The result of this refreshing cooperation is far from yachting’s usual corporate depiction of stark blue, white and red, and fast boats on water. Instead, illustrator Jaume Vilardell projects relaxation and escape, all in an alluring 1960s tone, gently brushed in watercolours and teasingly introducing lush foliage that draws us into location, sensing the warm, scented air. This is different.
It began last Easter with the commission of a single design for a commemorative silk headscarf that captured the essence of Princess in the fashion of 1965. From first sketch, the potential was evident. Jaume’s gentle watercolours swiftly ranged through the promotional portfolio, from polo shirts to inspiring boat-show-stand themes in Cannes, London and Düsseldorf. Giant billboards and daring dockside faux-grass saluted the newly presented lifestyle. The connection was growing.
And so too is Jaume’s renown, with his illustrations driving ad campaigns for the likes of Sony Pictures and Red Bull, while gracing the pages of Esquire, Icon, Officiel and other high-profile international publications. With a quiet voice and honest modesty, he says of his work, “I’m an illustrator, only that. I would never call myself an artist. I’m a craftsman doing what the client needs. I have always worked in communications, and illustration is a part of that. Not the main thing, just another tool.”
Mallorca-born and an island-lifer, Jaume has always drawn, yet his commitment to illustration is relatively recent. Training first as a furniture designer at London Metropolitan University, then working 12 years in industrial and graphic design as creative director, he sought change. “After years dealing with big teams, I wanted something simple, and when our first child was born, we took the lifestyle option. Both my wife Gabrielle and I quit our jobs. I was already 38, but I was very attracted to illustration and so we set about that, Gabrielle organising our marketing and business, me making drawings. It was going back to my origins.”
Jaume’s early sketching first found direction through the engravings in his father’s collection of 19th-century magazines. “I was amazed by how these artists achieved such contrast and grey scale with their simple black lining on white. How they simulated volume and shade. I studied this and started drawing that way with pencil and ball-point pens. It became my technique, and still is, together with watercolours. I like simple media.”
Though working mainly in portraiture, through his 3D industrial experience Jaume has an instinctive understanding of the shape and form of any subject, as with the Project 31 in his cameos. The commission was driven by Princess’s head of marketing, a self-confessed fan and collector of illustration. With the chance to go back to 1965, it seemed a great opportunity to tap into the illustration of that time with its iconic pastel colours and beautiful style – very life-like but with not too much detail, so still leaving much to the imagination. Rich and very different to the earlier, predictable art deco or later soda pop Americana.
Jaume produced some first sketches and the possibilities became clear. “Watercolour works so beautifully with silk-screen printing, which is where this began with the square format for the headscarf, but then the drawings were wanted for other, differently shaped applications.” Jaume’s technique makes good allowance for an evolving brief. “As an illustrator, you know client requirements change, perhaps a character now needing to play guitar not smoke a cigar. So I do every element in the illustration separately, as a layer. Then I scan it and put it all together on the computer and send a really high-resolution image for processing to print. For this silk screening, the apparel partner Thomas Pink then had to convert my four-colour file to 16 different colours.” To achieve the same look as the original is no simple task and Thomas Pink’s expertise is clear in the exquisite replication in the finished product. Jaume’s practice then lets that soft, mottled-wash texture and tonality so characteristic of watercolour carry across onto those other forms, from tiny postcard to towering billboard.
The illustrator’s life tends toward the solitary, but Jaume personally became a part of the 50th celebrations. “I usually work in my studio with no one else looking on. I’m lucky. I have my studio in the building where we live, a lifestyle choice again, so we see each other a lot. But even when the kids come in sometimes, I don’t hear them; I work so intently. But this was a different thing, working at the boat shows on an illustration among the people. At the Cannes show on a floating dock it was very good at the beginning, but during the party it was moving every way. It was different… but interesting.”
As a Mallorquin, Jaume’s always been in contact with the sea but more with small boats, enjoying Laser sailing with his young family at the laid-back Club Nautico Cala Gamba at the eastern end of Palma’s long promenade. Life’s fun at home, too, in the city’s Blanquerma quarter, with its cinemas, busy bars, eateries and the local eccentricities of quarrelsome grocery owners and a barber who, back of shop, secretly crafts fine violins. “We love living on the island, although as Gertrude Stein said to Robert Graves [both famed writers] when visiting his home here, ‘Mallorca is paradise – if you can stand it!’ We need to get away sometimes but there is so much here.”
Favourite places? “To eat, we just love Ca’s Patro March in the cove below Deia on the northwestern corner, then back up in town it’s Sa Fonda for a drink. There you never know how the evening will end. Our best beach is Es Caragol at the very southern tip. There’s no road. You arrive on foot or by boat, beautiful. For wine it’s inland to Son Puig in Puigpunyent – family run with their own vineyards and a very special reserva, Gran Son Puig. They’re friends too. For the label on each wine I have drawn a part of their ancient finca where they best like to drink their wine.” Now if that doesn’t illustrate a lifestyle option, it’s hard to think what might.