Artist Proof Interview with Artist: Jessica Simanowski
Global Location: Portugal
Jessie was born in Germany in 1976. At a small age she already felt like a stranger, knowing that there must be more out there than what society was presenting to her. Instead of claiming her seat at the art academy in 1996, she took her mountain bike, a bag, her rasta hair and the little money that she had and moved to Portugal because she loved the sunlight, heat and colors of the country. Always being pushed forward by her wild imagination and passionate creativity, she launched her first art show in Portugal. It turned out to be a surprising success when an art collector from London created a hype around her art.
AP: How long have you been making art for and what lead you to start?
JS: I believe that all artists get born as artists. Art is nothing that you can learn at school, it´s a feeling you´ve got within yourself. For me being an artist doesn`t mean to be a Master of a certain technique but being a Master of a certain consciousness. Being an artist just means to have the ability to look beyond the obvious, to perceive things on a deeper and wider level maybe, to be more sensitive to the surrounding and to then consciously work with that. I believe that everybody is an artist but it´s a manner of choice to either focus on that part within or not. I remember when I was maybe 5 years old and playing in the garden that I picked up a leaf and was absolutely fascinated by it´s colors and structures. Then I got sad, thinking “How comes that people just call it a leaf without seeing all the many beautiful layers of it?”. I guess that´s when I started to be an artist. After a moment like that all it takes is to never allow society to take away your childishness, sensitivity and playfulness within and you are going to remain an artist for the rest of your life.
AP: Where do you currently live and work? And how does this influence your work?
JS: I live at the South coast of Portugal and I am working at home. I am lucky enough to live right at the ocean and the endless view to the horizon, as well as the colors of the water, inspire my artwork a lot. I love to just stare at the horizon and soar into my imagination. Or to just watch the seagulls fly freely. I spend most of my time alone at home with my dog, just doing my art.
AP: Did you have formal training if so what? If your self taught can you tell us what you prefer about being a self taught artist vs. having formal training?
JS: I am a self taught artist and never had any training. I started working with acrylic paints on canvas around 1995 and have been very passionate ever since to stretch my own limits, to try new medias, colors, techniques and to constantly evolve my abilities. I was supposed to go to the art academy after school but decided to take an adventure trip to Portugal instead. Today I am very happy that I never joined any school because it would have messed with the natural process of exploring my own skills and the joy and passion of that. Because I was not influenced by anybody else, I have always been free to find my own style, my very own way of expression. The learning experience of how to bring certain things on canvas is just a natural part of simply following my passion and vision. I would not want anybody to take that away from me by saying “You have to do it this or that way and use this or that colors and strokes”. I also think that the idea of judging art is really silly. How can anybody say that one painting is better than the other? Sure, we all have a personal taste but let´s leave it with that. I’d love to see all art critics on this planet become unemployed.
AP: Can you tell us about where you make your work is it in your house, a studio, etc. How does this environment affect your work?
JS: I work at home and I love it. That way I don`t have to drive or go anywhere when a sudden idea takes over. For example, I sometimes wake up at night with an idea for a painting and get so excited that I jump out of bed and start working on it right away. If I would first have to walk to my car to drive to my studio I would probably think twice about jumping out of bed. I am always flexible to decide when and for how long I will be painting.
AP: What are some of you favorite design projects/exhibitions you have worked on to date?
JS: Hm, I guess the most exciting exhibition that I ever had was a long time ago in a restaurant! I just had my paintings there on the walls for one night when suddenly an art collector from London walked in and bought a few pieces. A few days later everybody suddenly wanted to buy my art and I couldn`t even paint as quickly as I sold. I was working all night long to paint new paintings, then we hung them up the walls in the restaurant before the paint was even dry only to sell them right away. That was fun!
AP: What is your medium of choice?
JS: My main focus is on my paintings. I mostly work with acrylic paint and oil pastels on canvas. Sometimes I add ink, sand, fabric or other materials to it. Other times I paint wood boxes or vinyl toys. I also design and sew plush toys and fabric accessories.
AP: What is the relationship between technique and content in your work?
JS: Technique and content are a beautiful love couple in my work. There isn`t one without the other. It´s actually my technique of many layers of paint that shows me the content during the painting process. I allow the painting to sing to me, then I just follow the music. So am I doing the painting or is the painting doing me? I am really not sure at times.
AP: Your work combines various techniques and layers how do you go about this process and how long does one painting usually take you from start to completion?
JS: I usually start with the background and through many layers make the background become the foreground again. At first I start with an abstract painting, using acrylic paint. Then I step back and allow the painting to show me shapes and figures, then I outline these with ink or oil pastels and paint around it, then I add many more layers of paint around the figures. Sometimes I party paint over the figures again. It´s a melting process of many layers. The content is often just presenting itself to me during the painting process. At the end I add all kind of little details to it. For a bigger canvas I usually paint around 30 or 40 hours. A smaller canvas can be done in 10 to 15 hours. But on a big canvas I usually work a full week non-stop.
AP: You mostly depict animals in you’re painting can you tell us more about your chosen subject matter?
JS: Hm, yes, I love the organic shape of animals and to then give them some strong eyes with a souled human expression. My animals always play out human stories. I love the bizarre, yet cute combination of animals acting out as humans. Actually it´s hard for me to even make a separation here because in my imagination, within my world, reality is some sort of Disney movie. I even sometimes dream in cartoons at night. Sometimes I talk to a stranger and suddenly watch that stranger transmute into some colorful animal-like creature. Or I watch my dog and suddenly see an old wise man in him. Well, maybe my brain just works a little weird but my paintings reflect very well how I experience reality. Life is just a cartoon movie! So let´s not take it too serious.
AP: In what direction would you like to see your work going over the next five years?
JS: I would like to paint a few hundred paintings and would love to launch my own company selling my plush toys and accessories on a bigger scale. I also have a children’s book on my to do list. I would also like to be very rich one day.
AP: What forth-coming projects and or exhibitions do you have scheduled for 2011?
JS: I will show some paintings at 19 Karen gallery in Australia and will also have a couple of smaller shows around the area where I live. I will also be working on a few new plush designs and hopefully have them produced on a bigger scale by end of the year. I have some children books laying around that want to be illustrated but I am actually thinking to write and illustrate my own children’s book instead.
AP: Take us on a guided tour through a day in your life as an artist.
JS: I wake up in the morning and brew some coffee. I only wake up when my body is ready to wake up, I hate alarm clocks! As the coffee is brewing I usually start painting already. I paint three or four cups of coffee long, then I have breakfast. Then I take out my dog for a walk. After that I paint until the evening and then take my dog out for a walk again. Then I have dinner and either crash to bed or paint some more. In between I have many ciggys on my balcony and look at the ocean and the painting, check my e-mails and even reply to some. I also take showers daily! Oh yeah, and I design some shoes on zazzle before I fall into bed!
AP: Thank you for taking the time to share with us the insight into your world.
Thank you! I love Artsprojekt and it has been my honor!