Illustrator Jessica Durrant and her Rose de Mai watercolors

Painterly Passion

Artist Jessica Durrant’s colorful, feminine illustrations caught our attention several years back when we asked her to create some works using our 2017 Save the Gorillas eye palette. With bold linework and whimsical interpretations of form, each piece she creates is distinctively hers and full of life. When we sought an artist to re-create our beloved Rose de Mai Collection, Durrant was the natural choice—she adores flowers as much as we do, and was curious to discover the harvest process as she thought about how to bring it to life with art. We chatted with the Atlanta-based artist about this season’s collaboration and her lifelong relationship with creating.

Seeing our Rose de Mai come to life in your watercolors has been so exciting! Can you speak a bit about what working on this project was like for you?
I love working with the team at Chantecaille. They wanted to have watercolor renderings of the Rose de Mai harvest process and Rose de Mai Collection, which, to me, is the most iconic line for the brand. We had a lot of fun with the inspiration and depiction of the harvesting of the roses. I love painting flowers and making vignette & spot illustrations so this project was extra fun for me. 

Do you have a favorite subject to paint?
Women will always be my favorite subject. We are so strong, yet vulnerable and thats what makes us unique and versatile to paint. I love creating art that pays tribute to the endless depth women hold within. And oftentimes I use personal symbols in my work, layered into the piece to create that richness. 

Durrant on holiday, a hand-painted Pure Rosewater bottle

Your work has seen so many different outlets—fashion, TV, beauty, editorial—when you realize youre building a career being a working artist, do you just pinch yourself?
I did, but I think in those busy moments it’s easy to not pay tribute to them if you’re not fully present. For me, I have always celebrated every small milestone in my career. When I was newly single, and my career was starting to take off I had my first illustration project with Target go live in stores. My friend took me to one location and we popped a bottle of champagne we snuck into the store to toast the illustrations (which were a part of banners in the shoe dept) And then we drunk-shopped at Target after. haha. But there were def moments like that, that were surreal but I also made sure to enjoy them and tell myself the sky’s the limit. 

How did you become an artist? Was making/painting/creating always something that’s been a part of your life?
I have been drawing since I was 3. I have always loved creating and being in my own world when I would sit down and draw. I studied Illustration and my dream was always to do fashion illustration. I didn’t think I could do it though, so it took a lot of life lessons in my 20s and confidence building to realize I deserved to give myself the gift to really go for it. 

Art can be magical. Art can allow us to say things we could never express in words.

Do you have any tips for amateur artists who are looking to make it a pastime and/or a career?
I think we have to remember that it is a gift. To respect it. It has the power to benefit our lives in countless ways. Art can be therapy. Art can be healing. Art can be fun. Art can be magical. Art can allow us to say things we could never express in words. Art can lead us to new people, places and experiences. But only if we are willing to take that chance. To push aside our needs to be perfect and not vulnerable. When you take that chance on yourself, the universe rewards you. So believe in yourself enough to get started. Be proactive. And don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do. And read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It changed my outlook forever. 

Your relationship with Chantecaille goes back a ways! Is there a project you’ve worked on for us that stands out as a favorite?
There have been so many I have enjoyed. Chantecaille is always thinking about art, and I think that’s because their roots are in France. And the French value art more than most cultures. I loved our first project together, where I was able to create a time lapse of a piece inspired by the Gorilla eyeshadow palette. I remember just feeling very appreciated as an artist and given trust right from the start. I also loved the live painting I did at their counter at Bergdorf Goodman’s! It was sooooo fun. I have met so many people who work for the brand and they all have been top notch! 

Durrant's depiction of the Rose de Mai fields in Grasse

What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without making art?
I did not create anything for 2 years after I finished my degree. I was so burnt out, but I also felt like I was never going to be an illustrator. I went through a lot of negative comparisons to other artist’s when I was in school. And I think after I realized that shouldn’t hold me back, and I needed to be kinder to myself it became easier to pick up my paint brush again. I didn’t start painting again until my first trip abroad and I knew I needed to get back in touch with my artist self because it’s so much a part of the fabric of me. 

Where do you seek inspiration?
I think all artists can say we find it everywhere. But that’s a boring vague answer, ha! For me, I always go back to the library. I love dusty books and magazines from the archives. Old Vogue’s & Harpers Bazaars are my absolute favorite to thumb through and get inspired by. 


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