Oliver Jeffers (born 1977) Oliver Jeffers’ award-winning picture books comprise just one element of his wide-ranging artistic oeuvre. He also produces figurative paintings, prints, illustrations and installations, and works both alone and with OAR, an art collective that he co-founded.
Oliver Jeffers was born in Port Hedland, Western Australia, and moved to Belfast in 1979. He seriously considered painting as a career in 1995, when he became runner-up in the Irish News amateur art competition. From that date, he contributed to exhibitions in Belfast, and soon began to design book jackets for local publishing houses. Studying Illustration and Visual Communication at the University of Ulster, he graduated with a first class degree in 2001. During the year 1999-2000, Jeffers took a break from university, and travelled to Australia and the USA.
While based in Sydney, he became a freelance painter and illustrator, working for various magazines, and illustrating for the Lavazza Coffee Company. The results of this sojourn appeared in two sell-out exhibitions in Sydney in 2000: ‘Opposites’ (at the Manley Gallery, as part of the Olympics) and ‘A World with Coffee’ (at the Rocks Festival, sponsored by Lavazza). Jeffers held a number of further exhibitions on his return to Belfast, including two solo shows, ‘The Boys at the Bar’ (The John Hewitt, 2000) and ‘The Session’ (Lyric Theatre, 2003). As co-founder of the art collective, OAR, he has mounted ‘9 days in Belfast’ (Cotton Court, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, 2003), ‘Book’ (Lagan Weir Tunnel, 2004; Cities Art and Recovery Festival, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York, 2005), and ‘Building’ (The Switch Room, Belfast Festival at Queens, 2005; Project 4, Smithsonian Folk-Life Fest, Washington DC, 2007). He held two further solo shows in Belfast in 2006, and continues to exhibit work in London, Ireland, Australia and the USA. Developing a passion for the relationship between words and images, Jeffers launched the first of his five children’s picture books, How to Catch a Star, at the Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast, in 2001. They have proved extremely successful, garnering many prizes, as well as giving much pleasure. (For details, please see the list opposite.) He was official illustrator for World Book Day in 2007. Jeffers worked with Studio AKA on an animated short film adaptation of his second picture book, Lost and Found, which was broadcast on Channel 4 on Christmas Eve in 2008, and has already received seven festival awards including the Annecy Crystal Award. His sixth book, The Heart and the Bottle is set to be featured in the film adaptation This Beautiful Fantastic, currently in production. Clients for his work as an illustrator include Orange, United Airlines, Wired magazine, Condé Nast, The Brooklyn Circus, Sony PSP, RCA Records, Starbucks, The Guardian, Weight Watchers, Newsweek, Google and the Irish Times, for which he received the 2007 Gold Icad Award for Illustration. In May 2012, Jeffers created a print and TV advert campaign for Ferrero Kinder Chocolate. Oliver married in 2010, and moved in to his new studio in Brooklyn in February 2011. In 2012, he undertook a book tour of Australia and New Zealand.