Jessica Illichmann

Visual Communication Design
Top Designs 2005

2020 – Visual Artist and Creative Director

Jessica Illichmann
Jessica Illichmann, Top Designs alumna

Mad Dame (my artist alter-ego) is known as a provocative artist with a beautiful and bizarre approach to alternative portrait photography. For the past 18 years, I have been photographing everyday people and portraying them in diverse creative contexts. I have won fine art awards and in 2013 I launched a magazine art book called DAMED to inspire others.

I explore self-portraits, capturing an anarchy of emotion and alternative beauty. My first foray into photography as a major medium began in 2003, as a teenage exchange student in Denmark. Challenged by the language barrier in a strange and conservative culture, I felt isolated and disconnected. However, it was this tumultuous venture through teenage angst that became the catalyst for Mad Dame’s photographic creativity.

Please give a brief description of your trajectory from Top Designs until now.

I graduated from a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Photography) at RMIT University in 2008 and had my first solo exhibition – Suburban Mayhem – in 2008. That year I also won the Entrepreneur Motivation Series student award and prize. Since 2009, I have run my own art and photographic studios, residing for eight years within Wicked of Oz, an award-winning studio established by writer, producer and director Justin Dix.

I have been a self-employed and full-time working artist since graduating. In 2012 I received two Silver awards in the International Loupe Awards for my photography. My work has been published in numerous print magazines, such as FRONT Cover and Kultur, and has also featured on billboard campaigns. I have also appeared in, directed and art-directed various music videos, TV shows and films. I have travelled to Tokyo, Indonesia, USA and Canada creating my artwork and I was once hired to perform for Amanda Palmer.

Do you feel that Top Designs had an impact on your personal/professional development? If yes, please explain how.

Top Designs gave me the confidence and assurance that, as a young person, my visions had purpose. It gave me confidence in my talent, as I was offered scholarships after Year 12. The skills I attained while creating my Top Designs project are still with me. For my Top Designs project I created magazine ads for a perfume label called Mad Dame, which targeted an alternative female fashion demographic. Fifteen years on, I have created a magazine and run a cosmetics brand with a similar alternative style.

What advice do you have for people wanting to work in your field?

Experiment, use your resources, and don't be afraid of the outcome or making mistakes.

Young artists can get caught up in trying to create a perfect final result but in fact creation is an accident. You should be willing to take risks and discover something you didn't know you were looking for. I certainly found many successes in accidents along the way. Consider yourself a tool that can tap into the multi-verse of infinite creativity.

What is your design philosophy?

Listen to your own intuition. Don’t follow trends, take risks, be the trendsetter and don’t make designs or art for the ‘likes’. Create everything out of truth and be bold enough to do so.

What are your future goals?

My future goals are to continue creating based on my personal philosophies. To continue to create high-quality art books and physical publications that share my personal philosophy and insight in my unique way, with no fear of how it will turn out. Continue to learn new technologies like VR/AR/VX to express my further creative visions and share them. Offer a creative outlet or channel for others to express themselves.

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