Jessica is one of our Sassiest Mamas 2016…
Renowned the world over by art-lovers, Professional Fine Artist and mama of 4 Jessica Watson Thorp knew she was creative from the moment she could walk, when her grandmother taught her to paint and exposed her to all forms of media while whisking her away on art-inspired holidays. Formally trained in all aspects of fine art including sculpture, painting, drawing and print making, Jessica’s work has been featured on screen and in print and exhibited across Dubai. Her private commissions capture a client’s personal experience in bold, bright acrylics and inks and she now also runs art courses from her home, empowering women and children to have confidence in their creativity. Painting, printmaking and parenting go hand-in-hand for Jessica, as she balances her landscapes and observations with the inspiring reality of raising four children (Xanthe, aged almost 14, Havaani, aged 11 and twin boys Isaac and Lucas aged 7).
Tell us about your business and why you started it.
Art is at the heart of all I do.
I work from my own Artist’s Studio, where I paint peoples’ personal stories and particularly connect with the lives and experiences of women. I paint about birth, pregnancy, love, loss, death, children, connection and the beauty of life.
I love Dubai and paint about this beautiful region that we call home. I love the curves and lines of the architecture here and the often hazy light.
Commissions are a large part of what I do and I take orders globally. I exhibit twice a year both in Dubai and around the world. My next show is at Agora Gallery in New York City in March next year, and I am affiliated with a small gallery in London.
I work at events for businesses, exhibiting, speaking about creativity and running a practical mini workshop for guests.
I have also recently launched bespoke workshops for women where they can spend some time in the Studio connecting to their creative self, via collage, watercolour, ink and printing, and acrylic. I’m very excited about launching my first workshop next month, which is already nearly full.
Being an Artist is my life’s calling and passion. I love working with my hands, and especially enjoy seeing colour running through them. The easiest way to get a ‘snap shot’ of what I do is to take a look at my Instagram @jwtjessicawatsonthorp.
What kind of cake would you order for your birthday?
My favourite! My Mum’s home made sultana cake with no icing. It is an old rustic country recipe which is so moist and full of juicy sultanas. Unlike other fruit cakes it does not have citrus rind and so is quite sweet. I love it!
If we handed you a concert ticket, who would you wish it was for?
I’ve spent a lot of time in South Africa during my life, even before Apartheid was officially abolished, and the colour, passions and rhythm there run deeply though my work.
My ultimate concert would be to attend Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ concert in Cape Town back in 1992. Simon was inspired (as I am) by the rhythms of this fascinating and colourful country. He adored local township music and it’s eclectic mix of musical styles. He caused controversy when he broke the imposed global cultural boycott and traveled there to record and perform.
Unfortunately I didn’t attend, even though I was in the country, but I still love that album…I have it on vinyl (and I’m sure I’m showing my age now!)
What colour do you wear the most?
Blue, blue and blue! I like to dive into colour and this is my absolute favourite. It is the sky and it is the ocean. I have an affinity with water and I enjoy total submersion in my work. Blue is just me!
When did you last cry?
This summer I was in London visiting a friend with the children and we happened to watch New Zealand film ‘Whale Rider’, Niki Caro’s version of the book by Witi Ihimaera. This is SUCH a powerful film about the spiritual journey of a young girl and the differing views of her wider community. She is the chosen one, but the head of the tribe – her Grandfather – will not accept or believe it because she is a girl. Her connection with her spiritual home and how she struggles for him to see it is heart wrenching. I have a lump in my throat just thinking about it. This story has parallels to my own work. I paint about strong women and feel strongly and emotionally about issues related to womens’ empowerment.
What’s the best thing you can cook?
I cook up a storm! Cooking is another creative outlet where we get to work with our hands. I’m currently experimenting with my new Spiralizer and making courgetti (spaghetti made with courgette instead of flour) and home made basil pesto. I love the textured oiliness of this organic treat. I’m wondering what I can do with it next!
What do you feel have been your biggest achievements both in your personal life and career so far?
I can’t distinguish between the two as my work is my passion and my love! I am dedicated to raising my family of four, and have learned to carve out time for each of my children, and my husband, without compromise.
My four children, including twin boys are simply my most cherished achievement. I am sure all Sassy Mamas are aware of the colossal efforts required to keep everything moving in the right direction, and whilst I am not perfect in any way, I try!
With regard to work, my highlight has to be the point at which I felt comfortable to relaunch my career in Dubai – a city that I absolutely love. Once all four children were in school, I started to re-brand my work, launched my website and social media campaigns, and re-invested in my artistic soul with a studio re-vamp, new commissions and philanthropic opportunities (such as working with arts-based initiatives like La Serre in the Vida Hotel, and The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding), which are wonderful establishments who support the arts.
I am very proud also, that I’ve established connections and achieved representation with galleries in NYC and London.
As a child what did you dream of being when you ‘grew up’?!
My only dream was to be an artist. This has consumed me ever since I could think.
If you had 3 wishes what would they be?
I wish that everyone had the opportunity to explore their creative side. This is something that I am striving for through my Workshops and corporate events.
I wish everyone could experience the cultural diversity and tolerance that I have been exposed to through living in the Middle East for the past 13 years. I worry about the future world for my children.
I wish Dubai was not such a transient place and that my friends would stop continuously leaving.
What does being a Sassy Mama mean to you?
To cultivate a rich and fulfilling career whilst nurturing and cultivating the lives of our children. It means bringing drive and passion not only into who I am as an artist, but into my everyday life, including my mothering. And it also means keeping my feet on the ground and my finger on the pulse!
A block of Lindt Mint Intense chocolate…although I don’t feel guilty about allowing myself pleasure!
Tell us about a typical day?
This entails a lot of rushing around with my four children. However, Dubai is a really easy and harmonious place to live in. I love the mix of cultures and the way we all live side by side so happily. My Emirati neighbours are so welcoming and my children go to school with a complete mix of nationalities.
I live near BoxPark, on Al Wasl Road, so often I am there for the quirky shops and cafes. I love Urbanista, it has such an eclectic mix of accessories and gifts.
I also live within walking distance of the beach, which allows the kids to run wild. The Jumeirah Corniche has transformed the beach, making it really accessible, and I’ll often go down to get in touch with nature and visualize my next project.
Very often I go to La Serre in Downtown for the best pastries in town. It comprises a gorgeous Parisian boulangerie downstairs and a bistro upstairs. This venue often supports local artists by showing their collections as part of their new Aspiring Artists Initiative. I had the privilege of being one of the first Artists to show with them. La Serre is attached to the Vida Hotel, which holds a monthly art auction.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given in your personal life and career?
Always be yourself and strive for your own personal freedom, and outsource the work that you know little about or have no interest in doing.
What do you most enjoy doing as a family in Dubai?
On a typical weekend in the late afternoon we like to take the kids out to the Nad Al Sheba Cycling Track equipped with bikes and Coco – the family dog. The kids love cycling in the wide open spaces and we often order pizza for a casual and easy dinner.
What is the ‘best-kept’ secret in Dubai, or something fellow mamas should know about?
My daughters love the small horse riding centre right in the middle of the city. Dubai City Stables is like an oasis among the skyscrapers. It’s totally hidden and within its walls you will find a real retreat of lush greenery, with ducks waddling everywhere. It’s part of the bigger Al Dhabi group which also offers horse (and camel) riding in the desert. Sssshhhhhhhhh…
If you were on an island and could bring only 3 things (family not included) what would they be?
A bright and breezy sarong to get my fix of colour, my mascara (as my hair is so fair I tend to bleach out very easily), and a pair of swimming goggles to enjoy the beautiful underwater world of fish and coral.
Describe your style?
Uncompromising. I am an eclectic mix of classic and bohemian.
Tell us something funny that your kids have said or done?
My second daughter once asked me if we could take her younger twin brothers to an orphanage after watching Annie. She hastily amended this to ‘just for a few weeks’ after seeing the horror on our faces!
How do you juggle work and family?
I don’t! It’s a constant struggle of trying to strike a balance and I rarely achieve the perfect combination. I flow between my art and my children depending on the demands of each day. Luckily, as my children have become more independent in their social and educational development I have had more time to devote to my work.
I am also very self disciplined and have slots in the day for everything. First thing in the morning when I am fresh and at my most productive I always devote myself to painting, attending to admin and the children’s needs after school hours.
Luckily my children are old enough to know now that when I’m working, I’m working.
If you are interested in going to Jessica’s Dubai exhibitions, booking her for a corporate event, or attending a bespoke workshop devoted to women, then please visit her website www.jessicawatsonthorp.com
You can follow Jessica on Instagram @jwtjessicawatsonthorp and FaceBook JWT Jessica Watson-Thorp.
A huge thank you to Monica Chindalia for the beautiful pictures of Jessica and her family.
To book a photoshoot visit facebook/monicachindaliaphotography