Jessica May Underwood and Living a Creative Life: A Conversation
To many, the life of an artist is a mystery. Scrolling through the stories that we offer our readers gives a window into what it means to work and live as an artist, but always through the lens of certain jobs. Those lenses are limited. There’s only so much that each project can tell us about an artist, how they live, and what their macro process is. But every now and then we get a deeper look at the way an artist creates and approaches the world. Recently, Jessica May Underwood sat down with Lou Stoppard at the Victoria and Albert Museum to discuss Jessica’s career, process, inspirations, and take on some cultural issues. We’ve attached the conversation below, which we encourage you to listen in total.
The artistically curious would be interested to hear that Jessica never really set out with the intention of being a professional illustrator. Instead in was a combination of passion and skill that thrust her into a world she never aimed for. “I never thought I could make it into a career. I never planned it. I never set my cap at being an illustrator,” Jessica explains. But when Alexander McQueen’s team saw her work they hand picked her to join the collective, if for nothing more than to give it a try. It ended up influencing her deeply enough that she’s still inspired by her time there. “Going into McQueen’s working world was really influential for me,” she says. “Suddenly. You’re not being told to draw a picture, you’re being told to help create a vision. And to help create a world.”
They go on to discuss the value of beauty, the importance of tangible work, and whether it’s possible to use social media to build a career. Responding to what Jessica says, Lou stepped in and brought up the point that in a world saturated by beautifully manipulated photographs, illustration offers something intimate that has been lost in fashion photography. “[Illustration] is almost more human in a way,” Lou says. “There’s always that saying that ‘People trust images more than words,’ but I think photography now, people almost presume things have been manipulated, or presume they’ve been retouched. Whereas illustration there’s always a sense of someone made this, there’s a connection with someone.”
If you're looking to gain a deeper understanding of how fashion, illustration, and artistry intersect: this conversation is for you.