Jess Hannigan is the New Talent winner of the Exploration Category. Here, she gives an in-depth view of her award-winning project.

This series explores the small quiet moments that remain in a space after all the people and action have moved away and the stories told through the clutter and debris. It was created for a personal thesis in my last year of school at Sheridan College. My goal was to explore how to illustrate a room in a way that defies technical perspective and opens up the mind to new ways to perceive 4 walls of a space as a room. The final outcome was 4 images that feel abstract and surreal, and tell a series of different stories of wild parties and naughty pets.


The brief for our thesis project was essentially to push our boundaries and create something that spoke from our own passions and experiences in a way that felt genuine and personal, or even vulnerable. It’s a fantastic chance to make your own dream project, and to make the kind of work that you want to be hired to make in your own career.


I did some visual research on instagram and pinterest into interesting furniture and textiles so I could lend them to the surreal energy I was trying to capture for visual complexity and interest. I also just love interior design, so it was a real joy to research! I also took inspiration from my own messy apartment and the things that populate it, so many of the objects in the series are drawn from my real life clutter.


I used Adobe Photoshop exclusively to create these pieces.


The main process was creating spaces that lacked a lot of structure and were still easily recognizable as rooms with four walls immediately. I tried to push people’s expectations of what a room could look like while still keeping it just recognizable enough to know what they were looking at. I used lots of patterns and shapes to add chaos, while keeping the same formula throughout the three pieces to keep them unified and make it easier for the viewer to navigate the spaces. My colour palette, kept retro or “mustardy”, carried through all 4 pieces with the addition of a little focus colour for each piece so that the colour balance wouldn’t be so repetitive. I kept the furniture looking unusual by using a huge round and flat photoshop brush and letting the shapes kind of flow from play. I like to keep a good balance of blobby and sharp shapes.


The real challenge was trying to balance the readability of the space and the furniture while still keeping them interesting. My initial designs were a little too blobby and strange to the point where people were having trouble telling what they were, so I had to reel in the weirdness a little. I don’t see this as a huge issue though, since I prefer to push my drawings to be really strange and then rein it back in depending on the goal. It’s good to really push to the limit!


I learned a lot in terms of how far I’m able to push abstraction and when to reel it back in to create something really visually interesting to look at from both far away as well as up close. Also it was a great exercise in making pieces without human figures in them and still maintaining a lot of personality and fun.


While I was making these I was also balancing a few other projects for classes, and feeling apprehensive about nearing the end of my schooling and our graduation show, which of course ended up being an online showcase later on. It was a weird feeling of nervousness and excitement! Getting to sit and render funky interiors and furniture was a nice escape.


There are a total of 20 of my own personal objects in this series. Try to guess which ones they are!


I probably would’ve liked to experiment more with different textile patterns. I like the ones that are in the finals, but the possibilities are endless with pattern and I feel like I may have gone a little safe instead of really going wild with them. I’m looking forward to using patterns more in future work!


My main piece of advice is to always make sure you’re having fun! How you feel while making things always gets embedded in the work, so the more fun you have the better the piece will be. Alway ask yourself what you could be doing to enjoy yourself more.


Right now I’m working on a few children’s books! I’d like to focus on making books as a short/long term goal right now, but I’m also looking into editorial work, comics, beer label design, and more! I’m just excited to make things and jumping on every interesting opportunity that comes my way.

Dream Commission

My dream commission would be anything to do with Halloween! I love drawing seasonal things and my dream project would be getting to make a lot of spooky things & characters to my heart’s content.

Favourite thing to draw

I find a lot of joy in drawing sandwiches. They have so many layers and there are so many varieties.


Right now me and my roommates have a shared studio space in our apartment. We have lots of plants and art all over our walls so it’s a really nice, bright and happy space.


I’d like to thank Marco Cibola for the amazing direction on this series. He saw my vision for it right away and really inspired me with his big brain. I’d also like to thank all my family of classmates for being so supportive and giving great critiques during the process! To me, winning in the exploration category means that I really pushed my boundaries with trying new approaches to creating so it’s a huge honour to be recognized for that.

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