As the Melbourne Art Fair (13 – 17 August) gets in to full swing, thought I would share an interview with the witty, intelligent and incredibly talented Jackie Case, who is exhibiting at the Art Fair. I sat down with Jackie a few weeks ago, and came away with so much more than I had bargained for. Jackie Case is a Melbourne-based artist who specialises in intricately detailed fine drawings. I first saw Jackie’s work at the Canterbury Art Show a few years back and again this year. I was so taken by her quirky detailed drawings I purchased one for my daughters room and plucked up the courage to ask Jackie for an interview. It never ceases to amaze me how us women can just cut through all the crap. There’s so much that can be gained from meeting people like Jackie. I’ve been thinking a lot about what Jackie and I discussed that day. Jackie made me think, perhaps a little deeper than often I am required to, or was it that we discussed issues and topics I wouldn’t normally discuss? Jackie is so open and refreshingly frank. She’s intelligent, well travelled, passionate about so many things and is just so truly grateful to be in the position that she is in. I just don’t often hear people say how truly grateful they are. We all should, more often, but mostly we don’t. We get caught up in life. Perhaps the hours that Jackie spends concentrating on the incredibly fine details in her pencil drawings allows her mind to just be in that moment, whilst the rest of the world whirls around her. This I found really interesting, as it’s this ‘stopping in your tracks’ effect that Jackie’s drawings have on you. They are so detailed and intriguing, often in a quirky way that they just draw you in. You can’t help but lean a little closer, linger a little longer and whilst you do – you are still. You are thinking of nothing else but those fine lines of the cheeky robin with his red cape. The wrinkled skin on the elephants knees. Do elephants really have skin like that on their knees?, apparently they do. The big doe eyes of the innocent girl staring back at you. Truly beautiful, thought provoking and humorous. Jackie puts these emotions together so succinctly in her response to my final question, “I learnt how important it is to find something that makes you stop, and smile, and forget”.
Jackie Case’s works are currently exhibited at the Melbourne Art Fair, Rebecca Hossack Gallery – London and New York and later in the year at Art for All (12-14 September, 2014) and Splash (Oct 17-19, 2014).
Tell us about yourself/background.
I come from a large Melbourne family. My mother is very creative and artistic – she could make an uber cool Easter bonnet using a plastic bag and some crepe paper. My father was a dentist and had very fine motor skills. I think I inherited a bit of both.
Did you always want to be an artist?
Yes, and no. I really liked the idea of being an artist. As early as primary school, I had romantic ideas of living in Paris in a creative community of like minded souls. But I didn’t like the idea of being a ‘starving artist’. I love my food! I was deeply concerned how difficult it was to make any sort of ‘self supportive’ life in the arts. It wasn’t until year ten at high school that I discovered graphic design. It changed my thinking instantly. Here was my answer – I could get paid to be creative.
What path did you take after finishing school?
As wonderful as the theory component at my high school was, and an amazing building block for future study. My high school, at the time, didn’t offer graphics as a V.C.E subject.
Undeterred, I took what folio I had, and interviewed at every reputable T.A.F.E in Melbourne. I was very fortunate to be offered a place at a fantastic T.A.F.E. There, I literally worked my ‘arse off’. I was determined to get a Graphic Design Degree. Fortunately, all that effort did pay off, as I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphic Design from R.M.I.T.
What led you to where you are today?
However, by the time I finished university I felt a bit burnt by the whole experience. I just felt it all got too political and formulaic to a particular style of design. So I did what every young Australian does and went to Europe. For two years I lived as a ‘starving backpacker’ and had a wonderful time. I didn’t draw, but I did go to as many galleries as I could. I think I went to the Louvre four times – which was a huge expense at the time.
On my return I did end up working full time as a Graphic designer, specialising in web design and interactive technology. However, my computer screen was always covered in finger marks and I longed for something more tactile.
Then I picked up a pencil…
Arnold Schwarzenegger – of all people, stated in ‘Pumping Iron’ (hey – I have four brothers). Do something every day towards your goal. This is so true. If you want to be an artist, simply start drawing. Use what you have. Look at Jean Michel Basquiat. He drew on the walls, on doors, where ever he could. Make a point to work a little bit every day, step by step, towards this. Read, watch, go to exhibitions and learn. Once you ‘get over yourself’ and start to show your work, it does get a lot easier. And who knows what may happen.
Can you tell us about your recent/upcoming exhibitions. Where was/is it being held? Dates? How you felt it went.
This year has already been very busy with with several group shows including Canterbury Art and my first solo show in Sydney with The Sweets Workshop, both wonderful experiences. I have more shows coming up, including The Lounge in August and feature artist at ‘Art for all’ and first time at ‘Splash’. I enjoy the challenge of every exhibition, but the one I am looking forward to the most is The Melbourne Art Fair 2014.
How would you describe your artwork?
Probably the best way to describe my work would be ‘delicate’. It requires two types of pencil sharpeners and then I still have to hand file my pencils to get the point I need. All this effort and all it takes is too much pressure – ‘snap’. It’s really hard to replicate the quality. Scans don’t look very good at all, no matter what the resolution. I’ve started doing ink and pencil which look better scanned, but it is my pencil work which I guess I’m more known for.
Do you have an idea of what you are going to draw from the outset? Or do some pieces unravel once you start the process of putting pencil to paper?
Both. Sometimes I know, yes, I’m going to draw a bird, but during the process I might be thinking about birds flying and “hey – what if I put a little cape on this bird?” Or I might come up with a title which really works with the image I’m drawing and takes it in a whole new direction. My ‘elephants in the room ‘ definitely came from this type of thinking.
What does a typical day involve for you?
After the morning rush, which is a sloths pace as I’m not a morning person. I try and get down to my studio by 10. I have a massive table that is 3m x 1.5m, and it’s usually absolutely covered in ‘stuff’. You’d be amazed how much mess a 9cm x 6cm drawing can make! I’m also very good at procrastinating. I love it when I’m settled and drawing, but I can really fluff around, looking on the internet, day dreaming… drinking coffee.
Having the structure of exhibitions really keeps me focused. I do draw all hours of the day or night, and I find it hard to switch off. I truly believe being an artist is a lifestyle not a job.
Top 5 resources for inspiration.
1. Walking Melbourne’s graffiti splashed cobblestone lane ways.
2. Family and friends and the funny things they are interested in or say.
3. Readings or other good book stores.
4. Libraries – just to look around and pick up random books.
5. You tube – I love watching documentaries, arts programs, music videos… anything until you end up in the ‘weird section’ again…
Which other local artists, designers or creative people are you liking at moment.
I really admire the work of Leunig. Occasionally I see him walking around Clifton Hill, he probably thinks I’m a stalker. I also love Ghostpatrol and have been following his work for years. He does the most amazing street murals and his style is instantly recognisable. Beautiful.
What are you looking forward to?
I am especially excited about having my work in ‘Melbourne Art 2014’. To have my drawings on display with the very best art around, is an honour and a thrill. Rebecca Hossack Gallery, chooses her artists with a sense of fun. This is very important to me too, to have a space which entertains whilst engaging. This compliments some of the more cerebral and confronting work. Life is really a mixture of both.
Favourite place to shop in Melbourne for:
Home wares: The Works in Hawthorn. Great place to find reasonably priced home wares, and you can also get a super cheap coffee at the upstairs light filled cafe.
Clothes: Savers. Eco-friendly recycling. I love to find unique pieces and give them a second life.
Restaurants/cafes: Best coffee would have to be found at Basecamp in the Kew Junction. Hidden behind the main shops, but well worth looking for!
What are 5 things most people don’t know about Jackie Case?
1. Failed art in high school (Year 9) for being lazy. I told mum it was an ‘E’ for excellent. I don’t think she believed me.
2. I constantly get asked for directions. I mean literally every few weeks. The irony is I usually have no idea where I am. I mean, I know, I might be roughly in the city but I couldn’t tell you what street it was called – even the main ones!
3. In my spare time I like to write screenplays. I never send them out to anyone as I think they are probably rubbish. They range from cheap local stories, to huge block busters. The last thing I wrote was purely for fun and totally unfilmable. I was playing around with the idea of how intense fame is, and if it was possible, would people buy clones of their favourite celebrities. More interestingly, what would happen to these clones once they lost their popularity…? A world full of homeless Harry Styles? I gave it to a writer friend and she loved it, though comedic she was really moved. Still completely unfilmable.
4. I have an amazing super supportive network. I couldn’t do the work I do with out them. They have seen me go through the highs and lows of a creative life and always stood firmly behind me. So lucky!
5. The last one is difficult to write. We don’t use the same term here in Australia, in fact it has no name, but I come from (as The Americans call it), a ‘gold star family’. Through tragedy, I learnt how important it is to find something that makes you stop, and smile, and forget. Even for just a moment. If someone responds like this to any of my drawings then (to me) that piece is a huge success. I also find it enormously comforting to know that my little drawings are now dotted all over the world simply being enjoyed…
…And maybe that’s why I keep drawing my ‘elephants in the room’.
Some little extras:
Jackie has what she calls her R & D department, where she experiments with different styles. But generally she finds that the fine art drawing suits her lifestyle. Jackie can leave what she’s working on, and pick it up later on when it suits. Painting doesn’t afford you that flexibility, Jackie says. You can’t just leave it.
I just can’t believe how Jackie can get that incredibly fine detail from the ‘human eye’. Does she wear glasses? Have super-human vision? Well, she has 20/20 vision I’ll have you know. But she does wear glasses when she’s drawing. That makes me feel a little better.
On drawing landscapes, or ‘not’ drawing landscapes.
Jackie feels that landscapes are without a real heartbeat. The closest she has come to drawing a ‘landscape’ is ‘Moonface’ below left..
On ‘comfort zones’:
Jackie exhibited at the 2011 Affordable Art Show, she was out of her comfort zone. She stuck with the exhibition, getting on with it and pushing through a barrier of very deep emotion. Through that Art Show Jackie was invited to exhibit in London and New York. Jackie is now represented at Rebecca Hossack Gallery in London, and in New York.
In the beginning, getting a ‘break’:
Jackie had some works at a gallery in Melbourne, but it wasn’t on display. It was placed in ‘sleeves’ out the back with many other works, and as a result didn’t sell as well as she had hoped.
Jackie was at Dench Bakers one day (in Fitzroy) and admiring the work of artists on the walls. She approached the staff/owner and soon enough had her work up on those walls. After the second day of Jackie’s work being on display half the works had already been sold.
There’s only so much ‘patience’ we are given. When our share runs out, the tank is empty and we need to find a way to fill it up again. That might be through cutting yourself a break from the kids. Getting outside. Painting. Whatever enables you to get back on track. If only you could ‘buy’ patience, says Jackie. Ahmen to that I say.