Celia Jacobs is part of a dying breed of traditionalists. No multimedia. No digital touch-ups. Instead, she lets gouache, acrylic, and colored pencil breathe life into whimsical and “imperfect” drawings. We wanted to explore the duality in her work and discuss the delicate balance she strikes between all texture, flatness, high contrast colors and soft figures.
How would you describe the style of your work?
This is a question I’m supposed to be good at answering, but I’m not. I think my work is very color-forward. I think color is the first thing, it’s bright. Because of that, it’s playful. I’m also really interested in texture, so it’s textured. I have abstract influences, so it’s also very flat. I’m influenced by printmaking and Japanese art. I steal a lot of my colors from either David Hockney or Japanese graphic design from the 60’s and 70’s which is my big secret haha. No, but everything else is about textures and being sensitive to that and color.
How has your artistic style changed from before college until now?
It’s definitely different. I came in doing a lot of delicate stuff that was just pencil drawings, and it didn’t jump out. I was just into the act of drawing. But, a little over halfway through I had some sort of breakdown, and I decided I wanted to make stuff that stood out. I didn’t want to just be good at drawing. I wanted to be good at making images. I wanted to be more forward and a little more dramatic. The change was also influenced by coming to LA. In Portland, everything is relatively cold all the time and it’s rainy and it’s a different mood— quieter and slower. Coming here, all the buildings are a lot more colorful. The harshness of the sunlight makes everything so sharp and high contrast, and I really liked that. I started to get influenced by it. I was like, “it’s time for a change.”
You do some drawings to illustrate news stories and others for yourself— what is this balance like, and what are your main projects at the moment?
I mostly do editorial illustration work now. I’ve always liked having an assignment, so I enjoy it. I like making something that is going to go somewhere, so it has a purpose. I think I need a better balance of making work just for myself as well. I feel like it’s really valuable to do that. But, I went on this boat trip in December. It was an oceanographic expedition with graduate students and some faculty from UCSB and a couple other schools. The scientists were going out to study changes in the phytoplankton in the Santa Barbara channel. I had met the chief scientist at a research conference I worked at as a visualizer/documentarian, and so she invited me on the cruise. So, that is an on-going project right now, and then I’m also working on some art for a group show I’m doing in the spring.
In 5-10 years, what kind of progress do you hope to see in your art?
When I graduated from school, they made us do this PowerPoint of where our lives will go. It’s super funny to give a PowerPoint of my future life in bullet points. I think my answers have changed since then, but I do want to keep doing illustration. I really like helping and being a part of something. I’d like to do more of that than I am now even. Sometimes, I want to move more towards fine art and gallery work and painting my own ideas, and other times that’s totally scary and unappealing. I think lately I want to have a role in communicating science to the public. From talking with the scientists involved in the phytoplankton research, they feel that science has a communication issue. I agree in that a lot of times science is presented in a way that’s either super intimidating or even boring. But, I feel like there are a lot of really beautiful and abstract things in science that connect with our lives, and it doesn’t have to be scary or serious all the time. It should be allowed to be funny even sometimes. Illustration is about communicating, and so being able to help in that way would be really cool.