Hotel project brings a break for young artist

Gisborne Herald, Sat Dec 11 2004, Christine McCafferty


WHEN you see the three large murals of an underwater landscape adorning the main foyer of Gisborne's new Portside Apartment Hotel, it is hard to imagine a curtain in their place.


Interior designers initially suggested a curtain to decorate the three-story foyer, but property developer Garry McNab wanted something with vibrancy and local relevance to welcome guests.

When fellow developers Brian and Ella Johns saw an exhibition by artist Jess Jacobs, 21, they knew she was the person for the job. They got in touch with Jess immediately and commissioned her to do seven murals for the complex. After two months of intense painting, the murals are complete and her patrons couldn't be happier with the results. "We are very pleased with the final outcome. We feel very lucky to have found Jess," said Mr McNab. "Jess came up with everything, right from the initial idea to the final product. She has done a great job."

The first task and most difficult part was finding a studio large enough for her to work on all three murals at once, Jess said. "Eventually I found a big space by the Poverty Bay Club, so I was able to line them up next to each other. I worked on all of them at once - that way they worked together as a whole."

Her father custom-built each of the frames for the murals - three metres wide and two metres high - and Jess stretched the canvas over them. Without any preliminary sketches, Jess painted straight onto the canvasses, making up the composition as she went along. The murals ended up looking flawless. Using acrylic paints, Jess was able to create a watery, transparent finish. She was given full artistic licence and incorporated both humourous and personal references in the murals. "I named the boat, ‘Jasmine Star' after my niece and the woman fishing on the boat was modelled on my sister Kadie - she was pretty stoked about that," she said.

And those with an eye for detail may notice how ‘Kadie' has a substantial fish hooked, while her male companion only managed to hook a boot on his line.
Jess worked long hours on the murals, sometimes working right throughout the night while the inspiration was fresh. "I worked on it for hours each day. My clothes ended up covered in paint but it was fun. It was all I thought about for those two months, it fully absorbed me." Jess also completed some smaller pieces, illustrating historical scenes from the area, which will hang in each floor's foyer.

Garry McNab was so pleased with the result, he decided to commission the young artist to do some works for the luxury penthouse apartments. He said the work was the start of good things to come for Jess. "These murals are going to be here for a long time and I'm sure they will be great for her career."

The next challenge for Jess is finding a permanent studio so she can paint full-time. "I've learnt so much from doing these commissions and I've had fun working on them".