There is often such a satisfying immediacy to printmaking that it belies the skill and craftsmanship that goes into its production. One such case is the work of Jessica Winnie, a Sussex based printmaker and illustrator. With a focus on lino print, Jessica creates tableaus that are both curious and macabre. Take, for instance, the 'Hello Sailor' mermaid print. It's only on second glance that one notices that the benign-seeming echo of the Starbucks logo is holding a couple of decapitated sailor's heads under the water. This is the kind of imagery you can get your teeth into.
In the case of Jessica's work, there is often more meaning than meets the eye.
Hi Jess! It's always the hardest question, but give us an idea of what you do...
I specialise in printmaking - primarily silkscreen and Lino (mostly Lino at the moment as I don't have much space for screen printing).
There's something particularly English about much of your work. Some of my favourite pieces are the ones that feature creatures from English folklore such as mermaids and hares. Is this something that inspires you?
The realisation that this is what I love came to me in my last year of university when I based my final major project on the folklore of the Crow family. I created the 'Museum of Corvidae', a collection of prints and paintings based on my findings. From then on learning more uncanny folklore became a comfort and an endless source of inspiration. I particularly have an interest in dark tales and notions, portraying them in a deceptive way...(as my art tends to be very heavily patterned and colourful) something that looks lovely and dainty often has a dark story behind it.
What do you listen to while working?
After printing equipment, my mac and coffee, my other love is my spotify account. I have to listen to songs with a smooth and light personality, to keep myself in a good harmonious balance. My studio is mostly female dominant...Lauryn Hill, Alison Krauss, Etta James, Beyonce (obviously) to name a few favs. The soul section of spotify gets a good amount of attention...'Sweet Soul Chillout' I would recomend if your stuck for a playlist. To be honest I really could go on and on, I mean I'll always have time for Otis Redding and Bruno Mars...the list goes on.
We first met as part of the Brighton Craft Alliance at the Brighton Open Market - how are you finding the process of selling your wares? Do you enjoy taking your work out and about?
I really have enjoyed taking my art out to the fairs this summer. I have learned a lot and it has given me a new boost in confidence about my work...one of the biggest problems for an artist is getting over that question we all ask ourselves "Is this any good and who is even going to like it?" Being able to road test my stuff has made such a difference in my approach to that negative wall we sometimes hit. The feeling you get when someone buys a piece of art from you is fantastic...I have had so many great conversations with people about what I do and its such a great motivator to keep going, its an addictive buzz.
Describe your processes for us. Is there a technique within your work that you prefer?
With the lino prints it is very much a rough outline and then I just hack away with my tools...I tend to be an over thinker so with this method I can go in and keep a healthy energy to the mark making. When it comes to other pieces I tend to work back to front, so if I'm doing a painting I will paint out roughly the negative spaces first and work inwards. When it comes to briefs or commissions I will always start with the 'golden hour', where I just draw as many ideas as possible, no words just visual communications. More often than not the first few drawings are on the mark, but it's good to push your imagination to see what pops out! I also have two go-to problem solvers when tackling briefs, I use compartments and collage. Not necessarily the collage medium but I will often structure a design with some things coming out of other things.
Do you have a favourite piece?
I do have a favourite piece, it is a screen-print from the 'Museum of Corvidae' called 'The Hunt'. It is based on a Scottish folklore, two crows sat in a tree discussing their last meal, a knight who was slain whilst on a hunt with his bloodhound. The crows talk of his life and his mistress who has moved on already. This piece for me was the real light bulb moment when I found my focus, realising how I work best and understanding my style...it was a springboard in the right direction.
We're asking all of our MAKE//FRIENDS makers what techniques they have for when they get stuck in a rut. What do you do to get inspired when you're up against a creative wall?
I spent so many stressful days in a rut, with deadlines fast approaching and no matter how many hours I spent pushing my self to create it all came out rubbish, just awful. The best cure for this is to just take a break! I know it sounds scary to just leave your work when time is winding down but honestly I think it is so easy to dig yourself further down into that rut by stressing about it. So now I go for a walk mostly (with my national trust membership I'm sorted) I take deep breathes outside far from my studio and I look at the sky or look out to sea and all I have to do is be. When I return I look at some of my favourite artists (Jonny Hannah and Mark Hearld are my heroes, I have been lucky enough to be taught by Jonny who introduced me to Mark). I just absorb, I go on tumblr and blog onto my Artspiration! page or I read some folklore. And in all that time I have spent away from my current project (maybe its 5 hours or an entire day) when I return I feel refreshed and its like that little seed in my subconscious has grown and I can see where I need to go.
Describe your ideal Sunday for us.
My ideal sunday is spent with my other half, sleeping in until 9ish, then we go off to a national trust walk or Arundel's Wetlands Trust (we are like two old people with out memberships). We spend the day walking around, we take the camera and I'll take a sketchbook (although I'm awful as it often stays in my bag, but the intent is always there). We'll often get home around 6ish and then make a beautiful vegetarian feast, Simon is a professional chef and so it is absolute food porn when he cooks. These are the kind of sundays that come just before a really artistically productive week...they are good for the soul.
You can view more of Jessica's work via her Etsy store.