Jennifer Prevatt Interview for “The Tactiles”
Where do you find inspiration for your illustrations?
My primary source of inspiration would be fairy tales and mythology, which encompass many of my interests, like nature, sexuality, mortality, immortality, and consciousness, but within a primordial, dreamlike context.
Many of your illustrations deal with the human/animal divide, often with oversized animals or insects interacting with children. How do you understand the relationship between animals and humans in your work?
I enjoy drawing animals and as a children’s book illustrator I frequently anthropomorphize them, but it’s not something I put too much thought into within my studio practice. I prefer not to make too many conscious decisions when it comes to the imagery I choose to draw. I reflect on my work frequently and I build upon recurring themes, like fish and birds, two ancient animals often seen in mythology representing a connection to the ancient world; one as a messenger to the heavens, the other as a messenger to the underworld.
Creating exaggerated versions of animals, or people, comes very naturally given this kind of dramatic distortion is often experienced in dreams. Again, I don’t put too much conscious thought into that kind of thing at the beginning of a drawing, but these days I am especially interested in the idea of animals being guardians or guides to, from, and through the underworld.
Many of your illustrations seem like fragments from fairytales. Do you draw on fairytales, or do you imagine your work as part of stories?
I’m particularly interested in fairy tales that include darker motifs, like death, shadows, evil spirits, and the underworld. Although I research these concepts within my practice I do like to create my own stories and I am currently working on a collection of fairy tales that use this type of primordial, archetypal language to convey very personal experiences.
What is your process like?
It depends on the work, but generally it’s quite tedious. Without much conscious effort I create a lot of drawings that I eventually cut out. Once I have a lot to play with I start creating little worlds and scenes that come together because they fit compositionally, or are inspired by research that I am doing or a story that I’m writing. I like to layer my cut outs as much as possible to create varied perspectives of depth and hidden worlds within a larger space.
Your work often has a strong sense of place. Do you often think in terms of setting?
I think a lot of my work is interpreted as fanciful and pretty, but in my mind it actually represents a much darker space; a quiet space, and similar to a dream where I usually feel alone, scared and anxious, there is always a feeling of security and safety. This kind of dreamscape is the main framework for the worlds I create, which may be interpreted as a balance between, or threshold to a darker place; a physical manifestation of the spiritual world. Ultimately I consider everything I make a part of the underworld.
Interview by Christian Prince