TORONTO-BASED ARTIST BRINGS THE CIRCUS TO TOWN
Story By Julia Bruccileri
Blending the innocence of the big top with comical and obtuse details (miniature ringmasters trying to tame a giant cat, for example), Jamiyla Lowe is an artist who creates illustrations with a unique (and often macabre) voice. Originally from Montréal, Lowe, 27, moved to Toronto to pursue studies in illustration at the Ontario College of Art and Design. Since graduating in 2006, she has been hard at work making a name for herself in the local art community. Lowe divulges that her family and friends are mostly supportive of what she does, acknowledging the fact that “some think it’s a bit silly.”
She discovered her passion for artistic expression at a young age, while “drawing pictures of Garfield over and over again.” Lowe finds inspiration in multiple places, and it is evident in her work. Her illustrations range from portraits of deranged figures to circus animals and freaks. “I go through a lot of history textbooks on diseases, torture methods and the circus.” She states that if she wasn’t making art, she might be studying a whole different field of work: “I’ve always wanted to go to school for history and anthropology.”
Influentially-speaking, Lowe favours artists like Christy Langer, Amanda Nedham, Raymond Petitbon and Benjamin Marra, who makes “an amazing comic called Night Business.” She also loves the “illustration styles in old [illustrated] weeklies like Punch and The Boys’ Own.”
Lowe’s pieces can take anywhere from two weeks to a month to finish. “It depends on how complicated it is, or how many colours a print is, or how big an edition I’m making.” When it comes to materials, she prefers to use brush pens, gouache, clay boards and screen-printing inks that give her work flat, matte colouring. In ten years, Lowe says shehopes that she is still making art, and learning about new ways to produce it.
For now, her bold strokes and bright palettes have gained her much attention; Lowe recently finished a series of illustrations for a textbook on the circus, and she is also working on new drawings for a group show at Narwhal Art Projects in the Summer.