Interview with Sussex-based artist, Jessica Zoob

PUBLISHED: 11:29 24 August 2010 | UPDATED: 17:44 20 February 2013

oil on canvas, 92 x 122 cm      
This is my favourite painting and has taken me eight years to complete

oil on canvas, 92 x 122 cm       This is my favourite painting and has taken me eight years to complete

Jessica Zoob is a Sussex-based artist with a growing reputation for her beautiful impressionist paintings, which now hang all over the world, with shows in major London galleries. This month the public in Sussex can see her work at her home in Lewes.

Jessica Zoob is a Sussex-based artist with a growing reputation for her beautiful impressionist paintings, which now hang all over the world, with shows in major London galleries. This month the public in Sussex can see her work at her home in Lewes and at the Post Office in Ripe. Simon Irwin went to meet her

Asked whether she is a Sussex artist Jessica Zoob decides, after a little thought on the subject, that, despite not wanting to label herself, she probably is.
She moved from London to Lewes around five years ago, because the town was incredibly beautiful, it was so close to the Downs and, vitally, because of the quality of the local school for her children.
Jessica has stayed after drawing inspiration from the soothing nature and human scale of the Sussex countryside around her home.
We got down here and I thought why on earth did we take such a long time? Theres something quite magical about this whole part of the country and especially along the coast.
You get the sea and this lovely flat landscape and this huge sky and then early in the evening the mist rolling in over the fields. Its just quite magical and really peaceful and thats where some of my work comes from.
Once youre here it sort of enfolds you, it sort of just weaves its magic. I just love it.
At her studio you can see how her work has developed from when she gave up her job after seven years as a theatre designer on major shows to become a full-time painter.
Her original work was much more abstract. Some of it, strong highly-colourful swirls and shapes is on show at her home. Her later work, textured pieces reflecting Sussex and other places important to her, is much more impressionistic as can be seen in the images chosen by her for this article and reproduced with her comments.
She feels that the playful and enthusiastic way she approaches her work comes through in the finished paintings. She was inspired by the way her children enjoyed painting when they were little.

Part of the community
They enjoyed the process so much, they werent thinking about the end product, they were loving the feel of it and I think because I have that sort of attitude to my work, people who own it say it makes them smile, it lifts their spirits.
Jessica likes to feel part of the local community as well as being at one with the landscape so she opens her studio every year as part of Artwave in Lewes.
As you might expect, her home and studio are beautiful inside, made more lovely by her paintings which really do adorn the walls. She shares this space and her small but perfectly formed garden with the public who queue up to get in every year.
Its a big deal in my calendar so I make it like a party. We have wine, its very relaxed, its very informal. If people feel a bit uncomfortable going into galleries then if you come here its just completely calm. There isnt anyone fussing over you. Im here if youve got questions.
Its also a way of seeing the work in a domestic setting whereas in a gallery you can look at something and say I really admire that but I cant imagine it in my own home whereas here you can imagine it. Its friendly, its fun. Its the one thing I do once a year that is about sharing where Ive got to.
She warns that at times it can get full and she has had queues in the past although everyone has got in.

Meeting her buyers
Jessica loves meeting the people who buy her work. Because the paintings take such a long time to make and they become so precious to me to actually know who is buying them is so lovely for me because when they go through a gallery I generally dont know at all where they are going.
She is convinced that the paintings in a curious way find their owners.
If you dont really really love it then please dont buy it. Go and find something else that you really do love because you can only ever fit so many paintings into your own life and you want to be sure you are going to want to keep looking at it.
I just think that paintings find the right people. Its weird that some paintings Ive had on show for three or four years have gone to the first person who loved it at the beginning but for some reason just couldnt have it then and it has been nearly bought five or six times but hasnt and then that same person comes back when theyre ready and the paintings there. Its like its waited for the right person.
Her garden is graced by large scale sculptures of her two daughters Anastasia, 14, and Katerina, 11. Jessica feels that large statuary works well in small spaces and it certainly does there.
Originally, she did all her work in the studio she created from the original lean-to at the side of her home. Now she also has a much larger studio a few miles from town up on the Downs which she needs for the growing scale of her art.

And the size of her paintings is not the only thing growing, as her reputation and popularity is increasing too with shows at the Medici Gallery in Cork Street, London, and, most recently, on the cruise ship The World. Her paintings now hang in homes all around the globe.
It is still possible to snap up an early small-scale work for around 100 to 200 in her Open Studio show compared with the large later works that sell through the Cork Street gallery for around 14,000.
Despite her need to make a living like all of us, there are some paintings that she just cant bear to be parted with.
There are some that I just had to sell that I bitterly regret and I wished Id kept hold of and there some that I just cant let go. They capture my heart and I just love them.
And her feeling that her work has a life of its own continues with her view of when a piece is finished.

A living experience
I call this latest collection Stories Without Words because my daughter says thats what my paintings are like because she sees so many things in them. She doesnt need me to write it all out for her. Thats the point with my work. What I want is to invite people to see what they see in them and nobody can get it wrong. Its not a quiz, its not a test. The human mind wants to make connections all the time and so by giving things that are a little bit ambiguous that you can see in different ways or a painting where the light changes as it hits it so youll suddenly see different things. So theyre kind of living.
Artlovers will get another chance to see some of her work this month as she has an exhibition at the Post Office & Stores with Kudos Foods in the village of Ripe, near Lewes.


Open Studio
Holly House , 26 De Montfort Road
Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 1SR

Aug 28 & 29
Sept 4 & 5, 11 & 12
Noon-6pm or by appointment
07966 572204

Post Office & Stores with Kudos Foods, Church Lane, Ripe
East Sussex, BN8 6AS

Mon-Fri 9am to 1pm 4pm to 6pm
Sat 9am to 5pm from August 28 to September 12

Latest from the Sussex Life