An artist based in New York City, Jade Purple Brown's work is instantly recognisable, featuring strong feminine characters, vibrant colours, and messages of optimism that convey individuality and empowerment. One of her distinctive pieces will be familiar to any creative professional, as it formed the opening cover of Adobe Illustrator in 2021.
Describing herself as "colour obsessed", Jade was destined for a career in fashion, as it was her chosen subject at The Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago. But on discovering the delights of Photoshop and Illustrator one day, she began venturing into the world of graphic design and, later, illustration, picking up impressive roles at various brands such as Macy's and Moroccanoil before going freelance full-time in 2018.
Jade still moves in the realms of fashion, beauty and lifestyle but today, her clients hail from every industry, from tech and media to motor and food. She's indeed working on her own terms, reaching that desirable level of fame that every illustrator dreams of and supporting huge clients, including Apple, Facebook, TikTok, Adobe and Amazon Prime.
You've had an incredible career so far – when did things kick-off for you?
Things really started to pick up once I decided to leave my 9-5 and pursue being an artist full-time. No longer juggling my day job and my own clients made all the difference. I was able to pour more of my time into what I really wanted to do. In my first year on my own, I was able to land a project with Sephora, which began opening up more doors along the way.
It seems like it's been one amazing project after another. I suppose you have to go for it whilst the demand is there?
At the beginning of my career, it was really "go time", and I took on a lot because I had a lot to prove to myself and wasn't sure where my next job would come from. Now I'm at the point where I feel a lot more comfortable saying no because more opportunities are coming in. I'm thankful that I can be more selective and only say yes to jobs that I align with and am excited about.
How do you balance downtime, or is that an ongoing aim?
This year, I'm making an effort to set firm boundaries. I've learned that if I don't have time set away just for myself, I won't be happy, and my work will suffer because of it. Now I only work from 9:00-5:30pm and don't communicate about anything client-related after that point. It gives me time to explore other things and ensure that my work isn't at the centre of my life.
We all have to go through those lessons when freelancing. Were there any particular ones that stand out?
Setting client expectations and making sure they understand how I work helped me better manage projects. And letting people know when to expect to receive rounds of work, costs for if they go over rounds, and just the general notes on how I like to work has saved me a lot of headaches and back and forth. I also ask as many questions as possible before I take on a project to make sure it's a good fit in the first place.
Were there any misconceptions about freelancing for you? Any surprises?
People see the freedom that being an entrepreneur brings, but working for yourself requires a certain level of discipline and motivation that not everyone has. When I first started, I knew it would be challenging, but I didn't really realise how much sacrifice I would have to make to get where I wanted to be.
So many people spend time paying attention to what others are doing. But if you focus on yourself, figure out what makes you different, and then translate it uniquely through your work, you will always thrive.
Is it true you initially wanted to be a stylist?
Yes, I originally studied Fashion Marketing & Management because I thought I wanted to be a fashion stylist and knew it would be great to have a business background. In my very last year, I took a marketing course that taught us the basics of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and I instantly fell in love. Getting a chance to play in those programmes helped me realise that art and design was really my thing.
Your work is distinctive and bold. There's nothing quite like it. But has it resulted in lots of copycats?
Unfortunately, it has happened quite a lot. It can be hurtful when someone takes my style as their own because it takes a lot of time and effort to create a style that feels true to me. It can be discouraging, but sadly it's just a part of being an artist. I've chosen to keep things moving despite the copycats and just send things over to my attorney when infringements pop up.
Is there anything else that frustrates you about the creative industries?
I also think it's a shame when companies try to cut corners. Instead of working with the artist, they're inspired by, they use their in-house designers or hire someone else to imitate their style. Why not work with the source? The project will only be more beautiful and impactful.
Colour plays a starring role in your work. What is it about colour that inspires you?
I love how colours can easily evoke so many different emotions. A lot of my work exudes feelings of joy and optimism, with one of my main goals being to lift the viewers' spirit. Using bright warm colours helps me bring that feeling to life in an electric way.
Is your middle name indeed Purple?
It actually isn't! Jade Purple Brown is the name that popped up when it was time to choose a URL for my website. This was 2011, and I was just blogging at the time and had no clue that art and design would be my thing. Clearly, JadeBrown.com wouldn't be available, so why not add one more colour into the mix? Somehow I landed on Purple.
What do you personally get out of creating art?
My art is basically a visual manifestation of how I want to feel. I've dealt with depression and anxiety all of my life, so my art helps me create new worlds of optimism and joy within my own life. Creating is almost like a form of meditation for me because it gives me the chance to slow down and connect with myself and welcome the new energy I want into my life.
Do you think art has the power to change the world? How? Why?
I definitely think art has the power to change perspectives and inspire new thoughts, which in return helps change the world around us.
What did you learn about yourself the most during the pandemic? If anything?
I learned how there is more to life than work and how important it is for me to have a sense of balance in my life. I've always had trouble juggling my work and life, and when the pandemic happened, it heightened it. Not having the option to see family and friends and just do things outside of work made me realise how important those things are to me and how I need to make time for them to be happy.
For anyone starting in this industry, what advice would you offer them?
My biggest piece of advice is to figure out what makes you unique and capitalise on it. So many people spend time looking around and paying attention to what others are doing. But if you focus on yourself, figure out what makes you different, and then translate it uniquely through your work, you will always thrive!