Illustrator and De Gournay designer, Jessica Underwood tells us about her first job with Alexander McQueen, her love of people and how she overcomes creative block.
How did you get into illustration and the industry you’re in?
I’ve always drawn since I was young, and I started to draw what was around me when I studied English – I love narrative and the written word. Then I thought about how I could illustrate books and bring it all together. I got accepted to Central Saint Martins and went from there.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m really inspired by fashion and moments in time, and particular movements in history – I think it all rolls together. A lot of my illustrations are inspired by all of those things coming together, whether that’s the Ballet Russes or Vivienne Westwood or some kind of theatrical catwalk show.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I just do what feels interesting to me.
Biggest influence in your working life?
My first artistic job out of university was working for Alexander McQueen – what he did is one of the main energies I look to, and one of the main references points I’ve always sprung from.
Is there anything exciting you’re working on?
I’m working on an illustrated book and I can’t divulge too much but I’m working with a famous writer and I’ll be doing the illustrations. Right now I’m working for a hand painting wallpaper company here in London, so that’s taking up all of my hours.
Long term goals or aspirations?
I’d really like to travel more and be around different inspirations that I haven’t felt yet.
Do you ever get creative block and if so how do you overcome it?
Creative block is something I’ve experienced three times in my life in the broader sense and usually it’s been triggered by a move or something that wrong foots you for a moment so your output becomes less. The best thing to do is to try something new and remind yourself you haven’t got bored, or really pay attention to something like read a book and read it well, read it to the end and realise how much information you have thoughtfully gathered.
How do you see the landscape of your industry changing?
I feel comfortable in it weirdly, I think there’s a real intelligence around the acceleration of technology and its making people more acutely aware of their humanness because of how detached it’s made us feel. I am adamant that we must learn to use technology in an intelligent way. In terms of applying that to creativity it can only be positive. So long as you’re not diluting your work because of technology I think it’s going to be a really amazing asset.
Biggest achievement to date?
Being an alive human and having the good people that I love around me. I did a talk at the V&A about my work and that felt like one of the biggest things I had done and it was incredibly rewarding. The people that I met while I was there were amazing and truly inspiring, I’ll always remember it.
Who inspires you?
Rosie (Jess’s sister – read her interview here)! We’re so different and so close – we have such an interesting relationship. She’s so sparkly – my favourite person.
What advice would you give to another woman?
Really feel like yourself, be yourself every moment of every day and breathe a lot. Also go slow, it’s really good for you.