The woman behind The J Files’ stunning artwork
You may not know her name, but if you’re a music lover, festival-goer or follow The J Files on Double J, you’ve definitely seen Katherine Brickman’s artwork at some point.
The Artist and Illustrator went from painting clothes on herself as a five-year-old, to creating some of your favourite album covers, music videos and tour and festival posters.
She’s illustrated for everyone from Florence + The Machine to Jebediah, The Middle East to Falls Festival, and is responsible for a bunch of the design and artwork your eyes have laid on over the years across triple j, Double J and triple j Unearthed.
We've been lucky enough to have her as part of the Double J family from the very start, and every week her distinctive, beautiful artistic palette has framed the stories around all your favourite J Files artists.
This International Women’s Day, we’re not only celebrating ladies who make music, but also those who make waves behind-the-scenes. Katherine is one of them, so we sat down with her to get to know our in-house lady art boss a little better.
Have you always been an illustrator and artist?
I've been working as an artist and an illustrator for over 13 years. I started messing around in illustration when I was about 21, fresh out of university (I did a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the UNSW College of Fine Arts) with my art partner and best friend Kate Mitchell. We’d create artworks, illustrations, and videos - we're still working together regularly.
Were you a creative kid?
Like pretty much every little child, I loved making a mess. I would try building 3-dimensional Muppets and loved to paint clothing onto myself instead of wearing actual clothes. I was under the impression that if I could paint clothes on my body, I could walk around butt-naked and no one would notice (which obviously wasn’t the case).
How did you know this is what you wanted to do for a living?
It's something that I fell into that just seemed to stick. I also don't have many other skills, LOL.
Art + music – what a dream career combo! Have you always worked in the music industry?
I've always been excited by music, so my first work as an illustrator was creating album covers and tour posters for friend's bands and from there it just kind of naturally evolved.
How did you get the gig at Double J?
I’ve been working at Double J since it relaunched in 2014 - I was working at triple j at the time and got nosey and excited when there was talk of launching Double J. I love being in an environment where I can discover new music and chuckle at everything Tim Shiel says on Arvos while I’m working. I've also become quite a fangirl for Zan's Take 5.
When you’re not at Double J, what else do you work on?
I’m one half of an art duo called Greedy Hen – we’re an art and design studio and work on creative projects like magazine illustrations ( Frankie Magazine and The Good Weekend), book covers, film clips, posters, album covers, window installations – you name it, if something needs to be illustrated, we’ve probably done it.
I also work on artworks for exhibitions and enjoy jumping between all sorts of fun mediums like collage, ink, painting, drawing, film, paper engineering, photography, and stop motion animation.
What have been some of your favourite projects to work on?
I loved working with Cloud Control, Washington, The Julie Ruin (Kathleen Hanna), Ariel Pink, Florence + the Machine, Holly Throsby, Josh Pyke and The Waifs. These are a few of my favourite bits and pieces.
(The Jedediah cover was made using a combination of scanned paint textures, and the font for this was created with cut potato stamps! That was a real messy day in the studio).
What’s been the most challenging project you’ve worked on to date?
All of the music videos I’ve worked on have been huge challenges, because they were all creative experiments.
Middle East – ‘Blood’ music video
This was my first ever attempt at stop motion animation. We created this video frame by frame, so choosing a 5 minute 30 second long song was a little crazy ambitious! We worked around the clock non-stop for weeks.
Josh Pyke – ‘The Lighthouse Song’ music video
This was my first time directing a music video. We created a puppet show on an old-school overhead projector animating the narrative of the lyrics. We then projected it behind him and refilmed it.
Cloud Control – ‘There’s Nothing in the Water We Can’t Fight’ music video
I wanted to try to create some lush, syrupy textures and the feeling of movement in water, so we filmed a music video with the band and then projected it onto different folded and cut papers. We also played around with old-school slide projectors and fun art slides that we borrowed from a library.
You’ve created The J Files artwork from the very start. Which are your favourites?
At the moment, the Kate Bush portrait is my favourite, I also love the Neneh Cherry art and The Go-Betweens. Honestly, I just love painting big boss women the most.
I also really enjoy painting artists who have inkblot goth hair like Nick Cave. I usually have a very tiny amount of time to produce the J Files artwork each week given it’s a weekly show, so inevitably (like any artist) I'll sometimes be a little disappointed in the work that gets churned out, but when it does hit the mark it's a real thrill.
You mentioned you like to paint big boss women. Who are some of your favourite female musicians?
Aldous Harding because she's absolutely thrilling live! Eyes rolling back, a face as ghostly pale as her crisp white suit…it's like she's possessed! I also have a massive soft spot for everyone's gal Julia Jacklin, the tiny whippet in a shiny blue tuxedo Weyes Blood, and late-night glass of whiskey band, Lower Dens.
Who would you love to illustrate next?
I'd love to paint Bradford Cox (Deerhunter/Atlas Sound) because he looks like a living breathing Egon Schiele artwork. I'd also really like to do a portrait of Anna Calvi as a bull fighter, and Kurt Vile would be terrific, because his hair to face ratio is quite magnificent.
Take a look at all of Katherine’s incredible J Files artwork here.