It was a beautiful, sunlit day in March when figurative painter, Jasmine Ann Dixon, invited us into her home studio. Light streamed through the windows, illuminating the art filled space. Sketches and paintings made by numerous artists were pinned to every available wall, a stately wooden easel stood in a corner, displaying the progress of the artist’s next work. We sat on the floor, beside a half finished inspiration board and small pile of delicate origami paper, and began to discuss the ins and outs of the Art World, and the importance of being nice…
Verso: So, how did you decide to become involved in the visual arts?
Jasmine: Ahhhhh. Well it wasn't a decision to wake up one morning and think: today I’m gonna be an artist! I guess it was more that I never really thought of myself as doing anything else. I did art in high school, and it was then that I was kind of like; yep this is me now, I’m done. I am an artist. So I don't know, I think I’d be pretty lost if I couldn't do art, because its all I’ve ever wanted, or known, or done really.
Verso: What’s your most proud arts achievement?
Jasmine: Ooooo that’s a good question!
I don't know to be honest. Everything at the time feels like a really big achievement. But then it slowly escalates, and the next thing feels like it’s a bigger achievement. When I finished art school, getting into the Helpmann Graduate Show was my biggest achievement. And it was mad. I still appreciate it as one of the biggest launchpads for my career, it is still one of my biggest achievements. But then, of course, having shows, and a solo show, with Hill Smith Gallery has also been a massive achievement. I have to say - getting into the Black Swan Prize for Portraiture - that was pretty cool. That was my first, and only interstate exhibition/art competition so far.
Verso: And you’ve been in the Emma Hack Art Prize too?
Jasmine: Yeah! I’ve been part of the Emma Hack twice now! Both times have been… well everything is just a huge honour. Anything I get at this stage just feels like a massive achievement in itself. I couldn't say that one is better than another.
Verso: What are the main concerns of your practice?
Jasmine: Like what’s my conceptual concerns? Oh gosh, I dunno … that in itself is a concern.
There you go, my conceptual concern is being concerned.
Well, it’s something that I’m continuously working on and trying to develop. Colour and people are my two main things. What I have been exploring so far has been where realism slightly meets abstraction. In a lot of my work I like to use multiple textures, a lot of colour, and I really love to paint people as hyper-realistically as I can. I really enjoy the juxtaposition between the two styles and how it kind of, I dunno… it kind of cuts the body up a little bit.
Verso: Does it dismember it in a sense? That word sounds a little too harsh for your work though?
Jasmine: Yeah, I don't want it to end up in some kind of psycho killer territory!
I just like to break it up a little bit, which is what I’ve been doing so far. But I’m sort of experimenting with different directions. My previous paintings explore where I was when I painted them, but that doesn't feel as genuine now.
Now, I’m trying to give myself permission to do what I want again. I love Dutch paintings, like Vermeer’s or Rembrandt’s. The lighting, the darkness, and the theatre of it. I want to give myself permission to use those techniques even though they've been done a thousand times.
Verso: Describe your studio…
Jasmine: Ah! Small.
No, I love my studio, I love it to bits. It’s a garden shed that has been cobbled together to become a studio. My family helped me a lot. By "helping" I mean they actually converted it. Mind you, at the time, when we were meant to do it, I came down sick. I painted the walls, but they insulated it, and put all the walls in.
It’s pretty decked out, its a good space, but it is very small. I’ve got toys on a shelf (because I’m a giant child), and my easel is too big for it, so I had to saw the top off! It has two little windows, and I’ve painted the sills yellow, ‘cause its bright and poppy. I don't say that I have a favourite colour but I seem to go for yellow a lot. I feel like it’s a colour people don’t appreciate enough.
Yellow is an under-appreciated colour.
Oh and I’ve got lots of artwork! I keep collecting other artists’ scraps and sticking them up on my wall. ‘Cause I’m alone in there all day I guess it surrounds me with other people’s work, which is nice. I’ve got an Andrew Clarke, got a bit of Alex Beckinsale, and yeah, I’ve got my very own Robin Eley. Its a painting which I bought from him when he was moving from Adelaide to Los Angeles in a weird sort of art garage sale.
Verso: Can you describe your making process?
Jasmine: I spend about 50% of my time thinking about starting a work. And then 50% of the time actually making it, and I wish I could just get to the second half. When I do an exhibition theres always one painting that will kill me; one painting that will refuse to do what I tell it to, and then, there’s one thats like magic. I think this is partially what prevents me from starting the work and why I end up thinking so much about it. I feel like if I think about it more, I’ll stop myself from screwing it up, but thats not true at all. So I’m trying to think less about that and just jump straight into the doing part.
When I get into the painting process though, I start with a burnt umber underpainting for the figure and then I come back over with white to make it into a tonal study. Then I go over the top and start working in skin tones. If I spend time making sure that the under painting is really accurate then I have less trouble at the end. If the first step is rushed through then that’s when you get nightmare paintings. I guess I’m just terrified of bad paintings.
Verso: What about Art keeps you coming back every day?
Jasmine: It’s like breathing, if I was to stop I’m pretty sure I’d drop dead randomly!
I was talking to another artist, Ellie Kammer, about this the other week. We were both frustrated with art and we were like: ‘Art sucks! It’s horrible, we should never do it again!’, and my solution was to lock myself away in my studio and to think about how horrible art was whilst painting. Which is really stupid. Despite being burned by it constantly, my only way to get through that, is to paint.
Im sitting here making paper cranes as we talk, so Im pretty sure I can’t process the world if I’m not making things. I feel like I make sense, and the world makes sense, when I’m doing art.
Verso: Do you have tips for other artists?
Jasmine: If I had to tell something to my younger self, it would be: you’re not always right. I think I tried to be a bit of a “know it all” in regards to art, and I fought my way through art school. Art school sucks, but its also wonderful, its going to challenge you in the ways you don't want to be challenged.
But mostly, I think be nice. I said to Zac, my boyfriend, that 2017 is the year I start being nice to myself. Sometimes, art does suck, but you just have to be nice to yourself, be resilient, accept advice, and be nice to other people too. I don't think you'd do well in the industry if you’re just a dick, and a lot of artists that I’ve really appreciated talking to and learning from, are just artists who have been really nice.
Verso: What artists/writers/ and/or creative people are your trophy people?
Jasmine: My trophy people? Well, Robin Eley, seemings I’ve mentioned him before, and loads of people. Anna Platten, definitely, since The Devil is in the Detail at The Art Gallery of South Australia - I wish I could see that exhibition again. And after seeing the Robert Hannaford exhibition he’s on my list too. But also loads of artists who are my own age as well, like Ellie Kammer and Tsering Hannaford.
Just any artist whose been nice.
I’ve really been appreciating Deidre But-Husaim’s work at the moment too. Jeremy Lipking, there are definitely a few of his paintings that just rock my world. Cesar Santos, I’ve just recently discovered his work. I really like how well he knows his anatomy, and really knows how to paint, he just knows his shit.
Oh and I want to say as well - Florence and the Machine! She inspired me to make this inspiration board today. She’s just like chicken soup for the soul. She’s just a really artistically inspiring person.
Verso: Do you have a five year plan?
Jasmine: Aww gee, I wrote my five year plan about two and a half years ago, and everything I wrote in that came a lot quicker than expected.
So my plan has been to make one and a half year plans at this stage, because I don't think that I can predict anything more. I give myself goals, I sit down and write out things I want to achieve and what I should do, its a big list. And then I go about trying to achieve those things, you just kind of have to grab opportunities as they come.
Verso: Whats next? (Exhibitions or shows?)
Jasmine: Oh, nothing at the moment, in as far as I have nothing booked, but I’m applying for a residency overseas. If I get selected for that I think I’ll go for a grant for it. I was also talking to Hill Smith about the possibility of setting up a mentorship. And I’d love to have a mentor who’s actually female. I’ve had guys as mentors before and it’s great, but their experience of the art world is always a little different than what I’ve encountered, and I think it would be nice to have someone whose had more similar experiences.
And with that final question, our discussion about Jasmine Ann Dixon’s colourful and vibrant practice came to an end.
So remember; be nice, and appreciate the colour yellow just a little more.