We chat to Jessica Singh, a super talented illustrator with an incredibly driven nature. After growing up in Perth, she moved to London to study at one of the best institutions in the world, Central Saint Martins, before returning to Aussie shores to make a dent in the industry in Melbourne for three years, taking part in everything possible! She now lives in Berlin and we’re stoked to get some very valuable tips for our budding illustrators. Thanks Jessica!
Describe a typical Jessica Singh day.
I’m kind of a night owl, so it means during the day time I like to go outside, grab some air and a coffee and run errands like picking up art supplies, going to the post office etc. I work from home so I find it’s pretty important to be outside and still feel connected to the world while it’s bright out. In the afternoon I usually reply to emails, try out more experimental craft stuff. When night rolls around I usually begin all my drawing work, website editing, posting and any further emails. My brain works better at night so I find I produce better work and faster in a short amount of time. I find this more productive than forcing myself to draw all day – cause it usually leads to mediocre results. Of course if I have a really tight deadline, I use all my spare time and just focus on getting the job done, and allowing myself the time to experiment and get the best result.
Tell us about you – growing up in Perth and a move to London…
When I was first starting out I think I found Perth to be pretty boring, so it allowed me a lot of time to escape to a fantasy world and just draw, draw, draw. Looking back I would say that Perth definitely inspired my love of color, and forced my reliance on sunshine & blue skies to be inspired. My high school Japanese classes had a big impact on me discovering Japanese animation, street style and so, which I focussed on a lot when I got my first tablet.
My reasons for moving to London was admittedly partly to escape Perth to get new scenery, but also because I was fed up with my uni course in Perth. I tried fine art at first and found it to be too conceptual, so I moved into studying Graphic Design and found that to be too monotonous. I couldn’t care less about grids – I just wanted to draw stuff that I thought was rad and intuitively find my way. I remember the final straw was my tutor instructing us to render swiss cheese, and I just found that so far from anything I wanted to do! I think though now it’s changed a lot and there are some decent courses in Australia.
So a big part of the reason for the move to London was knowing I wanted to do illustration (that grey area between fine art + graphic design), and also that I wanted the course to challenge me, to be valuable to me. I was also highly interested in doing Fashion illustration as I mainly liked to draw female characters, I thought studying illustration at Central Saint Martins would be the ultimate middle ground between fashion & illustration. I actually couldn’t believe I got admitted to the course, but once I was I knew I had to go! London was the perfect place to grow up, be challenged and be inspired!
What were the highlights of your three years in Melbourne?
l love Melbourne! It’s one of the best cities ever. I loved hurtling my bike down swanston street, getting coffee and working out of my studio in the Nicholas Building. I love the sense of community among creatives in Melbourne, I found people to be very welcoming and unpretentious and met a lot of artists I admired.
1. Much of the livepainting I did was a highlight. My battle at Secret Walls (totally terrifying!), a 10m mural on Southbank for Singapore Toursim Board and the mural in Lady Petrova’s boutique. It’s nice to know that some of the murals are still there, and it was awesome to collaborate with locals, particularly Lady Petrova because we have really similar interests and aeshetics.
2. Another massive highlight was receiving an Artstart Grant from the Australian Council of the Arts. It was a massive help in my career, and helped me to get a studio and make heaps of connections.
3. The third and one of the most awesome highlights was seeing the first ever tattoo of my artwork on a super sweet Melbourne local, Nicholas Found. It was a total honour to see that and be a part of the process.
Tell us about your recent exhibitions you’ve been involved in?
Since I’ve just moved far from home I haven’t been involved in too many exhibitions! The last thing like that I did was late year, where I created a window shop display for Miss Brown Vintage as part of the Perth Fashion Festival. It was so fun because they let me do whatever I wanted. I made a Japanese cherry blossom spring picnic themed window – and won First Prize! (She’s being modest – if you need a kick start check out her cv!)
Which blogs are a must read for you?
Actually I try not to read many blogs, I have a tendency to compare myself and get depressed. I mainly like to look at pictures so I check out tumblr a great deal to track my visual inspiration. I also really like boooooom and rookiemag is pretty good too.
What are your personal and professional goals for 2014?
Draw more in my sketchbook, which I have been doing. More experimenting visually, more use of hand painting elements in my artwork. I’m also a a point where I’m trying to be more free form with my work, and trying to get to the essence of my true interests..so I am branching out from just drawing a whole lot more. I’m beginning new projects in secret both inspiration + fashion based (watch this space!). I would love to have an exhibition in the Berlin summertime, I want to screenprint, collaborate with rad people I admire & travel, travel, travel. I hope to catch up on all of Europe that I missed last time I was living in london.
What three things do you love about Berlin? 1. I love the cafe signage made out of industrial duct – tape, neon or otherwise
2. The primary colored camo pattern on some lines of the U-bahn seats
3. Everyone wearing radical Nikes!
What advice would you give students starting out?
Trust your own intuition and work hard. I think the working hard part comes naturally if what you are doing is exactly what you want to do! Think about what your real passion is, what doesn’t feel like work to you, what comes natural and just go for that. I’m not talking about just graphics here, I’m talking about whatever you love MOST, do that thing and stuff the rest! That is where you will be most effective. Don’t force yourself to become anything that you’re not. Of course practice makes perfect, but if your heart isn’t in it you won’t get there. Do exactly what you want to do, think of exactly where you want to be and don’t let anything else deter you from that vision or steer you from that course. I think that is the most important thing to say. It’s not even about what materials you own, what technical skill you have (although its rad to improve this if you need it to make what you imagine) it’s about VISION + PASSION + DEDICATION and that’s it.