Artist Jess Lacroix

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A relative newcomer to our shores, Jess Lacroix hails from Canada and brings with her a wealth of artistic talent and a contagious enthusiasm for everything she turns her attention to.  We caught up with Jess to find out more.

Can you tell us what brought you to the area?

Such a special part of the world to be enveloped in! The Mid North Coast has certainly captivated my artistic appetite and sparked my creative innovation. I was based in the Northern Rivers, as a creative freelancer managing a few of my interdisciplinary passion projects in Brunswick Heads, when I was introduced to the innate charm of this tranquil slice of exquisite coastline through visits to Forster (my boyfriend’s home stomping grounds). 

I’m originally from Canada, and with my twenty-sixth lap around the sun approaching in a couple of weeks, I’ve been consumed with gratitude for just how many inspired slivers of the world I’ve been lucky to get to call home so far, and this unique treasure of the Mid North Coast is certainly leaving a potent mark on me. 

I’m consistently dazzled by the humbling seclusion procurable on uncharted bushwalks impelling heights and views for days, enamoured in the richness of nature, giving breath to hidden cove-bordered rock-pools and seemingly secret nooks to uncover. From that mirage of infinitely flawless turquoise lake that bridges the sister towns, to nonchalantly being greeted by a pod of dolphins passing through in a companionless surf, this haven doesn’t cease to sweep me off my feet. 

How did you get into photography?

I have always been a sucker for old-school film photography! As a child, travelling and watching my talented mum cherish her
35 mm Minolta gem and fancy lenses got me hooked, I reckon. Gazing at the world through the imagination of an old film camera is like stepping outside of time for a moment. With each click of the shutter, an unpredictable narrative is revealed; its blurry-soft and dreamy-toned images are a unique interpretation of reality, rather than a true-to-form reflection of it, similar to the act of preserving aged memories, or the unravelling of nostalgia. Immersed in multiple exposures, light leaks, and colour drips, much of my thematic conception for artistic motivation in other mediums draws from film photography inspiration.

In art school days, I indulged for hours in the darkroom, enthralled in the physicality of developing film, shooting 8 x 10 sheet film in large-format beasts, 4 x 5 medium-format twin lens reflex beauties, polaroids, tin-types, cyanotypes, home-made pinhole cameras, you name it – each acting to evoke a powerful miniature narrative, with the ambition to capture the humanity and vulnerability of my subjects, whether it be framing an imprint of a place, a portrait, or a moment stamped in time. 

I strive for my photographs to exude evidence of an eagerly attentive rapport between the photographer and the subject – providing an uncommon emotional gravity in a non-contrived manner, straying from the convention of composing snapshots that appear too posed or artificial, incited by an eagerness to see the beauty and the importance in the everyday. 

Documentary and photo-journalism is a function of photography that I currently utilise tenaciously through freelancing for a handful of radical zines I’ve crossed paths with. Recently I’ve been pairing my digital photography with my writing – through travel editorials (I recently wrote a piece for Paradiso Magazine (based in Mullumbimby / Byron Bay) about my spontaneous travels to Iceland and the pilgrimage to locate and shoot an abandoned plane wreckage in the Solheimassandur mountains), as well as through the interviewing of other creatives (I photograph musicians, fashion designers, and other legends, makers and shakers for Almost Real Magazine (based in Sydney)).

You also enjoy quite a few other artistic projects. Tell us a bit about these.

I definitely get itchy feet when it comes to dancing across the kaleidoscope of my creative toolbox. I thrive on combining instruments through artistic motivations informed by my passion for travel, creative expression, moral impact and intention. I believe it’s so important to stay hungry in your craft. I feel I have so much to learn within each facet of art I’m compelled to push the envelope with on a daily basis …

In a typical week, I could see myself dabbling in album art for musicians, establishing a live-art painting pop up at a festival, fusing the production of an installation art piece, sinking paints into a one-off custom jean jacket commission, and polishing off digital graphic design work for clients (logos, product photography, typography, sign-writing, illustration). 

Designing skate decks came into play initially through my graduating body of work from the Australian National University, through the designing and construction of skateboards, one for a city in every state in Australia. I moulded each deck from veneers made of wood native to each specific region and exhibited the series of hand-made (ride-able) boards with a room-size half-pipe skate ramp that I built within the gallery space, inviting guests to test out the artworks. 

Each hand-made deck displayed the distinctive flavour and flow of a particular chosen Aussie city, in an ode to its street-art through hand-painted graphics interwoven into an etched cartographic design on the wood grain. The work invited disenfranchisement, and re-enfranchisement of a city for oneself through psycho-geography and through embodiment of the object, rather than fetishisation of the object, while ultimately the purpose of the artistic creation of the decks was to be ridden, shredded, and wrecked, on the streets they represent – as opposed to being framed on a gallery wall. I’ve since had the pleasure of collaborating with a few epic skate brands in deck art design. 

Painting has always felt natural to me – from large-scale realism acrylic portraits on canvasses I’ve built in the workshop, to furiously taking a Posca marker to a mate’s surfboard for a psychedelic tattoo-like linework composition. The common thread through my current production process is the lack of planning, premeditation, erasing, or construction lines. I find artistic style undergoes such waves through inevitable change and growth, but currently I find my work most gratifying when rolling full-throttle, letting spontaneity guide my ink. I reckon I’ve always seen routine as the enemy of creativity; I always call upon this infamous line from one of my favourite books, “Nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun”.

And, you also developed a clothing brand called “NoBadDays”?

I launched NoBadDays initially as a clothing brand in my hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (my homeland) a couple of years ago. Through the building of silkscreen presses, I developed a unique film emulsion image transfer method which allowed me to burn my designs into the screens – and began screen-printing my art on sustainable lightweight tees in limited runs, which has been a true passion-project. I established NoBadDays as a platform for which to gear proceeds from sales of the tees to causes close to my heart. In the past year, I’ve hosted NoBadDays pop up shops all over Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, contributing to the empowerment of some meaningful initiatives through the production of hand-silkscreened, botanically-dyed tees, vinyl stickers, and prints.

All the forms that NoBadDays has taken on already has been wild; the stories that have become a part of the brand for me and by others internationally reaching out sharing their inspirations and how the “nobaddays” mantra has affected their struggles and has served as a driving force to step out of the mechanical nine-to-five grind and to live each moment fully awake and inspired, enlivened with passion, as it has for me. 

NoBadDays came about in wanting to create a lil’ something for the makers, the shakers, the breakers, for the pot-stirrers, and plot-thickeners, for the wanderers and the dreamers. Through travel, surf, skate, falling in love, heartbreaks, neon signs, foreign cities and familiar passions; It’s about the adventure, the thrill, the grit, the real-ness, broken decks, scrapes ‘n’ bruises, bearing guts and glory. We are rolling stones, beach bums, mountain nomads; we don’t follow the beaten trail, we carve our own. We are wanderers, established never.

Where to next?

My instinctual response is “anywhere I have not yet left a mark on, with walls begging to be painted, and off-the-beaten-trail scenery I’ve yet to turn my camera lens to …” At the moment I’m increasingly invigorated by some alluring local creative collaborations I have in the pipeline … “watch this space.”

How do people find out more information? 

@nobaddays_est.never  (instagram) – (for commissions / murals / graphic design inquiries) (portfolio)

NoBadDays tees and stickers can be purchased at Indigo Attic in town (exclusive Forster stockist)

Thanks Jess. Interview: Ingrid Bayer.

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