TESSA ROSE JACKSON from Amsterdam talks with KAT VINTER about her myriad creativity, getting into ‘the zone’ and using creativity for the benefit of social causes.
Songwriting, producing, advertising, design, filmmaking, illustration… you’ve got quite a repertoire of technical and creative skills. How did you come to explore so many different areas of creating? How important is it for the modern day artist to diversify and acquire new skills?
I wouldn’t necessarily say it it’s important as a rule for a recording artist to diversify in the visual arts if it doesn’t come naturally to them. However, we do live in a time where a musician should know how to record themselves and, preferably, also arrange and produce their tracks. I don’t see that as a bad thing, personally, it just means there are more aspects of music to explore and master, more ways to dive a little deeper. For me, the visual side of creativity has also always fascinated me; in fact, as a kid I was much more interested in drawing and films than I was in music. When I got into making music, I stopped drawing, and it’s only been recently that I’ve found a balance between doing both!
To what extent do your creative outlets feed and intersect with one another?
Totally and utterly. The worst thing for my creativity that I can do, is to stop making new things. I think everybody that does creative work feels that. It’s like riding a bike (sorry, I’m Dutch – in the end there is always going to be a bike analogy!), you just have to keep going fast enough, and you’ll never wobble. But if you slow down too much, worry too much, you’ll fall, and it will take a while to get back to the speed you were going. Creativity feeds creativity, in any shape or form. If the music isn’t flowing, I’ll take a break and make some drawings or think of a video concept. It always helps.
I’m a big fan of your recent artworks, some of which are digitally based, tell us a bit about your current visual arts practice and how that has evolved.
Why thank you! Well, a few years ago (out of the blue, really) I was looking for stuff to do on a lazy sunday, and I picked up a pen and paper and drew a little sketch of an owl. I really liked it, and so I scanned it in and edited it in Photoshop, and posted it on Facebook. I got some lovely reactions, and mainly I really liked the feeling of drawing again, after so many years. Ever since, it’s become part of my life. I got more proficient in Photoshop, and when I needed a video for my song ‘the Pretender’, I embarked on the ridiculously ambitious mission of making a fully hand-drawn stop-motion animation for it. This literally took up three months of my life (I’m a bit of a crazy person, I confess). Recently, I’ve gotten into making collages and then elaborating them in Photoshop. So far, it’s always been abstract art that I’ve been into, I just love using shapes and colours and framing to make a ‘perfect’ picture. In fact, it’s practically therapeutic!
You’re also known to be a bit of a legend in the advertising world. Do you find the demands of having to write and produce music in so many different styles informs and improves your own artist projects?
Absolutely. What I love about the advertising world, is the crazy different directions you’re thrown in, with such mad deadlines that there’s really no time for doubt (which is good, because I think way too much if I’m given the time). For instance, I’ll be writing an instrumental Morricone spaghetti-Western track on one day, a pop banger the next, and breaking my vocal chords on a bonkers bit of juvenile post-punk the day after that! You learn so much, from listening to and copying (let’s be honest) all these different genres and styles, but it’s also about your own creativity. Sometimes, the deadlines are brilliant for proving to yourself: Actually, I CAN write and produce a whole track in a day. If I have to. And above all that, it’s crazy fun!
And then, the switch from advertising back to my own music is all the more liberating. When I work on commission, I have to stick to the rules. But when it’s just for me – I get to do whatever I want, tell my own story, make my own rules. Freedommmm!
There’s a lot of overwhelming issues going on in the world right now, especially in Europe with the refugee crisis. Do you feel a social responsibility to use your creative skills to help in some way?
I find it a very confusing time. A lot of my friends (even my 64-year old mother!) went to Lesvos last year to help out, and came back totally changed. In fact, my mother wrote a book about her time there, called ‘A Month with Starfish’, for which I designed the cover. It’s on Amazon, and all proceeds go to the Starfish Lesvos charity! Having stayed here in Amsterdam, I have felt the need to help in some way, so I organise weekly concerts at the local refugee centre. Every little helps, I guess?
What’s up in 2016 for Tessa Rose Jackson?
Ooh, lots of stuff. I can’t spill any beans yet, I’m afraid, but where 2015 was a year of building, 2016 is going to be a year of show-and-tell! Keep your eyes on my Facebook and Instagram pages (not Twitter, I suck at Twitter) and all will be revealed sooner rather than later… *cue suspenseful music*
Bev Jackson’s Book: http://www.amazon.de/Month-Starfish-Volunteering-refugees-island/dp/1523243163
Photo credit: Sven Signe Den Hartogh http://www.svensignedenhartogh.com/