Alongside her job as a civil servant, Jo is an accomplished artist, illustrator and designer. She runs her own company, Josephine Scales Illustration. She is one of a team of illustrators for Cbeebies, has enjoyed long-running contracts with Archant Magazines and British Rowing Magazine and has done work for national museums, amongst others. She also illustrates commissions of any size such as portraits, logos, books, events, creates stationery for weddings or other celebratory events. Jo has recently moved back to Carlisle with her partner Dave (who is studying adult nursing with us at University of Cumbria) and her two year old son, Buddy. 


Josephine Scales

What course did you study?

Foundation Studies in Art and Design

Year of graduation


Where are you from originally?


Why University of Cumbria, what attracted you?:

I already lived in Carlisle and the Art College (as it was then) had a great reputation for the foundation year. I'd also previously done a life drawing class there which had been amazing.

Why did you choose your particular course?

I wanted to try out different disciplines and decide what and where to study for my degree.

What made you trust University of Cumbria?

I had done some art classes before and I also knew that it had a really good reputation.

What is the most important thing you learnt as a result of your course?

Honestly, I think I learnt a lot about structuring my own time and being sure about what was required of me. Up until that point I'd been in school where everything was laid out for us. I didn’t pay attention enough and learned from my mistakes, in that respect the course bridged the gap a little between school and university. I also learnt more about what particular art degree I was suited to and where. It was a tutor at Cumbria that suggested I might want to apply to Liverpool as it would suit my style and had the type of course I was looking for.

Any memorable or funny stories?

Making a 'cowboy film’ in the old open ground near Dixons Chimney (where Dunelm and Lidl are now). We filmed a 'shoot out' scene with some great close-up reaction shots of our eyes. I would love to see that film now!

Current Employer

Disclosure and Barring Service and also self-employed as an Illustrator

Job Title

Senior Agent and Illustrator!

What were your career ambitions when you started studying and do you think that you have achieved them?:

I wanted to be an artist. I suppose looking back now I had little idea of how this would actually work or whether this would be my main career. I think art degrees can teach a certain self-efficiency, creativity and entrepreneurship that other study might not. I have achieved a good balance in my career now with working part time in job that provides security and career progression alongside running a successful illustration business. It's hard work but utterly worth it.

Would you be where you are today, without your degree?

No, I don’t think so.

Has it changed your life and shaped your career?

Certainly. Foundation studies in Cumbria set me on the start of my art career.

What are your career ambitions, now and in the future?

I want to keep building my business.

What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?

It's a real buzz to be able to work doing something I love in being an illustrator. I love the challenges of running a business, it's somewhat surprised me to learn that I enjoy working to tight deadlines! In my civil service job, I really believe in what we do as an organisation and am incredibly proud of the part I can play in protecting the vulnerable.

What are you most proud of?

I am proud to have achieved the life balance that I have and of the fantastic feedback I get about my illustrations.

Why should prospective students choose University of Cumbria?

Carlisle is a cool city with a unique style!

Your advice to current and prospective students considering a career similar to yours?

It's so cheesy but you really need to believe in yourself and put yourself out there, keep doing what you love and work hard.

What were the top things that happened to you here?

I made a big mistake at the end of my course in Cumbria, I hadn’t listened to instructions properly for a big project and I messed up quite badly. Thing is, I learned a LOT from that mistake. Really listening to what customers want and delivering on complicated briefs is now something I am really good at. I wonder how long it would’ve taken me to begin to learn those skills without that mistake.

Sum up your thoughts about studying at University of Cumbria in one line

I had a blast and learnt a lot - I'd do it all again in an instant!


Find out more about Josephine’s work here

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