This week Brighton Journal spoke to Hove-based illustrator and painter, Jessica Ford. Jessica works from her seaside studio, creating uplifting and colourful paintings that aspire to bring joy into the home. At the moment she’s working on a number of commissions and launching a new range of silk scarves featuring her work. We discussed the work of local artists who inspire Jessica’s painting, as well as her love of acrylic paints and walking on the South Downs. Keep reading to find out more about Jessica and her wonderful work.
What are you doing today?
Today I’m starting on a new commission for a lovely customer who I met through Instagram. Katherine has been the sweetest supporter of my work, and is always so full of enthusiasm and positivity, so I’m really excited to work on this painting for her. The start is always exciting, as you’re always wondering where it might lead.
Describe where you do most of your creative work.
I have a lovely little studio in Hove, a short walk away from the beach. I’ve worked in shared studios before but I really appreciate solitude when I’m painting, so I can really focus (and also play my music loud!). My studio gets the best light in the mornings so I tend to do the bulk of my painting before 2pm, and save the afternoons for my illustration work (my other career!)
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?
I had a show in Notting Hill which was really exciting. Richard Curtis visited and nearlllly bought a painting. It’s the anecdote that didn’t quite happen, haha!
What made you decide to become an artist?
To be honest, I don’t think I could have been anything else! My life was always destined to follow a creative path, as both my parents worked in the arts and my childhood was very creative. I feel like it was written in the stars that I would follow a similar path too! I’m so very grateful that art was held in such esteem within my family, and that I have been encouraged and cheered on my whole life. I have worked as a commercial illustrator for 15 years but I decided 5 years ago that I wanted to escape my computer and start physically making art again. It’s been a lovely respite from all that screen time, and I now wonderfully get to run two careers side by side.
What are you currently working on?
I have three commissions booked in for this coming month, but I’ll also be working on some new paintings to sell via Instagram. In the coming months, I’m also going to be launching a range of silk scarves with my paintings on them, which I’m very excited about! I think we all need a little Winter treat to get us through these dark months, and I think these could provide a nice boost to my customers during these lockdown months. Not everyone can afford an original painting, so I sell prints of my work too. The scarves will be a nice addition to the range, I think!
What are the key themes in your work?
When I started painting I was keen to make paintings that were really uplifting. I’m not really interested in baring my soul on the canvas, but more interested in making art that brings good vibes into the home! There’s a LOT of colour, and pink does feature pretty heavily. I get a lot of customers having to persuade their husbands that pink is a good idea, and I have to say, the men generally do grow to love it!
What would you like people to notice about your work?
That’s a good question! Hmmm. People are generally surprised to see the level of texture and subtleties when they see the paintings in the flesh. It’s hard to capture those qualities in a photograph, and so it’s really nice to see customers’ extra enthusiasm when they have the painting in front of them.
What attracts you to the medium you work in?
I really love the messiness of paint and the instant result that you get. For me, oils take too long to dry, (and they’re too stinky!), so I made the deliberate choice to use acrylics. The quality is so good these days that I don’t think it’s too much of a compromise. And with adding mediums to the paint you can create amazing textures.
What equipment could you not do without?
I have a professional, large, daylight lamp in my studio, to help boost the light during the grey winter months. You can’t always rely upon good weather to give you the light that you need. And this Winter has seemed particularly grey and gloomy!
Who or what inspires you?
Three of my favourite artists who have been a great inspiration, and who have also given me such great advice over the years, are: Becky Blair, Sophie Abbott (both fellow Brighton artists!) and Lola Donoghue, who is based in Ireland. They use colour in beautiful ways, and have been painting for years, so I really look to them as them as the masters of this craft!
How is your work affected by living in this area?
I feel honoured to live in such a creative city, full of like-minded, free spirits! It really is a city full of artists! The Artists Open Houses that (normally) happens twice a year is a great opportunity to see first-hand the calibre of amazing talent we have here.
A lot of my paintings get sold to local people, which is so lovely. I love the idea of my paintings making their mark on the local community!
Living and working so close to the sea has definitely impacted my work. It’s such a constant calming presence, and a great place to escape to when the creative juices aren’t flowing!
What’s your favourite thing to do locally?
I love walking on the Sussex Downs, followed by a great Sunday roast with friends (pre covid!). We have such incredible countryside round here, plus we have amazing country pubs! Win, win!
What’s your favourite gallery (or place to see/experience art)?
One of my favourite galleries is the Tate in St Ives. It’s such a magical place, with such an incredible history of local artists who worked there. And it’s true, the light in Cornwall really is amazing! Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron, Ben Nicolson, Henry Moore… I love them all! Patrick Heron’s work was one of the reasons I started painting, as I just love all the bold and bright colours he uses.
If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be and why?
Perhaps Picasso… not only for his insane talent but his wild, bohemian life looked pretty fun too!
What’s your favourite colour?
It’s gotta be PINK!