Art & Culture Business Community

Rythym and Colour: Discover the vibrant World of Artist, Jessie-Rae Costello

Samoa has long been a hub of artistic expression, where the beauty of the natural world intertwines with the ingenuity of her people to create a contemporary art scene that is both timeless and modern.

Today (thankfully) the contemporary artists in Samoa continue to quietly develop behind the scenes of a deeply traditional country that unconsciously plays tug of war with modernity. Local artists are pushing boundaries of what it means to be a Pacific Islander in the 21st century.

At the forefront of this movement is a new generation of Samoan artists who are using their work to explore themes of identity, tradition, and innovation. Local artist Chelsea Jessie Rae Costello (Jessie-Rae), a true daughter of the Pacific, adds another facet to the evolution of Pacific contemporary art with her unapologetic celebration of life, love and beauty.

The 33 year old artist was born in Lautoka in Fiji and is currently based in Samoa. With a diverse heritage that includes Rotuman, Indian, Scottish, and Samoan roots, Jessie-Rae’s artwork mirrors the eclectic mix of her ancestry.

From a young age, Jessie-Rae knew her true calling was painting and was fortunate to grow up in a household where creativity was encouraged. Her late father, who is the celebrated Pacific legend singer and painter, Daniel Bernard Rae Costello, and artist mother, Corrina Gibson Rae Costello, supported Jessie-Rae’s early interest in the arts.

“I’ve been painting my whole life, starting from the age of two just throwing paint around and my parents noticed that, but I sold my first painting in 2014.”

“Both my parents are incredible artists.  My father was a musician and a painter and my mother has wonderful artistic skill, so they cultivated that when I was little.”

“I didn’t have talent, I was bad but there was passion. I guess the more I practiced and the more I learned, the better I got so I don’t think it was about talent earlier on. But just loving it and pursue it.”

Jessie-Rae understands the difficulty of choosing between following one’s heart and working a stable job that pays well while building someone else’s dream. However from experience she can also attest to the deep satisfaction of pursuing one’s passion that come from embracing the struggle and making the necessary sacrifices to achieve a goal.

“It is always the harder choice to pursue doing what you love than to just work a decent job that pays you well to build someone else’s dream,” she said. “It’s worth it to build a legacy that will outlast you that people will talk about when you’re no longer alive.”

“Passion isn’t something you can fake and if you do try to fake passion, you will be exhausted to your soul. So, if you’re going to do something, figure out what you love, and all the sacrifices you have to make to do what you love for the rest of your life because it is 100 percent worth it.”

Jessie Rae’s signature style is recognized as being bold and vibrant and many fans of her art describe the energy that emanates from her paintings as mesmerizing and impactful.

 “I feel like I’m calypso music visually – like carnivals, flowers, music, dancing, colour and good food. It is because music is a huge factor in my inspiration. I love music but I don’t sing, I play instruments.

“Everyone is different, and a lot of my clients are like me, they love bright and bold. They love that the painting kind off hits them in the face when they walk into the room.”

As an artist, she has evolved significantly over the years, and while she may have sold some artwork that she now wishes she could burn, she views it as a testament to her growth and progress.

“Let’s just say there are some artworks that I sold eight years ago that I wish I could get it back and burn it,” Jessie-Rae laughs. “I think every artist feels that way, you look at how you’ve grown and how much you have improved and really cultivated your skill. And realised I sucked eight years ago but its okay. I look back at that art and its proof that I have improved which is the goal. I will never be the greatest but so long as I was better than I was before, to me that is the goal.

Jessie-Rae has traveled extensively and painted in every country she has visited saying her she learnt many valuable lessons from the local artists she met along the way who taught her that immersing yourself in the local culture and talking to people will provide a deeper understanding of life’s essence and the flavours that make it unique.

 “I’ve travelled to 24 different countries, painted in every single one and learned from so many incredible artists who have told me don’t go to university, don’t waste four years in art school just paint on the streets, talk to the locals and you will figure out what life means and what flavour looks like and you will learn.”

“I think my place in life is always growing -I’m always looking at my work objectively like this is good, praise God for this gift and the work but I can do better that is always my outlook. And if it makes people happy then I’m fulfilled.”

While it’s easy to find inspiration in the beauty of nature, people, and relationships, she acknowledges that sometimes this is not enough, and she must delve deeper. During a creative rut, she turns to her faith for solace and enlightenment. For her, God is her ultimate muse; the wellspring from which her creativity flows.

“I’ve always established that before I’m an artist, I’m a woman of God. My faith is important, and I find that when I lack inspiration -it’s easy to be inspired by sunsets, waterfalls, people and relationships but when all those fails. I have to tap into something deeper.”

“God is the ultimate answer, when I lack inspiration, He pulls me up. If I’m completely honest, God is my inspiration.

“The Lord inspires me, and it never runs out because He knows exactly what we need and what other people and how I can bless them.”

With a specialty in wall murals, the artist had found her passion to be somewhat limited upon returning to Samoa. Few locals showed interest in her skillset, but that didn’t stop her from creating. She spent an impressive two weeks on a double wall mural at Rose Café in Apia, dedicating 2 weeks’ time to ensure the work was nothing short of perfect.

One of the toughest challenges in her line of work is explaining her worth to potential clients who do not understand the time, skill and costs that go into creating the beautiful work they appreciate.

“Some people have this notion that, ‘oh but you can paint, can’t you just paint something on a canvas, and it just be cheap.”

“It’s not because they’re rude or condescending or don’t respect my work, it’s just that they don’t understand how long it took to hone a certain skill, how much certain materials cost or how long it takes to take a piece of yourself and put it on a canvas.”

“I struggle with people knowing my worth and sometimes, I have to teach them what my worth is not in a boastful way. But this is a business that I run, this is how I survive, how I pay my bills, and these are my rates and standards.”

Without a gallery to display her work, Jessie-Rae has expertly harnessed the power of social media to exhibit her unique creations to a local and international audience. With the recent launch of her online store on Etsy, a hub for art aficionados seeking one-of-a-kind pieces, Jessie Rae’s magnetic art work will now be available to everyone who wants to be transported to Pacific paradises.

“For years I’ve been trying to make quality art prints available to supporters and admirers from around the world without the hefty “original art” costs so this is a little big win for my loved ones and I” she announced on her Facebook page last month.

Currently, Jessie Rae has embarked on a new project, a commissioned piece for a Samoan client living in France and she is excited about creating something special that will become a part of another family’s legacy.

“I’m working on a special commissioned piece for a Samoan client in France. He’s just bought a beautiful home in the south of France, and he wants a painting of him and his daughter.”

“The most satisfying moment for me is when a person unwraps the painting which someone else has bought for them -they don’t know it’s coming but there’s something in the panting that is so sentimental that it moves them.”

“It’s my favourite part and that’s why the 670 hours of painting is worth it because it’s the little impressions you make on people’s lives.”

You may also like