I was recently interviewed by the lovely Galina for her blog ‘A Curious Russian in London’
The interview is below. You can read the entire feature here
GAP: Can I ask you about your childhood and your parents? Were your parents creative? Did you start painting as a child? Were you a dreamer?
JZ: My mother is a textile artist, so my childhood home was full of looms, spinning wheels and dried flowers for natural dying of yarns and papers. My father is a poet. I was always happiest when I was making something or drawing or reading on the garden gate under an umbrella in the rain. I used to dream of all the extraordinary things I would make, of living in the countryside (I grew up in South London), costumes, hats, jewellery and ceramic sculptures and I also was passionate about my dancing, which I did almost everyday from the age of seven t0 sixteen.
GAP: Who guided you at the beginning of your journey as painter? Do you think it was easier being creative then compared to how driven by success and results our society is now ?
JZ: My biggest inspiration when I started to paint full-time in 2000 was my daughters and the freedom and joy they brought to my creativity. I think being an artist is a compulsion and is something separate from what else is happening in society. It has always been incredibly hard and incredibly exciting to be an artist, in whatever time or society you may find yourself.
GAP: I wonder if you enjoyed being at school and what were your favourite subjects? What happened when you finished high school?
JZ: I didn’t particularly enjoy school, I was not allowed to study art but had to do Latin instead. My real life as a teenager was spent studying dance. When I finished school, I went to Central School of Art and then Nottingham University to study theatre design.
GAP: How does the ‘life’ of each of your paintings begin?
JZ: The paintings begin as visual murmuring in the back of my mind, once they start shouting at me I really need to get started! Lots of murmuring going on now, but still feel I need to recover from my mad summer a bit!
GAP: Do you paint several paintings at the same time?
JZ: Yes, I always paint a collection of works over a period of time, usually between 12 and 30 pieces which will grow and influence each other as the collection progresses. Am about to start a series of 12 large works, very excited.
GAP: How did you take the leap to paint full-time?
JZ: I started painting full-time in 2000, it was my millennium new years resolution! Call it a leap of faith!
GAP? How do you allocate the time when you have the kids? Do you detach from family life when you work?
JZ: I’m not sure that a mother ever completely detaches from family life but I am utterly focussed on my painting when I am working, and I dream about them when I am not!
GAP: Is being an artist a lonely profession?
JZ: I am very content to work alone, so I don’t find it lonely. Actually I am spending so much time collaborating with other practitioners and exhibiting my work that the time I get to spend alone is quite rare now!
GAP: Are you part of the art community? Do you do shows like Frieze or Venice Biennale?
JZ: I am not sure what you mean by ‘the’ art community but in a general sense I suppose I am making my own contribution to the ongoing contemporary scene. I have not shown my work at Frieze or in Venice.
GAP: How long does one of your paintings take to complete and for how long can you paint at a stretch? Why did you choose oils and glosses for your work? Do you paint everyday?
JZ: My paintings usually take about two years to complete, I think the longest was eight years though.
I work in oils as I absolutely love the colours, I feel it is like using silks as opposed to nylon.
I can’t paint everyday sadly, as I also deal with a lot of the admin involved with my work. I get out to my studio as often as I can though, it is my playground and I love it there.
GAP: Your paintings sound like a labour of love, and it must be really hard to part from them when you invest so much of yourself and your talent in them….When did you hold your first exhibition? Were you nervous?
JZ: I had my first exhibition in a pub in West London in the autumn of 2000. I remember we had absolutely torrential rain that night and yes I was horribly nervous! I always get horribly sick with nerves before a solo show and it never gets any easier!GAP: Was your success gradual or did it arrive like a tide? How did you choose which art dealer/gallery you wanted to represent you?
JZ: I have been incredibly lucky as an artist and have been selling works steadily for many years now. The last couple of years have been particularly crazy though. I have also been very lucky in that I have been approached by dealers and sometimes I exhibit with them.
GAP: Are you a sensitive soul? Do you ever become ‘attached’ to a painting and don’t ever sell it?
JZ: I definitely get very attached to my paintings. I don’t consider them ready to sell, unless I don’t want to part with them. In other words, if I really want to keep a painting, then I know it is ready to be shown. I do sometimes keep my favourites, but there are a few which I have sold and would dearly love to have back !
GAP: Who, if anyone, has made a big impact on you as an artist?
JZ: I have tried really hard to forge my own voice as an artist, so for many years I deliberately didn’t go and see other artists work, as I wanted to be sure I was following my own path. It is only in recent years that I have started to go to exhibitions again, which has been really exciting. I saw the Viennese Portraits at The National last year and it was absolutely magical.
GAP: After your last solo exhibition, what’s next for you till the end of this year?
: I am excited about getting back out to my studio and starting work on my next collection. I will be quite busy with the launch of the cushions, wallcoverings and fabrics for Romo Black Edition
and there are some other exciting projects in the pipeline. ( Note: since Jessica’s answer she has very successfully launched her Desire Collection for Romo Black Edition
, which was recently presented in Paris & London ).