Instagram: @jessemilydesigns

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

My name is Jess and I’m a graphic designer and illustrator. I grew up in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia but moved closer to the city while I was studying and starting to work in design. I always wanted to be some sort of artist as a kid and probably owe my initial love of illustration to animated shows like Sailor Moon that I loved from a really young age. Over the past few years I’ve been super lucky to have worked as a designer in a little print studio, briefly as a motion designer, as an illustrator for kids apparel, and now at a zoo! I thought I like to try a little bit of everything, illustration is my first love and I work it into as many projects as I can.

Toco Tuncans

2. Tell us about your aesthetic.

I’d describe my style as textured, colourful, and character-driven. Though I draw digitally most of the time I like to include some sort of grainy, painterly or handmade texture subtly in my work. I always include some sort of character, usually animals, so there’s a bit of a cute factor to most of my illustrations as well. I tend to go for bright, playful colours and my work is usually very kid-friendly. I don’t think my style is 100% set yet but it’s getting there.

3. What is your favourite medium and why?

You can’t beat sketching with a pencil and paper. I always start big pieces that way and tend to have lots of random bits of paper lying around because I can’t commit to one sketchbook! For colouring and finishing pieces, however, I spend most of my time in Photoshop though recently invested in an iPad which I love to draw with when I’m out and about (or when I’m in bed and too lazy to sit at my desk…). Digital is just very practical and it’s easy to go back and change and edit things later on. I do think digital and traditional are slowly starting to blur with all the new software and techniques available and I’m excited to see how things progress in the future. There’s nothing quite as handy as the luxury of the undo button but I think I’ll still always carry a pencil and paper for the initial stages of making things.

4. What is your artistic process like?

Sporadic. When I’m working on something that doesn’t have a strict brief I rely a lot on those light bulb moments where sudden ideas just come to me. I try to write these down so I have a stockpile for days that I don’t feel so creative. From there, I usually spend a while sketching out different character ideas or composition thumbnails. I’m generally not into really detailed sketches but lately, I’ve been forcing myself to sketch everything twice as I really want to keep my drawing skills up to scratch. Sometimes I’ll pick a colour palette as the basis of my idea. Once I have a solid idea roughed out I take a photo and start blocking in colours and shapes over the top of the computer. My favourite part is adding textures and little details like fur and feathers that give characters their personalities.

5. Who and/or what inspires your work?

All sorts of things! I think most designers and artists become accustomed to picking out the cool little details in everyday life and this is definitely something I do. I’ll often see a person wearing a fun outfit or a cat that has unusual markings and then use this as inspiration for a character. Animals have crept into my work for a long time and even when I’m drawing people some sort of critter usually makes an appearance. To me, animals have a lot of personalities and it’s easy to tell a story about them in an image. Aesthetically they’re just fascinating and I’m always amazed by the variety of colours, shapes and textures you can find in nature.

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

I don’t know that it’s changed the way I view the world because I don’t think I’ve ever viewed the world without it. Art is more about expressing that view to others. It’s a special way of communicating, whether that be about a specific issue or just my own ideas and stories. I often think that I portray my own personality better in my art than I do in person!

Queen Victoria

7. Where did you study?

I studied Visual Communication at Western Sydney University

8. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’d like to spend the next 5 years soaking up as much as I can from the other designers and creatives that I’m lucky enough to work with and keep developing my own style. I’d hope to just be happy in whatever work I’m doing while having a decent amount of illustrative projects to keep me busy either as a freelancer or in a studio. I’d want to feel like I’d grown a lot between now and then.

9. What about in ten?

My ultimate goal would be to go freelance or start a little cooperative doing almost all illustration work. Hopefully, I’ll have enough experience under my belt by then to build up a client base and have a little studio somewhere that I can’t spend my days creating interesting things with interesting people.

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

For me, it’s about telling stories. Sometimes that involves communicating facts or messages but a lot of the time it’s just about making a connection with people. I want people to look at my work and laugh or be able to create a little back story for one of the creatures.


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

Sweet: Cake (All types. I don’t discriminate). Savoury: Things made from potatoes

12. Favourite book?

Naturally, I’m a picture book person and I was recently gifted Owen Davey’s ‘Curious About Cats’ which is so beautiful!

13. Favourite genre of music?

No specific genre but stuff with amazingly written lyrics. Think bands like Everything Everything, Boy and Bear or Glass Animals.

14. What are your hobbies?

Craft! When I’m not drawing stuff I’m making it in other ways.

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

Probably still something creative like a cake decorator or an interior designer. I don’t think I’d ever not work in a creative field but maybe something with animals?

MonkeySpace cat