To bring in 2009, Cat On The Wall are proud to present an up and coming artist. She is going places and she’s going there fast! Our advice: you better keep an eye out for Jess Bradley…
Cat On The Wall: Please tell us about yourself! When did you first discover your passion for art?
I’ve always loved to draw; as a kid I was constantly making books and doing drawings for people. I’d have to say it wasn’t until I went to art college that it finally clicked that I wanted to be an illustrator; I really found my feet in college and managed to discover my own style which was good as up until then, everything I drew looked like something Tim Burton had done! Funnily enough, it was the Playstation game “Oddworld” that really seemed to inspire me and get me going with my own stuff. I went to University from 2000-2003 where I got a First in BA(Hons) Illustration and then I did the odd bit of freelance work for various children’s book publishers. I started to work in a comic shop in 2004 and that rekindled my interest in drawing comics. I did a lot of self-publishing for a while but then really started to enjoy painting. I’ve been doing that for the last couple of years now and my work has really developed since then.
COTW: Do you have a preferred medium? What’s your creative process?
I love using acrylic paints, especially to get a really bold, flat look. My work is very cartoony so it suits acrylics really well. I also love working in pen and ink. I started to use a graphics tablet last year and have really gotten into that too; my boyfriend is a comic book colourist and is always on hand for some awesome Photoshop tips! As for my creative process, it literally consists of doodling random things in my sketchbook then making them into finished pieces; I rarely do drafts of pictures as I find I get bored putting too much effort into preliminary work. I always got told off at uni for doing that! I take my sketchbook everywhere as anything could give me an idea. I also get a lot of inspiration from books, comics, video games, films and cartoons. I’m obsessing over my childhood cartoons at the moment so that should keep me going for a while!
COTW: You visited Japan recently. It seems Japan is a place close to your heart. Did the trip inspire you? Any memorable experiences?
I’ve always loved Japanese art and culture. Like most people, I got into it through Manga and Anime when I was about 12, but soon discovered artwork by awesome Japanese illustrators and character designers. Everything about Japan is so colourful and characters appear on everything; I swear Hello Kitty owns Japan! I think I just love the fact that anything in Japan can have a mascot or character attributed to it and that’s what I want to do in my work. Japan was awesome; I miss it a lot actually. As for memorable experiences, the Toei Film Studios Museum was fantastic; they had life-size Power Rangers, Kamen Riders and Kaiju (giant monsters) on display – I felt like a little kid that day! I kept a sketchbook diary of the trip that one day I hope to re-draw and self-publish.
COTW: Humour plays a big role in a lot of your artwork. Did you intend to go down the more humorous route? What made you decide to make your own comic books?
JB: Yeah, humour is definitely a big part of my work. I always had a big interest in cartooning when I was younger and loved stuff like Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes, so anything I did myself I would try and inject humour into. If I get a laugh out of my drawings, I’m more than happy! I get a kick out of people identifying with my work that way and kind of see it as an extension of my personality. I’m not a very “serious” artist in that I’d rather draw robots kicking each other in the crotch than a watercolour painting of an English landscape! The comics kind of came about by accident, especially my main comic, Guide Dog Detective. I was doodling one evening when I used to work in the comic shop and came up with the idea. I drew the first issue on the fly and it worked out better than I thought. I knew a few people who self-published their own comics and sold them through the shop, so I asked them for advice, got a bunch printed and it was really well received. I try and make regular appearances at UK comic book conventions as I find it really helps people to remember your work. Thanks to this way of working, I had my first strip published in an anthology by Slave Labor Graphics earlier this year!
COTW: How did the shoe collection come about? You also have t-shirts! Do you have a shop?
JB: I had a table at the Birmingham International Comic Con in October 2008 with my best friend and Kings of Neon were just across the way from us. At the end of the day, Adam (head honcho of KON) came over and told me how much he liked my work. We had a chat and he asked if I’d be interested in doing some designs for him, which I was and that was that really! They’re an awesome team to work for and it’s really exciting to see my stuff expand into clothing and accessories. I’m doing another t-shirt design for Genki Gear in the spring as my other design for them did really well. It even appeared on series 3 of The IT Crowd which was really cool! I’m hoping to make my own t-shirts at some point to sell on-line. At the moment, the t-shirts and shoes can be bought through Genki Gear www.genkigear.co.uk and Kings of Neon www.kingsofneon.com but I do have my own on-line shop at www.jessbradley.etsy.com where I sell paintings, bags, prints and all kinds of stuff!
COTW: Any up and coming artists we should look out for or that you are enjoying at the moment?
Several! A lot of my friends are illustrators and comic book artists so it’s great to see them getting the recognition they deserve. They all showcase their stuff on deviantART so please check them out; my boyfriend, John-Paul, is a comic writer and colourist at www.wordmongerer.deviantart.com and has done a lot of on-line Transformers comics, my best friend Moogs is a model-maker at www.littlemooglet.deviantart.com and my friend Tom is a comic book artist at www.retardacon.deviantart.com. We’ve all worked together on projects in some capacity and draw a lot of inspiration from each other.
COTW: What are your plans for the near future?
I’ve got a stall at the Web and Mini-Comix Thing in March, which is an awesome small-press comic convention in London. I’ll be selling a whole medley of things including original paintings. I’m also hoping to get a small, full-colour, self-published character book out for it too which I’m really excited about. As well as that, I’ll just be plugging away and doing as much work as I can. I’m really interested in trying to get into the vinyl toy scene and may attempt to produce some toys of my own. We’ll see how that goes though!
Interview by CB Lux