Illustrator at Alga.
THE INSPIRATION TALK
BEAUTIFUL JADE, WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND WHAT WERE YOU DREAMING OF ?
I was born and raised in Rio. I didn’t dream of anything specific apart from becoming a professional ice-skater.
HAHA. HERE IN RIO?
I don’t even know why! I must have ice-skated maybe twice in my life when travelling but that was still my dream job (laughs). My other dream was to become a veterinary.
A CLASSIC THIS ONE! WHAT KIND OF EDUCATION DID YOU GET?
My parents separated when I was four years old. They are both Brazilian but they are very different, I cannot imagine them together at all. My father is very strict and square. My mother is expansive like an Italian mama; she is the kind of person that you either love or hate. She says everything she has on her mind, without any filter. In my house everyone was always dancing around and this is something I carry with me until today; there were a lot of passion, emotion, crying, hugging, kissing… I also grew up developing a very introspective side that comes from my father. When I argue with my mother she always tells me I am just like my father and when I argue with my father he says I am just like my mother… Of course, I am both of them!
WHERE DID YOU STUDY?
I went to very open-minded schools and when I was little my parents actually put me in the craziest Montessori one. The rules were completely different than from my other friends’ schools. Soon I was moved to Escola Parque, which says a lot about who I am. I stayed there from 7 to 18 years old.
SO YOUR MOM WON THIS FIGHT I GUESS?
WHAT DID YOU STUDY THERE?
In high school I started to realize I wasn’t made for economy nor math nor any other field of this type. I felt very lost and didn’t know what I wanted to do until my final high school year when I started taking drawing lessons and suddenly became sure about something in my life. I started looking at universities to explore that area and found one where I could study design. I believed I could earn some money with a design job, which would combine the only thing I wanted to do with actually earning a life. Only when I started the course, it hit me that I had a total misconception of what design really was. It didn’t feel like Art at all, which I realized was what I really wanted to do, and I also rapidly understood that I wasn’t going to be rich anyway (laughs). At some point I allowed myself to let go of this design career, taking with me the things I learned while studying for it and just following my own path. I am grateful for everything I was taught there since it elevated me so much.
HOW LONG DID YOU KEEP STUDYING DESIGN FOR?
From 2012 until 2016. I had to stop the course since I fell pregnant and I had to deliver the baby! (Laughs). This was a crazy experience for me, being pregnant at school. But you know this started something new for me that I didn’t know I had in me: I began not caring so much about what people would think.
HOW DID YOU START DRAWING? WAS IT ALWAYS SOMETHING YOU WERE DOING?
I started drawing as a very young child and I remember my mom always telling me I should become an architect. There is something really strange with me when I am drawing: I tend to work the best when I am in a cloudy mood. So when I was 16, I kind of became very productive! (Laughs). At this age I was confused and I felt the need to plunge deep in my heart to find the inspiration to express myself. I was writing a lot, taking pictures, painting… Everything was a way to escape from this state of confusion for me.
YOUR WORK FEELS LIKE A JOURNAL, EVEN IF YOU DON’T USE YOUR OWN NAME FOR THE DIFFERENT CHARACTERS… BUT I FEEL THE MAIN CHARACTER KIND OF FOLLOWED THE DIFFERENT HAIRCUTS YOU HAD (LAUGHS).
Absolutely. When I started exploring more of this field at 16, my process was the same as when you have a journal. And then I started refining it. One day, a friend of mine saw one of the initial versions of Alga, the main character that I draw today, and told me: “this is something”. Before that, I was just doing a lot of stuff and trying to understand where it could bring me. This friend told me I was an artist and that I should do something about it. So I put all my best work together, I photographed it, put it out on Instagram and suddenly things started coming back to me. This was a huge moment for me: everything is so autobiographic that when I started seeing people commenting about it and actually identifying with it, I was stunned. It was all about what I was feeling inside; I couldn’t understand how these people could recognize themselves in my drawings too. That is when I decided to really pursue it as a serious thing.
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE TO SHARE YOUR ART ON INSTAGRAM FOR THE FIRST TIME? IT MUST BE FRIGHTENING SINCE IT WAS SO AUTOBIOGRAPHIC.
I think it was the easiest way to do it. The first comment got me all shook though. I was not happy, I was astonished. Like I felt a bit intruded upon. For a long time I didn’t feel okay to sell any of the drawings; it was okay to post them on social media but I couldn’t give them away. It felt so personal. This is me, it is a part of me. These illustrations are where I put my deepest feelings. I couldn’t give that away to any one.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHO YOU GAVE YOUR 1st DRAWING TO?
I think it was to my analyst (laughs). At some point the drawings were so autobiographic that I started bringing them along to my sessions. I was speaking through them. It was so unusual to her that I ended up giving her one.
WHAT DOES ALGA MEAN?
Alga means “sea plant” in Portuguese. It was not supposed to become the name of my character. People actually started to call her that way but at the beginning it was “Algo de alga” (editor’s note: “something from the seaplant”), meaning something fluid and mysterious. The character was supposed to represent women with something of “alga”.
WHO DO YOU DRAW FOR?
My creative process is very intense and deep, so I guess I draw for me first, since it works like a personal therapy. I noticed that when I go deep inside, the illustration speaks to more people than when I do more superficial introspections. I also have to deal with the mistakes I do while drawing and incorporating them to the end result. This happens also when I make ceramics. It is a big part of the process to deal with the imperfections, the gestures that went “wrong”. At the beginning I would always try to do perfect lines even if I never got close to that, but then I realized I don’t have to get there. Imperfection is okay.
I KNOW THE FEELING! I DO A BIT OF CERAMIC TOO AND I LEARNED TO LOVE THE IMPERFECTIONS OF A PIECE, I FIND IT TOUCHING AND IT TELLS A STORY, OR AT LEAST IT GETS PEOPLE TO ASK YOU ABOUT IT.
It is so important to have stories to tell.
YOUR ILLUSTRATIONS ARE SO POETIC. THEY FEEL SO SIMPLE AND YET SO WISE, JUST LIKE ONE OF THESE BOOKS THAT GIVE YOU A MANTRA A DAY YOU KNOW? ARE YOU USUALLY THE ONE PERSON YOUR FRIENDS TEND TO GO TO SEE FOR ADVICES?
My friends come a lot to me for my advice but I don’t think I am the best one to give it to them (laughs). I feel I am too messy when I speak. This is actually something I am working on even when I draw. I tend to simplify my drawings as I am doing them. I start off with a very confused mind and then I try to focus on the single most important feeling I have inside and find the best way to express it.
TELL ME ABOUT MOTHERHOOD, ESPECIALLY SINCE BECOMING A MOM SO YOUNG (AT 23), WAS IT ALWAYS SOMETHING YOU WANTED?
I always wanted to be a young mom but to be honest I didn’t think it would happen that young. But I was happy when I got the news. I mean, I was aware of the “risk” I was taking, not using protection. When it happened, my boyfriend and I were in a period where we wanted a big change. We were actually planning on moving to New York and we were setting everything up for that. One day, as I was leaving to go on a ski holiday with my dad’s family, I noticed my period didn’t come. My boyfriend told me to take a test just to take it out of my mind. We then literally stood looking at each other in the eyes for four hours, until I needed to leave to catch my plane. There, we had the big change we wanted so badly! We decided to cancel our move to NY and face this new adventure. It was really scary though, to go on holidays with that news: I didn’t know if I could eat fish, if I could ski, nor anything else!
DID YOU TELL ANYONE DURING THESE HOLIDAYS?
Only my dad. He is a very square person like I said. He told me : “okay, this is what you are going to do with your studies…; this is what you are going to do with your boyfriend;…”. He was basically taking care of all the things I needed to think of for my new life.
WAS IT HARD TO TELL HIM?
Oh yes. It’s funny because when we were at the airport, I didn’t know if I could go through the X-rays door. So I discreetly told the security agent that I was pregnant and that no one from the people I was with, knew. We decided to let everyone else pass in front of me so that I could go through a different (secure) door without anyone noticing. But then when it became my turn to go, the guy screams to his colleague standing on the other side : “there is a pregnant lady here”. I was so scared they’d heard but they didn’t. When we arrived at the lobby of the hotel I couldn’t hold it any longer and told him. I felt relieved.
When I told my mum I had something to tell her she knew right away, and started crying and laughing at the same time. Since I got pregnant, everything got really intense.
IT IS FUNNY BECAUSE THE 1ST ILLUSTRATION YOU POSTED REPRESENTED A WOMAN HOLDING A BABY (WAY BEFORE YOU EVEN FELT PREGNANT)… PREMONITORY OR JUST A METAPHOR FOR THE NEW PROJECT?
I always had this maternal instinct, it is something I always thought a lot about. When I had my baby, I just realized how finally all these drawings I had made before, made sense. Having a baby is really different than I thought it would be, in a better way. A wonderful way. But this doesn’t take the “OMG” moments away. Like even after one year, sometimes I look at my child and I scream “OMG I made this!” (laughs).
I FEEL YOUR WORK PROCESS IS AN INTROSPECTION THAT NEEDS SILENCE AROUND IN ORDER TO BE BORN. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU NEED IN ORDER TO BALANCE YOUR HECTIC DAYS WITH BABY GAEL?
It is something that I need very much indeed. It brings me serenity. You know, I am this crazy type of person that needs to catalogue everything to feel good. I make lists for everything and I even make menus weeks in advance for what to eat in a bid to give a sense of direction to my “messy” life. This cataloguing OCD helps me to organize my life, and drawing helps me organize the mess inside of me.
BE HONEST: WHAT IS MOST CHALLENGING? BEING A MOM OR BEING AN ARTIST?
I think… being a young mom/artist (laughs).
WHAT WOULD YOU DREAM ON DOING NEXT WITH ALGA?
I have two main focuses which are ceramic and illustration, and now I want to put them together: painting ceramics and porcelain. You know when I gave birth I didn’t have a nanny because I really wanted to stay with my baby, like I didn’t want anybody to touch him. After maybe three months, I started to feel the need to have a moment for myself. At home, I couldn’t have these moments since the baby was always there. That is when I started to look for places to do ceramic and suddenly I had two full hours on my own, where Gabriel (editor’s note: Jade’s boyfriend) was taking care of baby Gael. Just a moment for me. This was really important for me at the time because I was only responsible for myself during this 2-hour break, acting like some kind of therapy to just “be there”, in the moment, not thinking about anything else. Whenever I got back home after these sessions, I would always feel so energized and happy. My relationship to Gabriel and Gael always felt better after these moments too. There is something about the hands, I don’t know… Making something out of your own bare hands is very empowering. I wish to develop that more with Alga.
I SEE A LOT OF FEMININE REPRESENTATION IN YOUR WORK BUT WHAT DOES IT CONTRIBUTE IN DOING FOR WOMEN?
I think my way of contributing, politically, is through what I do. I believe in sorority, I believe in feminism, I believe in gender equality and I try to put these things in my art. I really do it on purpose. In every piece of art that I make, I am willing to pass a message.
WHAT KIND OF FEEDBACK DO YOU GET? DO YOU FEEL PEOPLE READ THESE POLITICAL MESSAGES?
I think just knowing that other women are touched by my work already establishes a chain between us. In my opinion, this is the first step of sorority and I think it is beautiful. To connect with girls that I don’t even know, shows me that they “read” me.
REGARDING THE IMPORTANCE OF TEACHING YOUR CHILD FEMINISM, WERE YOU SCARED KNOWING YOU WERE GOING TO HAVE A SON INSTEAD OF A DAUGHTER?
I don’t know why but I always knew I would get a son. I know I have this really heavy responsibility not to turn my son into a bad guy but I think I am raising him with a lot of truth. Right now he is a sponge: if I tap on the table, he will tap on the table. I am aware of this power I have on him and therefore I try to be an example. I hope that just being myself is going to be enough to inspire him and understand what we (his father and I) believe in. Of course sometimes I freak out like “what if he doesn’t get it?” (laughs). But it is not possible since I am here, attentive and focused on that. I always will be. You know, raising a child is about dealing with common sense: he is eventually going to come to me with all these questions and I’ll have to answer with what I feel will be the most appropriate response.
HOW ABOUT YOU? WHO DO YOU GO TO FOR ADVICE?
My boyfriend Gabriel! I cannot imagine my life without us being part of each other. When Gael goes to sleep at night, we have dinner together and talk a lot. He is a part of me, but a part that thinks very differently from me. It is like having this other me that I can consult when I am too confused.
YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE ME CRY!
WHAT IS THE COOLEST THING YOU TAUGHT YOUR SON RECENTLY?
Clapping his hands!
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY IN YOUR LIFE?
Motherhood changed me a lot! I used to be very productive at night and now I am a morning person. I wake up around 7am with Gael, I make us some breakfast and stay with him until 9am when his nanny arrives. That is the moment when I sit and think about what I want to draw about. My creative process is always different: sometimes it comes from an image reference, sometimes I have a movement in my mind that I want to try to recreate. I spend my day working and producing my art from home. Gabriel always comes home to have lunch with us. When the nanny leaves at 5pm, I have my moment with Gael which is my most precious time of the day. From 5 to 8pm, I dedicate my time to him and it’s not like he allows me to do anything else! He needs my full attention. But everything keeps evolving and changing so rapidly. My dream would be to have an atelier one day.
WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS WHEN YOU HAVE COMMISSIONED WORK?
It is actually still really weird for me when someone asks for something very specific. Like I told you, my work comes from a very deep introspection, so when someone asks for something I don’t immediately identify with or that I have not experienced personally, it is difficult for me. But then I internalize what the person wants and try to recreate my very own way of relating to it. It is funny because until today, I still have a special attachment to my original drawings. When I sell one, I always make another copy (by hand) and I keep the original.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF BEING AN ARTIST?
There are two big challenges for me: one of them is getting naked and honouring the expectative of the people you share your art with. The second thing is that it can be really hard to sell yourself. At least, this is hard for me. Gabriel always says that artists nowadays produce 2 days a week and the other days are used to sell their work.
HOW DID YOU SELL YOUR FIRST PIECE?
Someone ordered one from the ones I posted on Instagram! I just had to post it in the mail. It was hard to give it away though. But it made me very happy.
DO YOU THINK A GIRL CAN BE WHATEVER SHE WANTS?
I think so, but it is not an easy journey, most of the time.
WHAT IS THE ESSENTIAL THING SHE NEEDS, TO GET THERE?
Definitively other women! Strong women. And patience. You also need to be true to yourself and true to the others to touch them. Sometimes you need to touch people in order for them to help you in your path to getting where you want to go. It is super hard for me too, to connect with others since I am kind of shy.
WHAT IS THE SONG THAT WILL ALWAYS MAKE YOU WANT TO DANCE?
There is this song that doesn’t necessarily make me want to dance but for sure touches me as it is the one I sing every single night to put my son to sleep. It’s called "Lá de longe" from Tribalistas. It brings back so many memories from my late childhood, when I was 8 or 9 years and this album was a hit here in Brazil. Also, there is something about the lyrics that touches me a lot (and Gael too since he ends up falling asleep, every time) and reminds me that those are unique moments that won’t come back. So sometimes when it’s really hard and he's fighting to go to sleep, this song works as a kind of mantra that keeps me sane and conscious that that moment will pass and that someday I will miss it.
This portrait is part of a curated series of 4 portraits of artists representing free, feminine and inspiring women that OuiSimone imagined with Cris Barros.