Jessica Ansari (formerly Prince) works as a painter and graphic designer in the mountains of Colorado. The mountains and animals that reside in them are often featured in her paintings. When I first saw Jess’ work in a local coffee shop, I was struck by the soft quality of her paintings. The desaturated color palette strips down her subjects, leaving a sense of, if not innocence, a type of purity. I also see the influence of her graphic design background in her paintings; the layered colors and defined shapes are reminiscent of silkscreened posters. Jess sells and promotes her work through her creative design studio Dizzy Mammoth. Thank you Jess for this view into your experience as an artist! -eden
Where are you based?
Has your childhood had a significant effect on your work? If so, paint us a picture of what your childhood was like in words? (If you have an image you would like to share, please do.)
Aside from school, I remember my childhood as things like squelching through wet heather on the Yorkshire moors and collecting rocks on a windswept beach. I credit my parents with helping me to see that making things is fun, from sandcastles and finger-painting to puppet shows and creative costumes.
Have you had a formal art education?
My degrees were in Art and English from CU Boulder, back when the art department was housed in the oldest, dingiest building on campus; it was great! My graphic design certification is from Front Range Community College and I recently learned the basics of woodworking from Red Rocks Community College. Apparently I love being a student…
Was there a specific moment when you knew you wanted to be an artist?
When I was tiny, I used to slip away from the TV and my parents would find me up in my room, drawing. I drew a picture of myself in a hot air balloon and claimed that when I grew up I wanted to be either an artist, a hot-air balloonist or a penguin. I’ve been making art ever since I could hold a crayon.
What was the first piece of art that you sold? How did the sale come about?
The first piece of art I sold was a color drawing of the beach, which I sold to my grandparents for a pound. I think I spent it right away on sweets and candy at the penny store.
Tell us about what inspires your work.
Recently I’ve been inspired by simple things and the world around me, my home in the mountains, wildlife, wildflowers and weather. I also like to stay aware of politics and news and world events. But I’m a big fan of so many artists from Wilfredo Lam and Alponse Mucha, to Sam Flores, Andy Goldsworthy and Rene Magritte. I‘m really drawn to Japanese woodblocks, especially by Hiroshi Yoshida.
When you feel a lack of inspiration, how do you find it again?
Sketchbook exercises help me loosen up and get back into the drawing habit. I like to give myself littles challenges, like draw five different kinds of leaves or do a contour line drawing or a piece with only three colors. It’s great to start a painting sometimes with no intention of it being a “gallery” piece. Let yourself be sloppy, have fun and make mistakes…
How do you make money through your art? (For example: selling originals or prints online or in galleries, doing commissions, working with major brands, etc.)
Prints, greeting cards and postcards are much more profitable than original paintings, but you need a stella original in order to have a great print! I sell the originals at art fairs, exhibits and public spaces like coffee shops and cafes.
I think though if you’re an artist because you want to make a lot of money, then you’re probably in the wrong business. If you’re an artist because you can’t NOT be, if you can’t stop yourself creating no matter what, then keep on doing what you love and it will bring you happiness. If you’re lucky and determined, then the money may come…
Do you “make a living” as an artist? If not, how do you primarily support yourself?
Sort of! I’m a graphic designer. I love all kinds of digital visual communication, color theory and composition. I’m a typography nerd too, so I like to ponder about things like leading, kerning and x-heights.
What have you found to be the most successful way(s) to market your art?
Personally, I try to market my art in a wide variety of places: online, social media, networking, word-of-mouth, mailing lists, art-fairs, public spaces and really just being brave enough to put myself out there.
How would you describe the “business” of being an artist?
I think the real business of being an artist is to be an observant and thoughtful citizen of the world. I consider my art a success if I can provoke discussion and maybe even encourage compassion and contemplation.
What is your favorite thing about being an artist?
One of my very favorite things about being an artist is that moment when you’re just beginning a new work. You can see the painting in your mind, you’ve mixed the paints and there’s a great album playing in the background. It can be a very meditative experience.
What piece of advice would you give other women who are pursuing careers in art?
Have a goal and keep at it! I also think it’s important to stay true to yourself.
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