An Interview with Jessica Singh

Berlin based and Australian born artist, Jessica Singh is a color obsessed freelance illustrator, dreamer, drawer, and the reason we want to get into collaging again. With a portfolio that consists of explosions of colour, a play of patterns, quirky muses, and cultural and fashion orientated themes, Jessica’s work is enough to make the senses go gooey with happiness. We just had to have a chat to the artist that brings a sparkle to our lives! Here she talks to us about the importance of dance breaks, her deviantart days, and how she no longer has hope to be a designer because Sretsis has already beat her to it.

Who is the lovely Jessica Singh and what is her background?
That’d be me! I’m originally from a small city called Perth (at the end of the earth!) in Western Australia, well known for its sunny skies and blue beaches. My parents are both Indian and American, and this mix of cultures has influenced my love of color and decoration. I currently work from my home studio in Berlin, Germany.

How did illustration first sparkle in your life?

That’s a great question and I have a nerdy answer. As a small child I grew up with a lot of art and craft lessons, mainly cause I was a quiet kid who wasn’t interested in much else. My mother was very talented with drawing and art, and my grandmother with craft so that influence me heavily.I would draw all over the walls, all over photographs, anything! My father used to bring me back comic books from India which were mainly about gods and goddesses, emporers and animals. This was my first exposure I think to illustration which I really enjoyed.

Growing up with video games (thanks to my older brother) and also studying Japanese in high school, I began to become quite obsessed with anime and also video game art. I found an artist community online that basically just redrew their favourite characters from video games, and I so wanted to be like them. So I remember practising furiously so I could do the same. At first I used to actually try and draw with a mouse until my brother bought me a tablet. There I just never stopped drawing, and stared posting things online on deviantart (back when it was cool..haha!). So it seems technology and art has always been mixed together for me in that way.

At the same time I was getting interested in Japanese street style via FRUiTS and a school trip to Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima where I loaded up on Japanese magazines. My high school art and design teacher brought a copy of NYLON into class, and thats when I started seeing illustration as a potential career.
How does an illustration unfold – what is your process from the moment you imagine the artwork to when it’s complete?
I think a lot of what I do is surprisingly unconscious. I feel like I have a rolodex of images, colours, patterns in my brain. I kind of collect these either visually with my memory, or perhaps I stick pictures on my wall. All these images or colours or patterns kind of get absorbed and processed around. Then, after some time and usually triggered by music/dance and caffiene I kind of get an idea of what has to go together to create an image. What things are associated with each other in my mind and they HAVE to go together. So I get a flash of an image, kind of. Then I will draw a little thumbnail sketch of what all the elements should be. If I think any part needs to be drawn or painted in gouache/scanned I will create those parts first, scan them all. Then I get to work composing the images in photoshop. The linework part is quite fast, but because the computer allows so many possibilities, coloring can take several hours. I try to do the image in one day, while I’m still on the rush of the idea. I take dance breaks too – it helps! Seriously.

What mediums do you use in your work?

For pencils I love Palomino Blackwings, Faber Castells Polychromos. For gouache I use Winsor and Newton designer’s gouache. For sketchbooks I use Moleskines for drawing and Daler-Rowney for quick paintings. Of course I mainly use my tablet which is just a Wacom graphire intous 4 and of course Adobe Photoshop CS.
We spot no familiar faces in your illustrations – but, maybe our mental list of famous people isn’t as big as we thought! Do you dream up these pretty muses in your imagination or do you draw from photographs?
It’s a combination of both! I do start with references for proportions sake. Then as I’m working on the drawing further and further the faces kind of morph into something else completely different. For hands I pose my own in different positions and use that as a reference. I also religiously use my iPhone to take my own reference shots – which works really well!

What are your favourite designers and fashion icons? Have any of them heavily impacted upon your work?

What I adore about fashion is not so much particular designers.. but the idea of collections. I love trends and fantasy, I love the whimsy of fashion. I love themes! Because I feel like my mind exists in mostly themes, and I also love the fact that when a designer creates they are creating a whole world. It’s fun to imagine the universe in which a woman wearing particular clothign would exist. I would say that I am heavily influenced by street fashion mostly Japanese / British, as well as traditional ceremonial costumes of all cultures. This kind of confidence of style is something I hope to exude on the girls in my works and also on myself too!

My absolute favourite label is Sretsis, a group of talented sisters. I always though about going into fashion, and then I remember damn, Sretsis has done it!! I also highly adore Manish Arora because I feel secretly connected to his aesthetic. I also love Tsumori Chisato, Meadham Kirchoff, Antipodium and Australian labels Gorman, and Romance was Born. Gotta also love some Vivienne Westwood for punk vibes.
What mood do you aim to translate through your work? How do you want people to feel when gazing upon your pieces?
As I mentioned before I’m kind of unconsciously doing stuff so I think a lot of the moods of my subconscious come out in the final piece. For personal works I’m not really thinking about what I’m trying to translate (unless it is a commission!), apart from thinking ‘this is dope! I need to draw this!’. There are certain images of mine which are pretty clear with symbolism and metaphor (at least to me), and I’m trying more lately to decipher what I want to say and make sure it REALLY comes across. This is what i’m trying to work on lately, so the associations of the little bits and pieces actually say something to others, and not only make sense in my abstract brain. In terms of what I hope people feel, all I hope is that they feel connected if it suits them, and that they feel inspired to do something or make something or just feel good. Thats how all of the illustrators and artists I look up to make me feel, I hope to be able to do that for others also.
We love your collages! What do you look for when creating one of these pieces?
The collages came about to kind of combine my love for fashion with photography and illustration. I would LOVE to illustrate on a fashion shoot some day. Mainly I’m looking for balance, and to extract the overall theme from a show or shows. I’m very interested in trends and trend forecasting within the fashion industry, as well as fashion editorial. I just wanted a quick way to combined some ideas together – moodboard style.
You have a majorly cool CV that you should be so proud of! What has been your favourite project or client you’ve worked with?
Thanks so much! I’m always looking to the next thing so I feel it’s very much a work in progress at the moment. I love any project where the client has a similar vision to myself, and trusts me to do my thing. My favourite thing was creating a window based on a Japanese spring picnic for the Perth Fashion Festival, because I got to think of and execute everything. It was a lot of sweat and tears installing it though!

What’s a day in the life for Jessica Singh?

I usually start the day with emails, clients can be on different timezones so it’s important to be aware of this and responding to emails! After that I usually pop down to the local coffee shop, grab a coffee and head back to the home studio. If I have a comission on I’m usually working on that as priority over all other things. If it has not such a tight deadline I fit in some painting & instagramming. If I’m not on a deadline then I’m either posting mail, painting, experimenting, drawing, making invoices, updating my website, instagramming, doing interviews or scheming on ways to improve my work. I spend a lot of time and focus these days trying to both push my work further, as well as cut away excess. I always need music and coffee to get through a day, if it’s sunny too that’s a bonus, I’m always much more productive on those days!
You use a huge palette of bright a vibrant colours! What’s your favourite colour combination?
Yes! I use SO much color. This is such a hard question for someone like me. I also kind of have seasons of color, so a combo I’m loving fits into a certain time. At the moment I adore ultramarine or indigo blue, paired with a nice maroon, and then a blush pink or peach skin color. When I was younger I detested purple and brown – can you believe that? Now nothing is off-limits.

We must know, what are you inspirations for not only your artworks but also life in general?

For life in general I hope to externally become the version of me that is on the inside, and live a full life of no regrets, always creating, doing and designing. I just do what I love with no exceptions, and I do it for myself. I hope to inspire other people to cut through bullshit expectations of others (and even themselves – pay attention to how you’ve been conditioned by your surroundings, by your beliefs) and live their lifes fearlessly, true to their real calling. Reinvent yourself a million times over if you have to. Just put your head down, do what you love and the universe will open to you.

For the emotions part of my artwork it’s just intuition, sunshine and exposure to nature, dancing, feelings, song lyrics and co-incidences. For the visual part I’m inspired by all things, artists, illustrators, musicians, traditional patterns, folk costume, ceremonial costume, fashion collections, nature, editorial, anything of beauty.
When you dream of your future what do you see in it?
I see me running a successful business (still scheming and trying to pinpoint this down), I see travelling to NYC, Tokyo, and places with beaches all over. I see a british shorthair/scottish fold cat mix in an old light filled house with worn floorboards, filled with treasures from travelling. I see a studio with large windows, lots of plants and large artworks! Lots of laughter too, I hope.