Featured illustrator: Jessica Whittaker

 Jessica Whittaker is the artist behind our October book club art for We Have Always Lived in a Castle . Jessica is one of our many talented interns and we knew we really hit the jackpot with her she she created our Spooky Town Cake Topper! Since that moment we have been lucky enough to see her in action as she creates masterpieces for Lars (stay tuned for many fun projects coming up!). Jessica is currently a student at Brigham Young University, she will graduate this coming spring with a BFA in illustration. Jess grew up with a deep love for creating, this love is evident in the work she does not only at Lars but also in her work outside of Lars. We are so excited to introduce this fresh new face to you and can’t wait for you to get to know her a little better!

Interview with Jessica Whittaker

What do you consider yourself?  

My brain finds this to be such a loaded question.  Am I just a student? Or am I an illustrator that happens to also be a student?  Do I have the right to call myself an artist/illustrator? Have I ‘earned’ it? Am I even good enough?  My professors at BYU always teach us that we ARE illustrators and that’s what we should call ourselves so—Illustrator.  I am an Illustrator. (!)

Who helped you “become” who you are?

Hands down my parents.  They’re my strongest supporters and biggest fans.  I was Always drawing or painting when I was little and my parents were saints–always supporting my love of creating and providing me with art supplies even though money was really tight.

In my college days they have been a critical resource for me in being able to navigate school, health problems, and making art.  I used to have a really hard time starting on my school illustration projects—I was so entrenched in and paralyzed by my anxiety it was near impossible for me to do anything.  My dad would call every time I got a new assignment to help me clear and calm my mind, take deep breaths, and jump into the project. Without that help I never would have been able to make it this far.

How did your childhood influence what you have become?

I was definitely that little kid who spent hours reading, painting, and drawing.  Some of my earliest and clearest memories of my childhood are of painting rocks–it was one of my most beloved hobbies.  I would go out in search of rocks (and occasionally seashells) that met my approval. I would then take them home, don my Crayola Crayon studded apron, and paint away.  Sometimes making them into weird little rock creatures and other times just painting whatever my heart desired on them. Afterward I’d either give them to people for their doorsteps or place them in random places for people to find.  I LOVED IT. I remember it bringing me so much joy. Those experiences of pure unadulterated joy have 100% stuck with me and influenced my creative process in my studies.

What did you want to be when you were young versus when it was time to decide what to actually do?

When I was young I 100% wanted to be an artist, archeologist, and marine biologist but I most definitely gravitated the most towards artist.  That stuck with me until my first year of high school when I pulled a complete 180 and decided I wanted to be a nurse and to take Orchestra with my friends instead of art classes and spent my high school years creating next to nothing (which I regret now but I also love those memories).

I came to college with studying Illustration completely off my radar—it wasn’t even in the same universe as my radar.  By some random ‘chance’ I decided to take a figure drawing class for fun and the rest was history! I couldn’t imagine studying anything else even though I was terrible at figure drawing and my teacher said my drawings looked like slugs (they did).  But I took that experience and learned from it and here I am about to graduate from BYU with a BFA in Illustration!

Do you feel like you’ve arrived at what you set out to do?

Yes, but mostly no. I’ve accomplished so many of my goals like getting into the BYU  Illustration program and then the BFA Illustration Program. My most current goal is to graduate, and after that to break into the surface design market and hopefully get a gig.  After that—who knows the world is wide open! (scary but true)

What more would you like to “become”?

I like to think of my life right now as a “Choose your own adventure” flowchart–it makes all the options far less overwhelming!  Right now the adventure I’m working towards is to be a surface designer, especially in textiles. In the BFA Illustration Program at BYU we have to complete a Capstone Project and Exhibit that is made with our desired market in mind.  For my capstone I am creating a fabric collection inspired by the French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saens’ The Carnival of the Animals—a humorous musical suite of 14 movements.  I’ll also be sewing things out of the fabric I design, like stuffed animals and pillows, and I can’t wait to get crafting with my very own fabric.

What’s your goal with your work?

First and foremost my goal as an illustrator is to help make ordinary things extraordinary, spark joy in the lives of people, and help people live a more artful and colorful life. I recently read Ingrid Fetell Lee’s book Joyful and it has become a part of who I am and definitely inspires my goals with my work.

My second goal is to help those with mental illness feel less isolated and more empowered with my passion project Lionhearted which I’ll be ready to share very soon!

What’s your work space like?

I could spend my lifetime perusing Pinterest looking at different artists’ studios and workspaces.  They just make my heart happy! Since I’m currently a student with a part time job and an internship I currently work wherever I get a chance to.  BUT my happy place is my workspace in my bedroom even though I haven’t been able to give it the TLC I’d like to. I love *scouring the shelves at DI for little treasures/knick knacks to put at my desk and I cycle through them to freshen things up when I need a change.

What artists/designers/creatives do you look up to? Both historical or present.

Some of my favorite artists of all time and why are:

  • Matisse—his pieces made from paper cut outs LOVE THEM.
  • Mary Blair—a wizard plain and simple, her It’s a Small World work and Cinderella concept art are among my favorites of hers.
  • David Klein—abstract and bright iconic travel posters that changed the face of travel posters.
  • Josef Franz—his textiles are to die for I could stare at them for days!
  • Ludwig Bemelmans—whimsical and lyrical Madeline illustrations, can never get enough of them
What’s inspiring you lately? 
So many things!  The work of the above artists for sure and then just a conglomeration of wonderful things such as: vintage botanical and science drawings, National Geographic photographs, old architecture and buildings, reading books, big fun earrings, vintage clothing, history, roller blading, clouds, 80s music, BBC Planet Earth, and so much more.
We are so excited to watch Jessica on her journey as an illustrator! We are sure she is going to do incredible things, don’t forget about us when you’re famous!

You can find Jessica at:

Instagram: @jesslwhittaker
Website of Jessicajessicawhittakerart.com

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