She’s only 24, but Canadian-born Jess Lacroix has already travelled the world, established a diverse and successful arts practice, and gives back to charities through her not-for-profit organization, No Bad Days. Now she’s based in Brunswick Heads, where her art decorates everything from surfboards to walls, writes Candida Baker.
“I was born in Ottawa, and both my brother and I grew up bilingual,” artist Jess Lacroix tells me, explaining the trajectory that has taken her from Ottawa to the Brunswick Head house where she’s currently living and working from. “I went to an arts-based school in Ontario, and when I was looking at Universities, I really liked the courses that the ANU in Canberra offered,” she says. “Originally it was meant to be for one term, but I got so involved with photography, drawing and textiles that I completed my degree there, with a minor degree in art therapy.”
Jess’s final project saw her produce a body of skatedecks, one for each city in Australia made from a wood source unique to each region, celebrated with hand-etched maps of the city on each deck
Back in Canada Jess set about throwing herself into an an arts career, becoming a full-time arts teacher, founding an arts program for children, as well as offering one-on-one visual sessions with children. “I found myself just constantly expanding,” she says. “I became really interested in the idea of art as therapy as well, so I started to do pop-up shop tutorials, I ran skype sessions, did long-distance education with my clients, and founded my little business NoBadDays, to give back to charities.”
If it sounds as if Jess keeps herself exceptionally busy – well, you’d correct in that assumption. “I’m just a firm believer in never living the same day twice,” she says. “If you’re not a passionate believer in something, why do it? I want to be inspired by the unknown, not by a 9-5 routine. Someone very close to me passed away recently, and that really confirmed for me that life is too short to waste – I want to live every moment with heart. He lived on the south coast, and grew a tea plantation, moving into creating artistic tea gardens, and then a creative collective for artists.”
This lifetime around, Jess was beamed in with a need to make art: “Art has always been apart of my life,” she says. “Since I was a child I can remember holding a pencil or paintbrush or anything that can make a mark – art is who I am, in every shape, way, and form; no matter where on the wild globe my itchy feet and knack for a one-way ticket lands me.”
Jess was only 16 when her peripatetic lifestyle began, travelling to California for a summer on an arts scholarship. “I was on my own, between San Francisco and LA, and I loved it…I started to experience a bad case of itchy feet,” she laughs. “Since then I’ve been to Iceland, all through the US and around Australia. I’ve been very lucky to connect with all sorts of artists on my journey included a film photographer who was shooting in the Grand Canyon, and I got to work with him.”
Byron Bay, she says, was on her ‘bucket-list’. “Every uni break I’d travel in Australia,” she says. “I took a large format camera to Uluru and lived there for a month photographing sunrises and sunsets. I had an art show from those travels in Melbourne and one in Hobart, but I’d never been to Byron, but then by a fluke occurrence, I met the manager of the YAC in Byron. She’d seen my work and asked if I would volunteer my services to do a mural – it was exactly the kind of thing I’m passionate about, so that was that – I came up here, loved it, and now I’m based up here full-time.”
Grounded, an acrylic paint mural that now graces the inside of the YAC big space, brings the native Australian paperbark tree indoors. “I wanted it to surround visitors with the endless nourishment and grounding properties of the exquisite Melaleuca Quinquenervia tree,” says Jess.
The work is created through layers – the richness in movement of the painted trees and its unconstrained roots connecting with the outside native flora and fauna when the painted doorway is opened to the bushland. And since she’s completed the YAC mural, she’s also created one for the Torakina Café in Brunswick Heads, as well.
Although Jess’s life (her partner is a local musician) and work is based in Byron at the moment, she misses her younger brother Dakota and her mother terribly, and travels home to Canada whenever she can. “I do try to organise shows so I can go back for a few months,” she says. “I just returned from a visit in Canada to see my family but I also organized a summer pop-up shop selling my hand-silkscreened t-shirts, and installed large format photography and skate-decks in various gallery spaces. What is odd though is that from the moment I got to Canberra, part of my heart has always been here. The art scene has simply enveloped me every time.”
As she describes her art practice it’s almost hard to keep up with her. “I build and design skateboard decks, from scratch – pressing, moulds, veneers, scraping, shredding, and carving so I can get them just how I want them. I hand paint customized surfboards, I sketch and scribble up album art for musicians; I do film photography and videography; I do t-shirt silk screening – building all my own silk screens – palm trees and pineapple skulls is the kind of vibe my work has; I do murals, jackets, cards – anything that grabs me really,” she says.
From spontaneously mucking up her surfboards in Byron Bay to spray painting deck art on vintage Z-flex’s in New Zealand, “Travelling solo through my art has totally taught me to dare to just dive in, every time, and go wild with the madness regardless of what looks good on paper. I strive to do something that truly matters, with my art. That’s everything to me,” she says. “I feel like if your art can touch or inspire or do something, anything, for one single person in a crowd, that makes it all pure gold and worth all the blood, sweat, and tears.”
To say that this young artist is inspirational is putting it mildly. As they way, watch this space.
Jess’s Instagram: @nobaddays_est.never