Jessica Bartram Design & Illustration

I'm an illustrator and designer currently working on a BA in Graphic Design & Illustration (convenient, eh?). My work can be found here (illustration & art), or here (graphic design, mostly). Videos related to my work can be seen over on my Vimeo page


This is a blog on which process shots and final versions of both personal and school-prompted projects appear, as well as selected photographs (many from my phone - only the good ones, I promise).


If you have any questions/are interested in a commission for either art or design, please email me at jess [at] thecommonwealthstudio [dot] ca.

What did I do with my last two days of reading week (besides sleep & work on thesis a bit)? THIS THING!

It chronicles a strange nighttime chase scene featuring giant wolf-fox & the mighty space deer, and If I can manage to get it scanned/printed in time, I might have it on the table at Canzine as an accordion fold zine-type thing.

Even if I don’t I’m happy to have finished it, as I drew the pencil outlines for it before Canzine 2013, meaning it’s been lurking in my studio for just under a year, waiting to be painted.

I experimented with my new acrylic inks (as it was already such a delayed project I wasn’t too attached to the imagery - I am glad it turned out well, though!) and the paper was also different (some sort of printmaking stock), so it was an adventure all the way through.

I do like the waterproof-ness of acrylic ink, which made the lighter washes I did after the dark background way less stressful (no horrible bleeding! Always a good thing, really), but found that it soaked into the paper/dried more quickly than watercolour, leading to the cloudlike texture of the sky (I made it work…I always make it work).   

The whole thing is pretty huge - the final printed piece will be about 6” tall by 32” wide (eep), so if anyone has any recommendations for places that do gigantic double-sided prints in Toronto, uh, let me know?

(I’m also considering making it into a less exciting but more practical booklet…we’ll see how it goes.)

Here are a few more photos from today’s work on the newest book. I’m now done all the rough sketches (including the little tweaks I found I needed to go once the mockups were constructed), so all that’s left before I start the final paintings is to check in with my prof next Monday.

I’m excited to start work on the finals, as I’ve been exploring some new/looser paint techniques that I think will work well for this aquatic story.

I’ve made more progress (by which I mean everything but the cover & inner title spreads are fully sketched out!) on my little book for my Sequential Illustration class.

The first two photos are from my work on the final round of story-spreads, and the last four are of the full-size mockup I just printed off. Despite the crappy quality of my B&W laser printer, it’s proved quite helpful to have this printout, as I’ve found a number of illustrations that don’t play too well with the gutter (a.k.a. the middle of the book where the pages come together), and being able to hold it & flip through it in real life has helped me see where bits of text/alignments of images might be disrupting the visual flow of the story.

Now that the mockup is marked up, I can start to rework whatever needs to be reworked and have a more complete test print to show my prof upon my return from reading week. Hoorah!

I’ve been wanting to invest in a standing desk for a little while now (as designer/illustrator life leads to WAY too much sitting). My research into possibilities for new desks, however, was happily abandoned (as new standing desks are almost universally ugly/too practical-looking) when I discovered that my dad had a gorgeous old tall-desk lurking in his studio basement.

It’s quite old - dad estimates 1880s (and judging by the thickness of the pine boards from which it’s constructed, I agree!), and he rescued it from the garbage outside Central Tech when he was teaching there. He also happened to have a perfect accompanying chair sitting in his other studio at the cottage, which matches the desk as if it was made for it.

Both pieces of furniture have history, which is a nice change from my usual IKEA-furniture-based decor. The desk has mysterious pencils (or pens? Or other art supplies?!) rattling around in the closed desk top, possibly shoved through the small hole in one side by bored students, and has an initial - an A carved in one side. I like to imagine generations of students sitting at this desk, working on projects or falling asleep or secretly reading a book.

The chair is decorated with globs of paint/gesso from living in my dad’s summer studio for decades - he offered to sand and paint over everything, but I asked for the chair as-is, as it feels a bit like a creative artist’s charm, passed down from father to daughter to keep the studio atmosphere vibrant.

The first few photos show the studio-rearranging process, which took a day and a half to complete (because I have everything in the world in this tiny room, apparently?!), then some shots of the nearly-complete new setup. It’s lovely having the window beside me - like being in a miniature solarium.

The final photo is of my brand new mug (which is from IKEA…I haven’t sworn them off entirely) and the morning light making my windowsill plants happy. Now I need to stop procrastinating and work on school-things, but I hope you all enjoyed the Saga of Newdeskingtimes!

Canzine preview time!

I think I’ve already mentioned here that I’m once again tabling at Canzine this year (on November 1st at 918 Bathurst Centre - put it in your fancy calendars!), but here is some actual photo evidence of the work I’m doing in advance of the event.

In the top photo, I’m rescanning all the illustrations for Once Deer so I can offer it for sale for the first time ever (in an enlarged & luxurious 6” x 8” format, no less! See every detail of those forest scenes!).

The rest of the images show my progress on that re-done illustration for Frostbitten, as first discussed here. I’m already really happy with how it’s turning out, especially when I hold the old version up next to it for comparison (as seen in final photo).

This is one of those times when being a bit of a perfectionist is exhilarating instead of frustrating, and I can’t wait to incorporate this new image into the existing book!

P.S: While I was painting last night, I realized that I could happily paint ferns/moss all day. It’s Bob-Ross’s-Happy-Trees-level soothing and makes me feel like I’m wandering through a miniature imaginary forest, all cool and green and growing.

Tonight’s work: six hours spent on these two sketches (I set out to challenge myself with the illustrations for this new book. According to the clock, I succeeded).

Turns out drawing cluttered desks and people sitting at weird angles is kind of difficult when you’re not used to such things, but I powered through and now I only have one more of these to go before Monday (plus a stack of other things, of course)!

So I’ve started a Vine account and, amongst the many videos of Eleanor that will be up there (because she is always doing cute/hilarious/weird things), I’m also starting a series in which I film snippets of light/shadow in motion (something that’s always fascinated me). This is the first one - I’ll probably post my favourites here from time to time, along with any other Vines I deem artblog-worthy.

Remember this project (which only took me a year to put online)? In advance of Canzine 2014 I’m sprucing the wee book up a bit with a brand new cover and one re-done illustration!

The above photos show my progress-to-date on the new cover, which I already like WAY better than the old one (which is a bit dull, I think).

I’ll also be selling copies of this and a few other books/zines I’m making for the event online after Canzine, so if you can’t make it to the festival and want a copy, never fear! 

This —> this —> these (these being the final booklet - the wee one, 16pgs - and the process book - the big one, 28pgs*).

*I really, REALLY enjoy documenting my process. Like, SUPER ENJOY IT**

**I believe all this caps lock is a direct result of the fact I was up way too late making the above project extra-fancy. Schooltime-Keener Jess is back with a vengeance!

As promised, here are some quick snapshots (one of which is quite blurry, oops…I think the thrill of completing the thing in 20ish mins made me a bit shaky) of the zine I made along with my two other incredible team members, Elija & Michael.

I did the illustrations and E&M collaborated on the production/story. It went ridiculously smoothly and we TOTALLY WON, which was an added bonus (thanks, people who clapped super loud for our zine).

I’m doing another zine race-type thing in November at Canzine (plus I’m also tabling again, hoorah!), so if you missed this one you’ll have another chance to see me draw really, really fast (as pictured in the top photo).