Interview of Jo Nixon by Freya Bennett
Tell us a little bit about yourself, Jo. Where are you from and what you do?
I am from Melbourne, Australia. I split myself between photography and illustration and try to keep an even balance between these two creative outlets.
I also work in the fine art printing field which is a great inspiration. I am able to see an array of local and international talent come through, and indulge my love of print and lovely paper surfaces.
Did you study art in school? If not, what did you study?
I studied creative arts which included painting, photography, printmaking, and drawing. I went back to study commercial photography years later but soon found I wasn’t really the studying type after all and preferred the freedom of my own creative process.
Tell us a bit about your work process.
I have a constant “ideas” list on the go—whether it’s reference imagery, lyrics I hear and love, quotes, patterns, or a thought I’ve been over thinking and feel the needs to explore further. It’s never ending, which I guess is a good thing! When I finally put all the pieces together for the art direction, I hopefully by then have teamed up with the perfect subject to execute the idea with. I photograph my subjects and illustrate from that. I need a reference point so I can achieve the level of detail and realism I’m after in my pieces. This is done by a technique known as “stippling,” which is a pattern of varying degrees of solidity or shading by using hand drawn small dots. I then high res scan it and add colour digitally (if any). Sometimes subjects I photograph lend themselves to a more simplistic approach, so I also work with just outlines and flat colour for them.
For the stippling I use black pen. There are additional areas of black ink and watercolour in most of my pieces. I love how much detail you can achieve with dots and line by just using a pen. I also love the impact of bold black ink and the light, subtle effect of watercolour. So I put them all together.
When it comes to photography, I love shooting conceptually in a studio for the staged and controlled environment aspect. In contrast, my love for travel also allows me to loosen up that approach when time permits, by capturing the landscape just as it is. Either way, there is still a lot of planning that goes into all my projects. I shoot digital.
Tell us a bit about why you do this type of art.
One of the reasons why I do this type of art (dot rendering) is because it takes my mind into a restful state. I guess you could liken it to those mindful colouring books people engross themselves in. I can go literally for hours where I have not thought about anything other than the dots and the formulation of the dots to make the picture I’m working on. Its addictive!
It has been so important to have found something that works wonders on quieting my creative mind down a notch!
Your illustration is very intricate, how long typically does one piece take?
Depends how focused I am! But usually within a few days. I can do five hour stints sometimes without realising when I get in the zone…eek!
How do you think everyone can benefit from art therapy?
Everyone can definitely benefit from art as therapy as it encourages expression and focusing skills by engagement in the medium you are working in. It doesn’t matter if it is good or not, it’s the simple act of doing that can lift your spirits, by experimenting and exploring colour, texture, and styles. It is a good indication in an obvious or abstract way what really is going on inside to. Most of all it reminds us as adults to remember play!
Where do you find your muses?
I like to find my subjects by just going about my day. I could see a particular beauty just walking the streets, shopping, gigs, transport, through friends and sometimes social media.
I am in favour of using life and its interactions to stumble across my muses. That way I am witness to their body language and natural emotion rather than choosing them because of model “status” and agency profiles. And that is the raw and exciting process for me.
Your illustration pieces are all of women, what drew you to capturing women in art?
So far they are of women, as it is easily relatable (being one). But, our shapes! We are all pretty damn sexy, in whatever form we happen to be and I want to celebrate this. I do plan to include males as well in future series too.
Who is your heroine?
There are many, BUT, my absolute favourite would have to be Frida Kahlo. When I visited La Casa Azul on a trip to Mexico a few years back, that was highlighted as one of the most inspirational art and life moments for me.
She was a woman who had a remarkable vision, and lived a courageous a life. She embraced her identity, gender duality, and her lifetime of pains and ailments. She created her brilliant paintings fuelled by this, embodied feminist values and pursued political endeavours. So much to admire.
Final words of advice for girls wanting to pursue art?
Listen and most importantly act on your passion, and not your doubt. Trust your intuition as this is your artistic voice.