• Jessica James

Creating for Cooper

When Kathy and Gary asked me to create some original art for the doors of Cooper, I was

A) Euphoric

B) Shit Scared

C) Deeply Curious

When it comes to taking on new projects, that combination is the only sign we have as creatives to say YES. And figure it out as we go….

I knew Kathy and Gary (to be known as KathGa from now on) before they commissioned me. Cooper is their beloved handmade wine barrel shaped camper that they were preparing to travel with around Australia again.

At first I thought they had placed WAY too much faith in my ability to produce something magical for them. I was so terrified and very honest with them about it. They couldn’t have been more supportive and encouraging, which as a newbie freelancer, this was a dream come true.

Apart from their undying will for me to do whatever I wanted…

The brief was:

- 2 x pieces of art

- Must be original

- ‘Whatever you think…have fun’


They gave me so much freedom and courage to just explore, play, and have fun with it. From talking more with KathGa and seeing the type of art they had bought for their house, I really picked up a few ideas and themes I was excited to explore.

My initial ideas were:

- Symbolism for the land travelling

- Colour could have gypsy feelsThe idea of it travelling up the side of the door.

- Lots of talk about flowing and movement Inclusion of dots as a huge proportion of my art

They floated the idea to me a few times before we had the, ‘Okay, will you do it for us?’ talk… and I agreed with shaky hands.

That afternoon I went home and furiously started sketching initial designs for this crazy project. The reasons I was so scared was that by this point I had basically only started drawing on my iPad about 3 months earlier and very primitive drawings. This was not the medium I was most comfortable with. Also the grounds I had established myself on as an artist were that I did dots, a lot of them, abstractly. I was amazing at spending stupid amounts of time on repetitive markmarking. But beyond that, I didnt have excellent skills in figure drawing or realistic things.. I was scared that I could be exposed as this fraud artist because the skill just wasn’t there.

Buuuut I jumped into it anyway. Released the pressure by reminding myself that KathGa just wanted me to have fun. Turns out what unfolded, ended up being better than I imagined.

I came up with some initial drawings.

I wanted to incorporate the land a lot, but these initial ones were very landscape and kinda basic. I knew I could do better and I knew because I wasn’t excited to show KathGa, that they hadn’t quite hit the mark.

But then I really thought about travelling and, movement, I embodied this feeling and did this one…

Copyright Jessica James

I wasn’t 100% happy with it at first, but it felt like it had a little gem inside of it. Something about it was special and I couldn’t quite articulate why.

Then about 2 weeks went by and so much was happening in my life. The project got put on the back burner and was constantly calling to me. Annoying me, but no new ideas about what Kathy’s side could be… Every day in my calendar I scheduled time to work on their project but each time I sat down to create, it didn’t feel right.

I really admire people who can push past this ‘I don’t feel like it’ sensation, but for me. It’s a neon hazard line that even if I tried to cross, the work being produced is so horrible I end up having to do extra work later to fix it. So I do wait for inspiration to strike and that method works for me. The trick with this approach is to have lots of ongoing projects so you can always jump around and do different tasks on each.

ANYWAY. One morning of the third week, I couldn’t hack it anymore, it was time to sit down and see what this second artwork would look like. I had Kathy in mind for this one. I wanted something more dreamy.

A few hours later and this was sitting in front of me - ‘The Wandering Waratahs’

Copyright Jessica James

A collection of Tasmanian Waratahs encouraging the steady flowing stream of our infinite life paths. Looking back, I think this piece is about having courage to leave your home in the pursuit of adventure and exploration. The many potential roads you can take and how your home will always be there to support you.

I called KathGa straight away with the news I had some designs to show them. I was ready.

We met in a cute little coffee shop near my studio and I was buzzing with excitement. Proud of where I had come. From the terrified, unsure but excited child to this woman. I really hoped they liked them, but if they didn’t, I was prepared to keep working till I had something they did. I just wanted something they could be proud of. These weren’t just going up in their home, they would be driving around Australia showcasing them!

KathGa were really happy with the works (phew!) Gary loved the one I affectionally named ‘The Travelling Lines’ and Kathy adored the ‘Wandering Waratahs’. Perfect.

Next step was to get them all exported and into the correct files to pass onto the vinyl printing man. He and KathGa would take the project from here.

We ended up having a few hiccups. I knew from the beginning I would need to be working in big pixels and thought my 1800px x 1400 px canvas size would cut it. But going from my small iPad to blowing up the whole door of a truck was a bigger leap than I expected. The Waratah art pulled up fine but we were having troubles with the travelling lines.

I ended up stepping back in to work with our vinyl printing man and he went Magic Merlin on photoshop to make it happen. This was such a valuable lesson and something you can’t really practice until you are in the midst of a project like this. Having the opportunity to collaborate and problem solve with different people to achieve the best outcome we possibly could, was exponentially fun.

About a week later we had the finished look!

Images courtesy of Kathy and Gary

I am incredibly grateful and thankful to Kathy and Gary for giving me this opportunity to try something new and challenge myself. I am SO happy you are happy and exploring Australia now with Coop. You can follow their adventures over on Facebook if you are curious like me.

Thank you to Jamie at Lid Design for your expertise and open mind to make weird things with us.


I can’t wait to continue being creative for a living and getting to work with amazing people on projects that matter.


  • Jessica James Facebook
  • Jessica James Instagram
  • Jessica James Tumblr

©2020 by Jessica James.