Jess is a horror artist. That is to say, her artwork is horrifying in the best way possible. She’s an extremely talented artist that primarily uses oil paint to bring her nightmarish images to life. These images can sometimes be disturbing, so please be mindful of that as you read.
How long have you been creating?
Professionally I’ve been creating art for five or six years, but I’ve been a lifelong creative person. I started writing poetry and short prose when I was very young. It was my first love and it is the backbone of most of my oil paintings.
What inspired you to become an artist?
My mother. She is an amazing painter, she creates these life size paintings full of beautiful colors, always with deep meaning and appreciation for aesthetics. My first painting was an abstract one at the age of 13 that was directly inspired by her work. It’s the day I fell in love with color and with the medium of painting.
What medium(s) do you use for your art?
I primarily create oil paintings, it has been an arduous road of constant learning since I am self taught, but it is a medium that I love deeply. The tactile experience of it, the intense colors, the fact that you can move a color so slightly and it changes a picture so completely: it’s just the best. I fall in love everyday with it over and over again. In addition to the oil paintings, last year I started working in the program Procreate on my iPad Pro and was amazed how quickly I enjoyed creating digital paintings. I also do a lot of drawings and sketch work, but that’s more private. I share it sometimes, but it’s often so raw I don’t like sharing. Plus it’s good to have art that isn’t monetized. I originally started creating just for the pleasure of it, so I have to be careful not to attach so much of my career aspects to it, otherwise it goes a bit sour. Art is what wakes me up in the morning, it’s what keeps me breathing on those hard days, so I must keep a balance between love of creation and monetization even if it is a hard one somedays.
Which of your pieces is your favorite?
What artists inspire you?
Oh that’s tough, there are so many. I’d say more recently a comic artist Emily Carroll, she tells stories in such a different way, dramatic, saturated colors, intense style and flow. She builds atmosphere so well that you feel engulfed in the world she’s created. Truly great horror stories. Highly recommend checking out her graphic novel Through the Woods. A longtime inspiration is the painter Artemisia Gentileschi, she created an oil painting named Judith Slaying Holofernes, it’s a woman and her maid holding down a man, dragging a huge sword across his neck while he lay slumbering in bed. It’s incredible. It was the first time I had seen blood spatter in an oil painting, you can feel the motion of the blood spraying, almost feel the sticky wetness of it. It’s just an amazing piece of art. I saw the actual painting in Florence, Italy at The Uffizi Gallery(Museum). It is something I will never forget. Lastly, but in no way the least, Francis Bacon was the first macabre artist I had seen in our contemporary times to break through the elitist art world to garner wide spread affection with his paintings, which ranged from screaming maws, hanging animal flesh or had his subject’s faces deconstructed in grotesque forms, so much creepy goodness and comments on the human condition. Bacon was also one of the first queer artists I fell in love with, so it was good to see people in my community doing well and being taught in art history. I’m hoping art history classes become more inclusive over the years for future generations so queer kids like me can feel represented in history.
Do you have any funny stories related to your art?
I do buuuut they are kinda NSFW because I was commissioned to do a few oil paintings that involved naked women. While I was painting them a woman walked by my atelier and was absolutely astounded to see these life size paintings of two women in an odd pose. They were modeled after an old erotic drawing I found, a comment on how humans tend to eat their own, how some women turn on each other for the sake of men. It was and still is meant to be a piece that was supposed to poke fun at the futility of humans being shitty to each other, because we just screw ourselves in the long run.
The woman started laughing not realizing I was there but it wasn’t a mocking laugh it was a shocked and appreciative laugh, she got what the painting was saying. We actually met up for coffee and chatted later and she was quite lovely.
Also carrying these paintings with a friend of mine to the art fair they were to be at garnered some serious attention and I think we both got a kick out of carrying around huge naked ladies being intimate with each other. It was my first international art fair, so it was pretty cool I got to hang these women up for public display. I think in America this would not have been possible. Thankfully Europeans have a much better view of intimacy and sex.
What is the most challenging part of being an artist in the medium you’ve chosen?
There is a larger audience for graphic art and illustration. More than there is for paintings, because it has a faster turn out and is generally more affordable. Plus Instagram made constant content a thing that oil painters like me just can’t do. It takes time, love and patience to create oil paintings; there is no room for instant gratification. It’s hard to keep up with our current society’s need for constant work, but I have found ways of building an audience and community that appreciate my work. I’m still relatively new at this, so it’s going to be a journey, but I’m happy to be on it.
Another hurdle is art galleries as well as bigger art institutions are largely exclusionist, so it’s hard to get into these spaces when they don’t want art which doesn’t fit on someone’s wall as decoration. I wish people would remember that art isn’t solely for mass consumption, not just for decoration. With my art I wish to unsettle, provoke new ideas and conversation, so we can bring about more change and positive growth in our global community. My work may be horror, but it is with the intent to show these complicated, often dark subject matters, so we may find ways of talking about these subjects that bring real solutions and/or ways of coping.
Is there anyone you’d like to promote?
Yes, my partner Jonas Roof-Holt he is an amazing artist who creates comics, illustrations and helps me out with my own product designs. I feel grateful every day for having such a supportive partner in my life. We are actually working on a queer horror romance comic together called Gingerbane. I am the writer/colorist and he does the beautiful pencils. You can find this and his work at jonasroof.com and follow him on twitter @corgicorncore
Where can we find you on social media?
Jess’ work inspires me as a creator and we’ll soon be working together on a few projects I can’t wait to tell you all about! Check out Jess’ website to see more of her work!