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May 23, 2024

From two-metre brush strokes to tiny tattoos, Jas Crisp is making her mark

A mid-tattoo chat with Adelaide artist Jasmine (Jas) Crisp reveals a varied and exciting art practice dedicated to people and the objects they treasure.

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  • Words and pictures: Marina Deller

I first met Jas at a house party in 2016. At the table of a dingy kitchen she spoke about art and life with hunger and joy. That same year, CityMag profiled her as an Adelaide Central School of Art student to watch.


Marina Deller is currently Writer-in-Residence at The Mill.
This article was published in partnership with The Mill as part of its Writer-in-Residence program.

For more information on the program, see here.

Jas graduated shortly after, jet-setting to residencies in Finland and Iceland which resulted in her first solo exhibition back home in Adelaide. In 2018, Jas reached out to friends who might like to have their sleeping faces immortalised on a wall. She says she was drawn to murals after her exhibition. “I thought, I’ve always dreamed of doing murals, now that’s become a big part of my life and how most people know me as an artist… they become part of Adelaide’s landscape.”

My partner at the time and I put our hands up, and Jas painted our peaceful faces surrounded by objects like Scrabble tiles and flowers onto a wall of the Majestic Minima Art Hotel, which was kind enough to let us sleep a night for free underneath our own, giant, faces. In a Facebook comment at the time Jas laughingly praised the party share-house we met at for “bringing Adelaide creatives together”.

I open the door of the XO Temple tattoo studio to a pleasant wave of spicy incense. The space is bursting with art and colour, including Jas’s own tattooed skin and shaggy red hair which fills my vision as she greets me with a hug.


In 2020, Jas became a full-time artist. A year later she apprenticed as a tattoo artist, adding a third form to an already impressive toolkit. It may seem unlikely that the muralist who once painted my face on a wall is also the tattooist about to ink a fine-line black and white tattoo on my calf, but the uniqueness of Jas’s art practice doesn’t surprise those who know her. She is a powerhouse.

I fill out a consent form and set up my camera while Jas finalises the design – a tiny bouquet of dried native flowers my partner wore at our wedding earlier this year.

Jas has tattooed me twice before, and both were treasured items; an etching done by my late mum, a photograph taken on a special holiday in Prague. I wouldn’t have trusted them to anyone else. The same is true of our wedding flowers. I know Jas will hit the perfect balance of realist and romantic.

Soon the stencil is ready, and Jas asks me to step onto a wooden crate so she can position it on my calf. She says that sometimes people are a nervous to step up, worried they’ll fall.

She soars high when painting outdoor murals, like her instantly recognisable self-portrait on the side of the Rockford Hotel on Hindley.

“Is it a bit scary going on the cherrypicker?” I ask as she presses paper to my skin.

“I’m not scared of heights,”  she says, laughing. “The height, if anything, is really powerful. You get to physically claim something so large that you have to be in the sky to make it.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jasmine Crisp (@jasmine_crisp)

Soon the hum of the tattoo gun backgrounds our conversation. I ask what it is like working across different canvases. Jas says, simply, “I think if I was doing the same thing every day I would quit no matter what it was.”

When I ask what she enjoys tattooing most she says, “I love the ugly, weird shit. When someone brings me an interesting, strange, or loved object then it’s really nice to have that in the room and present with us while we make it. It’s about honouring the object.”

She gestures to the plastic container I brought with my flowers inside. “I get to see your precious object! There’s something special about that. I’m also left to create it in my own sketchy, funky, imperfect way.”

Jas’s work across different forms often centres on people and the objects which matter to them.

“I don’t really know what I’m making a story about if it isn’t about someone or myself,” she says.

Although she’s tattooing me in shades of black and grey, I ask how her colour work is going. I admire the tones and textures she achieves on skin, a notoriously tricky canvas.

“There’s so many amazing tattoo artists, especially even in Adelaide, let alone all of Australia, but colour is a thing I can contribute to. I had very formal training in colour theory. Unlike a lot of tattooists, I actually mix all of my colours. I feel like I’m painting when I do it.”

I wonder aloud if these skills also come in handy for freehand tattooing – from life, not stencils. Jas nods; it’s her favourite approach. “That’s the way I’ve been trained to draw… I end up making more interesting drawings or better work because I’m thinking only of that moment.”


Tattoos and portrait painting can be intimate, but the opposite is true for murals. Jas says the joy is in the publicness of the works, the space they take up.

“It’s fun painting on a wall, you’re taking up a really large amount of space. A brush stroke could be two metres long.”

Jas says that the Adelaide mural community is “really, really beautiful” but the gallery world “is its own special thing – it’s quite elitist and excluding”.

“I like the idea of doing gallery-quality work in the public. Being able to do it in a space that is for everyone, without exclusion or a fee is really exciting to me.”

Although the fine art world may be somewhat prohibitive, cost and access are still considerations for murals. Jas rattles off a list; insurance, licences, permits, and all-important paint. “I’m essentially running my own jobsite as a tradie,” she says, “There are so many invisible expenses. My appointment for a job could cost more than ten grand sometimes.”

We pause for a moment for me to twist like a contortionist. I snap a photo of her mid-tattoo concentration face.

We vent to one another for a few minutes about the price of choosing art and writing as our respective passions and careers. Although we work across different art forms, we discuss how each community shares barriers such as elitism and unpaid (or underpaid) work.

Nothing will deter Jas from her creative visions and values, though. I tell her that I’ve always admired how uncompromising she is.

“Yeah, stubborn!” she quips.

Jas says stubbornness makes her practice “better”; “It’s something I believe in so much and so deeply that I’ll never change it. People want something they’ve seen before and I don’t want to make anything that’s been done before. I’m not suddenly becoming a public decorator or advertiser.”

Jas is also increasingly passionate about the power public art has to “change or grow a community”, and invigorated by European and Scandinavian cultures and attitudes towards art.

“It’s common knowledge rather than ‘art people’ knowledge… the respect people have for artists is different,” she says.

“We should be paid, we do offer something valuable, and we should be able to make what we want to make rather than what we’re told to. It still needs some work.”


Jas Crisp


Despite wider issues in the art world, Jas believes Adelaide is the ideal place to face these challenges and forge her own path.

“The ability to be an artist here is supported,” she says, “There’s a lot of opportunities. I’ve got the best support network here, people make time for me because it’s a connected and non-pretentious community. It’s only becoming better and better – arts becoming a celebrated field – especially in South Australia.”

I suggest she is a part of that work. “I feel really excited about that,” she says. “I could escape to a city where it’s already happened but if I’m here I can be a part of making it happen.”

The tattoo is finished just as I run out of questions, although, inevitably, we’ve wandered off script more than we’ve kept to it. I clamber off the tattoo table and Jas and I wander to the mirror to admire it together. Within a delicate border the flowers are splayed joyfully.

Jas takes a photo for me of the originals next to their ink counterparts (my flexibility doesn’t go quite that far).

As Jas wraps my leg in protective plastic, she tells me she is about to set off on another residency adventure. She’s heading for Mexico, and then – who knows? What she does know is that Adelaide will be “a soft blanket” she looks forward to coming home to.

I know I’ll eagerly await the creations she will ink internationally – on walls and skin alike – and, of course, will use the time to brainstorm my next treasured tattoo.

Follow along with Jas’ art on Instagram.

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