Instagram: @jessedenobrega


1. What’s your story? Where are you from?

I’m from a suburb just outside of Toronto. I grew up mostly confined to a very small locale, so I feel like as I grew into my teens, my focus as a human being gradually shifted from my largely unchanging outer world to the inner, as that was the only place I could really do much exploration without putting myself in too much danger. As I left high school, this way of thinking lead me to discover many of the musicians and artists I felt some sort of kinship with, and so now I am sort of becoming a part of this wider amorphous cloud of people who enjoy making connections between the macro and micro and the inner and the outer. Through this I’ve ended up doing comics, animation, 3D video games, printmaking and music so far.


2. Tell us about your aesthetic.

I’m definitely drawn to bright colours and images that overwhelm. A really good friend of mine always says that “the universe is consciousness-activated” and I like that idea, because it relates to drawings too. I like art that is constructed with enough depth that it can be experienced and felt very differently by its audience depending on their state of mind or attention span. The way I go about drawing and designing will probably always be changing, but right now it’s all about trying to cram as many tiny bits of intention into things as I can so that they’re there, waiting silently like a snail to be observed by a curious viewer. It’s okay that people might not notice and just step on the snail, but I’m really drawing for people who would like to pause and sit with something for a little while.

3. What is your favourite medium and why?

I’m not sure that I have a favorite medium. It’s interesting to try different things because what you can express in one medium often can’t be done the same way in another. With that said, I do gravitate toward mediums that allow for easy and cheap reproduction. Exclusivity is very frustrating to me, so printing with a risograph has always felt natural and good because I can get my work into the possession of people who – like me – have very little money. I enjoy painting, and have worked on a VR game with my friend Marishka Zachariah, but the end products of these ways of working are so often exclusive to those who can afford to purchase them that I get antsy about doing it at all. If I can find a way of working in these (very satisfying) mediums that feels accessible to people, I may shift my focus to public art for a while. But as it stands, my favorite mediums are the ones that I can work in without pushing away the likes of myself and others.

4. What is your artistic process like?

Lately my process seems to be this: I do a lot of thinking about something while walking, staring at walls, etc. Then, at some point when I’m tired of the thinking, I turn all the thinking off, and everything I do from there on out is informed by the period of time where I was steeped in the thinking, and then I’m done and hopefully it feels alright. I think so much of my process now revolves around trying to ride out the emotional waves that start hitting me as I peel away at drawings. When I paint or draw, I get unstable and apocalyptic, set off by the tiniest things. It feels really good. I love being hit fully by something, because I have so much capability to suppress the feeling of things. I’ve been good at that for so long, it sometimes feels like the only place I become vulnerable is when my head is in a drawing. It’s nice to be vulnerable, in that state where tiny things that don’t really make much sense can have me crying thankfully.

5. Who and/or what inspires your work?

I guess everything does in its own way. I grew up loving drawings that were tiny worlds that my eyes could explore. I’d imagine myself moving through these spaces, sneaking past people. Beyond that, I’m now mostly interested in things that feel good in a way that I can’t put my finger on. Music is my biggest inspiration, especially when the people making music that I love also operate their lives in a way that feels linked to the output itself. I look at the moon a lot, and I recently noticed that it’s a repeating motif in things I make. That won’t be stopping for a while, I just really like the moon. I don’t know anything about it but that doesn’t change how I feel. Hahaha.

6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?

I’ve had a strange relationship with it, I guess. For a long time, I never actually made any art. I just would imagine things in my head, like imagery to accompany music, weird lights melting people away or bodies crashing through never-ending tunnels of windowpanes. At the end of the day, drawing is nice because it is something that somebody did, and it’s reassuring to know that somebody would go ahead and make something despite everything else that is happening in this world. That’s probably the most important thing to me. I don’t feel compelled to make much stuff, but the few things I do are so caught up in what I’m always running through in my head that it ends up taking all of my time. I’m happy that I’ve got something to do with all the thoughts the world gives to me. It’s even better that sometimes these things connect with other people in ways that make them feel good, or at the very least less alone, because that’s certainly what many of my favorite artists have done for me.


7. Where did you study?

I’m currently in my final year of study at Sheridan College in Ontario. I lucked out and have had the chance to work with some really thoughtful instructors throughout my time here. I also feel a part of my education has been my part-time work at a rock climbing gym where I teach children how to climb. This is pretty obvious, but most kids are smarter and more moral than most adults. They notice everything and catch all subtext. I think kids are the real critics I am working to impress, because they are the greatest judges of ideas and the honesty in things.

8. Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years I hope to be an open and fluid enough person that I will be doing things that I cannot possibly foresee now.

9. What about in ten?

I hope that I have the stability by this point to be able to help others in a meaningful way. I have no idea how that will be.

10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?

I hope that people can look at it or hear it and maybe feel comfortable, or that maybe some of the things that they feel they need to question in themselves are okay left unanswered for now, because answers aren’t always necessary as long as you feel okay. Sometimes it just requires time, so you don’t have to do anything. Just have fun with where you’re at and try to empathize with other people and remember you’re small and it’s cool to do things for yourself because that sometimes helps other people to do the same thing. I hope that makes sense. I’m probably talking to myself more than anyone else right now.


11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?


12. Favourite book?

I think maybe Baby Boom by Yuichi Yokoyama. I’m not sure if that’s really it, but that’s an impossible question.

13. Favourite genre of music?

I don’t have one. Music is sort of too important to play favorites.

14. What are your hobbies?

My favorite hobby is birdwatching. I don’t do it, but as far as hobbies go I really do think it’s the coolest one that exists.

15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

A birdwatcher. Or something where I can help kids out. Perhaps a sports mascot. Litter picker-upper at a national park?