1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
I’m Jess, an illustrator/designer. I grew up in Stow, MA and both of my parents are creative people who attended art school, so they were happy and supportive when I wanted to do the same! About 10 years ago, I moved to Seattle, WA with my husband, where I’ve worked as a gift product designer (journals, notebooks, greeting cards, etc.) A year and a half ago, I started developing my little side business of making vibrant floral paintings. It’s been fun and challenging and I’ve been so thrilled at the opportunities I’ve had so far. And I’m looking forward to more!
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
Color has always been my motivation. At my day job, I’ve been able to design many beautiful things, but I was always asked to tone down my colors if they got too “vibratey.” That made me decide that I wanted to create art that was as bright as I could make it. Bring on the color vibrations! I chose to draw flowers simply because they are varied and organic and are a natural vehicle for displaying color.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
Jacquard Lumiere Metallic paint. It’s thin, super opaque, and they have so many great metallic colors. Every time I paint the gold details on one of my prints, I’m floored at how much this paint transforms the piece.
4. What is your artistic process like?
My process is a bit complicated, and people ask me about it all the time. I first sketch out a little thumbnail of an idea, then I draw it out larger (usually just on a piece of 8.5×11 printer paper). After that, I break out the tracing paper and draw every individual petal, leaf and stem with either marker or black tempera. I scan everything and then layer the pieces together in Photoshop. I color things digitally as I go. I love getting to adjust color so easily, which is why I don’t just paint everything in one go. Sometimes it takes 3 or 4 color variations until I’m happy! Once I have a finished piece, I will create a version with some elements missing and send it off to my printer. When I receive the prints, I will then paint on top of them with neon paint and metallic paint to add more vibrancy and shine. I love being able to have a beautiful, physical product when I’m done.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
When I first started out, I was super inspired by Helen Dealtry. I love her colors and how she’s also expanded her art onto fabric products — a dream of mine! Now, I feel I’m mostly inspired by a lot of the embroidery artists and weavers I follow on Instagram, like Elizabeth Pawl and Judit Just. Their colors are just spectacular.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
Art has always been in my life. I often forget what a privilege it was to have artistic parents growing up. They have ALWAYS been supportive of my creative endeavors, and I know that’s not the case with everyone’s family. I was never made to feel that pursuing art was not a worthwhile pursuit.
7. Where did you study?
I studied Illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Not only did I get an excellent education, but I also met my husband there. It’s fun to have had that shared experience together. I feel like there can be a lot of pressure, especially studying illustration, to find your style by the time you graduate. I did find a style, but it’s nothing like what I’m doing now. And I actually felt like I didn’t have a style at all for 9 years after graduating! I had no clear visual language for image-making, which can be so frustrating. You want to make, but you almost don’t know how. Finding a visual language to create with can take so long, but it’s worth the wait once it happens!
8. Where do you see yourself in five years? Working in an agency?
Noooooo. The thought of working for an agency makes me feel miserable. I’ve loved my day job (I’ve been with them 10 years) and they are the closest to an agency I will ever get. And they are very non-agency 🙂 I see myself still doing work for them in some capacity, but I would like to see how my art develops. I wouldn’t say I’m completely interested in running my own business full-time, due to the stress and time commitment involved, but perhaps it can grow to the point of being a good part-time business. I am trying to figure out a balance right now of how to do all the things I want to do, but without massive amounts of stress.
9. What about in ten?
I have no idea! Hopefully I will be healthy and still making art that feels beautiful and challenging to me. I can easily run the risk of getting in comfortable ruts. And this may sound strange, but I hopefully just won’t care as much. I will always care about my art and what I’m working on, but I have the habit of letting it rule over me. I can’t relax or let something go until I know it’s done. And life doesn’t work like that sometimes. So I want to get better at just letting some things be, and being okay with that. Hopefully in 10 years, I will be better at this than I am now.
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
There are some patterns and images by other people that I just never get tired of looking at. I would love to create things that do that for other people. I know what I make isn’t high art — it’s very decorative. But if it makes someone happy to look at it or is a beautiful enough pattern that they want to have it in their home (or on their clothes!) then I feel like my art has achieved it’s purpose. And related to that, I do hope to have my artwork and patterns on more products. That is an achievement that’s I’m working towards.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
Hot buttered popcorn. I can easily overdo it, so I need to be careful. One of the best things I ever ate was an artichoke bisque. And I love some good mashed potatoes. Basically, I love foods that are served covered in butter!
12. Favourite book?
All things Haruki Murakami
13. Favourite genre of music?
All things Radiohead
14. What are your hobbies?
It used to be making cocktails, but as I’ve gotten older, my capacity for alcohol has greatly diminished! I still like making drinks and cooking food that seems interesting to me. I don’t have much time for any hobbies that don’t fit naturally into the rhythm of my life — like eating a drinking do! Loving on my cats is another life-related hobby. And goofing around with my husband, Tom.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
I’ve asked myself this question for years, and I really have no idea. My mom and dad both studied art/design. My sister did, too. I don’t think there’s a way I could escape doing this. I do wish I knew what I would be, though! I think every person has the capability to do multiple things very well and in a satisfying way, but discovering those things is difficult. Years from now, maybe I’ll try doing something like electrical work and all of a sudden be like “this is it!”