Meet The Artist - Sensory Awareness Month
"Illustrating STAR Institute’s five characters for Sensory Processing Month 2020 has been a wonderful amalgamation of several interests. I am part of a neurodiverse family and have a couple of diagnoses of my own, these include dyspraxia/dyslexia.
When Virginia first told me her idea of designing these different characters, I knew straight away that I wanted to be part of the project. Laura, Matteo, Bess, Mizba, and Georgie are all unique, but I find myself able to relate to each one of them in some way. I remember feeling like Laura as a young child sitting in class not understanding what the teacher was asking of me. My son had infant sleep apnea and a host of sensory processing issues in his early years and I remember holding him in despair, not able to understand what he was trying to tell me through his screams. The peace that Bess finds in a dance studio is something I have known personally in my younger life, and something I didn’t acknowledge just how terribly I was missing until I drew her in class.
This project came to me at quite a busy moment. I was wrestling with another brief and trying to contain my disappointment that the publisher preferred a different direction to the wet ink and brush I was really enjoying at the time.
As an artist, I am not married to one style/approach or medium yet. It’s definitely something I aspire to – a recognizable/signature style, but I believe that will come with time so for now, I approach each new project with quite an open mind. In truth I think this might be how it is for the long haul because I’ve been doing this for some time and nothing is changing – this way makes each project incredibly exciting because I get to discover what’s going to happen as I go. I decided the most professional response, in this case, was to not be too precious about things and to put the ink and brush style on the shelf for another day. Nothing is ever wasted in art. Within the space of hours, the ink and brushes were out again as I played with ideas for STAR.
For this project, I did sketch work in pencil on good ol’ loose printer paper. I then made the ink lines on cartridge paper. This is my favorite part of the process. I like to repeat the image over and over again, sometimes making dozens of the same thing. The spontaneous, free look comes about through lots of repetition and muscle memory. By the end of a project like this I will have hundreds of little essays. I think of this partly as discipline, and partly as a massive indulgence in a really relaxing and enjoyable art practice. Then I choose the winner. The winner goes through the scanner into photoshop where I clean it up and isolate the lines. Then, by the magic of cloud technology, I pull the linework onto my ipad where I color everything in digitally.
I am really happy with how the characters have come to life. This wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the wonderful details that were written into each of their briefs. I take a huge amount of comfort in the fact that experts like those at and with the STAR Institute exist and have so much important information and experience on our sensory selves. I used to think of this as a highly specialist niche subject but more and more I am finding that it is basic, and pivotal to all of us."
-Jacinta Sweeting Read