Badass Babes 2 / Jess Cruickshank

The second lady up for Badass Babes is the wonderful Jess Cruickshank! Jess is an image-maker who lives in Sydney, Australia - and has just recently jumped into full-time freelance (and is killing it). Read on to learn a little bit more about how she gets things done, and what keeps her inspired.

+ Tell us a little bit about your work and your creative process. 

I think I’m best described as an image-maker, specialising in typography, illustration and design. I’ve just gone freelance as of this year — previously I worked as a designer in a big ad agency. Currently I’m working either in-house at agencies and design studios, or from my tiny little home studio in Darlinghurst.

+ Do you have daily habits, rituals or schedules to keep you on track and productive? 

Not really! Unless you count drinking lots and lots and lots of tea (broken up by the occasional milo), and listening to bad music really loudly — these are essential for me to get my work done.

+ What are the greatest strengths and challenges in your career? 

Hmm, this is a little difficult to answer at the moment! As I’ve only gone fullly freelance for a few months so far. Actually I think that in itself is a strength: I haven’t been doing this for very long, which means that a) I’m very excited about drawing EVERYTHING; and b) I don’t have a particular visual style locked down. This means I can take on a lot of different briefs and all of them genuinely interest me. But I think the fact that I haven’t been doing this long is also a challenge: a lot of the time, I don’t know what I’m doing! Especially when it comes to the business side of being a creative. And also its daunting to think about how I can carve my own path when there are already so many talented people out there who are killing it. As someone who’s just gone solo after years in a cushy day job — fear of failure is pretty big.

+ What are you working on now - and what is next?

At the moment I’m doing a few little odd illustration and typography jobs here and there, while also freelancing as a designer. But I’m trying to push myself to do less design, and more illustration and typography, as its these things I enjoy doing the most. I’m also thinking up pieces for some upcoming group exhibitions, as well as dreaming about my next big solo exhibition.

+ And how do you attract the type work you want? Or how did you attract it in the beginning?

After I had my first solo exhibition last year, which consisted of 11 large typography based pieces, I got a bit of exposure and people started sending me typography briefs. Now that I’m doing quite a bit of illustration, these kinds of briefs are also trickling in. A common piece of advice given to creatives is that you’ll get the same work as you have in your portfolio, and I think this is true. It also helps that I worked in advertising for almost two years and made contacts there who now pass work onto me.

+ Who and/or what are you most inspired and influenced by? 

Everyone! Everything! I have an overgrown pinterest board full of things collected from my travels on the internet. I’m also inspired by music, movies, and trips to the art gallery. Now that I’m drawing a lot more I’m starting to notice more interesting things in everyday life — like the strange dog that lives near me who as a curly body but a straight face, or the bike currently parked outside my laneway that is slowly being covered in vines. Both those things would be fun to draw…

+ What would be a dream project or collaboration? 

Oh man. I looooove books and worked at a bookshop for 4 years, so I think doing a series of book covers combining illustration and typography for a publisher like Penguin would be the dream. I’d also love to get a piece in the New Yorker one day. Or do a store window for a big fashion house like Hermes. Actually, doing the print on a Hermes scarf would be absolutely amazing.

+ What advice would you give to other established or aspiring creative bad ass boss gals?

“Say yes, then shit yourself later”. This piece of advice was stolen from an illustrator named Christopher Nielsen, who gave a talk last year that really changed my career. The day after this talk I was invited to speak at a typography conference called Typism, and the day after that I was invited to have my first solo show. Both of these things terrified me, but I said “yes” and only good things have happened ever since.

And also — not everyone has the same path to success. Some people find success straight out of uni, and it can be really daunting to read about those people. For me, the right path was staying in 9-5 jobs for almost three years before I was ready to go freelance.

+ Have you found there is a strong creative community to engage with where you live? 

Hmm… not really. But think this is because for me, my creative community exists online. I’ve met so many great creative people through twitter and instagram — some of them are in Sydney, lots of them are in Melbourne, and some in other places around the world. In fact this is how I met my now-husband, who is a very talented digital designer and someone who inspires me every day. The internet is awesome.

+ What are you currently reading and/or listening to? 

I’m currently reading Moby Dick for the first time. It’s surprisingly funny! I haven’t gotten up to the sad bit yet (I assume there is one). As for music, I recently saw Sufjan Stevens play his new album Carrie & Lowell in full at the Opera House, and now I am totally obsessed. I’ve listened to it on repeat for days in a row. I’m not sure this entirely healthy though, as the whole album is about his mother's death. I like to break it up with a bit of Ariana Grande :D

+ Where can we find you? 

Instagram is my main hang! Find me at @jesscruicky, which is also my twitter handle. My website is — a new one is coming soon though!

Thanks so much Jess!  All images courtesy of Jess Cruickshank. Portrait photograph by Mia Purcell

Badass Babes is a series that features conversations with creative women, focussing in on the rituals and ideas that fuel them, their inspiration and influences, their strengths and weaknesses; and how these come together to define their creative career. If there is a badass women you'd like to hear from, or someone you know who would be a perfect fit - get in touch!