Interview by Emily Fuller
Art is such a dynamic practice, which presents itself with various versatile mediums. A lot of people often view art as being represented through prints and canvases, of all shapes and sizes. However, art forms like painting and drawing can be exhibited in an array of different formats – each bringing to light a new platform for interpretation and making of meaning. Here is where Headlessjess comes in, who has embarked on a tumultuous artistic journey, allowing her to delve into creating art not only on paper, but on other mediums too. Have a read and enjoy what the fun ball of energy has to say about her creativity!
So tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you came to immerse yourself in illustration?
Well, from the age of 12 I attended a Steiner School, where they encourage art and creativity about 1000x more than any other school on the planet! I really couldn’t draw at all before going there, but the 2 hours a day that they set aside totally dedicated to some kind of art form made something click inside of me. I really connected with the high school art teacher, a true hippy chick who would open the art classroom for us at lunch in winter and bought in a kettle for us to make tea, and took one of her watercolour classes. That’s the first time I actually realised how much I loved art, it was the first time I felt true pride looking at something I had created! This watercolour class made something shift inside of me – and I was hooked. However, I still didn’t really consider becoming a full-time artist due to all the paralysing stigma around it, I just never thought I could make a living from it. So, I set my heart on getting into the Whitehouse Institute of Design (University) in Sydney to pursue some kind of creative future. I literally could not have done a bigger 180, from Steiner school hippy kid to massive, posh, design school in the city – I literally lasted 2 months and bailed, feeling totally lost!
Can you tell us a little bit about your work with Headless Nation?
So, this is where Headless comes in 😉 – My partner in crime at Headless, saw me sketching at work and told me he had this idea to start a clothing company. The idea was to create clothing with spiritual messages/artworks aimed to wake up the societal zombies, and for the people who understand the realities of our world to see and feel a sense of community, because others share their thoughts and visions. He wanted a partner in the business, and I was totally up for it! It was him that pushed me to create a few artworks to make prints of and bring to the markets as well. I still didn’t think they would sell and wanted to just bring the clothing, but he pushed it, and every day I’m grateful that he did! We both now create artworks, graphics (I suck at the computer, which is probably still the Steiner kid fighting in me) for the clothing, as well as creating original artworks and other creative goodies to sell. We have a line of crystal jewellery that we hand make entirely ourselves.
(Feel free to check out the ABOUT US page on the website headlessnation.co and quote anything from there, might give you a better understanding as to what we are about)
Your pieces seem to have a strong sense of spirituality and femininity – why are they such an integral theme embedded in your creativity? Do these representations align with your spiritual and feminine identity?
The strong sense of spirituality I feel is because of how I work to create the artwork in my head before I even start! (See answer to question below). I feel it’s also because I have chosen to work on living my life a certain way. I got caught up in the wonders of Vogue, Channel, etc. before I started at Whitehouse, and those kinds of fashion illustrations were what got me into that school. As I began to move away from that life, my art totally changed. I heard someone from a documentary about spirituality say that when someone starts seeing/drawing mandalas, even little doodles, they are ready to wake up and start their spiritual journey. It makes me laugh because whilst I should have been working on stuff for Whitehouse in those few months I was there, all I wanted to do was draw these mandalas, I became obsessed with them. Also, when I heard this quote a few weeks after leaving the school, I laughed because my bedroom walls had suddenly become covered in them! I don’t think I could have had a bigger sign really! 🙂
As for the femininity side of the question, I think for a lot of my life I mistook femininity for weakness, and have been taking the time to explore how strong that feminine side truly is! It’s something I actually didn’t want to see inside myself for the longest time, but it’s something most people actually say when they see my art! It’s been a lesson lately to appreciate the divine feminine in every single being, including myself, and I’m learning what strength and power can be felt from it. When I see the girls I want to paint, I swear I can actually feel them, and it’s like I’m trying to paint not just their faces but their personalities too. I think because I personally have so many lessons still to learn about balancing masculine and feminine energy and to appreciate both completely, that’s why it’s such a strong characteristic in my art.
Do you find there to be any internal struggles in creating pieces with such a strong spiritual identity?
Yes!! I’m actually really working on searching outside my consciousness/awareness for artistic ideas. For example, my latest series is my Zodiac Series. I pick the star sign I want to work on, write a little dot point list of the character traits/elements etc. I then close my eyes and set my intention, and I try and pop out of body into other worlds and realms – searching for inspiration, images, anything at this point really, as it’s still a new process for me! But essentially, it’s a meditation to find inspiration for the artwork. As it’s still new, I am usually quite wiped after piecing the artwork together in my mind, but then comes the adrenaline rush and I literally cannot wait to lay out a new sheet of paper and start bringing it from my head into this realm! I really think I’m addicted to the sense of pride I feel when I look at a finished artwork, and I think that pride comes from bringing something into this realm that wasn’t here before I created it.
What made you so drawn to utilising watercolours (I’m sorry if that’s wrong!!) as a primary tool?
Watercolour was what was used in that first class that got me hooked on art, and I’m still obsessed with them. From there I actually started using gauge, it’s like a cross between acrylic and watercolour, so you can get defined lines and features using heavy paint, but just the tiniest bit of water changes the texture instantly. I’ve recently just gone back to watercolour, and I like them because of the etheral, otherworldly kind of vibe I feel I can create with them. I recently just had the craving to start painting large canvases, so I feel like it’s time to mess around with some acrylics soon!
The denim jackets you create are incredible! What inspired you to branch out to incorporating your art with fashion rather than keeping to standard prints?
Headless Nations first ever market was at Glebe Markets in Sydney, it was amazing and we did it every Saturday for about a year. But the whole vibe of the market started to change from homemade creations to vintage clothing. It was a friend from the markets who made the suggestion for us to delve into artsy denim, because we were watching it change so much every week! It was something we did to keep relevant, and then it ended up really taking off! They are a really big hit at any market we go to, and have led us to actually create another line that are printed with our designs on them so we can offer two price options for our customers.
You can view Jess’ marvellous creations on her Instagram @headlessjess, as well as the collective creative work of Headless Nation on their website: https://www.headlessnation.co