An Interview with the Artist

Click to watch an interview with the artist, as she talks about her work.

Jessie Dunlop (b.1988) is a visual artist, with a background in archaeology and museums. Dunlop’s work has been described as “otherworldly” and is peopled by characters and strange landscapes, drawn from her imagination. Originally from England, she now calls Penticton ( British Columbia, Canada) home. She is inspired by history, old photos, and half-remembered stories from the past.

An Interview with the Artist

Tell me about yourself

I’m a visual artist based in Penticton, British Columbia (Canada!). I work at a shared studio space in downtown Penticton, with a weekly painting routine that I like to follow. You can often find me painting in solitude, with a cup of tea, and an audio book playing in the background.

How do you “work” as an artist?

My work is very based on picture references, it is very rare for me to work from imagination alone (thought that surely has a part). Sometimes I will hold a canvas in my hands, and the image will appear in my minds eye, fully formed, and I will know exactly what I want to paint.

On other days I will turn to my treasure trove of visual references, some torn from magazines and newspapers. Some images I have carried around for years, not quite sure why. These are the images I return to time and time again. If you look carefully, sometimes you can see the same figure re-appearing in sketches and paintings through the years.

When did you start paining?

I have been painting for as long as I can remember. My mother in England has a little kindergarten certificate, it reads “When I grow up I want to be… AN ARTIST!” and its signed by a tiny Jessie, aged 3.

Art has always been a part of my life. Before having a baby, it was all I would do with my time; get home then paint, paint some more. I start to feel very sad and empty if I am not able to create something new.

What subjects do you paint?

I paint people, and stories. Every painting has a person or an animal in; a character that I can base the beginnings of a story around. I don’t paint landscapes, to me they feel so empty. People and patterns are what fascinate me.

Vintage pictures speak to me. I love to find photos where the subjects stand in their beautiful old fashioned clothing, and stand staring, steadily at the camera. I don’t understand what it is or why. The images are unsettling for many people, yet I am still driven to paint them, and the eyes that just won’t look away.

What are some words that describe your style of painting?

Fairytale, life-like, realistic, dreamlike, surreal, cute, disturbing.

I was at an opening, chatting with a patron who didn’t realise I was the artist. She pointed to my painting, exclaiming “ I love it. It’s creepy as F****”. For me that is the best part of attending an opening; meeting people, and see them react to my work.