Interview: Jessica Roux
Brooklyn-based illustrator, Jessica Roux, remembers old world beauty with intricately detailed drawings, inspired by flora and fauna.
She graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2013 with a BFA in Illustration, and has since built up an impressive portfolio, worked with a number of high-profile clients and imagined her own line of stationary.
We caught up with Jessica in between all of that to talk about her regimented work process, dealing with rejection and the world’s many weird and wonderful plants, among much more.
We understand that you’re based in Brooklyn – can you tell us what encouraged you to become an illustrator?
I’m originally from North Carolina and I went to school in Savannah, Georgia. I’ve been drawing and exploring since I was a child, but I only started to pursue a career in the arts after my first year of college; I was originally studying journalism, but I wasn’t feeling fulfilled by that. I was painting a lot and it was one of the only things that I enjoyed during that time, so I transferred to an art school to study illustration. I graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2013 with a BFA in Illustration.
How would you describe your style to our readers?
My work is inspired by flora and fauna, with intricate detail reminiscent of old world beauty. I use subdued colours and rhythmic shapes to describe the natural world.
I have really vivid childhood memories of picking cicada shells off trees and collecting pine cones with my sister. I think that definitely shaped what I do today.
What is it about nature that you find so inspiring? And do you have any other sources of inspirations at all?
There are just so many beautiful and weird plants and animals! I come from a heavily wooded part of North Carolina, and I grew up exploring the land around my parents’ home. I have really vivid childhood memories of picking cicada shells off trees and collecting pine cones with my sister. I think that definitely shaped what I do today.
In terms of artists and movements that inspire me, I love the Pre-Raphaelites, William Morris, medieval art and the early Northern Renaissance.
Describe a typical day for you.
I start my mornings by answering emails, ordering art supplies, and doing other boring and non-drawing related stuff. Next I get working on any client work that I have until it’s time for lunch. After that, I take my dog to the park to play, which is my absolute favourite thing to do! Then I get back to work and – if there’s time for it – I’ll work on any personal projects in the evening. I have a pretty structured day for the most part, and I write daily, weekly and monthly to-do lists. That helps me to keep on track and not spend my day on Instagram or Twitter, etc.
And when it comes down to it, how do you approach your work?
I’m also pretty regimented in my approach to starting a new project. Before anything, I write lists of things that could work and I like to think about ideas for a long time. Concepts are constantly running in the back of my head and I’ll keep writing things down periodically throughout the day as well. I’ll usually make thumbnails, then sketches, then get client feedback or pick my favourite if it’s a personal or gallery piece. After that, I get started on a pencil drawing, colour that in Photoshop and send it in.
So it really is a long and ordered approach! What’s your fuel of choice?
I am really lucky to have both a really affectionate and encouraging husband and dog. And I can’t feel uninspired for long with those two around! I also drink a lot of soda… a lot.
You mentioned using Photoshop before. What other techniques, programs or materials do you favour?
I use graphite on a soft, cotton rag paper, and then scan that in to colour digitally. I actually just posted a little time-lapse of my process online, which you can watch here.
I have so many different dream projects… while I haven’t worked in the book market yet, illustrating novel covers would be incredible.
Do you have favourites among your work thus far? And if so, why?
I’m really proud of Snake or Die, which I created for Light Grey Art Lab’s Skate or Die show. The amazing team at Light Grey applied it to a skateboard and it looks so cool! It was my first time illustrating something with a specific product in mind for it to be applied to.
I still really like Botanic Garden too, which was also for a show at Light Grey Art Lab. And I’m really proud that it was chosen for American Illustration 33.
And what about the work that you’re yet to create – do you have a dream brief, client or collaboration?
I have so many different dream projects! I would love to get more into illustrating for products and licensing my work. I’m actually just starting to pursue that and it’s going really well so far. I’d love to collaborate with a photographer and draw on top of their photos too. And while I haven’t worked in the book market yet, illustrating novel covers would be incredible.
Rejection isn’t fun for anyone, but you’ll never get anywhere unless you try and be persistent.
What is the best tuition or advice you have ever received, and what advice would you pass on to aspiring artists?
One of the best tips I’ve ever been given is to not be afraid of putting yourself and your work out there. And I still need to tell myself this a lot too because it’s scary! Rejection isn’t fun for anyone, but you’ll never get anywhere unless you try and be persistent.
I like to tell aspiring artists that there’s more than one way to be an artist in today’s market. I have friends who work in surface design, product design and fashion, and they all make such beautiful things.
Sound advice! Are there any plans in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
I’m working on a line of stationery and products that I am beyond excited to show. There will be notebooks, notepads, tea towels, cards, and more! I’ve been dreaming it up for a while now, so it feels great to be finally working toward that. I got my first little taste of stationery design last year when I illustrated my wedding invitations and it was so much fun that I had to keep going.
We’ll keep our eyes peeled! What do you get up to when you’re not drawing?
I love cooking and baking. I actually just baked a cake in a vintage cast iron lamb cake mold! I also like to go hiking and just generally being in nature.
And finally, where do you hope to be in 5-10 years time?
Living in a cute little house (or cabin!) somewhere, surrounded by nature and my family – drawing every day.