The Pointillist

A medium of time consumption and a whole lot of points. As a writer, I know how it feels to commit to a long project, that several times through the process you will fall in and out of love with.

It will begin as one thing, then by the end may be something else altogether. Observing the methodology of a pointillist illustrator I have found these things to be also true as they embark on a new piece.

pointillism 2.jpg

Working to such fine detail and technical ability, is a tall order; especially when dedicated to producing not only an entire image comprised of dot work, but also one of large proportions. Images by Whitehead Illustrations practice that to truly wow, is to work so intricately on large paper so the detail can truly be appreciated both up close and further away, where the image can really work as one.

Whitehead Illustrations is the brand name of Illustrator Jessie Whitehead. It is impressive to view this artist’s work from so far away and see how all the parts communicate into what is an aesthetically stunning piece; and then as you walk closer, see every individual dot that has combined to create it.

What however is perhaps not always realised, is the many hours of skill and dedication put into creating just one of the pieces.

Where does it begin?

Quantum Physics. Not the answer you were expecting? Jessie has often likened the process of pointillism to the theory of quantum physics.

In the introduction to Jessie’s Project Sexless Spaces’ Jessie describes the momentum and inspiration found when choosing to illustrate using dots. ‘Sexless Spaces’ is a limited edition collection of works by the artist focusing on the identification we possess as humans and individuals, with the world around and spaces we choose to inhabit within that. Both metaphorically in our own identifications we express to the world, and physically in the architecture and homes we choose to live in.

Whitehead states: “There’s a certain eerie stillness to dot work. Pointillism suggests a sense of certainty and concrete solidity. Everything is in its right place.”  It involves a deconstruction of components so as not to be overwhelmed by the overall size of an object or image. It emphasises the search to find a whole in every part.”

The artist statement to this collection of work invites the never-ending search we as human beings must know everything, to find a home in all places, and a reasoning behind it all. Only with this security do we feel satisfied. It is in what we do not know, or cannot know that we feel afraid. Uncertainty, or the unobtainable scares us. If something is too large it exhausts us to attempt to consume or digest it.

Delightful Consumption

To conveniently break something down into small, easily swallowed dots, makes this artist’s work extremely pleasant and considerate of its audience. It is ordered. It is certain. It is accurate. We as people love this.

pointillism 3.jpg

In quantum mechanics, this form of ordering reality, so we can make sense of it and the world around us; is referred to as ‘non-locality.’

In the introduction, Jessie goes on to refer to this process and how it has informed the creative process, applied to the imagery.

“Non-locality is the practice of the whole existing within every part. A similar mechanism can be observed within the application of dots to paper. It is the process of eliminating absence, filling the relevant spaces and the slowing down of the self to comprehend the whole.”

To view Whitehead’s work, is the observe the infinite fluctuation of the whole giving purpose to all parts; every single dot of the page and similarly deviating how each dot creates the whole, without even one of them, it would be incomplete.

 Where do we go from here?

There is a length of depth and intelligence to be seen and appreciated in this artist’s work. The research and subjects used to inform every piece created by Jessie, as well as the knowledge applied in even what appears to be the simplest of processes in illustration; making dots on a page, is immense. It is the reason why the work is found so fascinating to the reader. To be satisfied on a visual level, and enthralled on an intellectual one, is a rare find.


Every part to the art work is stimulating. Now you have been enticed by the grand ideas, attempting to be explored and communicated by the artist, it is time to understand how Jessie moves from concept to construction. To do that, you need to understand exactly how someone can see a final image, and then using millions upon millions of dots can create that.

 Starting out

It all begins with an idea. Did any creative story begin any differently? Perhaps with experimentation, an accidental stumble upon something brilliant. But essentially no. The idea must be there. And for a pointillist piece, it needs to be impressive.

It must be something the creator feels truly invested in and proud of. Something they know at the end will subscribe to whatever intention they begin with. It is the only way this long journey will be worth the effort required.

Jessie begins with some visual research, building on ideas to draw upon, so an end goal is blue printed at the very start to know what needs to be outlined on the paper.

From there it is a matter of understanding how that needs to look on the paper. From there, it is all about defining the density and the size of the dots to create the whole.

A lot of this is learnt through practice, from observing other artists working in this way, and from endless years of experimenting with the technical skills required, so eventually you can make those decisions by eye and understand what will work best for whatever look you are hoping to achieve.

 Burgeoning Blank Pages

Having the idea and then really it is all down to once you know what is needed, just getting on with it. Do not underestimate the amount of patience required for this process. It is repetitive. You will end up with something amazing. But the reality of creating that it literally tapping pen to paper over, and over again. One dot, then another. Layering on top of one another. Remembering the importance of where a dot is needed and then also where one is not.

I myself do not possess a visual brain

I can do some things, as I am sure many can. Perhaps sketch some simple 3 D shapes, know what colours I like and do not like together off a basic understanding of what matches. I have my personal opinions of what art work I enjoy, and others I do not.

But I mean it when I say, not everyone can be an artist. Some think if you can draw something, you are therefore an illustrator. Perhaps in a certain right you are, but professionally speaking, I can assure you, you are not.

Giving it a go

I attempted doing some dot work myself, on a piece Jessie was working on. I took up the offer, under guidance to simply dot some shading on an area that was to be filled.

On backing away from the piece after I was done (which was twenty or so dots later) I assumed I had followed the protocol correctly and thought while sat there up close, I had matched the rhythm and spacing of the other dots already in place.

It was evident which were the ones I had laid down, and those done by Jessie.

It made a large difference to the overall colouring of that segment of the piece. Mine were too close together, Jessie’s were arranged in such a way the overall tone was a lighter shade of grey, to represent a shadow, a hue slightly lighter than that of the object itself.

The pointillist is exact in understanding each dot has its right place, very much as quantum mechanics will teach.

 The Dot Maker

The dot maker is a clever soul, weaving from the many strands, an image of completeness, that we as an audience are never fully prepared to appreciate fully. The process is a complex one, often under played in the general statement that it cannot be hard to put dots on a page.

You are correct in that assumption, for the difference between just the singular tickle of a nib on a random scrap of paper; is not the same as making art as many dots arranged in order.

Whitehead Illustrations at Present

Jessie Whitehead, at present, is a Norwich- based freelance illustrator; practicing the medium of pointillism, line work and graphic design on a variety of both her own personal lead projects, and commissions for local galleries. Jessie also has commissions in place for Album Illustration and front cover design.

In the past year, Whitehead Illustrations, has presented work for Moosey Art Gallery in Norwich, where ‘Atemporal’ was sold for £300. Currently the artist is locked down in a private studio in preparation for an approaching personal exhibition and show-casing other pieces for sale online.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s