Creative Lives — Artist and illustrator Jasmin Kaur Sehra on why all good things take time

Posted 20 August 2019 Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Introduction by Ayla Angelos

With an ethos based on “patience, passion and enjoyment”, artist and illustrator Jasmin Kaur Sehra makes sure to spend some time working on her personal projects. “To be honest,” she says, “it’s this personal work that developed me as an artist and even got me some of my first jobs.” Now, she boasts an impressive client list ranging from Estée Lauder, Nike, Tate and Converse, as well as Amnesty UK and The Evening Standard. Here, Jasmin tells us about her journey, landing her first commission for MTV on her birthday, and how, while working as a freelancer at home, it’s never been more crucial to switch off from the working hours.

Jasmin Kaur Sehra

Job Title

Freelance Artist and Illustrator

Based

London

Selected Clients

Estée Lauder, Nike, Levis, Converse, The Evening Standard, Tate, Amnesty UK, MTV

Place of Study

BA Graphic and Media Design and Illustration, UAL, London College of Communication (2011–2013)

Website
Social Media

Jasmin; photograph by Misha Meghna

Day-to-Day

How would you describe what you do?
My work involves a mix of painting, design, typography and illustration, as well as digital illustration and bespoke customisation of clothing and products. I’ve worked with some really amazing global sports, clothing and make up brands, magazines and publications, music artists, universities and art institutions.

The projects I usually work on include bespoke artwork and design, illustration, editorial illustrations to accompany articles, plus cover design and typography. I’ve also occasionally held creative zine and customisation workshops, and modelled for global brands and campaigns too, which has been super-fun to get involved in!

What does a typical working day look like and where does it happen?
I’ll usually wake up early and listen to prayers as I get ready for the day, as it helps keep my mind at ease. Further into the day, music definitely helps fuel my creative energy. I usually work at my desk at home and my hours are quite flexible – although I do try to work within the hours of nine to six.

“I love that my work involves things I enjoy doing... it doesn’t feel like I’m working on a job.”

How collaborative is your role?
It isn’t very collaborative as I work on my own, but I always work quite closely with my clients – especially when getting feedback during the design process.

What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
I love that my work involves things I enjoy doing and find interesting, so the whole process doesn’t feel like I’m working on a job. I think sometimes you can find yourself not taking a break, and when you do, it can be hard to stop thinking about work and totally switch off when you’re done for the day. You definitely have to be conscious of this, especially if your work space is at home – it can be hard to divide that work and home boundary.

Jasmin at work on a project for Levi’s

Jasmin at work on a project for Levi’s

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What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
All of the projects and campaigns I’ve worked on this year have played such an integral part of my creative career. A key project was being part of the LDN WMN project, where I was one of 20 artists who created a large-scale mural artwork on unsung women of London, curated by Tate Collective and commissioned by the Mayor of London.

I also painted a vintage Bollywood-style poster of activist Mala Sen which was displayed on Brick Lane in Shoreditch – a huge project and an amazing initiative that I’m so proud to have been involved in. Additionally, I was part of Spark Progress by Converse where I hosted two Paradise Girl [Jasmin’s own brand] customisation workshops. It was really lovely to share my craft with others and provide a safe space for us all to chill out and get creative. More recently, I worked for Estée Lauder and live-painted some of its foundation bottles – that was a challenge and so fun, I loved the buzz of it all.

Jasmin’s work on display in Shoreditch [left] and typographic work for Jasmin’s brand, Paradise Girl [right].

What skills would you say are essential to your job?
I would say that having patience, a passion and enjoyment for what you do is essential, as this is what keeps you going. A lot of the skills I use – such as drawing, painting and digital work – I learnt by myself, but some techniques were developed with the help of tutors and even my brother over the years. Resilience is also key.

What do you like about working in London?
It’s my home and I’m grateful that everything you need is literally on your doorstep. London is so creative; you can find inspiration everywhere and you can also meet some really dope people.

Are you currently working on any personal projects? If so, how do you manage your time alongside other work?
Throughout my creative career I’ve always worked on personal passion projects – to be honest, it’s this personal work that developed me as an artist and even got me some of my first jobs. I think it’s important to be working on your own projects alongside client work, as it can also be a way to unwind. There have been times where I’ve not created for myself, and in a way I lost my path. Never stop creating for you.

“There have been times where I’ve not created for myself, and in a way I lost my path. Never stop creating for you.”

What tools do you use most for your work?
When it comes to painting and customisation work, I’ll usually use suitable paints and brushes. With digital design and illustration I love using my iPad and Procreate, as well as Illustrator and Photoshop. But before I digitise something or even paint a piece, I usually sketch my idea in my Moleskine notebook beforehand, then scan and use that image to further develop a piece.

What inspires your work? And how important do you think it is to land on a particular style as an artist?
I love old-school graphics, images and design – particularly from the 80s and 90s. I don’t think you should be too caught up on having a ‘style’, because if you think about it too much you’ll probably end up doing the opposite and you won’t be so fruitful in your creativity. I found that things come together when you allow yourself time to create freely and enjoy the process, that’s how you eventually find your niche and way of working. You just have to give it time.

Some of Jasmin’s work for Converse

Some of Jasmin’s work for Converse

Some of Jasmin’s work for Converse

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How I Got Here

How do you think your upbringing influenced your choice of career?
Growing up in a creative family was certainly an influence. I remember my mum drawing up a timetable for me and my siblings – we always had a set time most days to get creative, draw, collage or even paint. We were also exposed to some really classic music artists like Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley and Cameo, and that musicality later helped developed my visual language – a lot of my early work was inspired by music artists and their lyricism.

Did you study at degree level and if so, do you feel you need a formal education for what you do?
There were a lot of skills that I learnt and personal projects that I worked on while studying at university that I may not have had the chance to do otherwise. These projects laid the foundation for life after university too. Also, being around other creatives and having mentors and tutors to give advice was a great help. But there’s so much you can learn online too, particularly with the help from tutorials and workshops. It really depends on the individual, but my university experience helped shape me as a person as well as the artist I am today.

Typography, title card and credits design for Raveena Aurora’s ‘Temptation’ music video

After graduating, what were your initial jobs and first steps?
The very first job I had was a little under a month after finishing university – I remember getting the email on my birthday, in fact, and that was from MTV who was commissioning me to design and illustrate two pieces for its UK headquarters. That was just unbelievable to me, and it really drove me to keep on doing what I was doing.

It wasn’t easy finishing university and knowing what to do afterwards, so getting this job gave me a little direction and an understanding of my path at that time. From there, I collaborated with other creatives in the UK and overseas, and got involved in exhibitions. I knew I had to stay proactive creatively and did what I could to succeed. Ultimately, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. So I just kept doing what I loved while working in a full-time job at the time.

“My biggest challenge was understanding the business side to being a freelance artist.”

What’s been your biggest challenge along the way?
My biggest challenge was understanding the business side to being a freelance artist. You aren’t taught about this in university, and so it was something I learnt myself along the way – I’m still getting to grips with it all! Many mistakes were made, but you learn from them. Sometimes that’s the only way – just do it and you’ll learn an abundance of knowledge through your experiences and also from your peers. And research! I also learnt to not be afraid to ask for help and advice.

How important have you found social media and self-promotion in your work?
I find social media to be a great tool in helping build my artistic career. It’s enabled me to share my work and connect to an audience, as well as network with clients I probably wouldn’t have otherwise – but you do have to be active. I have also made some of the best creative friends through it!

Work with Adidas; photography by Sarah Harry-Isaacs

Words of Wisdom

What advice would you give to an emerging creative wanting to get into the same line of work?
Keep creating, and trust your vision and individuality. It can be easy to get disheartened, but things take time to develop and you really have to just believe in your craft. It’s also so important that you stay active and get involved; let opportunities come to you but also get out there and seek them for yourself. Have an open mind – you can learn from everything.

Posted 20 August 2019 Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Introduction by Ayla Angelos
Introduction: Ayla Angelos
Collection: Creative Lives
Disciplines: Illustration
Mentions: Jasmin Kaur Sehra

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