We had a lovely old chat with Illustrator Jae Criddle about working cafe jobs alongside artwork gigs, how Instagram makes a very solitary practice seem less so (that’s why we LOVE Insty), and her struggle with her first ever exhibition – ‘I found it hard to fill a room with enough pieces I was happy with’. Now, however, she’s super pumped about organising a bigger and better show! Go Girl!
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?
There was this day in year two, we did a portrait of a buddy in our classroom. The girl I drew was a nasty piece of work and she made my second grade life hell, but I drew a pretty good picture of her.
Well, I don’t really remember what the portrait looked like, but I thought it was good at the time and my teacher did too, she was one of my favourite teachers. I got a bit obsessed with art thereon and Dad told me maybe I would be a graphic designer one day. I didn’t know what that was but I must have liked the sound of it, because I always kept it in mind.
What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened? At uni I avoided computers (a bit problematic for a designer) and picked up more and more illustration units, which made it hard to find a design job straight out of uni. I had vague ideas about approaching some places that might commission artwork but I didn’t really know what to do. I went and lived in Melbourne a little while and then when I came back to Perth I decided to start my own business doing hand-painted signage and blackboard art, a trade my Aunty had worked in. I think it took me another few years at least to really find a style that was mine and that I was satisfied with. I worked cafe jobs alongside the artwork gigs, but eventually established a steady business for myself. Now I also work on a lot of illustration commissions, mural commissions and graphic design, as well as hand-painted signage.
Tell us about any collaborations you have been working on. In the past I have been a scaredy cat when it comes to collaborating, but I’m more excited about the idea these days. I just worked on a collaborative ceramics exhibition that Sonja Danilovic pulled together, called ‘After The Fire’. It was really fun. Sonja sculpted a set of ceramic vases for five artists, who each painted a set.
I have not used Instagram a long time, but am finding it so great for gathering an artistic community together. It makes a very solitary practice, seem less so. This has been a tool that has also really sparked my interest in the possibility of group exhibitions in the future.
What role does digital design play in your studio in 2017, and how do you apply traditional graphic design skills in a digital age? Even though most of my work is hand drawn, I am completely dependent on computers – to create compositions, to experiment with colours, to reshape and shuffle illustrations around, to structure layouts for signage…
When I see a traditional signwriter at work, which is pretty rare thesedays, I am always amazed at the way they will hand draw a grid and all of the lettering, their brush skills are impressive too. But with access to computers and programs that make all of this so much easier, I don’t know that I would ever learn to paint signs in that way. They definitely have an influence over my work though.
What have been your highlights since you started out? The two that stand out for me were both last year, so maybe they are just the freshest in my memory. But I went to Hobart to paint a mural and it was so nice being able to tie up work with travel, I loved that place. I also held my first small solo exhibition ‘Wholly Hokum’, a show of paintings and etchings. This is something I couldn’t get sorted for a long time, I found it hard to fill a room with enough pieces I was happy with, but finally got it together last year. That was quite a hurdle I think, and I feel like that sort of thing seems much more realisable now.
What’s on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months? Another show! That is what I want to do, a bigger show of paintings and sculpture. I am looking at grant applications at the moment. It would be nice to take off a few months off work to really push my own artwork. Otherwise, I will need to try to juggle the two again to try and make it happen.