Featured Artist Friday: Meet Jessica
Posted on August 25 2017
Jessica Swift, a full-time artist, is on a quest to inspire and teach creative people everywhere to pursue their wild + colorful dreams... and never give up. Her magically uplifting, colorful artwork is licensed widely for fabric, stationery, rugs, tech accessories, home decor, and more. Her art and products are designed to serve as tokens of happiness – reminders that joy is possible, necessary, and vital. Her book, The Crafter’s Guide to Patterns, was published in April 2015. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, toddler, and two cats. You can find her colorfully creating at jessicaswift.com and teaching at patterncamp.com.
We asked Jessica a few questions to help us
get to know her more + here's what she said:
How does a typical day progress for you? / Do you have any morning rituals?
Every day is a bit different, as my husband's schedule changes weekly and I'm juggling working at home with being primary caregiver to my toddler. The best days are the ones where I wake up before everyone else and go to the gym at 5:30am. I'm home by 6:40am and have some time to drink coffee, make a smoothie, check in with my list for the day and the week, and catch up on a few emails before the babe wakes up. This time alone in the morning is critical to my sanity; I'm noticeably more frazzled on the days that I don't get it! So for that reason I try to wake up before my kiddo every day. I suppose that's my ritual! After that every morning is different depending on if I'm in charge of Coen, if my husband is, or if our nanny is there (she usually comes over 2-3 mornings a week). Nap time is the only reliable time I have to work every day, which is usually for 2 hours or so. I can get a lot more done in 2 hours than I ever knew possible! If my husband is home he'll usually take over for some time in the morning or the afternoon, so I'll get to work more then. When our nanny comes over it's usually in the morning, so I'll use that time to work as well. When Coen and I are together, which is a lot of the time, I try not to work at all or to be distracted by work stuff; I don't want to miss his childhood (it's already going so fast!), so I do my best to be 100% with him when we're together. We read books, go on bike rides, go to the playground, take a music class together, have picnics outside, plant stuff in the garden, draw and paint... he's very fun to hang out with! I always have visions of myself working after Coen goes to bed, but in reality I'm usually too tired and head to bed around 9:30pm most nights. What a party animal!
How do you kick off a new week with a fresh start?
I try to get some unstructured time in during the weekend. That is really what helps me feel refreshed. I live by lists and like to be as productive as possible most of the time, but I'm trying to get better about just hanging out without an agenda, without a schedule, without a long list of things to accomplish. If I can do that, even for a little while, during the weekend, my week generally starts off feeling pretty good. I also go to the gym on Monday mornings super early, and that helps me get in the "it's a new week" mindset, too!
What kind of influence or role do you believe art currently has in society?
I think people are looking for images which make them feel good – or at least feel better – and that's a really important role that art plays, in my opinion. At least that's the kind of art that I like to make and that I'm drawn to myself. I think art also helps us express what we're experiencing internally in a way that words just can't; it's a way to reflect and process what we're experiencing in our own lives and experiences, and the resulting images can then help others process what they're experiencing, too. Art is a way that we can feel like we're doing something, even if it's small, to contribute to the world and to lend our voices to what we believe to be true. Art bypasses people's minds, I think, and goes straight to the heart. It's so powerful!
Do you do any research or look for inspiration when starting new work?
Not really; I've never really been one to follow trends or do a ton of research beforehand. I'm most inspired by the act of just starting to create something without a plan and seeing where it goes. The fact that I can take a blank canvas and some paint, or a blank white computer screen, and turn it into something is just endlessly magical in my mind. That's where my inspiration is! In the magic and the surprise of it all.
Anything you wish people understood more about your work and process?
Not really! I want people to have their own reactions to my work and to let it flow through them however it's meant to. I just want to make pretty things that make people feel good. Pretty simple!
What do you love to paint/draw/design most?
Animals! I will never get tired of painting and drawing animals. And flowers.
What is the best advice another artist gave to you?
Not to get precious with my work. It was a painting professor in college who gave me that advice, and I'd been in a rut and was ruining everything I touched by overworking it. He had me do some uncomfortable exercises like painting over my own work and introduced me to some new techniques where I had to work quickly, keep a loose hand, and that were rife with happy accidents that resulted in some really cool new work that broke my rut and left a big impression on me. It was so liberating and fun! I don't know if I'd be a painter today were it not for him.
What are your biggest struggles with being an artist?
Right now my biggest struggle is finding/creating the time to actually CREATE. I know that sounds weird coming from someone who is an artist for a living, but lately art-making is the thing on my to-do list that gets pushed to the side more often than not in favor of the not-as-fun parts of running a creative business. It's something I'm working on changing.
I also struggle with a lot of comparison stuff and self-doubt, but I think that's sort-of normal. ;)
Do you have a favorite type of music or artist you listen to while creating?
I like to listen to podcasts sometimes when I create. I often listen to This American Life or The Moth. There's a lot of music that I love and nothing specific, really, that I listen to while creating, but some of my favorites that always make me feel good while creating are Bon Iver, Gregory Alan Isakov, Jenn Grant, and Devon Sproule. Stuff that I can sing along with (I love to sing!). If I need something a bit more upbeat I'll sometimes put on Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, or Bruno Mars. Ha, I've got no shame!
What are your biggest goals for this year?
We're currently building a new garage in our backyard that has a second story which will be my brand new studio, so my most immediate goal is moving into the new space and getting it set up and functional. This project is a real dream and is 2 years in the making, and I can't wait!
I'm also partnering with a new fabric company and am looking forward to creating my first fabric line with them this year, and I'll be working on creating an oracle deck from my animal totem painting project that I did in 2016 (some of the paintings are pictured here). I also have plans for a new daily painting project that I'll begin potentially in July.
And finally I'll be running my online course Pattern Camp a couple more times before the year is out, and I'll be creating a whole lot of content for the members of my Campfire membership group for creatives. It's going to be a busy second half of the year!