artwork, similar to a pianist remembering the notes on a piano without looking, Holly relies on her fingers’ ingrained familiarity to create her images.

Together with partner Josh, Holly started a new venture, JOL Illustrations. Josh uses his skills in graphic design, web design and coding to digitise Holly’s creations. Holly’s initial sketches set the foundation, which Josh then traces and adds with vibrant watercolours, breathing life into each piece.

The duo began working together as part of an experimental collaboration that became a surprise success, spurring Holly to create more images for Josh to digitise. Since then Josh has used these images in other university projects, such as his cookbook. Working in this way has enabled Holly to work independently, as she can create these images using only an ink pen, whereas previously she has required an assistant to help her when painting.

One of Holly's graphic designs of a blue and grey elephant

Holly says JOL Illustrations is a celebration of making the most of her limitations, embracing change and using it as a springboard for creative evolution. It also highlights the creativity that emerges when people collaborate and combine their unique skills. 

Holly said: “Yesterday, I compared my current illustrations with the ones I created two years ago for my niece’s book. I noticed a distinct difference between them. The older drawings were very precise, whilst the new ones have a lot more character and charm. It was challenging for me to compare and contrast the two, but it’s also a reminder of how much I’ve grown as an artist.” 

Friedrich’s ataxia has given Holly various challenges, but it didn’t limit her creativity; it acted as a catalyst for growth, innovation, and reinvention.

Categories: News, Spotlight on series

Published: 1 March 2024