1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
My name is Jess Conwell, born and bred in Sydney Australia. I’m a Graphic Designer and that’s been my 9-5 for the past 10 years. However, I’ve been doing it long before I even realised what Graphic Design actually was. Ever since I was 15, I’ve been creating images for fun/friends as a hobby, making fun profile pictures and banners for their MySpace/forum pages using good old Photoshop 6.0. I believe this paved the way to where I am now, working professionally as a Graphic Designer and making retro futuristic collages which I started making in 2013. In 2014, I made the bold decision to pack up my life and move over to London for the 2 year working visa that all us Aussies love to do over here in the UK. 6 years later and I’m still here in London! It has a hold on me that I just can’t escape from. I’ve always felt drawn to Europe, there’s a sense of romance and adventure that I absolutely love and living in Australia just seemed too far away from it all. That being said, Australia will always be home, being away has made me realise how beautiful it is, my whole family is there and I love visiting at least once a year if I can.
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
Retro Futurism is what I like to call it. I mix old with new and usually give it a sci-fi/cosmic vibe. I love everything to do with space & space travel and the idea that some really crazy/amazing worlds are out there, waiting to be discovered OR maybe they’ve already been discovered (plot twist!). You just never know what our infinite universe is capable of and I’m constantly dreaming and wishing of surreal places that could exist out there, which I then turn into art collages as a form of escapism for the viewer and for myself.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
Vintage magazines from the 60’s & 70’s that I source myself and Photoshop. Photoshop is so powerful; I know it well and it’s the only design program I use when it comes to creating my collages.
4. What is your artistic process like?
I work in two different ways and it all depends on what’s happening with my crazy imagination that day. Sometimes, I’ll get an idea and then start sourcing images; this can sometimes take days/weeks if I can’t find the right ones. Or an idea might spark whilst I’m looking through my vintage image library I’ve sourced over the years (it’s massive). Most of my vintage images are found from vintage magazines/adverts that I’ve found in op shops, online and even old magazine collections found in dusty garages, forgotten for 40 years. I’ll then work in Photoshop to collage them all together to create a unique world.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
Three words: Carl F**king Sagan. An absolute legend and powerhouse cosmologist. Listening or watching his views on the universe and our world is like meditation to me. He created the Golden Record on Voyager 1, which is currently travelling through interstellar space waiting for another world to find it, to make sure they know about earth and that we exist/existed. One day, someone out there will find that record and it blows my mind! I’m obsessed with him and I wish he was still around today to help drive space exploration further. Our sky and our Cosmos are my biggest inspiration. I’m constantly looking up and observing the stars, seeing the moon in our sky will never cease to amaze me. I think it’s all so wonderfully extraordinary. I’m constantly thinking about space, space exploration, different worlds and what could be out there in our universe. It can get overwhelming at times; so getting it out of my mind and onto a canvas is, in a way, therapeutic. I also love film and there are some great sci-fi movies out there that give me inspiration. Some of my favourites include Interstellar, Contact & Aliens.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
My art is extremely important to me. I’ve lived with quite a bit of anxiety throughout the years. I blame it on my creative mind, it never shuts up! So creating art is like therapy for me and it allows me to run away with my imagination for a few hours, much like you do when reading a good book. Putting my art out into the world and on social media has never been easy either, I constantly doubt myself but this community is super lovely and it’s definitely helped to build my confidence.
7. Where did you study?
A design college in Sydney for 2 years. Big shout out to all those I studied with at St George TAFE, all those years ago!
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’ve never really been one to look too far into the future. Which is funny because my art is all about looking WAY far into the future. But me as a person, I’m pretty spontaneous and things just come to my mind and I do them. I’m not really a very good planner. For example, my move to London was something I always thought about, but when it came to me actually doing it my decision was made and I was on a plane all in a matter of 2 weeks. I guess I like going where the wind takes me! But ideally I would love to eventually live off the art I create.
9. What about in ten?
Achieving worldwide fame for discovering one of my collage worlds actually exists and inventing a spaceship that can travel at the speed of light to reach it!
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
For me, it’s always been about encouraging people to look up and cherish what we have. Life can get so busy and we often forget we’re all sitting on a massive rock hurtling through space with gravity being the only thing keeping us from falling into the infinite abyss of the universe (haha, just think about that for a second!). It’s truly crazy when you really think about it. So don’t sweat the small stuff, take a breath and go look at the stars instead.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
That’s a tough one, there is so much good food out there! My go-to takeaway would be Thai. But my most favourite meal ever was a Lobster Bisque in a small restaurant in the middle of Iceland. I’d travel all the way back there just for that beautiful little meal and the memories it gave me.
12. Favourite book?
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger. We had to read it in English class when I was 17 and I remember being blown away by the honesty and realness of the main character Holden, I think we can all relate to him in some way or another. To this day, I’ve never read anything like it and it’s a story that has always stuck with me. I’ve kept that same copy from when I was 17, it was the only book I brought with me on my move from Australia to London and it sits on my bookshelf like a special gem that I need to protect at all costs.
13. Favourite genre of music?
Punk rock from the 90s/early 00s. Blink 182, Offspring, Avril Lavigne, Sum 41, Linkin Park. Why don’t they make music like that anymore?
14. What are your hobbies?
Travelling. I want to see all corners of the world and experience all the different cultures. I also love hiking, watching good films & TV series and playing video games. Favourite video games: Last of Us and Final Fantasy VII.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
A space cowboy! Or, an actress so I can star in big Hollywood movies. It looks like so much fun!