Jessica Taylor

With an often bold and painterly style, this Glasgow School of Art illustration student looks to be going from strength to strength after recently winning a commission from The Guardian.

Large leither  2   2014

Leither (2), 2014

How would you describe your practice?

I’ll stick with the term illustration, though the expansive definition – the act of explaining, through whatever means necessary – not just pretty pictures.  Elucidator maybe. I’d like to be Leanne Shapton when I grow up. She covers a variety of subjects in her work, responding to each using the most suitable format. That’s the goal. That and sketchbooks. Sketchbooks take up most of my practice.

What inspires you?

Being able to manipulate and play with language and history. The possibilities for re-imagining and re-contextualising are endless.  

Your work is very visibly handmade.  What’s your relationship with technology in making work?

I like to start each project or idea with a non-digital brush or a pencil – everything else takes more consideration and thought, as though they have to break through the annoying jelly layer of self-consciousness before they get to the paper, which makes the process much less fluid. But there’s no ignoring how helpful technology can be. I do all my thinking and making by hand, but since almost everything goes digital at some point these days in terms of going to print, I have no problem scanning what I handmake and messing around with it. I’ll often alter colours, compositions and sizes in Photoshop until everything works together perfectly. Technology allows for a level of perfection that would otherwise take much more time than I have. Freedom is working by hand at the beginning and digitally to finish.

You were commissioned to do an illustration that featured in The Guardian recently, how did you find tackling a brief for such a big client?

Gobsmacking might be the right word! Gobsmacking and pretty sweet. It was my first time doing a commissioned piece, so it involved a pretty steep, rapidly inclining learning curve. Fortunately there was limited time in which to get over the fact that the feedback provided by the art director wasn’t personal, and that the changes were necessary. Luckily the commission required a lot of work in a small amount of time so there wasn’t a spare minute to worry about anyone actually seeing what I was making.

What have you been working on recently and what’s next?

The next few months will be spent working on a project looking at the built environment and the idea of home creation. This ties in with what I did before – researching social housing and new towns – and finding out more about how people live in their environments and constructing narratives from them. I’ll also be working on a small sound piece with fellow GSA illustration student Hannah Nixon. We recently made a mini documentary during a day-long workshop run by Rebeca Davies looking at imagined towns and the difference between the expectations of the builders and those of the inhabitants. Though I’ve been learning the lithographic printing process so will be developing that as well. A bit of everything really. And navigating the next few months until degree shows, the London one of which will open at Shoreditch Town Hall on 25 June.