There’s an intriguing iridescence in Jessica Robbins’ wall art. Bright but not pale; glittery but not quite glitter. We can’t put our finger on it at first, but immediately say “of course!” when she tells us what it is: auto paint. The strategic use of automotive spray paint in some of her pieces is indicative of the way Jessica creates her art. She is open to just about anything, even if she’s never tried it before. We asked about her method as well as some other aspects of this artist’s life.
GreenBox: Your canvas wall art is such an interesting combination of surfaces and patterns. Are you a painter or a designer?
Jessica Robbins: My art is a marriage of both. My undergrad degree is in painting and art history, and after that I went to school for textile design and patterns.
GB: Tell us about your process.
JR: I do my work on plywood. I start with 2x4s or 1x2s and plywood, then nail it together. After that I layer stains, then enamel paint, which has a different sheen and plastic-y look that I love. I use a lot of automotive paint too, which has a sparkle to it—the spray form.
GB: And then the patterns on top. How do you decide on the combination of background and pattern?
JR: I actually think of it as if the pattern, the motif, is the main character and the tension is in the space around it. So I take a motif and put it in space, then create tension around the motif. The motif is the main element and the space is concurrent. The motif is all hand-done. No printing or collage.
GB: Where do you get your inspiration?
JR: [laughs] Inspiration is everywhere! I find it in upholstery fabric, other artists’ work, game pieces, pop imagery, everywhere.
GB: With so many sources of inspiration, do you ever suffer from artist’s block?
JR: One thing that helps me not get stifled is that I work on many things at once. So I don’t get too focused on one thing. I have so many ideas that if I use them all on one painting the clarity’s not there. I work on three or four at the same time so I can spread out all my ideas.
GB: That sounds brave!
JR: I’m not afraid to experiment. A lot of the elements that work very well in my paintings have been accidents. Things that happen, with mixtures of chemicals or wiping things away, open a whole new world of texture that I wasn’t even intending to create.
GB: Have you always been that way in your art?
JR: If I could give advice to the me of ten years ago, it would be to be open to a lot more opportunities and possibilities.
GB: When decorating a room, do you choose the wall art based on everything else in the room or everything else in the room based on the art?
JR: It depends on the piece. My husband and I spent our honeymoon in Rio and bought a piece from a local artist. It’s got lots of bright colors and neons. For that, we hung it in our living room and decorated around it because we love the piece so much.
GB: Finish the sentence: I really shouldn’t, but I…
JR: Always do.
GB: Finally, if you could invent a flavor of ice cream, what would it be? Presumably something out-of-the-box and experimental, like your art, right?
JR: [laughs] Actually, when it comes to ice cream I think I’d go very basic. My favorite milkshake is a black and white. Chocolate and vanilla. Very classic and it definitely hits the spot.