Inside the Converted Los Angeles Warehouse Where Artist Jessalyn Brooks Lives And Paints
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we celebrate innovators, artisans and crafters of all types by taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to the flower district in Los Angeles, where painter Jessalyn Brooks spends her days making paintings.
Jessalyn Brooks has lived in this warehouse for years. Ten “whopping” years in fact, in which she has transformed the sprawling warehouse into a creative hub, both for her painting and artworks, and for her life.
Over the past decade, the space has undergone several major renovations, all courtesy of Brooks herself. “It was just raw studio space when I first moved in,” she recalls. “[I] built all the walls, all that stuff. I used to work at an old architectural wrecking yard when I first moved in and the owner was kind enough to give me a bunch of junk to furnish my place with.”
The fruits of Brooks’ labours are easy to see in this warehouse, a combination of light-filled and paint-splattered empty space for Brooks to make her colourful artworks in, contrasted against the cosy and lived-in personal areas where Brooks cooks, eats, relaxes and sleeps, decorated with treasures items collected over the years. “Everything in this place has a little story and I love that,” she enthuses. “Each piece of furniture – God, even my fridge has a funny story. Everything here had a life before it found me.”
Brooks loves cooking: her electric Hotpoint stove from the ‘50s is her most cherished item in the whole apartment. It sits pride of place in her kitchen, underneath a big window and surrounded by tangled house plants and salvaged bits of antique furniture, forming part of the beautiful and unique tapestry of Brooks’ personal space. “Authentic connection with space, placement and objects is pretty important,” Brooks explains. “My room is somewhat simple, but each piece brings me so much joy. Everything has intention and meaning.”
Hi Jessalyn! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
I’ve always felt the insatiable need to create – it’s the first thing on my mind when I wake up in the morning. What will today’s work look like when I’m done? How far will I reach into my relationship with introspection? Will it be beautiful or will it be muddled? Or better, will it be ugly!? I think the crux of my “personality” is the never ending quest to get to the root of why I create. It’s a mixed bag of desire, ego death, beauty, pain and relating.
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
I had no intention of choosing fine art as a profession. It sort of beautifully unfolded as a result of unintended life failures. Actually, I wouldn’t say “failures” – more just endeavors that felt forced and somewhat unnatural. I think all of these roads in life sort of siphoned into the thing I do now. It’s all just a subconscious response to everything I know to be true.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
I start with a surface and a vague vision that sort of lingers for a few weeks before I bring it to the front of my mind. Technically-speaking, I start with a light wash under all of my oil paintings. Depending on if I’m feeling antiquated or future (I tend to vacillate between the two), I’ll either use an ochre or sienna or some wild pyrrole orange or nickel yellow. From there I build on colour. Finding the place of colour and where it goes in the composition – those are the puzzles of the creation process that equally frustrate and delight me. That duality is what truly drives me.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to further your business?
The strategy that drives my success is actually that I have no strategy. I don’t set unrealistic expectations and I try not to think about much. I don’t dream, I just do. Autopilot, I guess. I don’t think about the potential to fail. Something either happens or it doesn’t. And it normally happens when you’re not thinking about it. Probably because you’re in direct communication with the subconscious, where, oddly enough, there are no words exchanged – it just acts as a motor.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far in your business?
The most challenging lesson I’ve learned thus far in my career is that growth requires an ugly period. A period that not everyone (including yourself) is going to understand. You have to make a bunch of bullshit to make sense of what it is you’re trying to communicate. And you have to be okay with that. Ugliness is part of the translation between introspection and the present. It’s cyclical, too. You can go back and forth until you find what it is that makes sense.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your business?
The best thing that has happened to me in my career has been the emotional growth. Accomplishment is nice, it’s a sign that I’m onto something right, but it’s not the full reward. The full reward is knowing that I’m on the path to becoming closer to understanding why we’re here.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
My advice would be to read. Specifically history. This is just my personal thing – maybe it’s not everyone’s, I don’t know. I’m so inspired by antiquity and myth, how the world has always turned. What’s remained and what has died. Symbol, beauty, romance, heroism, death, duality, joy, desire – these are all central in art and creation. My other piece of advice is to never give up. Just never stop.
Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?
I’ve lived in my studio for ten whopping years!
How did you initially know this was the space for you?
I knew this was my place when I walked into it. I don’t know how else to put it.
Create Jessalyn's look with Olive and Oatmeal in our Build Your Own Bundle.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
The story behind it all is that it all has a story. I’ve never gone to a store and been like, “oh, I’ll take that”. Each piece of furniture – God, even my fridge has a funny story. Everything here had a life before it found me.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
My favourite piece in my home is my electric Hotpoint stove. The first commercial electric stove from the ’50s. It’s such a gem. I have it serviced every so often to make sure it’s all working correctly. It’s such a solid creature. I love to cook.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
I’ve been meaning to get some really rad curtains in this place. Don’t know why I haven’t. Seems like such a simple task. Some beautiful linen curtains to filter the intense LA light. Would just be so beautiful.
Create Jessalyn's look with Olive and Oatmeal in our Build Your Own Bundle.
Which is your favourite room in the house?
Hmm... They’re all my favourite! Probably my kitchen. It’s really the heart.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
I tend to remain in a neutral colour palette in my decor (not so much in my art!) I love things to the very core. I love to be decadent and lush, so fabrics and textures are such a central part of my decorating. I like to imagine myself in a Lord Byron poem. I definitely prefer everything to be vintage – as they say, they just don’t make ‘em like they used to. It’s pretty true. Except for Bed Threads, that is!
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
I have some wild and exciting projects coming up this summer and fall that I probably can’t talk about just yet. Gosh, I want to!
For more from Jessalyn, follow her at @jessalynbrooks
Love this home tour? Inside the Plant-Filled Melbourne Home of Artist Abbey Rich