Jessica Swift is the co-author with Michelle Ward of The Declaration of You. Not only are you in for a treat with her essay but also her fabric patterns and illustrations which I've included a sampling of below. You can read about Michelle's journey here.
I remember sitting on the floor as a little girl, marker smeared all the way up to my elbow, focused intently on hand-drawing/coloring bubble-letter posters for every holiday, family birthday, and special event. I remember collecting every variety of Crayola marker I could get my hands on – they used to make cool sets like “Jungle Colors”, and those were my prized possessions. I remember how delighted my family was every time a new poster graced the walls—they’d hang there for weeks. I learned early that art and color make people happy, and most importantly that art and color made ME happy. I remember my grandma telling me once that I should be a fabric designer when I grew up.
Despite my early love of art and of making things, I never really considered being an artist when I grew up. I wanted to be a singer/songwriter. Making art was just this fun thing that I liked to do. I was dismissive about it.
When I started applying to colleges, I applied as an undeclared major, because I didn’t know quite what I wanted to do or study. Ithaca College was one of the schools to which I applied, and by some strange stroke of fate (or, more likely, a weird clerical error), I was accepted as… an art major. I hadn’t even sent a portfolio or anything. Weird, right? I know. Ithaca College was the school that I ended up choosing to attend, and I figured that I guess I’d try out this art major thing since I did like making art after all, and I could always change it if I wanted to. So off I went to college, to (maybe) be an art major.
I graduated with a BFA, focusing on painting. The art program at my school was small and fairly traditional. I took one computer art class for a semester, where I learned some fundamentals about Photoshop, how to work a scanner, and how to make a rudimentary animation. It was fun, but not something I saw myself using very much in the future. I was a painter! And I loved painting, but there was always something missing. I had this notion (picked up from my cranky oil painting teacher, among others) that art had to be IMPORTANT. And SERIOUS. And MEAN SOMETHING DEEP AND BIG. Ugh, no pressure or anything. I’ve always been drawn to color for the sake of color. Art that makes you feel happy. Decorative art that makes you feel good and uplifted, like I made when I was a kid. I learned in college that that type of art isn’t enough.
So I continued on in my path as a painter, living with the notion that I wanted to create work that was pretty and simply makes you feel good, while also believing that it had to be more “important” and serious than that. Hello, inner conflict!
I discovered pattern design 5 years after graduating from college. I saw artists who called themselves “surface pattern designers”, creating amazing patterns and sharing them online, and I thought “why didn’t anyone ever tell me this is a career?? This is what I’ve been waiting for! This is the missing piece.” (If you’ll remember, though, my grandma did tell me when I was a kid that she thought I should be a fabric designer… she must’ve been psychic, that one.) Their work was fun. It was decorative, pretty, and it made me feel good. So I obsessively taught myself how to use the computer programs I needed in order to become a surface pattern designer. I gave up the old belief that art had to be so serious. It took over a year of learning and teaching myself before I created my first successful repeat pattern. And I was TRIUMPHANT! Finally. I was on my way to making my new dream a reality, one new pattern at a time.
Discovering pattern design and fully embracing it as my true path has led to a life and career beyond what I could’ve imagined—amazing licensing partnerships, lines of gift products, co-creating a passion-finding book called The Declaration of You (being published in June 2013!), exhibiting at licensing trade shows, and many wonderful new friends.
But most importantly, it taught me that listening to your soul’s callings and your intuition is always, always the answer. It’ll lead you to exactly where you want to be.
Jessica Swift, a full-time artist, surface pattern designer,and writer, is on a quest to inspire everyone on the planet to pursue their wild + colorful dreams. Her magically uplifting and colorful artwork is licensed by companies and manufacturers for iPhone cases, fabric, stationery, and much more. Her art and products are designed to serve as tokens of happiness — reminders that you need (and deserve) to feel GOOD in your life. Her first book (co-written with creative career coach Michelle Ward), The Declaration of You, will be published by North Light Books in June 2013. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two adorable cats, and you can find her colorfully creating and blogging online at JessicaSwift.com.