Jessica Douglas is a traditional artist owner of a very particular style both as a person and an artist. Her flowy and delicate images sometimes contrast with her blunt and sincere opinions about artists‘ rights, though both her art and her mind possess a wonderful energy and passion that are transmitted with all honesty through the screen.
Let me invite you to read this very interesting interview to Jess.
Do you have any formal training in art?
Yes. I studied at the Visual Arts Institute in Utah, every art class my elementary/secondary and high school classes could give me, and several years at the Orange Coast community college. However the majority of my growth came from taking private lessons from mentors such as Arthur Roberg and Mike Dringenburg. Without them, I wouldn’t be nearly as far in my art studies as I am now.
How long did you start to work as a professional artist?
Mmm… It kind of varies. I’m one of those people who work for a while, and then go on hiatus to study new things, before going back to work. At one point I stopped art all together to learn custom framing (a skill EVERY artist should not only learn, but master). I was first published when I was twelve, and had working artistic gigs on and off from that point on. Usually building sets, doing commissions, building props, etc. Unfortunately it was never -steady- work, so I can’t say ‘since I was twelve’. I officially started to list myself as a professional artist when I was twenty two.
What would you say have been your biggest success? And your most rewarding project?
My successes are few and far between, to be honest. I prefer little things, like remembering to get out of bed on time in the morning so I’m not flying out the door with two minutes to get the kids to school. That’s a big success. The day I managed to break through a two year long art block to actually do art, that was another success. I’ll feel pretty successful if I can get off my butt and get my house clean.
The problem is, I’m not real in touch with the things most people consider important. When I illustrated a Garth Nix story, it took about a year before I found out it’d won all kinds of awards/acclaim. And all I could say was ‘who’s Garth Nix?’ Some people would say doing that illustration project was a ‘big success’ but for me it was… just another job. The things closer to home are what really make me smile. The first time I won an award at an art show (as an adult, not including high school things) I was overjoyed and grinning for WEEKS. It was for best fiber art, and it was even more important to me because one of my mentors had been one of the judges. That was sort of… an affirmation that he felt I truly had come a long way from the girl he first took in to learn anatomy. To anyone else it wouldn’t be an important award, but for me it validated everything I’ve done.
To date, my most rewarding project is my ongoing project to illustrate my children’s hopes and dreams. And the project I’m working on with my father, to do a collaborative book/illustration set together. He’s a great writer, and it’s an honor to work with him.
Why are watercolors your medium of choice?
They’re actually not. Prismacolor pencils are. I am a bit of a texture phobe. I dislike the feel of clay on my hands, I don’t like the grit of charcoal, pastels make me shudder the way nails on chalkboards get to people. So do erasers. Oil paint makes me nauseous and acrylics make me think of slime. Watercolors are gritty and irritate me but at least they wash off easily. So basically my own irritation at the textures of all these mediums caused me to stay isolated as a pencil artist. I have learned how to USE those mediums, don’t get me wrong, and I have an intense appreciation for artists who can use them well. They just drive me up the wall.
My mentor, Mike, eventually told me I had to get over it, because he was sick of grainy backgrounds in a lot of my pieces, and he wanted to see my work larger. So I bowed down to his skill and knowledge and tried my hands at watercolors. The texture still makes me very frowny in the face, but I do like how it blends with pencils, so I stick with it.
Usually people associate watercolors with vague, splotchy, mild colored-landscapes. How do you achieve such vibrancy and definition in your work?
Uh. I don’t suck? Ahah… no, I’m sorry that was a terrible answer. Well first off, I really really really hate doing landscapes. I can’t express that enough. I dislike landscape art, landscapes in general and wide open vistas. They’re just so… blah… to me. So that’s why you don’t get landscapes out of me.
As for the vibrancy, watercolors are paint, like any other paint. They use the same pigments, just a different binding item so it’s not waterfast. The only reason why you see so many pastel watercolors is because too many people use pastel colors and -cheap- cake watercolors, then water them down like crazy. I use tube watercolors and try to dilute the pigment as little as possible. There are also mediums you can use that do the same thing as water does, but doesn’t dilute the pigment. There’s no REASON for a watercolor to be pastelly, unless you intentionally want it to be.
The themes in your artwork are varied: from flower faeries to apocalypse warriors. What inspires you?
Whatever’s around me? Also a lot of times my commissioner dictates what I draw. Right now I’m working on a Mecha commission. Bet you didn’t see that coming. I’ve got a huge list in my house of anything that popped into my head as ‘oh hey that’s a cool idea!’ eventually I’ll get to it all. It’d be pretty sad if I was only inspired by one thing, at least I think so.
Love seems to be always present, either as romantic love or friendship, why is love so important in your work?
No clue. I’m not a particularly romantic person. I don’t like romances, I’m not fond of romance movies. My movie of choice is a good old fashioned zombie flick. But it shows up quite a bit. I’ve yet to figure it out.
What is your favourite series to work on?
Currently? Or in the past? My past series that I liked the most was my apocalypse one. I’m currently working on doing the same thing, but deifying the plagues of Egypt. I’m also working on the book with my father, which is creepy fairy tales, and THAT is fun.
Despite being an atheist person, your work shows a lot of religious imagery, why is this?
I was a religious studies major at one point. I find religion absolutely fascinating. Do I believe in it? No. Do I think it’s some of the most amazing sources for visual inspiration ever? Yes. I like looking at it and seeing the way religion moves people, the way symbols affect how someone thinks about a society.
Take a look at the Mormon Church sometime. There’s a TON of controversy over the symbols around it. For the people in that church, they have profound, spiritual meaning. For others, they are signs of occultism and witchcraft, as well as Masonic leanings. Or look at the swastika. Hitler has claimed that sign rather well, but for the culture it came from, it had deep meaning.
Angels are another thing that fascinate me, why sticking wings on something is universally accepted as ‘a messenger of god’. Not just human type angels, but other bird messengers like crows, owls, etc. I usually wonder WHY it moves people and what would happen if I drew something… this way. Would it offend everyone? Would it convey the same message I think it would? What would happen? And can a piece of art, done by someone who has no religious preferences, still be significant to someone who’s deeply religious? Would it be possible to do ONE piece of art that actually has meaning across… all the religions?
It all comes down to me going ‘what if’, and wondering what would happen. Religion just seems to be my ‘what if’ trigger point.
You seem to draw a lot of your strength from your friends, how do you feel that internet friendship is different from real life friendship?
Well considering I know almost all of my internet friends in real life as well, I don’t see them as separate at all. I’ve been very blessed in having met quite a few people who are honest about who they are online, and in person. So it’s more like… being able to talk to your friends all the time, instead of only on the rare times I leave my house. We all meet up in person now and again, and… nothing’s changed. We’re the same people online that we are offline.
Your relationship with DA seems to be turbulent. What are the things that bother you about it?
Woo that’s putting it mildly. I’ve actually expressed myself, in detail, to the administration of Deviantart about exactly what upsets me. I don’t think that they’re out to ‘OMFG steal my art’, but I do think there are certain policies and ways of speaking that they need to change. Having an administrator call people who disagree with them ‘tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorists’ is insulting to say the least, as well as completely unprofessional.
To date my only real issue with them is the tracing policy. Deviantart likes to style itself as a place of learning, and wants to take some of the fair use rights granted to educators to put into their policies. The only way I will agree with that, is if DA stops being a business, and gets their education licensing. Until THAT happens, I will continue to disagree with them. The fair use rights given to pop artists? Now that I actually agree with Deviantart on, and think it IS in their rights to protect the pop artists (though if a court rules against them on a particular piece, it’s still going to have to go). It’s just… you can’t take educators rights of use if you’re a business. I’m sorry. You can’t. It even says so in the fair use act.
What is the good that you find in DA as to still remain there?
The people. Not so much the administration. I think the admins have gotten a little out of touch with reality. But the people who watch over my gallery, my fan base if you will, are really important to me. They make me smile, they make me laugh. They bring me up when I’m feeling like my work has no merit. When I have something random to say, and I want to share it, I know that somewhere in my watchers is someone who’ll laugh with me. And that’s what keeps me there.
Jess by Adri
Jess has been a good friend of mine for a few years now, and I don’t think there’s been a time within those years that I wasn’t thankful to have her as a friend. She is a very talented artist, quite imaginative with her composition and ideas, and knows how to wrangle her media to the point that I believe it’s all second nature. Jess is always ready to help, or to give bits of advice and critique if asked as well. I can testify to that, mostly because whenever I personally have stumbled or struggled with something art-wise, she’s always been happy to redline for me or offer suggestion. All in all Jess is a wonderful person, and a spectacular artist whom I am fortunate enough to call my friend.
Jess by Kyme-chan
I “met” Jess by chance by reading one of her journals: I had known her work for a while, but there I discovered someone genuinely honest, straight-forward and enthusiastic at many levels. Jess is not only talented but she’s always ready to help others, share her experience, give tips and advice to beginners and professional artists alike, and she’s an inspiration to many of us!