• Categories: 21st Century

Joanna Scott is an established illustrator and, as part of the team behind Herts Hidden Heroines, a voice for equality. It’s easy to forget though, how varied her career in the arts has been, and how her triumphs are amplified in light of the adversity she’s faced.

Born in London but raised from a very young age in Yorkshire by her grandmother, Joanna discovered a natural talent for art, as she fell in love with the countryside around her and a menagerie of animals. Among the ensemble cast of cats and guinea pigs, her circle of childhood friends included goats, a pair of sheep (Sugar and Spice), and a rescued pit pony, Sun, whose coat was white as snow, save for the coal stains that had become ingrained over years of faithful service. Living in a remote area, Joanna would while away the lonely hours drawing and singing to herself, in between maintaining the house and garden otherwise occupied by elderly relatives. It wasn’t the easiest upbringing, but it meant that Joanna emerged into adulthood with a finely-tuned creative flair, practical skills, compassion and a determined sense of entrepreneurship (she started selling her artwork at the age of 15). All of this would endow her with skills she would need to call on later in life…

Relocating to Hertfordshire as a young woman, Joanna developed a varied career in art; in giftware illustration, producing designs for the likes of Harrods, Selfridges and Halcyon Days Fine Enamels of Mayfair; in murals, specialising in trompe l’oeil and paint effects for private clients; and in the greetings card industry.

At the turn of the century, she branched out into theatre, designing everything from posters to props, sets and costumes. She even turned her hand to acting, with a part in one of the video sequences of an off-West End multimedia production!

It was around this time that she also started working with community groups, ranging from people facing homelessness, addiction and mental health issues to excluded teens, elders and young mums.

As part of a creative alliance formed in St. Albans, Joanna reignited the city’s comedy scene, bringing emerging talent and established stand-up acts she’d connected with on the London theatre circuit, out to the cathedral city.

She was a founder member of an alternative rock band, singing alongside her husband, James. Together they played gigs all around the UK, including festivals in Somerset and Leeds’ Millennium Square. NME likened the band favourably to Arcade Fire and Placebo, while Joanna was oft compared to Kate Bush and PJ Harvey. To this day Joanna remains James’ greatest muse and occasional writing partner; bass guitar her instrument of choice.

Over the years however, Joanna’s health had deteriorated, and in the early 2000’s, the once vibrant renaissance woman found herself unable to do anything but sleep for 6 hours during the day, having already slept soundly through the night. It took years to properly diagnose and treat effectively what turned out to be Hashimoto’s underactive thyroid disease as one of a series of conditions that ailed Joanna, some unrelated, some interconnected to each other.

Although a suitable medication has been found to support Joanna’s condition, it is incurable and her energy levels have not returned fully, and may never return to normal. So while she still conducts workshops with schools and community groups (as she has done for Herts Hidden Heroines, The London Borough of Brent for the Cultural Olympiad, Blink Media, The Woodland and Wildlife Trusts, Hertford Museum, St Albans Festival, Watford New Hope Trust and SPID Theatre Company), Joanna has taken this opportunity to go back more fully to her first love, illustration. Today, she finds herself in particular demand in the field of children’s books, which benefit immensely her imaginative, whimsical style and her fascination with the animal kingdom. Award-winning author Lynne Reid Banks is among the numerous authors and publishers Joanna has worked with to bring their stories to life.

And it doesn’t stop there.

She’s also appeared on live TV, demonstrating art techniques and materials as part of the Create & Craft channel. She’s been part of the team reimagining licensed characters like Paddington Bear for merchandise. She’s developed key props for the likes of Lewis on ITV. She’s designed the packaging for The British Quinoa Company, logos, album covers, storyboards, products for The Sherlock Holmes Museum and visuals for live events like Yarn @ Latitude Festival. She has clients based all over the world, and she’s moved with the times, using a combination of traditional methods of drawing and painting as well as digital tools and mediums.

Joanna is an inspiration to us. She’s someone who adapts, not only to survive, but to thrive. From visual art, theatre, music, community, TV and film, she battles long-term illness and puts her heart and soul into every brush stroke, every note. She’s a true Herts heroine!