Jamie Mills

Senior Lecturer on BA(Hons) Illustration at Leeds Arts University, Leeds Arts University


Jamie Mills

Twists and loops; chinagraph drawing in the weeds

Twists & Loops: Illustrating Ecologically


Pictures tend to single things, to focus, isolate and define. Illustration, as a communicative practice, emphasises the importance of getting a point across, to make things clear, to illuminate. Illustrators can be defined as communicators who see the world through a lens of intense detail (Moloney, 2015). How then is it possible to communicate complex, messy, interconnected, seemingly chaotic ecologies in a non-reductive manner?

The aim of this paper is to seek a more ecological, tentacular view of illustration practice, situating relationships and interactions between things at the centre. It will look into a recent body of practice-led work responding to small-scale ecosystems and the value of field-study and observation in embedding traits of curiosity, wonder and specificity in illustration students’ practice.

Using an ecological and interdependent view of the world around us, how is it possible for the polymath illustrator to engage with the more-than-human, to be an active and aware observer? One who seeks out complexity, ambiguity and fuzziness with a sense of entanglement and utilizes image-making strategies to communicate those findings. The paper draws upon Goethe’s importance of “dwelling in the phenomena” and Donna Haraway’s (2016) notion of Staying with the Trouble to explore modes of potential access. Through intensive, empathetic study we can start to notice the interactions at play and, in-turn, understand wider contexts and analogous connections.

Annie Dillard (1975) stated that: “I would like to know grasses and sedges – and care. Then my least journey into the world would be a field trip.” It is the intent of this paper to seek strategies, both practical and theoretical, which nurture this idea within the environment of illustration-education.


Jamie Mills is an illustrator and Senior Lecturer at Leeds Arts University with research interests in ecological complexity and embracing more-than-human perspectives. His work responds to observations, interactions and entanglements with the world, using drawing, printmaking and book-making as means of communicating these encounters