Jessica Singh

This interview was due years ago. It’s been sitting in my inbox for the past three years gathering dust. 
Jessica Singh’s work is part whimsy , part anime-like, part dreamy and all round beautiful. Her surreal little details add to the imaginative quality of her works. Her subjects are often coy and lost in a wonderland of their own. She is most definitely on my lust list!


one of the most interesting things about your work is all the little details that you layer, could you explain your process? how much of it is digital/handmade?

I find that I always tend to start with the eyes. If they don’t work out, then the drawing never does. The entirety of the image is formed in Photoshop, with the drawing and coloring created with a pen tablet. I guess I find this a really great medium because it’s easy to edit, quickly get ideas down, change colors and helps me achieve the things I see in my minds eye.

I tend to be a layer-o-holic. My more detailed drawings end up having about 120 layers. I also never label the layers, which is pretty counter intuitive when I’m trying to find a specific thing. In terms of what is handmade, alot of texture, patterns and collage is. For my Celestial Cocoon and Arkhana series I did hand cut the papers (indian comic books, japanese chiyogami paper), glue and collage them by hand, and then scan them in, and arrange the collage into the drawing.

I rely pretty heavily on my scanner. Sometimes I spend a day hunched over the scanner on the floor, scanning things I’ve collected, like alfoil, joss paper, fabric scraps and odds and ends. Scanners amaze me! I love textures and patterns and I find it pretty important to somehow bring a sense of texture into a digital format which can be a little 2D sometimes. 


what do you do to get your creative juices flowing? music/pop culture/books/magazines/tv shows

Music is a huge one. I guess I have to admit that I go into a kind of trance when I draw, and most of the time each drawing relates to a song I’ve just discovered and played on repeat. I’m usually inspired by the lyrics of the song at the time, I find they speak to my soul. Sometimes I dance while drawing – somewhat sad, but true! That’s why I find it hard to draw when people are around. As if their aura disrupts me, and the freedom to feeling. 

A big inspiration to me creatively is Bjork – I admire her boldness, it’s as if she’s made from fire. I think when I draw I hope to express my inner flame too.


how would you describe your work? I see a lot of asian/mystical influences , what draws you to them?

Describing your own work is so difficult. Whenever I look at my work I can only see it in sections, not as a whole. But I’m digressing. I guess I would say bold, colorful, feminine, a bit strange. But these are all fairly obvious. What I would prefer to say is esoteric, mystical and powerful. Powerful in the sense that the characters I draw are powerful, maybe even super heroines! I would also say that in some ways I see each one as a self portrait, either as a section of my personality that lives within, or just as characters that float around my head.

Yes, there tend to be alot of asian and mystical influences. What first got me into drawing was my obsession with japanese culture and subsequently, anime and manga. As I grew older and currently I’ve really taken a love for all cultures, in terms of folk lore. I’m really inspired by colorful headdresses and textiles, traditional ceremonies and so on. My mother is quite an esoteric character, and she did kind of introduce me to a mystical world of crystals and spirits and things like that, and my father being indian is a pretty spiritual dude himself. 

who are your favourite artists/designers

The first that always comes to my mind is Japanese illustrator Minchi. Actually there are so many illustrators I love I can hardly keep track. But at the moment I am really admiring Nathalie Lete. Really inspired by more hands on painters, and I’m hoping to bring a more painterly quality to new artwork.

how does your south asian-ness influence you/ at what moments does it peek in?

As I kid growing up I think I really rejected my Indian heritage (My father is Punjabi). But I recognise that as pretty normal for those crucial years. I think living in an isolated city (Perth, Western Australia) can really contribute to that. After having lived in London for 2 years I came to really appreciate my Indian heritage. Just after I graduated, I created the Arkhana! series which was pretty carthatic. I suppose it was coming back to my roots. I used to be obsessed with the comic books my father bought back from India, and am only realising now that their levels of fantasy and mysticism, strange colorings has really filtered into my drawing style now.

Whats your current colour palette?

Good Question! I love stealing paint sample cards from hardware stores – sorry! At the moment it’s kind of a vivid blue, pale pink/peach, pale violet, bright orange – taken from a new drawing I’m working on. 


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