MEET THE ARTIST: JESSE

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from and how did you come to live in London?

I grew up in London and, apart from studying in Oxford and spending a few years living in Barcelona, I have always been based here. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the city.

Being so vast it has the potential to offer everything but it is far too easy to settle into a routine and end up moving between a few distinct areas and not really making full use of what is available.

2. Explain the route you took to where you are now artistically.

Art was always something I enjoyed when I was younger but the school I went to encouraged “sensible” jobs, so I studied biology and anthropology at university, particularly looking at both ancient and contemporary body decoration just at the time that piercing was starting to become popular in the U.K.

Afterwards I decide to learn to pierce and then, after being encouraged to consider tattooing, I spent time learning (relearning?) to draw.

I tend to be both precise and analytical in my approach. I also naturally prefer a more physical interaction with my work. Digital art allows me to explore ideas but carving linoleum and creating prints is what I enjoy most at the moment and feels closest to tattooing.

3. Do you have any particular influences?

Whilst at the time I wasn’t fully appreciative of it I have memories of visits to art galleries on every family holiday growing up. My mother also worked for the an artist’s charity, the AGBI, which meant I had free access to the Royal Academy exhibitions in London.

Today I draw my influences from many sources, Asian design, wood and metal carving and traditional folk art from around the world. I try not to look too closely at other artists as I find similarities to their work creeping into mine to an extent that other perhaps would not notice, but I do.

4. Talk to us about your particular materials and techniques.

Linoleum carving is a process I really enjoy. I feel very comfortable with it as it closely mirrors aspects of tattooing in terms of design preparation and the manuality of producing the plate.

I am also interested in starting to explore both woodblock printing and also wood carving. I find that the more I have to physically invest in a piece the more i connect with it emotionally.

5. What relationship do you have with social media?

I find social media horrible. When it was about exploring and discovering incredible and exciting new artists, ideas and concepts I enjoyed it.

It has now become a chore that is deemed necessary, because “everyone” uses it but in fact is a false, contrived image. It encourages people not decide for themselves what they like but to follow blindly what other people have decided to be important.

I also have very little interest in creating the, seemingly requisite, false image of myself to present to the world in order to allow people to “know” me. 

6. Do you listen to music while you work? Is it an inspiration, or a way to concentrate?

I love music but what I listen to varies depending on whether I need to concentrate, relax or do a repetitive task. I also find that I will fall into the trap of listening to a small number of artists on loop, so working with others is a great way to hear and discover new things.

7. Outside of your work what are your other passions or interests?

Without deliberately pursuing a particular sport I have always found myself hill walking, cycling, skiing, roller skating, practising yoga...

I also love cooking but after the current lockdown ends I’m looking forward to going somewhere where I can get someone else to prepare, cook and clean up a whole meal for me.

8. What was the best piece of advice you were given or have to give?

You cannot learn to really love doing something so, if you find something you really love, you should pursue it.

Art was something that I had moved away from but I that always loved. At the time what I really loved and wanted to do was learn to tattoo but I felt that it was impossible. An artist friend told me that anyone can learn to draw. You just have to sit and practise every day. Some people will find it easier, some harder but, if you dedicate some time every day, by the end of a year you will see improvement. I have been tattooing for over a decade now, and following this advice has allowed me the freedom and confidence to expand my horizons beyond just one form of artistic expression, to start exploring different techniques and styles.