Jessica Palmer produces the sort of art that - if you're a talentless twit such as myself - makes you really wish you could draw. So it's a good job that colouring books for adults is an avenue into which she's ventured, because at least you have the chance of colouring in her art, putting it on your wall and casually implying to visitors that it's all your own work!
Having drawn ever since she could pick up a pencil, Jessica wanted to be an illustrator as soon as she knew what the word meant. But feeling the need to get a 'proper' job - and being a Londoner - she entered the world of television and eventually became a producer for the BBC, making every kind of programme from dramas to documentaries. Then opportunity knocked in the guise of voluntary redundancy; realising that she had a chance to do something less ordinary, Jessica shrugged off the suit, slipped on a smock instead, and went to Kingston University where she gained an MA in Illustration.
It was at Kingston that she first took up another of her skills - papercutting - which started (somewhat bizarrely!) in a life drawing class. In fact, her MA show involved paper cuttings mounted on glass and lit up to make shadows. And her book The Art of Papercutting was published by Search Press in August last year.
Jessica's art is inspired by just about everything around her, from the natural world of trees, shells, plants and animals, to the creative world of tapestry, embroidery and lacework. Add a dollop of imagination, stir in a few creatures from fairy tales, myths and magic, and you have Jessica's style. Projects can take as little as a few days to complete, or as much as the best part of a year. Knowing when something is finished is, as Jessica says, 'the hardest thing in the book… I have to talk myself down from the perfectionist precipice and allow something to be good enough. I am incredibly proud of my colouring books … because I can share them with others around the whole planet and give other people pleasure in taking my image and turning it into their masterpiece.' And does she have any tips for aspiring artists? 'Draw every day,' she advises. 'Draw what you love. Experiment.'
As a purveyor of pens, we would be remiss in our duties if we didn't ask Jessica about her preferences in terms of drawing equipment. And it turns out they range from the latest in technology to one of the earliest forms of writing instruments. The digital pen for her tablet is essential, but she loves Kuretake's Zig Millennium fineliners and Clean Colour Brush Pens. Staedtler also figure in Jessica's top five: their Pigment Liners and Metallic Markers are a must. And then there's an elderly Lamy fountain pen and an old dip pen to complete her arsenal.
Since becoming a full-time artist, Jessica has moved away from the hustle and bustle of London and bedded down in the classical splendour that is Bath. But that doesn't mean that Jessica is enjoying a more laid-back life - oh no! As well as creating The Art of Papercutting, she produced 75 pen and ink drawings for each of her two colouring books, Tangle Wood and Tangle Bay. And Tangle Magic, her latest venture due out in the summer, will need 75 more… She has just finished teaching a five-week course at Bath University called 'Drawing Life with a Knife', and is currently working on a private commission. Having got involved with 3D paper art projects, she is about to pitch some ideas for her adopted city's annual 4-day 'Forest of Imagination' pop-up art and play event scheduled for June.
But that's not all! In true entrepreneurial fashion, Jessica is conquering the US as well. She is planning a large papercut installation entitled Connect the Dots for an exhibition across the pond, and will soon begin a series of pen and ink drawings, embellished with black, white and gold, called Hear Evil, Speak Evil, See Evil for an American exhibition entitled The Anatomy of Fairytales. And an American clothing company has commissioned her to turn some of her Tangle Wood drawings into fabric designs.
Phew! Jessica's life sounds exhausting - she might need to sit down and colour in a few pages of her own books to relax a little..!
12 April 2016