Jessica Malegana is a multimedia artist from Aklavik and Inuvik in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT, who currently resides in Edmonton, AB. Malegana creates illustrations using pencil, pencil crayon, watercolour and ink, as well as digital illustrations.
“I’ve been drawing forever,” says Malegana when asked how she got started.  Over time, she would watch other artists and get inspired to try what they were doing, picking up tips and tricks here and there. “You just use whatever resonates with you,” she says. Her subject matter is primarily based on her cultural heritage, and her own memories of growing up in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. An early influence was the work of Indigenous painter Archie Beaulieu, who inspired her to try out acrylics.
Malegana creates using a multistep process she has honed over years through trial and error. She begins her illustrations by drawing a sketch with pencil, and then adding watercolour. Once she has built up the colour she wants, she goes in with pencil crayons and then an HB or even black coloured pencil crayon for finer details. Often she will finish the drawing using ink—black for line art and white for highlight, as needed.
Watercolour is her favourite medium and favourite part of the process. “When I lay the colour down, the sketch just comes to life,” she says. Malegana enjoys the varied effect she can produce using different kinds of paper and different waters, and the unexpected texture the paint can create. “Watercolour is one of those mediums that you can’t 100% control,” she says happily.
In 2014, one of Malegana’s illustration won the Slave River Paddlefest’s logo contest; that same year, she was commissioned by the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation to illustrate a children’s book, Kiña Tautukpiung? (Uummarmiutun). The book was one of her early experiments with pencil crayon, and a big learning experience for Malegana. She hopes to illustrate another book in future to see how far she has come.
Despite these early successes, Malegana only really started sharing her work publicly in 2021; her mother—”my biggest fan!”—posted one of Malegana’s images online, and her cousin Louise Flooren then commissioned an illustration. This illustration became the foundation of their business, Ikniq and Hiku, where they sell Malegana’s illustrations on mugs, coasters, mouse pads, tote bags and more, alongside prints on paper and beaded creations by Flooren, who is now teaching Malegana to bead. Since beginning the business, Malegana has devoted herself to art full time; she worked on digital illustrations for two issues for Tusaayaksat Magazine, and in the summer of 2022 participated in her first art market, where she sold her prints in person. “Art is part of my life,” she says simply about what’s next.
This Profile was made possible through support from RBC Emerging Artists.