Sunday, April 1, 2012

Laurie Jess - Artist of the Month

"The Messenger" by Laurie Jess
I met this month's artist, Laurie Jess, while taking the online art class Life Book. I was immediately drawn to her use of color and whimsical art style.  She gratefully agreed to be interviewed for my Artist of the Month post.

Laurie grew up as the oldest of 5 girls in Oregon and had the exotic experience of living abroad in Thailand and Malaysia as a teen. Laurie's parents were both educators within the International School systems. This exciting experience greatly influenced Laurie's art as well as her personal life. Opportunities to travel to China while living abroad significantly affected Laurie's life as an adult. She and her husband adopted there beautiful little girl from China.  You can read more about their journey here on her blog.  After adopting their daughter, she and her husband made another life style change and moved to Boulder, Colorado.

Laurie has quite a diverse background in art and a plethora of talents. She began her art career as a High School and Community College Art teacher.  I asked Laurie how she felt about teaching and here is what she had to share:
"The year was 1977, bell bottoms were groovy and my hair was long and straight... oh and I graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Art Education.  I became a High School & Community College Art teacher. This was my path for the next 6 years. I loved being an Art Teacher, it was my dream job. Unfortunately during the 80’s, a new campaign against teaching Art in the public schools began. Art Teaching jobs disappeared and almost became obsolete."

Laurie ended up selling BMW cars to support herself.  Although it wasn't her dream job, she was very successful and met her Danish husband when she sold him a car!

Later Laurie expanded her career to include working for the film and print industry as an artist for DC Comics, Warner Brothers and Disney.

As I stated earlier in the post, I love Laurie's use of color and the magical quality her artwork has.  I asked Laurie what her favorite art mediums and tools are and here is what she shared:

"My favorite art mediums & tools are:
Printmaking, Linocut, Batik wax painting, Prismacolor Pencil, pen & ink, Copic Markers, Golden Acrylic Paint and Watercolors. I also enjoy various mixed media, encaustic bees wax & I’m fascinated by Resin. I have also in the past,  had my own full jewelry line and also made stain glass windows, selling them is how I paid for my college tuition."

"My first love will always be Batik Wax Painting. Before College, I used to work in a very cool Batik factory in Malaysia and that was really where I got to combine my love for the fine arts & crafting all in one medium. That was a very special time & experience for me.   Currently I still enjoy Photoshop & my favorite art software is Corel Painter."
I wasn't sure what Batik wax painting was, so I found this great description of the process on Laurie's flickr photostream
"Batik is a process of painting with hot wax onto cloth & then dipping it into dye baths layer after layer for each color and then the wax is boiled out! The cool effects come from cracked wax & dyes."

You can see more of Laurie's Batik wax paintings by visiting her flickr photostream.

I was fascinated by Laurie's career experience with the film and print industry. Here is what she had to share:

"After going back to college for a 2nd career update (late 90’s) and taking 2 additional years in digital art programs at the University,   I graduated as a Matte Painter & CGI Artist. 

What Luck, I took my newly updated Portfolio and I got hired at DC Comics studio.  DC Comics is owned by Warner Brothers.
WOW, suddenly I was working for a world famous art studio. 
That studio position was in the print industry side of the business. I would later go to work for the film side of that business. Initially I worked under the talented & world famous artist Jim Lee. This studio was secretly located in beautiful La Jolla CA (San Diego). My office overlooked the ocean of La Jolla Shores. Once again I had a dream job & dream location.  We designed a beautiful full color comic book that got published weekly with the help of a very creative art team. During these years, I worked mainly in Photoshop as a Colorist. Jim Lee did all the original artwork & drawings for Superman & Batman (among many other DC characters) and I would color them.
I later moved to Matte Painting over in the film side of that industry. I mostly altered landscapes using Photoshop, blowing up buildings & cool stuff like that for films. "

Laurie now works for herself in her art studio called I asked Laurie how she felt about working on her own now and her is what she had to say:

"As for my art career, I was surprised I actually preferred working for myself in my own little, nothing fancy art studio called “”. 
For the first time, I get to have full creative freedom, and when I finish an art piece, I actually get to sign it with my own name. Before, everything I did was property of the studios, I was not allowed to sign anything and my name appeared only at the bottom of a proof sheet.  Nowadays, the projects I work on are carefully selected and I do each one with love. I might design a fabric print, spot illustrations for a book or magazine, and hopefully this year publish a children’s picture book. These are areas I love, and have done before, but this time my name will be on it!" 

This is one of Laurie's projects from our Life Book class. It's a special envelope created for her Life Book that will hold compliments and other positive reminders about her artwork. You can read more about this project and how she created it by reading her blog post here. I'm way behind the power curve for our class. I am looking forward to this project. I love how she created the tree overlapping the envelope flap and the fantastic colors she incorporated into this piece.

In the past, Laurie sold her paintings in several art galleries in Oregon. She recently set up a shop on Etsy, but hasn't started stocking it with her amazing artwork yet because of her busy schedule.  She is working on illustrating a new children's book for a musician, song writer and author, Joan Langford.
Traditional pen and ink with watercolor illustration from "Little Big Britches"

Laurie and her mother worked on a children's book together called "Where in the World with Little Big Britches".  Laurie's mother wrote "a wonderful story about a little boy with magic pockets.  He travels the world each time he reads a book.  New adventures unfold as he visits and learns about new cultures."  So far their book hasn't been published but they are still hoping.  I think that the story idea sounds great! And of course I love the illustrations.  If you'd like to find out more about Little Big Britches, read her blog post here.

I asked Laurie what inspired her to start drawing and creating as well as what inspires her now.  Here is what she had to say:
"People often ask me how I found my path. I think it's a common question because we're all searching for our true passion in life.
My passion is found in exploring art techniques & creating through different art medium, crafts and this includes the digital world too.  When I become proficient in any particular art, it’s time for me to try something new. This challenges my artistic needs, and keeps everything fresh. I think this keeps me balanced, healthy & it makes me a happier human being.  I can’t really explain it, I just know it‘s like a runner’s high for me, not only do I love it, but I need it. Art is in my soul. 
You asked who inspires me.
These are some of the artist & illustrators who influences & inspire me: 
Lizbeth Zwerger, Dr Seuss, David Catrow, Warwick Goble, Franklin Booth, &  Arthur Rackham. 
My all time favorite Painter is Claude Monet, I love his impressionist style. 
Last year, 2011, I took my first ever on-line Mixed Media Art class. I signed up for a full years worth of classes through That experience blew me away, I was so impressed at the impact she has had on me, so that experience is still influencing me currently. She is how I heard about the Life Book Class & why I signed up for another years worth of classes with 14 incredible Mixed Media Teachers. At present, 2012, I have allowed myself to be infused with lots of creative art teachers. I hope some of their creativeness rubs off on me, it a fun way to grow as an artist.  I have now taken 16 on-line art classes. This is a whole new exciting effective way to learn.   I will never stop taking art classes, I love it. I may even start teaching again over at my local community Art center or maybe even open my own art center, who knows! I really just don't have enough time in the day to do all the things I love to do."

Laurie wrapped up this interview with these wonderful words of wisdom:
"My thoughts:  I plan to  “be the person I’m best at being”. My philosophy is to try to “remember to be myself, because everyone else is taken”.  Sometimes this can be hard as the internet influences all of our art, it is a subconscious thing. 

It is OK to learn from other artist, I think it is a good thing; many of the old Painting Masters would do that too. They would copy each other as a means to learn. Sometimes I like to copy an old masters Artwork as a means to learn, I think this is OK to do, some will disagree. I actually encourage you to find a favorite art piece that inspires you and copy it. It is a fun way to learn & next time you can make something of your own from what you learned. We all learn from each other as artist and that’s OK! The internet has brought us all together...but I do want to retain a piece of myself too and this is the challenge for all of us! Finding our own special unique self, as we are all created by God. I believe a piece of God lives inside each of us, therefore we must each be magical & powerful creators. Have fun finding yourself through art and discover how empowering it is for your soul!"

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Laurie and her remarkable artwork. To find out more about her, visit her website Laurie Jess.

"Find your inner magic. " by Madi


Maria Hock said...

I have been a fan of Laurie and love her whimsical style and use of color. Her artwork makes me smile. thanks so much for the interview and for making sure more people know about her and her wonderful work!

marianokada said...

SUCH a beautiful blog! The array of colors - I am not an artist but I can appreciate beauty very well as I not a Taurus for nothing!!! So well written the interview and love the use of different fonts - very magical.Whimsical whimsy describes the interview very well.....waiting on Laurie who I have known since high school to decorate my new home in 2013! Or at least do a portrait of me - idealized of course!!!
Anyway just wanted to drop a note to say GREAT JOB!!!

Art Play Today said...

Stacie, I just love your interviews and I think it's great that you give us the opportunity to get to know such creative and interesting artists! Laurie has such a colorful and diverse background! I'm really looking forward to looking over her blog and seeing more of her beautiful artwork.

Keep up these great interviews!

Kara J said...

Laurie you work is beautiful and inspiring, it makes me want to paint something! Keep up the good work and I'm glad you found your souls true passion!

stacie said...

Thanks so much to everyone for stopping by. I'm so glad that you all enjoyed reading about Laurie. I know that I enjoyed getting to know her and her beautiful art!

Karen Robuck said...

Laurie is a living work of Art...she never ceases to amaze me with her talent..thank you for sharing the story of her journey, although I know there is so much more...keep up the good work!

Laurie Jess said...

Holy Moly!

I'm going to print this entire interview out, including this comment section. Then I'm going to put it inside my "Special Envelope", the one for complements.
I was wondering what I would do with it.

Stacie, Thank you for selecting me as your Artist of the Month and Yeah absolutely wonderful interview ! It's been like a confetti shower of praise upon me from all of you! Believe me, it's not everyday I get this kind of attention.

with gratitude & appreciation,
to EVERYONE for visiting & reading my story,
and all your kind words,

stacie said...

You're welcome Laurie! Great idea about putting a copy in your Life Book envelope!