We’re stoked to have a diverse range of local artists involved in our Colour Box Studio Membership Program. In this interview, we chat to CBS Member and Melbourne based artist Jess Wilson about working with a variety of mediums and collaborating with various art organisations and spaces. Read below to check out how she generates her wonderful ideas and get some insight on the booming art community in Melbourne’s West.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and an overview of your creative process.
I’m Jess Wilson, sometimes know as Jess Dubblu (sounds like Double you) I am a comic writer, installation artist and illustrator. I studied print making at Monash University, and just handed in my final paper for my Masters of Arts Management at RMIT.
My creative process varies depending on what or why I’m creating. Most of the time I will have an image in mind and try to find the best medium to create that image.
Looking at your Tumblr blog, it contains a lot of zines/comic strips. You also experiment with a lot of mediums, including embroidery and paintings. Do you think it’s important to explore mediums rather than just focusing on one?
I feel like its different for everyone, I’ve known some people who just know that painting is their thing and others like me who hop from on thing to another. I’m the sort of person who likes to play with a little bit of everything and see what works for me. One of my favourite shows I was part of at Monash was called ‘Ambidextrous’, it was a group show where the artists were asked to make something using a medium that they had never dealt with before. The results were really interesting.
Though that said, I am jealous of people who are able to focus on one medium enough to be a master of it. Depending on the medium my process of making differs greatly, how I approach and what I aim to achieve from comics is completely different to my installation process and satisfies different aspects of my personality.
In your comic strips, there are a lot of self observed inspirations. How do you choose what to put on paper or illustrate?
I’ve never been particularly good at keeping a journal, it’s really quite funny looking at some of my failed journal attempts from when I was 17-19, I can feel the frustration at not being able to quite get across what I’m trying to express and it turns out that I just needed to add drawing.
When I started to read web comics like Kate Leth’s ‘Kate or Die’ comics I started writing and drawing things that happened in my day to day and now I have huge note books filled with journal comics, scraps of paper and receipts from work. My notes at Uni will usually have a little version of me looking puzzled drawn in the corner, or crying depending on how far behind on assignments I am.
Journal comics are a venting process for me, they’re quick and cathartic, some of them are down right terrible, so specific to me that they read like gibberish to everyone else, or just seem too personal to put online. The ones that end up on the web or in a zine are usually the ones that make me laugh, or contribute to a greater story like ‘Bread and Butter’.
What themes do you usually pursue?
I really like to create peaceful moments in my installations, I like to make the viewer engage with the piece: making them crouch down or crawl inside of the piece. I really enjoy making them have a one on one experience with the artwork. I like to create sculptural collages, layers of paper, cloth and plastic that are recognisable, but whose meaning is changed by a different context.
Which artists inspire you to create? Have you collaborated with any?
When I was teaching myself to draw as a kid I would copy out images that I found interesting in anime, and comic books. Even after years of life drawing and technical drawing if I’m left to my own devices I tend to drift back into those styles. I love how expressive anime and comics can be with really simple marks on paper.
Kate Beaton, Lucy Knisley, Noelle Stevenson and Emily Carol are some of my favourite comic people at the moment.
I’m just about to start a collaboration with designer Sophia Gracias (who I share a studio with) which will be my first foray into collaborative zine making.
You have made art about the retail industry in your comic strip. It is common with artists to juggle part time work as well as pursue their art. Why do you think this is?
The printed version of the ‘Bread and Butter’ series of comics actually has a dedication to all artists who have had had to work in retail or hospitality, cause it’s damn hard being stuck behind a coffee machine when you would rather be in the studio. That said, when you are working on creative stuff a job that you don’t need to take home with you is beneficial. The art world is very competitive as both an artist and arts manager, and finding the right job can take a lot of time and dedication, so being able to have another source of income is great for piece of mind and in my case inspiration.
On your blog, we also find that you have been collaborating with Trocadero in Footscray and West Projections. How did that come about? Tell us a little bit about the space.
Trocadero is an ARI that exhibits established and emerging artists, its volunteer based and hosts 15 shows a year over two galleries.
I have been on the Trocadero Committee for the past five years, I originally took up a studio space there and mentioned that I would be interested in volunteering and within a week I was at a committee meeting. In that time I have had the opportunity to have some shows, curate shows and meet a lot of great people. It has really built up my confidence as an artist and arts manager.
Trocadero just had their Annual General Meeting this past weekend where the current committee stood down and elected a new committee. This was a hard decision to make, but the committee felt that as we have all been involved with the space so long that it was time to bring in some new faces and fresh ideas. The new crew have some really exciting ideas cooking up and I’m super excited to see what they get up to.
Trocadero just celebrated their 10th Birthday, which is huge for an ARI, and really speaks to what a team of volunteers can do to help foster and promote the arts. Trocadero has been a part of my life that I take great pride in.
Chantal Wynter who created West Projections was the secretary at Trocadero before me, and has always kept in touch with the gallery. She is really open and encouraging to young artists and has been a great friend to me. I have created the posters for the past two West Projections and had pieces in both. West Projections transforms public spaces within Footscray into a potential art space. Shopfronts, buildings and little nooks and crannies are all up for exploration with Wynter as your guide. This year I rigged up some tin cans with earphones inside of them, so that it looked like a child’s toy and buried the attached mp3 player in dirt, attached them over fences and underneath park benches. The idea being that you could plug into Footscray and listen to its ghosts.
What do you think of the growing art community in the West?
I first moved to the West about 7 years ago, which at the time was pretty much just Trocadero and FCAC. Since then there’s been new spaces appear, disappear and/or move on to bigger things (like Colour Box Studio), new festivals, heaps of public art, you name it.
Watching the West grow has been really exciting, there’s so much potential over here and the rest of Melbourne is only just starting to figure that out.
How did you get involved with Colour Box Studio?
Trocadero and Colour Box Studio were neighbours back in the day, Wynter Projects also runs a series of artist walks called ‘On Foot’. Both Trocadero and Colour Box Studio were on these walks numerous times, and will no doubt be on many more. On these walks I met Amie and Kristina and have always been really impressed with their enthusiasm and achievements.
With your installations, how do you come up with your ideas and creations? When you come up with your ideas, do you do try to create it straight away, write it down so you don’t forget later?
I spend a lot of time thinking about a piece before I begin. For Installations its usually finding a space and trying to imagine what I could turn it into? Otherwise I usually have an image in my head and have the rest grows around it.
I write a lot down, and that’s another reason why I love going through old sketch books. Sometimes I find ideas that my younger self was really into but simply didn’t have the skill, money, tools etc to pull off at the time.
How long can you spend on a project or your art work? Do you have any that is unfinished throughout the years? Why?
It really depends on the piece. As I said the comics come quickly and erratically, whilst the embroideries take a significant amount of time. I usually have one or two going at a time and depending on what else I’m doing that can take months to make a completed piece. Being into many different mediums means that sometimes the others need to take a backseat, but I will usually come back to them once I’m in the right head space.
For my installation pieces I collect a lot of little bits and pieces that I think will be useful at the time. Sometimes the inspiration doesn’t come right away and I find my studio crowded with mannequins or the odd bed frame. I like to think that they will come in use one day, that or I will have to actually come to terms with the fact that I’m a hoarder.
Are you only on Tumblr and Twitter? Do these online platforms help with your art? How?
I am not the greatest on social media, but I’m learning. Tumblr is great for journal comics, for both the following of and posting your own. I dabble in Instagram and Twitter but really do need to expand my repertoire.
You are have a new art space at the Yonder art space in Yarraville. What made you want an art space there? What tips do you have for artists looking to have an art space?
Yonder came about when some friends and I were looking for a new studio space within the West. After looking through the usual channels we couldn’t find anything affordable to house all of us, so I started looking at commercial real estate websites. It takes quite a bit of persistence, and dealing with realtors who really don’t understand your needs.
The property at 2/290 Whitehall street was just the perfect amount of space for the six of us to set up comfortably with enough space left over for a gallery of our own.
Trocadero has been such a great learning experience, that I feel confident in taking what I have learnt and applying it to new areas. Yonder just had our House Warming on Friday 30th, and it was a great success. Were now doing a call out for artists to exhibit with us in 2016. It’s a really exciting and nerve racking time.
You can find Yonder at:
yonderartspace on Instagram and on Facebook.
Find out how you can join the Colour Box Studio Membership Program!