Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Jessica Durrant, I am an illustrator based out of Atlanta, Georgia. I specialize in watercolor & gouache fashion and lifestyle illustrations.
Why do you do what you do?
I have loved fashion and drawing women in particular since I was a child. My mom had a big inﬂuence on my love of fashion and in particular dresses because she is a talented seamstress and would make me dresses when I was a young girl. I would accompany her to the fabric store and learning about creativity from her had such an impact on me from the start.
What made you decide to focus on fashion as a subject?
Fashion is such an art form to me. It has this power to change how you feel about yourself, and your conﬁdence, and that can not only change your day but your life. I also am so inspired by fashion photography, and vintage fashion magazines and just going to a designer’s store-it all calls out for me to create.
What are your favorite subjects (live fashion shows, weddings, awards shows, etc.)?
I think I will always love books/magazines the most. There is something about sitting down with something that is not digital or electronic that makes me feel like I am a kid again, and that is the best mental state to be in with my creativity. Flipping through old issues of Vogue (which I go to libraries and visit archives pretty much every quarter) is one of my greatest sources of constant inspiration. I think no matter how much I might reference the past, because I live in the future, it creates this hybrid of past meets present that I love.
Are there any trends that have been your favorite to sketch?
I love seeing the use of color and volume in fashion. I love Valentino’s use of color and the color combinations feel very fresh and new. Which is hard to do with fashion. That has helped me in my latest pieces to use colors and diﬀerent combinations to see how they can bring a fresh take on my work.
Which designer’s shows do you look forward to every season & why?
Valentino of course, and McQueen’s use of structure and silhouette.
How and when did you get into art?
I started drawing when I was three, and always felt a spiritual connection to my gift. That made it easier to study it, and believe in myself-even when the world didn’t always. I got my degree in illustration, and after traveling and having real life set in I started creating meaningful work that I began selling in an online store. That became my full-time job within a couple of years and then I began getting freelance work regularly.
How has your practice changed over time?
I’m def more eﬃcient, because of the demands of illustration. The biggest changes have been now I have an archive of all my existing work from the last decade and I know how to digitally reconﬁgure, and edit all my pieces to make new collections and changes constantly. That is perfect for licensing, and also for all the editing I have to do with illustrating for clients. Such as, say I have a client asking for a collection of ﬂoral themed dresses, I can take existing patterns I have painted and apply those to new pieces and old pieces and present them with a ton of options. In the beginning, I made everything by hand and didn’t know how to edit things digitally. It made my work that much harder to revise for clients. Now I can easily change a million things in Photoshop. Phew! And it’s fun for me.
What’s your favorite piece of art that you’ve created? Why?
Trees as Veins. This piece has the most meaning to me because it reﬂected what I was going through at the time. I was ending a decade-long relationship, so the dead trees within the painting represented that. I use a lot of symbolism in my work with nature when I want to express an emotion without being literal. I was proud of not only how technically good the work was, but that it felt like I was being a true artist with the emotion conveyed in the piece. It was cathartic for me.
What’s the best piece of art advice you’ve been given?
I think Andy Warhol said it best, “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”
What’s one art tip/technique you can share with us that you ﬁnd really helpful?
The wet-on-wet technique is my favorite, you can see me use it in my reels on my Instagram @jessillustrator. It is the foundation of most of my pieces. The way the paint dries is incredible. I use a wash of water, then drop in India ink, and let it ﬂow. I try not to touch it too much. Overworking in watercolor will kill your piece.
Do you have any secret tips or techniques you use to salvage a piece when you make a mistake?
I try not to throw away things too quickly. I say, keep a stash of paintings you aren’t sure about. Then keep them on standby for impromptu painting sessions. Painting over something, or adding something without giving it too much thought can actually incite an idea you would not have thought of.
What is your favorite Strathmore paper? Why?
I love the 300 series cold press 140lb watercolor paper. I have been using it from the very start! In fact, I think all my earliest work I created (the work that got me my career) was all on that paper. Because not only is it aﬀordable, but it does the job. The bleeding and color eﬀects I get on it are great. I always recommend this paper to my students when I teach workshops.
What art materials could you not live without?
Paper, India ink, and a liner brush and ﬂat angle bright brush. Those are what I use pretty much every day.
What types of colors are you drawn to for your art and why?
Blue and green, they are the most emotive and striking colors to look at for me.
Who are your biggest inﬂuences (or who were when you started doing art)?
So, so many, it’s a mix of people like Rene Gruau, David Downton, and many Swedish and Scandinavian designers. My all time favorites are Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Frida Kahlo.
What’s the most common art-related question you get from your followers?
What paper am I using? And how did I get to work with the clients I have?
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