Q+A with Oil Painter Jessica Green

Photography by Solomon Mabry

Jessica Green lets you help see things in a new way. From being a 4th generation teacher to creating her own masterpieces, art is Jessica’s passion in life. Get to know her and where the inspiration behind her beautiful oil paintings comes from below!

What piqued your initial interest in oil painting?

I’ve always just loved making things. As a little child, I was so excited when I could go to art class. My parents could always tell I was just wired to paint. I loved being an art teacher it was like my dream job like I really, really enjoyed it, but then, over time, I started getting a hunger for actually pursuing my art. As I sell paintings, particularly oil paintings, I just started falling in love with at galleries or online, and I just felt the sense of ‘I could do that, that would be so fun.’ So I slowly built up the courage to give it a try. 

What principles do you use when painting?

I have learned a lot through an artist named Carol Marine, I haven’t met her in person, but I learned a lot through her books and online tutorials. I try to think of things strategically, almost like playing chess. You want to plan your moves. So for a still life, I set things up in person. I can set up a toaster or fruit and shine the light on it and get it exactly how I want it. Depending on the size of my canvas, I can look through the view finder and I might do a sketch before hand and try to do some problem solving beforehand before I get too invested in the painting. It’s a lot of problem solving when you start painting. You are constantly like ‘is this too light, is this too dark, is it to warm is it too cool’. You feel like your brain is getting a massage. There is a lot of thinking that goes into it. But, in the end, I want it to look fresh, fun, and beautiful and I want it to look like it was easy to do. I am trying to make it look effortless, but it takes a lot of practice. 

How long does a typical piece take to paint?

It’s different, but I like to paint Alla prima which is Italian for “at first attempt” or ‘all in one shot’- ideally. If I am doing a big piece, it’s going to take multiple sessions, but if I am doing a medium or small size painting, ideally it takes two hours. However, that’s not counting the setup time, sketching it ahead of time, that sort of thing. Sometimes the next day I see a problem with it and I’ll go back to it. I love to finish a painting in that time though.

Who and/or what influences your style? How would you describe your aesthetics and values?

It’s fresh, it’s loose, it’s kind of like a ‘spare me the details’. My aesthetic is very vibrant and relatable. It’s not the kind of art that you’re going to have to think about deeply. It’s not this big philosophical concept that you might not grasp. It’s something beautiful that’s in your everyday life. I REALLY like toasters and landscapes and I love doing shiny objects and reflections. The concepts are very simple, but the message is that there is beauty all around us. Also, it’s very uplifting and upbeat – I want there to be a joyful vibe. I also like big breast strokes and exaggerated color so that is has some life to it. 

What advice would you give to aspiring artists like yourself?

I would say it’s really important to make goals, especially to number your goals. I did a goal of painting 500 paintings in 2012/2013. This was my goal because sometimes I’d paint and it would turn out well and other times it was a fail. So I thought ‘am I good or not do I like this or not.’ I felt like I was on the fence for a really long time. So, I had read this idea of 10,000 hours where if you practice a craft whether it be writing, painting, playing the guitar for 10,000 hours, it’s kind of like a mark where you reach a new level of competence and confidence. So, you have to put in the time. I had mentioned Carol Marine earlier, she’s an artist that I greatly admire, and she had said, based on that 10,000 hours idea, to expect to paint 500 paintings before you’re consistently proud of your work. She said you’ll still have bad days, but you’ll just reach a level where it’s fun and you can enjoy it, and you can be comfortable in your own skin. So I think it’s important to set goals. Also artists’ starting off need to realize, whether they know it or not, they’re entrepreneurs. If you want to have it as a job, you need to think of yourself as an entrepurpenuer; you are a business person. You need to learn about branding, making connections, and building an email list. That’s all important, the art is important, but it’s also about people and running a business. So, you have to be wise about what you say yes and no too. 

What is one thing that the creative community can do in Indianapolis to help grow an audience for original work? 

I often feel very isolated because I work from home. So I think artists that are in groups, they say, you know, and I have connections to the Harrison center. And I like I have a show up there right now. But I can feel kind of isolated, because I’m not a part of these groups. You know, I’ve been juggling motherhood with my career and whatnot. I just wish there were more ways that artists could be in connection with one another like if there was a group of Indianapolis artist moms, or Northside painters group or ways for artists to connect with one another, or the artists to maybe be in connection with local businesses. I really want my art to be seen by regular people, like normal people, not just the people that go to First Fridays, and who are purposely seeking out art. So I would love opportunities for more integration with I don’t know if it would be like coffee shops. I love the idea of thinking outside the box, but I’m not sure exactly what would work. But I think connecting artists with one another is a part of it. It’s cheesy to be like, we’re stronger together, but it’s also important to be connected and I think that might grow interest with the audience is to see artists cheering one another on or working together and like a collaboration or different groups shows. 

Dream commission/client?

I would love an excuse to have to travel to Europe. Europe is where plein air and oil painting really had its start and at some point, I want an excuse to be over there, maybe teaching a class or painting myself. So that would be a dream I have at some point. I am also getting ready to teach my first adult painting workshop this summer in June in Noblesville. I feel like this is where my two worlds will come together- teaching and painting. I want it to be a class for people who have always wanted to try painting. A lot of painting workshops are for people who are already painters, so I am really excited about designing a class that will be an onramp for people. So maybe I can teach something similar in Europe someday. 

Where do you get your inspiration?

I do a lot of Goodwill shopping where I find interesting objects. I really love doing reflections, so the toaster idea, or just landscapes I see when I’m driving. It’s really just what’s in my everyday life. I am also very drawn to color. If I see a really beautiful mug in aqua, it’s like ‘oh I have to buy that’. I also love painting food. It’s simple, it’s not complicated or elite. I want it to be approachable. I think art can sometimes feel kind of snooty so I want it to be like everybody can enjoy this, come look at this. That’s important to me. 

Describe a piece you’ve created that you are most proud of. What was special about it?

I am really proud of my toaster series ones just because I get such a kick out of when I do a reflection and if it really looks like metal, it’s like I’m mimicking this metallic surface. I dont think I can do it, but when I start painting and putting the colors and shapese-when I’m able to achieve that, it’s such a boost and really encouraging. I also just think they are really unique. It feels special to me that I don’t really see other artists doing that. 

Describe the commissioning process. What are the best and worst aspects about doing commissions?

I do get a lot of leads from meeting people and they’ll commission me to do a piece. I have prices on my website, it’s all by size. I try to make it a really fun experience for them. One the client gives me the green light, they really have to trust me from there. I try to hold their hand for the first couple steps so they feel secure because it’s an investment, you know, it’s an investment of their hopes, time, and money. But once I reach a certain point, I say you have to let go and trust me. It’s fun because as the painting emerges and I start painting it, I take pictures of the process and I don’t share those on social media until after the whole thing has been revealed. My clients get to see the whole painting come to life which is really neat. I want it to feel like a neat experience because usually there’s a great reason for why they’re wanting to pay someone to make a painting-there’s always a story behind it. It’s also just such a privilege when people trust me to do commissions. 

What makes your work different from anyone else’s?

It’s bright, it’s loose. There are some people on Instagram that my work is similar too, but that is not a bad thing. I have a lot of Instagram art crushes and I see their influences on my work in a good way, I am inspired by them, but I digest it and make it unique. We’re unique because each person is a unique creation of God, when we’re kind of relaxed and doing our thing, we can’t really help being special and different. We’re wired to stick out in some ways, but there are going to be similarities. 

Is there any maker you would recommend to be highlighted for this series?

Heather Ward Miles I know she has done stuff with Startup 317. She’s amazing. She does abstract work and she’s just killing it. I own two of her pieces and I am just a huge fan. She has a studio here in Indy.

What’s the most rewarding memory in your business?

I feel like I’m doing something I’m meant to do and that feels very gratifying itself. I was made to do this and it just kind of clicks and that feels really good. Also, being able to stay home with my kids, paint, and make a difference in people’s homes by adding beauty, just works really well for us. I am able to stay home and home school, which is a blessing, but I just have the flexibility which is really nice. I can call the shots of what I’m doing, and when I’m working and when I’m not. The flexibility is my favorite, but I also just get a charge out of playing with color; it’s fun and it’s flexible.

Stay up to date with Jessica on her Instagram, website, and Etsy shop. 

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