Artist Jessica Zoob…
creating images to dream into
“I’m deeply concerned with creating beauty. There is value in humanity, value in the world, there is beauty and we have to focus on it, capture it, love it and celebrate it. That’s the point!”
Catching her between painting and preparing for her Open Studio, we had a delightful meeting with Jessica Zoob, covering all manner of things from her evolution as an artist, her other personal projects, her purpose as an artist and even her ideas about the expansion of our magazine.
We met at her studio just north of Lewes. With a large window commanding a spirit-lifting view of the South Downs and flooding the space with natural light, the studio is awash with vibrant colours; huge multi-coloured canvasses line the walls, work spaces are a kaleidoscope of colour, paint splashes seem everywhere and even the artist herself is a vison, shrouded in flourishes of multihued oil paint.
Originally a theatre designer, at the beginning of the Millennium she made the momentous decision to became a full-time artist. As a youngster she was mentored by a remarkable woman who made costumes for opera and ballet. She tells us, “I had some extraordinary experiences during my teens working with this amazing and talented woman. For example we made Darcey Bussell’s first Juliet costume. Ballet, opera and theatre were my passion. My then husband was a theatre director and we became ‘theatre gypsies’, travelling all the time, moving house frequently. Becoming a mother made it a difficult career to manage, nearly impossible to be the mother I wanted to be and the designer I wanted to be. I had to make a decision.”
She switched tracks, taking on some corporate, interior and fashion design work. “It was great fun but not quite right for me,” she tells us. “In the year 2000 I took a giant leap of faith and decided to paint. Luckily, I had been trained in how to draw and paint at Central and my work in theatre had always been very painterly and I had always painted since being a child. It’s not an uncommon cross-over. Yolanda Sonnabend, for example, was a British theatre and ballet designer as well as a painter.”
It seems that Jessica’s new direction as a full-time artist was an immediate success. “I’ve been very lucky; as soon as I started painting people wanted to buy my work and galleries were interested and things just snowballed along. This was what I wanted to do, it was incredibly liberating. In the theatre most of the work was collaborative and deadlines had to be met. Now I had no constraints except my own imagination.”
For the first ten years Jessica worked from her home in Lewes before moving into her purpose-built studio in the countryside. We began to talk about her creativity, her methods and principles as an artist and also what advice would she give to emerging artists. “I’ve met current art students who have had their creativity knocked out of them having to justify the marks they make, having to answer questions such as which school are they following. It’s stifling. Painting for me is a joy, a spontaneous joy, following my emotions. My work gives me so much pleasure and that’s what communicates. The paintings make my clients smile and it lifts their spirits. They buy because they fall in love with a particular piece. Marketing may cause people to arrive, but it won’t achieve sales – If you don’t love it you won’t buy it. But for me it’s never been about the money.
“If someone is focused on making money they will make money but that doesn’t make them an artist, it makes them a business person. Fine Art is becoming valued again and is the total opposite of instant gratification. A piece of mine can take 3 or 4 years to make, with 40 or 50 layers per painting – there are paintings lost within the painting giving glimpses of lost layers, the opposite of instant and gone.
“If you are not true to your own inner voices, if you know a painting is not the best you can do, but put it out there anyway, you are not doing yourself any favours. I don’t sell something unless I want to keep it and it hurts to sell it! There is a magical thing that can’t be quantified, your heart and soul goes into the work and that’s why people buy it, that’s the whole point of art. There is only one of it and it directly communicates. I’ve had clients come from across the world and burst into tears over a painting. Seeing people reacting, encounters with people who love my work, to witness that is an amazing thing. That is why having an open studio is such a special thing.”
We carried on chatting as we were leaving – Jessica’s parting comment said it all… “I’m deeply concerned with creating beauty.”
Jessica’s Open Studio: Banff Farm, East Sussex BN8 5RR. 6th & 7th, 20th & 21st May, 11am-5pm or by appointment. Go to www.jessicazoob.com for more on Jessica and her work.