painting blooms: the bright imagination of jess phoenix
Name: Jess Phoenix
Location: Seattle, WA
Social Media: @jessraephoenix
Inspired by color, Her work is filled with bright hues, unique patterns, and a vivid imagination. Using flowers as a vehicle for the depiction of color, she isn’t going to tone her work down anytime soon. her vibrant shades within each piece have grown to become a unique style of her own. She describes her artwork as a dimension of her personality, embracing curiosity in her style discovery. Her work has been featured on stationery, book covers, and embroidery amongst others. Her clients include Urban Outfitters, Birchbox, Tattly, and more.
Meet Seattle-based illustrator and surface designer, Jess Phoenix.
Hi jess! Thank you for taking the time to speak with Pop, so happy to have you. To start off, why don’t you Tell us a bit about yourself and your profession.
“I am an illustrator/pattern designer who emphasizes on creating super vibrant florals. I had been designing gift product for almost 10 years when I realized I needed to create artwork that was completely mine, so I started creating floral pieces and selling them as embellished prints on my website. That then evolved into companies and brands reaching out to have me create custom work for them. I've been able to do projects for Birchbox, Tattly, Urban Outfitters and loads of others -- which I never expected! When I started out, I never imagined I'd have the opportunities I've had so far and I am very thankful for them!”
that’s amazing, congratulations on those incredible achievements. that’s something to be very proud of. Clearly you have a very unique style pattern which makes your work very eye-catching. do you think your personality is depicted in your work?
“It's funny -- so much of my work is vibrant and bright and colorful, but I am actually a really private, intense, and somewhat awkward person... who wears a lot of grey and black! As a kid, I was labeled as shy and quiet, which is true to an extent, but I knew in private situations where I felt comfortable, I was incredibly goofy and sarcastic. My artwork is an expression of the vibrant and fun aspects of me, but I think I also use it as a way to deflect attention. Sort of saying "Look at my art! Don't look at me!" So much of social media these days is encouraging people to be open and vulnerable, which I love... but it's honestly hard for me to personally do that. I kind of treasure my own unique intensity (which has taken several years of therapy to do!), so I try to keep a lot of myself to myself -- and the people who I love and trust. I've got A LOT of feelings! I would say the intensity of the colors I use in my art are a direct representation of all the swirling, vibrating, intense things going on in me.”
“That's why I started making my floral art. I needed a place where I didn't have to tone it down. I needed a place where I could express my intensity and dig into the color.”
it seems your work is definitely an expression of your personality then. do you look externally for creative inspiration as well? Are there any people (in pop culture, personal life, or out in the world) that stand out to you as a source of creativity?
“When I first started making my artwork, I was heavily influenced by Helen Dealtry. I just loved her colors and how her floral art looks good on anything. I love what she's built for herself and what she continues to do with her art. Another source of inspiration for me is Judit Just. She is an amazing textile artist and her colors are phenomenal. My goal is to get one of her pieces some day so I can just stare at it forever.
In my personal life, I am inspired by my husband, Tom DesLongchamp. He is an artist/animator and he just has one of those visionary minds. No one makes things like him. And he's been my biggest champion for 15 years!”
why don’t you tell us a bit about your earlier work & how you got started. What was your first piece of work? Where did the idea come from?
“My first piece was Neon Blooms. I never really intended to focus on making floral art, but I was mostly interested in exploring color and flowers are a very easy vehicle for that. I had tried exploring color with abstract art before that, but I could never get it to a place that I felt truly confident about. So when I started making the petals and stems and combining everything together in Photoshop, something just clicked. I remember looking at the piece and thinking "This could work!" Before then, I wouldn't really say I had a distinct style, which is big for illustrators.
People are always very intent on finding their "style" -- the visual language they speak that makes them unique from other illustrators. It's not really something you can force into being, and it's entirely possible to have a few different styles throughout your life. The art I was making when I graduated from Art School was waaaaaaay different than what I make now. The main thing to do is to just follow what makes you curious. I was curious about color, so I just wanted to figure out a way to play with it in a structured way. Some people are all about texture. Or drawing a specific thing, over and over. If you're into it, follow it and see where it takes you!”
finding your style is certainly a process that requires time and practice. What helps you foster patience & prevent discouragement when creating a piece?
“I do not feel I have a lot of patience with art! I work very quickly, which can be a blessing, but it can also make me just feel like a machine, churning out content. But because I work fast, I feel I can move on easier if something just isn't working out, visually. But it is really hard to work on a piece and compose it all...and then I just CAN'T get the color right! That's the hardest part for me, since that's where I get the most satisfaction. I've never thought that I have a super unique way of illustrating flowers and plants -- it's all about my color choices. So when that part is lacking, I can get very discouraged. But I feel that it's best to walk away from the piece...or to create a new version of it entirely. I have that luxury since I create my art in Photoshop. I do actually paint and draw every individual leaf and petal on tracing paper, but I do not color things until after I've scanned in those pieces and composed them together. So I guess that does take a certain amount of patience!
The biggest source of discouragement for me (and I'm ashamed to say this!) is Instagram! While I am super happy with how I've been able to grow my presence, and I'm super thankful for the people that follow me and engage with my artwork, if a piece doesn't perform how I thought it would, I get really bummed. I try not to. My husband tried to reel me in on that! But it can be hard. Because after a lot of these pieces are posted...that's it or them! Unless they get licensed by someone or I turn them into a print on my site, their sole purpose was to sit in my IG feed. But, artists are supposed to keep making. You're not supposed to make one awesome piece and think "I've arrived!" You make something, show it, then start the process all over again. “
Lastly, pop is always interested in hearing about sources of inspiration for creators. What would you say inspires you?
“Color! At my design job, I would sometimes create a product and apply a color palette that was really bright. The color would bounce off each other and vibrate against your eyes, like teal and pink. I love it when that happens! But I would get feedback that people felt that was too harsh, so I would have to tone it down. That's why I started making my floral art. I needed a place where I didn't have to tone it down. I needed a place where I could express my intensity and dig into the color. I'm just so thankful that so many people have been on board with my colors and are happy with me going bold and bright! No need to 'tone it down' anymore!”