The Unlikely Story of an Artist and Her Precious Beasts
Back in March, when the world was stocking up on toilet paper and Lysol Wipes, Jackie Phillips was ordering 60 pounds of walnuts on Amazon for her backyard squirrels: “They’re my co-workers. I also don't want to be stuck at home with a dozen hungry squirrels and no nuts.”
Jackie's well-fed friends
Aside from possessing an incredibly sharp sense of humor, which is what I love most about this chick who I'm blessed to call a friend, Jackie also has an unmatched eye for drawing, painting and graphic design. For the last decade, she’s had the good fortune to work as a highly sought after professional graphic designer directing projects for majorly important people like Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee and multi-GRAMMY Award winning musician Joe Walsh and neuroscientist, philosopher and best-selling author Sam Harris. Bunkering into her Los Angeles’ abode during the pandemic and working in solitude (except for the occasional squirrel visit) is just how she prefers it.
Typical of a true artist.
However, if you were to travel back in time to catch a glimpse of Jackie as a little girl growing up in Westwood, you would not find her creating Crayola masterpieces. Instead, she was watching sitcoms. Gilligan’s Island, I Love Lucy, The Golden Girls, all the classics. “I didn’t want to go to school the day Lucille Ball died,” she says. “I was devasted.”
Since the age of five or six, Jackie had a TV in her room and dreamed of being a part of that magic box someday. (If only we were friends back then. A TV in my room was a thing of fairytales.) None of her family members worked in the industry, but plenty of her friends’ families did and that along with living in LA was default enough for Jackie to dream about shouting "ACTION" for a living. She attended Northwestern University where she received her degree in Radio, TV & Film. From there, she began her nearly 15-year stint in TV (with an eye toward directing), working as an assistant for various producers and high-level executives including Kevin Reilly when he was the President of FOX, which Jackie says truly fulfilled every dream she had of working in Tinseltown.
Then one day, Jackie woke up and had a revelation that she wasn't where she was supposed to be: "I loved my job and working for Kevin, but deep down, I was longing for a change." At the behest of pretty much everyone she knew, she took a gigantic leap of faith and became a P.A. on a pilot show for FOX. "Everyone said I was insane to be a set P.A. You don't go from working for the president of a network to being a set P.A.," Jackie exclaims. "But, it was two weeks and I wanted to know what everyone did. I didn't care what people thought."
For those two weeks, Jackie was the first one there and last one to leave. She cleaned garbage cans willingly. And she learned a lot. When she came home with aching feet at night, she would chillax by mindlessly playing around with a paint set she bought off Urban Outfitter's website, which she continued to dabble with even once the pilot was over.
It was during a friendly lunch with the pilot's director, Scott Ellis weeks after production wrapped that Jackie's life took a sharp turn when he nonchalantly asked her what she was up to. "Well, I've got to do something, because I'm wasting my time doing this," Jackie says as she reluctantly pulled out some half crumpled drawings of little animals from her purse that she'd made with acrylic paint from UO and Sharpie pen.
Scott absolutely loved the drawings. He'd just had infant twins and insisted on commissioning Jackie for three pieces for his children's bedroom. Stunned and full of self-deprecating remarks, Jackie finally agreed to the task. Even though she learned a tremendous amount by taking the P.A. gig, Jackie wasn't any closer to her childhood dream of directing sitcoms. For the first time, she pondered a life outside of the entertainment industry and decided to accept this new challenge life was presenting her. She completed the cute little animal triptych and was inspired to name her new business Precious Beast.
Jackie set up a small Etsy shop, taught herself Photoshop and all the other programs you're supposed to be proficient in as a graphic designer and found herself having a blast taking charge of her own destiny.
"You put so much energy into taking care of something, and you nurture these big things," Jackie says in reference to her former bosses and prior obligations as an executive assistant. "Once I flipped it around and was able to take that attention and put it on myself, it was just like building a garden. It just grew. I had spent all my time doing everyone else's garden, but the moment I was able to turn it around and focus that attention on myself, I grew a beanstalk. It was crazy."
That is some seriously enlightening stuff right there and definitely words to ponder for anyone struggling with finding a career that can be sustainable and personally fulfilling at the same time. (Thanks, Jackie xo)
Whimsical book illustrations, thoughtful logo design & business branding, fashion & editorial work, daring product designs, and colorful artistic brand collaborations are just some of the freelance work assignments that keep Jackie creating like a mad woman.
However, it's a design job she did for The Rockefeller Foundation that Jackie feels represents the moment when she truly made it. "It was for an event at Carnegie Hall and I was given two weeks," Jackie recalls. "They needed things I didn't even know how to do, but I figured it out. The event organization that hired me liked my work and working with me, and I've been working with them ever since."
They also referred her to her current and longest running client to date - Sam Harris. Jackie's responsible for designing the logo for his award-winning podcast Making Sense, and art directing his popular mindfulness meditation app Waking Up as well as creatively assisting with his live events."
"What is interesting is, when I was little, I always wanted to be a director. Now, I'm an art director," Jackie says. "When your life is happening, you don't necessarily know when a moment changes everything. In retrospect, you look back and everything fits perfectly. You realize if I had moved one block, everything would've changed. It's all very Sliding Doors-esque."
If there's one thing Jackie loves more than '70s & '80s sitcoms and a fresh palette of paint, it's classic rock. This brings to me to Jackie's connection to VetsAid, a national non-profit organization and annual music festival founded by rock legend Joe Walsh to raise funds for veterans services.
For the last three years, Jackie has gleefully designed all the graphics, logos, posters and merch for these concerts that billed James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, Don Henley and Ringo Starr as headliners. "On stage, Ringo was wearing a t-shirt with my design on it," Jackie says. "I've peaked. If it all stopped now, I'd be fine."
Somehow, I doubt this crazy squirrel lady will be stopping anytime soon, and selfishly, I wouldn't want her to. Jackie emanates a joie de vivre that I adore and it's people like her who make the world a beautiful place to live.
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