The surfer, illustrator and designer, whose poster was shown at the recent London Surf Film Festival, regularly works for Nikita and Billabong. Below she chats the creative process, the life altering power of surfing and dealing with people not getting your art
I have been surrounded by creativity for as long as I can remember. My mother is a textile artist/fashion illustrator and I have always looked up to her artistic talent. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunities and support to follow a creative path with my life.
It never occurred to me not to choose art, it just seemed the natural way to go. The only hard thing was choosing what to specialise in. I have never been able to pigeonhole myself into one specific creative discipline, I’m not a fan of labels. I think one should be free to express themselves across all borders within art. I always thought of myself as multi-discipline, combining illustrative techniques with mixed media/photography and textiles. In the end I studied BA (Illustration) at Falmouth University College which shaped the way I work today and was great at preparing one for the challenging and volatile world of a freelance illustrator.
You need many things to survive as a freelancer – self discipline, determination, organisation, passion, drive and talent amongst other things. It’s not always a walk in the park. Art is an expression of your inner self and when it is rejected or not received as you would have hoped, it is wounding on a deep level. This is where self-belief comes in and the knowing that this is the only thing in the world you want to do. If it makes you happy and inspires others that is good enough for me.
Commissions and commercial work is sometimes tricky because you have to comprise in some areas, and the finished result is not alway necessarily what you would have come up with yourself. This can be good at times because it pushes your work into areas you wouldn’t usually go. It’s important to venture out of your comfort zone as this is the only way you can learn and develop.
This applies to all areas of life I’ve learnt. It is too easy to stay comfortable and stick to what you know but change doesn’t come out of staying still. Change comes out of asking questions, digging deeper, pushing boundaries, testing limits, opening your mind and welcoming uncertainty. It is through realising our impermanence that we can live with more intensity. Life itself is a gift – as soon as you are aware of this, sharing what you have to offer with others becomes vital. I believe in finding your talent and sharing it with the world.
Action sports fall into this category too. I discovered surfing at school when my teacher took a group of us to the Gower Peninsula in Wales. From that moment on I was hooked. I couldn’t tell you at that point what it was that I had discovered and couldn’t live without. But it shaped the way I viewed life, influenced important decisions I made in my life, and inevitably altered the course of my being. Most of the places I have lived and travelled to have been centred around surfing.
I owe a lot to the beautiful West Country, a truly special corner of the world. Cornwall is a healing place. Its beauty is raw, ancient and inspiring. I love how each beach and every coastline has its own personality. The ocean has always been a constant in my life. Its nurturing energies have helped me through tough times of loss. Being in the sea, surfing, in forests, anywhere surrounded by nature of indescribable beauty helps to put things into perspective. When immersing ourselves in these environments we are not separate entities pursuing selfish endeavours – we rely on the co-operation of forces outside of ourselves and the will of the universe, and this is humbling.
Shortly after I graduated I headed out on a pilgrimage to the mecca of the boards sports design industry, Costa Mesa, California. Armed with a portfolio and my best English accent, I visited all the main surf brands seeking work. My endeavours got me some freelance designs with Hurley, and I even got to meet Rob Machado which was a bonus. I lived in Huntington Beach for three months during which time I settled in and I made some good friends. I love the creative energy at grass roots level there. It’s now my home from home in the sunshine and I go back to visit whenever I get the opportunity!
Not long after this trip I was contacted by Nikita to collaborate with them on some designs for their street wear collection. This was back in 2010 and sparked a longstanding relationship with the brand. I work with them every season now to come up with artwork and prints. In 2012 I had the opportunity to visit their HQ in Iceland and work for a week in-house with the team. It was an awesome trip – I absolutely loved the stunning landscapes. Having already worked with Nikita for a couple of years and not having met them yet, putting faces to names was brilliant and strengthened the working relationship.
Earlier this year, I got a call out from Billabong Girls Australia in Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast to do a months work placement in-house. Billabong has always been a favourite brand of mine so it was a pleasure to spend some time in the HQ, getting to know the girls design team.
Lately I’ve really been getting into drawing and improving my drawing skills. I think it is so important to have a strong understanding of the structures of things. The more you draw, the more you see and the more you understand. I like combining pencil work with watercolours and mixed media. I tend to work quickly and not spend too long on a piece – it makes me feel uneasy when I overwork something. I enjoy the spontaneity and the emotions you can capture in a quick sketch. I am inspired by everything around me – people, nature, animals, plants and patterns feature a lot in my work. When I get stuck for inspiration I get in the sea, go for a walk, do some yoga, play some music (the digeridoo is my current instrument of choice!) – anything meditative that creates stillness of the mind, allowing new energies to flow through and reawakening the imagination.
What advice do I have for aspiring artists? Always find a way to follow your passion, the world does a good job at distracting you. Create something everyday. Collaborate with others and learn from your peers. Find a role model. And master your art.
I recently had an exhibition up at the London Surf Film Festival as part of the Approaching Lines collective. This has spurred me on to do some more exhibitions so I have some coming up next summer, and some projects and collaborations with photographers too which is exciting. I also designed one of the nine posters for the LS/FF x Oakley Surf Cinema Re-Vision exhibition which are being auctioned for WaterAid charity so be sure to check that out. Of course there are more Nikita collections to come out soon so keep an eye on my website to check out the latest. As far as other clothing brands, I would love to work with Insight as they are one of my favourite, so I’ll be working on that one!
To have a look at Vicki’s work check out her website victoriajonesillustration.com