Cool Careers: Fashion Illustrator

01.25.13 Simplicity Cotton Candy Magazine

Of the many careers to choose from, few are as alluring and elusive than that of a fashion illustrator.  Breaking into the world of illustration can be challenging, but rewarding for those who use their creativity to rise to the top in fashion and publishing.  Cotton Candy got a chance to chat with one of our industry faves, Jessica Durrant.  The 31 year old living in Atlanta, GA shares what drives her in life, how to break into the business and the inspiration behind her work.

Cotton Candy: Tell us a little about yourself.  We know you’re one of the most popular illustrators in the cosmopolitan city of Atlanta.  But where do you consider your hometown?

Good question.  I have lived in so many places, but I consider Las Vegas home. I lived in Las Vegas for a good ten years and graduated from high school there.

What would you say is your dream city?
Too many.  But if I was dreaming, it would be Rome.

We know that in order to be an artist, you must have inspiration.  What inspires you when you paint?
So many things inspire artists. I would say the world around me, other artists, my life and the people who are a part of it, nature, traveling, music and all the images I come across in magazines and online. My art is a mishmash of what I love and how I am feeling. When I feel uninspired I do not paint. It’s normal and refreshing to take breaks. You can’t force a good painting. Only paint when you truly feel inspired and ready to.

When did you first discover you were talented at artwork, and have you ever doubted your ability?
I have been drawing since I was three or four years old. I don’t know if I considered myself talented at a young age. I just knew I loved drawing.

I don’t think any artist doesn’t doubt his or her abilities from time to time. Doubt and discouragement will enter your life every now and then. It’s about rising above the fear of failure and doing something that scares and surprises you.  I really loved fashion illustration when I started researching it more in college. I love fashion, and I love drawing people.  So I was naturally drawn to it. I have a series of world maps and travel-inspired illustrations. I also love to create pieces that are bit more edgy and darker. If you look at the scope of my work you’ll see a range of moods and emotions conveyed. I want my work to reflect all the different feelings we go through in life.

(Click the photos below.)

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Who has been your greatest encourager?
So many.  My parents always supported me, and my teacher in high school – Ms. Lyle – was always encouraging me. My friends, fans and the people in my life who support me [all] make a huge impact on me.

When did you first consider yourself a professional?
(Laughs) Sometimes I still feel like I’m ten years old and I’m living in a grown-up’s body. Most artists do have a childish side to them. I think that paying bills with my art makes me feel professional. (Laughs)

Who do you consider your audience?
That’s hard to nail because I do have all types of customers. I want people to love what I create.  And anyone who loves it too, I feel a connection with them. Corny sounding, I know. But I think that’s why you create: to feel a connection to others.

Did you study fashion illustration?
I studied illustration at Southern Utah University. While there, I earned my Bachelors of Arts with an emphasis in Illustration. One of my professors, Ben Sowards, was an illustrator, and he was painting images for books – when he wasn’t teaching. He taught us a lot about how the illustration industry works.

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What would you say to those trying to break into the business?
Create only what you love and are inspired by. Get a website, and work your butt off creating. Don’t let setbacks or failures stop you from pushing forward. Artists have to be resilient to make it.

Who do you hope to illustrate for?
I am wrapping up some great projects for clients I never thought I would work for. The ideal subject for me is a woman.

Tell us a little bit about your favorite piece that you’ve created.
One of my favorites is Trees as Veins. There are some paintings I don’t like to talk about specifically because they are quite personal. I don’t like using words to express my emotions – just visuals.

If you weren’t a fashion illustrator, what would you be doing?
Probably doing what I did before – working in an art museum and teaching even more. I teach on the side to get out of studio and be inspired by my students.

What drives you in life?

How do you continue to learn?
Life teaches me every day that I’ve got lots of learning and growing to do. I can’t believe how much I have learned in the last few years. 

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