You might recognize this playful, colorful style from several of the prints in our shop. We have carried Jess Swift's prints for over a year now. I am totally in love with her beautifully patterned characters and am slowly acquiring a collection of her work. (I need a bigger house with more wall space!) She has always been so great to work with, so I thought it would be fun to learn a bit more about the artist behind the work! We knew she was talented, but it turns out, she is multi-talented. Not only is she a prolific visual artist, (surface designer, painter, and illustrator) but she is also musical and a french-speaker too. How cool! A big thank-you to her for all her wonderful work and for sharing more about herself.
Tell us a little about your background and how you got to be where you are now.
I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and I’ve been making stuff since before I can remember. I went to Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY and majored in art. I was conflicted for a long time about whether I wanted to be an artist or a musician for a living; throughout college and for a couple years afterwards I was a singer/songwriter, and I created artwork as well. I entered a juried competition with my art when I was 23 years old, I ended up getting accepted. The show was a huge success, and I realized I could make a living as an artist. I never looked back, and I’ve put all my effort into being a working artist since then.
What kind of sources do you draw on for inspiration?
A lot of my inspiration comes from nature, or more exactly, from being IN nature. I get my best ideas when I’m out walking. If I’m ever feeling stuck, the surest way to get unstuck is to go walking outdoors. I’m also very inspired by organic shapes and patterns in nature. Inspiration is everywhere. I can be inspired by colors on a sign that I’ve never thought to put together, or an idea that comes to me out of the blue. My eyes and ears are always open. Another important practice for me as far as inspiration goes is just doing my work and not waiting for inspiration to strike. Often once I’ve started working, the inspiration will come naturally. Sometimes I don’t think I’d ever start if I waited for inspiration to come!
What artists do you admire?
There are so many!
Egon Schiele: for his expressive faces and gestures, and the moodiness of his portraits.
Olle Eksell: He was so versatile in his time, and his illustrations are so playful and inventive.
Kat MacLeod: Her work is just simply beautiful and genius.
Hilary Williams: I saw her work in person in San Francisco several years ago, and I fell in love with it immediately. I think it’s just gorgeous!
Lucienne Day: I love her playful use of color and pattern; and I’m also inspired that she was one of the few female pioneers of the mid-century surface design style!
What advice do you have for young artists trying to find their way out there?
My main advice is to NEVER STOP and to make as much artwork as you can. Also, I got this piece of advice from a professor of mine in college that I’ll never forget: “you have to be willing to make the bad work in order to make the good work.” I always remember that when I make something that’s just ugly or doesn’t work at all. You have to move through the bad to get to the good!
Do you have any plans for future shows, bodies of work or long term projects?
I’m going to have a solo show of my work at Assemble in Seattle, WA in December and I’ll have a booth at the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago this September, but that’s it for shows for me at this point. I’ll be starting to prepare for Surtex in May 2011 towards the end of the year as well; that’ll be my main focus for a while!
Tilde • 7919 SE 13th Ave • Portland, OR 97202
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Check out how lovely summer in the shop is looking on our Flickr page…