Can you tell us about yourself?
Jesse: “While I was born with a love for art, I was not born with a talent for it. When I was 14, I was told I was the worst artist the class. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at someone else’s art and thought “I can’t ever be as good as they are.”
When did you start drawing?
Jesse: “I started by drawing anime in a sketchbook in 2005. It was something my friends could do well, and I wanted to learn. This changed my life. I began to think of myself as an artist. With low self confidence, I made a vow to myself to become as good as my friends. Over time, experience and practice began to override my lack of natural talent.”
What materials do you use?
Jesse: “I work exclusively in colored pencil. My goal is to push the limits of what colored pencil can do and how it’s perceived in the art world. It’s a medium that offers great precision, and it can be layered in a way most artists don’t know about. Because these pencils have such fine points, they make features like hair and wrinkles easier to render — while large, smooth areas are more challenging. Colored pencil can create strikingly detailed, realistic art. It’s also a very slow medium. Each portrait takes two to six months.”
What is your favourite subject to draw? Jesse: “I love creating realistic images of people, capturing moments of intense emotion, giving the viewer a glimpse of the subject’s inner, private world. This establishes intimacy with the viewer, connecting in a personal way. I employ a strong, dramatic light source in a dark environment, giving the subjects the ability to emerge into light and disappear into darkness.”
Did you study art?
Jesse: “I went to Texas A&M University, studying art there and in Italy. My greatest teacher has been my father, who’s helped me progress since I was 15. We share a special bond through art. He taught me to have a strong vision of where I’m going before I begin a piece. I’ve also gained a lot from my wife, Kinsey, who’s also an artist.” I’m fortunate to be able to create art full time. This has allowed my skills to grow and evolve. Before becoming a professional, I did art just for myself. Now I feel a sense of connection to the world with my art. I sell my work through RJD Gallery in New York, and I travel the US teaching workshops. Lately I’ve loved listening to Taylor Swift’s music while drawing, especially when conceptualizing ideas for my more imaginative underwater pieces.
Have you had any exhibitions?
Jesse: “Yes, I’ve shown my work in exhibitions across the US. Most notably was a solo show at RJD Gallery in New York a few years ago. The gallery was destroyed by fire, and sadly, I lost five major pieces. Recovering from the fire, I evolved into more magical territory. When I lost my work, it felt surreal. I began to see the world differently and now view making art as a journey, rather than a destination.”
Have you had your work published? Jesse: “Yes, my work has been published in many art magazines and online articles, as well as several books. It’s appeared on the covers of The Artist’s Magazine and International Artist Magazine (their first colored-pencil cover). It’s also been featured in American Art Collector, Fine Art Connoisseur, Professional Artist and Southwest Art.”
Have you won any awards?
Jesse: “Yes, I’m very fortunate my work has received national recognition. Most notably, it won Best of Show from the Salmagundi Club in their Annual Non-Member Exhibition. It’s also won First Place in Jerry’s Artarama National Self Portrait Competition (out of 2,000 entries). I’m the only artist to have won International Artist Magazine’s Grand Prize in their Favorite Subjects Competition twice. My work has also won First Place in The Artist Magazine’s All Media Competition, and Second Place in the most recent Colored Pencil Society of America International Exhibition.”
What do you specialise in?
Jesse: “My specialty is creating portraits in hyperrealism. Drawing faces and hands has become second nature to me. My curiosity and desire to evolve has led me to explore magical realism. My current series features fantasy scenes of figures underwater. Last year, I created my first underwater piece, “Abyss.” My second piece, “Undercurrents,” will be unveiled this summer.”
What are your favourite art materials?Jesse: “Colored Pencil. I can’t imagine creating art with anything else.”
Which artists inspire you?
Jesse: “Adrienne Stein is my favorite artist for her bold and experimental use of color. She pushes realism into enchanting territory with an other-worldly feel. Her paintings are mysterious, yet inviting. I admire Casey Baugh for his compositions. His portraits use charcoal to capture the essence of a person. My two favorite colored-pencil artists are Cecile Baird and Holly Siniscal. Cecile draws still-life — which is a genre I’m not usually excited about — but hers are unique for their lighting, exposing the transparent qualities of produce and glass. Holly’s work immerses women in various objects, often from nature, to establish a mysterious, fantasy mood. Both Cecile and Holly are colored-pencil visionaries — they create unique, bold imagery.
When I was six years old, my teacher had us all write a paragraph and draw a picture in a journal every day. I later discovered she expected us to write something different each day. Every day, I opened my journal and drew a smiley face and wrote “this is me” under it. I was born with a love for drawing portraits. I was held back that year. The reason was I had undiagnosed dyslexia, which led me to underestimate myself constantly. Art has helped me to have a sense of self esteem; even so, self doubt is often my default. When I was young, art teachers would sometimes say “I put the best drawings from our class up in the hall.” I remember rushing to the bulletin board time and time again… and not once seeing my art there. When I was 14, I was told I was the worst artist the class. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at someone else’s art and thought “I can’t ever be as good as they are.” Even so, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot, and I’m doing it all with colored pencil, which can be an uphill battle. One of my favorite things about art is: it’s a wide-open field to chase my dream. Regardless of how far I go, it’s the process I love most of all. You don’t have to be born with talent to become a great artist. One of my mantras has been: “Today I can draw better than I ever have. I can create the best piece of art I have ever made, and that is exciting.” What you think about yourself and your art is more important than how anyone else views your art, regardless of how prestigious they are. Don’t settle. Draw what makes you say, “I HAVE to draw this!” You’ll push yourself so much more if you love what you’re making. Make art for yourself first and foremost. Form a box for your skill sets, but don’t box your creativity and especially your potential.
I once thought I would never be able to call myself an artist, and now I am not only a professional artist, but I’m helping to pioneer an art form, breaking new ground for colored pencil.