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We would like to formally introduce you to Chromakane.
Chromakane (aka Jessie Cohen) is a contemporary artist and designer currently based in London. Jessie creates intricate illustrative art in the blackwork style, using solid planes of black ink. Each new piece begins as a pen and ink hand drawing, before being rendered digitally or reproduced to fine art quality. Chromakane merges mythological and spiritual storytelling from Eastern and Western cultures to create a new visual identity, influenced by Jessie’s own Eurasian heritage. Find out more about Jessie’s process in her thought pieces below.
We sat down with Jessie to learn more about her life as an artist.
Each Chromakane piece combines a story with an emotion, captured through magical creatures and the natural world. I am always intrigued by the exciting diversity in folklore, mythology and supernatural stories from different cultures, as well as the value of emotions in adding empathy and meaning, so I look to combine both elements to create pieces which hopefully speak to people on a more intimate level. In this connected world, we have an opportunity to bring people together through art and this is what I would love to achieve: relatability across cultures through a new fusion of visual styles and stories.
My work is hugely inspired by woodblock printing and East Asian aesthetics, notably Japanese art. But I always look to new sources for inspiration when I start a new piece. I keep my mind open to different art forms beyond my own discipline, as well as different myths and stories, as this curiosity fuels me to push myself and imagine how each piece can be applied across different surfaces, whether print, textile or tattoo art.
Each piece takes between 5 and 10 hours to draw, depending on the scale and level of detail involved. And each piece will begin as a hand drawing, before being turned into a cleaned up and colourised digital image ready for reproduction. I prefer working with traditional tools before moving onto digital ones, as it’s important for me to lose as little of the artist's hand as possible in the early stages of my process.
I am always curious and experimenting with new ideas. Every piece I draw as Chromakane is a new challenge to push myself creatively, as well as an opportunity to learn a new art technique relevant to my practice.
The first thing I did was take a step back and ask myself where I saw my project going, and what kind of artist I wanted to become. Chromakane is still young, as I only started the project in 2020, but I am excited to always take new steps to see it grow into something that I know I’ll be motivated to pursue in the long term.
This work is very much part of a collection of pieces experimenting with handmade paper, sustainably sourced from Nepal and Bhutan. Handmade paper brings a certain depth and tactility to my work, which my usual processes do not allow in the same way. Though every piece or collection I create can also be considered a departure from my usual style, as I’m constantly pushing myself out of my comfort zone. The result is exciting, as I am seeing my art style continue to evolve rather than become predictable.
As much as I am looking to create a recognisable and unique style through my art, the process of experimenting with new ideas and techniques means my style is never set in stone and therefore always developing. And I like the fluidity and flexibility of an evolving style, it means there is always room to learn and grow rather than become static, which I definitely believe hinders creativity over time.
Mystical, emotional and monochromatic.
Chromakane is a passion project that I am hoping to focus on full-time, and which I currently juggle with commercial graphic design and design teaching projects. And because of this juggling, I don’t have a typical daily routine. I could be headed down working on a design brief in the morning, followed by a trip to the studio to experiment with new printing techniques in the afternoon. Or I could take the day at a slower pace, spending it sketching in a corner of my flat and forgetting completely about other creative responsibilities.
I typically work from a home studio setup with my own printing equipment, combining freehand and screen-based laptop work. I also get the opportunity to work alongside London-based mentor artists from time to time as well: peering into other artist studios and learning new processes is so inspiring and definitely pushes me to create and explore every day.
Discover Chromakane's collection of artworks here.