Updated: Jan 24
This week we spoke with 28-year-old illustrator Jess Autumn for #CreatorOfTheWeek.
We talked about the Zine festival she’s created, the local creative community and how squats and protest sites Jess has lived in became a vessel for her creativity.
Kendal Zine Festival was born out of a previous project called Phantom Markets which saw Jess collaborate with fellow creative Meg (@dubprincessmusic).
They produced an inclusive creative community through the power of sound systems and art markets.
Jess (Right) and Meg (Left) hosting their first Phantom Markets. Photo credit: Jess Autumn
They held their first Phantom Markets in 2019 but had to take a hiatus due to the pandemic and personal creative commitments.
Kendal Zine festival was made to “scratch that itch that Phantom Markets left behind” for Jess.
When we asked Jess why she put on the festival, she explained: “Zines are for everyone and can be an expression of who you are and an extension of your creativity”.
Kendal Zine Festival 2022 poster. Photo credit: Jess Autumn
Zine festivals are nothing new to Jess: “I set Kendal Zine Fest up in part because I went to visit @yorkzinefest back in July and just fell in love with the atmosphere, the people and the art”.
Self publishing in Jess’s opinion equals power and provides an important outlet for creative brains:
“You can just write or draw what you feel and think, share it with the world and be greeted with open arms into a fantastic community of zine-sters.”
Jess’s stall at Kendal Zine Festival. Photo credit: Jonny Bell @s00pky
In Jess’s own words, Kendal has a really strong creative community with lots of creative spaces.
Having held the zine fest in Kendal, Jess knew it would be of benefit to creatives who need a creative outlet in a world saturated by screens and the internet.
She urges: “it’s something that young people desperately need”.
Jess is already looking forward to planning and running more events in 2023 for her creative community. The festival transported Jess back to a project she had published in Folded Zine, an online zine created by and for emerging creatives across Cumbria:
“It took me back to my time living down south on protest sites. Just the freedom to express who you are without judgement.”
Diaries From Protest Sites, Yorkley Court a collage by Jess for Folded Zine. Photo credit: Jess Autumn
During Jess’s formative years in early adulthood she lived in squats and protest sites.
When we asked Jess whether these political environments influenced her artwork, she self-admittedly said her work isn’t politically driven.
She adds that although she clearly has her own opinions about the world, these spaces gave her a chance to live amongst people who live solely for creativity:
“I kept diaries, took film photographs and did sketches documenting the happenings that I was a part of.”
Jess saw herself as a creative documenter in these one-of-a-kind temporary spaces that were a place of beauty where her artistic talent blossomed and thrived:
“These spaces are temporary and have an end and all of the places I used to call home now no longer exist. The purpose of my art is to explore and remember these amazing spaces”
Diaries From Protest Sites, Grow Heathrow collage by Jess for Folded Zine. Photo credit: Jess Autumn
Jess’s nomadic lifestyle inspired her creativity, but for the most part in Jess's eyes her art is generally about personal mental health journeys and the correlation between those journeys.
This is reflected in one of Jess’s favourite commissions she worked on: a three panel comic strip she made last year for ‘Nurturing Creatives’ Micro-commision with Great Place Lakes and Dales.
In this strip she wrote a short story based upon her relationship with both her mental health and her little dog storm:
“In the comic the two characters: Ebb and Flo represent both negative and positive thoughts respectively.”
Jess’s comic strip (left) with her characters Ebb and Flo. Jess's pooch (right) in real life.
Photo credit: Jess Autumn and Megumi Hope @dubprincessmusic
That comic went onto being featured in a communal exhibition alongside the work of other young creatives.
For Jess this was the cherry on top of an excellent and fulfilling commission that was such a blast for Jess to design.
Jess, like so many freelance artists, works a day job where she looks after people with complex needs.
When we asked what advice would she give to freelancers trying to balance both career and their day job she gave this invaluable piece of advice to manage mental health and work duties: “Give yourself a break. Remember to eat, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, focus on your priorities and take it one small step at a time. It’s ok to take a day off sometimes”
Jess doodling in her sketchbook. Photo credit: Jess Autumn
When it comes to being a self supporting artist, Jess recommends setting boundaries with clients and to remember to tell yourself it’s absolutely okay to say no and to save some money aside from your day job to redistribute into your career.
Even Jess herself has gone through the trials and tribulations of being an independent artist:
“It’s hard work and finding the right balance between life and work is important. Make sure you keep working on personal projects and don’t lose yourself in what other people expect from you. Know your worth.”
Jess working on some art work alongside a fellow creative at a festival. Photo credit: Jess Autumn
One of the most important elements for creating art is to make the space in your life to create, Jess voiced:
“Just create anything and everything as often as you can. It doesn’t even have to be anymore than just setting aside 10 minutes a day and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Practice makes progress.”
Jess turned to blogging as a way to document her artistic career.
She does this not only for her audience and clients to see, but to remind herself how far she’s come despite the difficulty of navigating one of the most competitive career fields.
One of Jess’s ethereal t-shirt designs. Photo credit: Jess Autumn
Jess’s blog and portfolio are reflective of Jess’s development as an artist. It demonstrates that she’s not just an illustrator, but in fact a multifaceted artist.
She recently delved into the world of digital illustration and dabbles with other mediums such as collage, printmaking, poetry, sculpture and a homegrown affair with textiles:
“My Mum is a talented textile artist and I learnt a lot from her. I love to use sewing to create images and I relish the art of mending clothes.”
Jess relishing in the world of sewing and textiles. Photo credit: Jess Autumn
Jess is thankful to have her partner in life and fellow creative Jonny, her mum who has always pushed her to be creative, and her creative friends who are an ongoing inspiration to her: “Watching people who I’ve known and loved for years become a success in their chosen field is what pushes me to keep working hard.”
“It’s inspiring to be surrounded by people such as my friend Viv Walker (@vcwoodcraft) who is an experimental archaeologist and woodworker.
“Seeing those closest to me thrive shows me that anything is possible.”
Jess alongside a merry band of creative friends at EdenVentures: Summer Weeks.
Photo credit: Viv Walker @vcwoodcraft
You can find Jess and her artwork on Instagram
Buy her artwork and more here
Support Jess as an artist here