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Jessica Ballantyne

GreatArt Residency Review: The Animal in Me

GreatArt Residency Review: The Animal in Me

Jessica Ballantyne’s “The Animal in Me” event at GreatArt invited customers to experience the artistic process, and take part in free inkblot workshops. Jessica used the space to work on her new series of inkblots, an exploration into the subconscious and instinctual drives.

Here Jessica shares some of her experiances during the 3 days at GreatArt.

Animal in Me

The Inspiration

The Animal in Me concept started many years ago when I created my first She Wolf painting, featuring a nude portrait of a reclining woman with six breasts. I once had a dream where my mother was breast-feeding a puppy which was born from a glowing, moon-flower-like womb. Freud would have a field day! I was looking at other artists inspired by the animal and by physically combining aspects of the animal to the human form. Artists like Jane Alexander and Patricia Piccinini have been influential among others.

The Animal in Me is more about our animal nature and how we forget that we are actually just high functioning, self-actualising animals. My work is so often about sexuality and identity, but in this case its more of a focus on the psychological and metaphysical aspects of the Animal in Me.

The inkblot aspect of the series forms the psychoanalytical foundation. I like this aspect; it’s the starting point to the paintings. Creating the first layers of inkblots is completely random and highly subjective, no two people will see or make the exact same thing in the exact same way. Your inkblot is your own unique mark. And what you see is a function of your brains processing power, an amalgamation of your thoughts, conditioning and life experiences. I find it endlessly fascinating. Jungian symbology also comes into play here. Certain “archetypes” or common themes may appear within the symbology of what is created. For me, it’s goats and eyes, animal forms and horns. Lots of horns. I feel a sense of wonder whilst bringing out the forms in the inkblots with my oil paints. I feel a thrill everytime I see a new set of eyes, glaring or peeking at me, or a new animal I haven’t used before.

Getting Started

Day one of the residency was time to get comfortable in the GreatArt workshop space. It’s a beautiful space, surrounded by huge windows, which allow light in from the street and give you full view of passers by. It felt like Christmas as I opened the box of art materials I had chosen from GreatArt’s broad range. Oil paints, brushes, paper and very beautiful canvas and linen.

I wasted no time in starting! I ripped the fabric into manageable pieces and began the layering process of the inkblots for my own work. For these I created three layers, starting with black acrylic and then getting slightly lighter, adding layers of lighter red and blue to create a three-tone inkblot.

Animal in Me


Surrounding the workspace is a big red cube frame, I used this to hang the canvas and linen after each layer to allow it to dry. After looking at my creations and already seeing the forms start to appear, I had to resist the urge to start right away as it was already time to clean up for the day and get ready for the first Animal in Me workshop.

Introducing people to their own animals

With 15 people coming over two days, the space was quickly filled with creativity and adults keen to lose themselves in art-making. Unfortunately we had to turn away some interested passers by, simply because we didn’t have enough room for everyone! I talked about the origin of ink blot, why I find them fascinating and how I’ve integrated them into Animal in Me. Then the participants were eager to get started with their own unique designs!

Using India Ink on paper to start, they made a range of really awesome black and white inkblots. They got so passionately involved, in fact, that we had to arrange for plastic to be put down to protect the floor! After the black and white inkblots we moved on to colour, with some gorgeous Akademie Acrylic ink, which was deliciously vibrant and spread like magic over the paper.

Animal in Me

After a discussion on what everyone saw in the inkblots, which was as varied as the participants themselves, we moved on to the canvas. Participants could use whatever colours they liked, but I encouraged them to do three layers increasing in lightness, to form the basis of our three-dimensional final inkblot. The feel of the canvas is completely different and the paint spreads in a different way. Participants soon got the hang of it though, and in no time, were making one inkblot after the next, and hanging them on GreatArt’s red metal frame cube to dry.

Animal in Me

Once we had a small collection of canvas inkblots, made with a range of styles and colours, I demonstrated how to mix three shades of colour to bring out the magical visions. I was so impressed by what they created!

On day 3 I had some time before the workshop to work on my own pieces and I worked on the one below. It was inspired by tiger eyes and you got it, horns! I got to try out some of the gorgeous gold oil paint by Winsor and Newton, some vibrant paints from Sennelier and acrylic paints from GreatArt’s own amazing range, I Love Art.

Animal in me

In the end…

GreatArt is not just an art store with one of the broadest range of materials.  The staff of GreatArt are some of the friendliest people I have come across! Super supportive and open to chatting about the store, the residency and their own personal work.

Jessica Ballantyne

It was a wonderful experience and the workshops were really successful. Judging from what participants were saying, they all had fun, were engaged in the task and learnt something new. They were also keen to get some materials and canvas from GreatArt and continue their creative making from home. I would like to thank GreatArt for the amazing opportunity. To be able work in their beautiful space, for the materials and for the time to do something new and different with visitors to the store. I hope this is the beginning of a friendship founded on creativity and spreading the joy of art making.

Animal in me


You can see more work from the Animal in Me series on Jessica’s website, or follow her on instagram to stay up to date!

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