Artist of the Month
Jessica Edwards in her Saskatoon studio, April 2013
NAC is pleased to feature Saskatoon artist Jessica Edwards as our new Artist of the Month. Jessica was born in Vancouver BC in 1984, but has spent most of her life in Saskatchewan. She completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon in 2007 (receiving the Judy Poole Award in Art and Art History as the most outstanding graduate), before moving on to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where she received her Master of Fine Arts in 2010.
Jessica’s interests include illustration and fine art projects, and in 2011, two of her illustrations won awards from Applied Arts magazine. Below is our April 2013 interview with Jessica, and several of Jessica’s artworks are available for purchase through our NACmarket.
NACmarket: Jessica Edwards
by Artist of the Month Jessica Edwards
How did you come to be an artist?
I didn’t start drawing much until high school, and I didn’t seriously consider being an artist until I was in university. For my entire life, my plan was to become an elementary school teacher. I took pre-education classes for my first year at the U of S, but I also took an introductory art class just for fun. I had an amazing instructor for part of that class (Kelly Van Damme) and that experience was what inspired me to change my major to Fine Arts.
How would you describe your artwork?
I usually work in a realistic style, but I try to bring a sense of humour and imagination to a lot of the work that I do. I work in a variety of mediums, but most of my work for the past few years has been done in oils, graphite or digital. I also enjoy working on both fine art and illustration projects.
Do you bring particular ideas, themes or philosophies to your work?
A recurring theme in much of my work is the juxtaposition of creepy and cute. I like to combine both whimsical and sinister elements. I also love to play with light and shadow.
What artists and others have influenced you?
I can’t think of any artists in particular who have had a big influence on my style, but there are certainly many who have greatly inspired me, and given me something to aspire to. Some of my favourites at the moment are Nicoletta Ceccoli, David Wiesner, Marcel Dzama, Amanda Spayd, Sarah Joncas, Kristin Tercek and Amanda Visell. But I could go on, and on. I’m an art collector as well as an artist, so there are many great artists that I keep my eye on.
The biggest influence to me and my artwork has definitely come from my family. Their constant support of me and their belief in my abilities has been instrumental in my forging ahead, trying to make a career as an artist. My parents paid for both undergraduate and graduate degrees, so they have allowed me to make tremendous growth as an artist. I have also had some really great teachers along the way who have had a big impact on me as well.
How would you describe your strategy for continuing in a career as a visual artists?
I have a background in both fine art and illustration, so I’m hoping that will help me to be a well-rounded artist. My strategy is just to create new work regularly and make an effort to get it out to the public. Like many artists, I often struggle with self-promotion, so that is something that I need to work on in the future. I have an online presence already, through my own website and through portfolio sites, but I plan on trying to get my work into more commercial galleries.
How did you start creating paintings in your particular style? And how did you start to incorporate humour into your work?
For my undergraduate degree, my focus was on drawing and printmaking. It wasn’t until I took a portrait painting course for my MFA that I started using oils, and really fell in love with painting. My style evolved through trying to capture what I saw accurately on the canvas, and by choosing to paint things that were a challenge to me, like patterns, textures and glass. I aim for realism in my work, but I still want my paintings to have somewhat of a painterly feel to them, not completely smooth and devoid of any brushstrokes.
I think that humour has always been a part of what I do. I remember making drawings for school when I was little, and I would often insert funny little things into them. When I took a still life painting course a few years ago, my classmates all chose to paint things like bowls of fruit and bottles of wine, while I was painting scenes with strange little toys. I thought that they were funny, but I’m pretty sure that my classmates just thought I was weird! I generally try not to take myself too seriously, and I paint what I would want to hang on my own wall, so often that involves some element of humour.
How has living in Saskatoon shaped you as a artist?
I don’t paint many landscapes, so I can’t say that I’ve been particularly inspired by the prairie landscape around me, but I have been shaped by the education I received at the U of S, and by living in a city with a thriving arts community. Growing up having free access to the Mendel Art Gallery made it easy to be exposed to some great work by local artists.
What have you found to be the best and the worst parts of being an artist?
The best part is just having the ability to express myself through my work, and to create pieces that people might enjoy. It is also incredibly satisfying to complete artwork for others, whether it is drawings and paintings for my family members, or commissioned pieces for people I don’t know.
The worst part is that it is very hard to make a living as an artist. I work full time at a job that has nothing to do with art, so I have to find time in the evenings and on weekends to work on my paintings and drawings. It is sometimes very hard to make the time, and summon the energy to work on my art.
What are your own expectations for your work and your career: your goals and your ideas of what lies ahead?
I did my Master’s degree in illustration with a focus on children’s books, and wrote and illustrated a book for my thesis project. One of my goals would be to get that book published. I would also like to be able to devote more time to my artwork in the future. I think it’s every artist’s dream to be able to support themselves with their art, and make a career out of doing something that they love, so that is my goal!
- Born: 1984. Vancouver, BC
- Resides: Saskatoon, SK
- Genre: Children, Fantasy, Humour, Still Life
- Mediums: Acrylic, Drawing, Oil Painting