Jessalyn Brooks

NR · World
Published · Online

Feature · Jessalyn Brooks
Words · NR

“The beginning of popular, female beauty standards didn’t start in magazines, it started in paintings and sculptures – all made and decided by men”

When did you start painting and creating and what pushed you towards it?

I first started painting when I was about 15 years old. I stopped after my first year of art school. After not touching a brush for about 13 years, I started back up again. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s just that thing where people say “fuck it” when they’re in their 30’s. I started small, just doing drawings and small paintings. Then my dog of 13 years died in November of last year. That’s when I went all in. It helped me cope.

How do you find the balance between the vision you have and the mediums you are using?

Right now I’m using oils. I don’t know how I forgot how messy and frustrating (and dangerous!) they could be. Working quickly with patience is something I’ve always been good at. Mixing thinners with oil bodies speeds up drying time and still giving it a good finish and texture. I don’t even know if what I’m saying is right. I’m still so new at this. It’s been a lot of trial and error. That being said, color is very important in my work. The mixing takes most of the time. The placement of the color blocking is always the challenging part. I move back and forth between monochromatic and complimentary colors-, contrast and muted palates. It’s rare that I ever map or plan anything out, so I kind of just rely on my instinct. The oils are a pain in the ass when you’re being precise but the organic feel- the natural pigments and hues- are so much more important to me.

What inspired your style of work?  Where do you get inspiration from? Are there any particular artists, photographers, painters drawers you look up to their works? 

I guess I’m mostly inspired by artists of the early 20th century cubist movement. Braques, Klee, Picasso, Severini, Picabia, etc. I’m inspired by the romance of industry: machines, shape, metal, volume, movement. I’ve actually been living in a factory for the last seven years here in Los Angeles. It was built in 1910 as a textile factory and still to this day functions as one (I just live here illegally…) A lot of the shapes I’m inspired by come from the old relics that live around this building- the furnace tower outside my window, the layers in the stairwells, the half-moon windows in the mezzanine. I’m surrounded by industrial life, I guess it’s only natural it finds its way into my work.

How long does it take to create a piece? What is the process being it?

Each piece is obviously different. Some of my larger pieces may take me days, some of the small ones take me an hour. I normally start with an oil wash- normally an umber or cadmium orange of some sort, then I move on to the composition, where I use a light oil wash to make my forms. When that dries, I start the color blocking process, which is when I just go on auto pilot. The mixing takes about half the time. The colors have to shout at me before they find their way onto the canvas.

Would you say that there is a main thread connecting all your artworks and if so, which is it? 

The main thread in my work is typically a strong, angular, full-bodied woman (or two, or three). It’s the only thing I’m certain of- That I am a body and that I work. A lot of my work is really just me and what I remember about my body and the environment I’m in.

What kind of talks would you like to hear around your artworks? 

I’d like to think that my work is more than just pretty nudes. For centuries in art, the female form was made solely for the male gaze. The beginning of popular, female beauty standards didn’t start in magazines, it started in paintings and sculptures – all made and decided by men. Most of my followers are women. I am a woman. There are no beauty standards applied to my paintings, yet you still know it is a form. The beauty is in the familiarity- the distinctive and almost subliminal contours of the female form that we sometimes neglect- the divot between the hip and thigh, the hill along the forearm, the bridge of the foot, the space between the armpit and the breast… THOSE are the shapes that I love. I try to really do those parts justice. haha.


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