Welcome to the first series of Meet the Artist where I chat to artists and makers whom I love and admire. Jess Racklyeft is an illustrator who primarily works in card designs and children's book illustrations. I was introduced to Jess' work a few years ago through Erstwilder where we currently work as one of their designers. Jess' art is soft, whimsical and full of joy and I was head over heels the moment I saw one of her watercolour paintings. 

Tell us a bit about you
Hello! My name is Jess Racklyeft and I am an illustrator. I primarily work as a card designer and children's book illustrator, and I also sell portraits on Etsy as well as work for some great clients like Erstwilder. 
Although I've been drawing since a kid, I didn't give myself the chance to build a freelance life until my daughter was born 5 years ago. Since then I've been working super hard building an illustration freelance life, and it has been an absolute dream / intense juggle and rewarding chapter seeing it starting to take off.
Have you always been a creative person?
Do you remember the definitive moment when you decided to be an artist?
I have, and I remember being asked at 12 what I wanted to be - and I said a children's book illustrator. This completely scared me, as I never felt good enough so I totally ignored myself for another 20 years. I studied Communications and travelled, and the job just before I had my daughter was SELLING children's books at a publishing company. It's kind of crazy thinking of the big circle! In the end all these different experiences have definitely added to my work now as I can understand publishing from the internal office world to the illustration side, so I appreciate my many years of different jobs!
Who are you inspired by?
A billion artists on Instagram, the city of Melbourne, my kids and my local bookshop The Little Bookroom. There's so much beautiful work out there and very clever people. Artists like Anna Walker and Jon Klasson really make my art heart flutter!
What is your typical work day like and what is your must-have item to help you stay productive?
Coffee and wine keep me balanced, but I am never really not productive as with two little kids any time I can work is gold. They are in childcare two days, and I work nights and naps. So there's not really a typical day, but I am either with the kids or working 90% of the day and enjoying a red wine or coffee the other 10% (oh and sleep fits in there somewhere too :)).
What are you super excited about?
I'm working on two books at the moment which I'm loving, and looking forward to them coming out later this year. I'm also currently making myself a mini project of drawing small watercolour birds and selling them on Instagram, they are total stress release for me and seem to be going down well! Apart from that I'm looking forward to a break from it all with a couple of weekends away coming up, where I hope to down tools (and kids for one of them!) and enjoy some time with friends and family.
Can you share one tip for any aspiring creative and maker?
Don't feel like it is all or nothing. Every job, every exhibition, every market stall and every drawing all add to the pie and it doesn't have to make sense at this very moment. Make things you love to do and share them, send your work to people you admire, just keep makin' makin' - I think those who persevere always get to the "finish line" (whatever that is!) eventually. 
WEBSITE: jessesmess.com
INSTAGRAM: @jessesmess