What drew you to oil portrait painting as your focus?
I was drawn to oil painting because it has the incredible ability to create realistic depth and form. I’ve always been amazed at oil’s ability to create narratives and portraits that were compelling; the rich and reflective qualities of oil paint fascinate me. Portraits have always been the most meaningful art form to me. I remember looking at Andrew Wyeth’s portraits of Helga when I was a kid and being amazed that an artist could capture such bare emotion and human experience.
How do you incorporate film and photography into your painting?
Film and photography have long influenced the way that I try to generate an entire image. I appreciate film for the comprehensive way that it deals with lighting, environment, and the figures in one scene, or even one frame. Film is incredibly powerful for its ability to draw a person in, and I want to replicate that immersive experience. Photography, like film, can be incredibly varied in style and subject, but it is attractive to me for its ability to capture the reality of a subject, or create a new reality.
Can you tell us about the creative process behind ‘Above All Else’?
My process in creating these pieces begins with taking reference photos to paint from. That usually involves bothering my family and friends to pose for me, and they’re always really awesome. I really enjoy painting people that are close to me, it helps me feel a sense of importance in what I’m trying to do. The rest of the process involves a lot of second-guessing and worrying for the most part. I often obsess over the smallest details, so for this show I attempted to branch out a bit and try new techniques and visual styles.
How do you see yourself in your artwork?
In my art I often depict my struggles with mental illness. The subjects can seem solitary, the colors are often drab, and the figures usually have a static quality that is present in my depression. Sometimes I’ll try to branch out a bit and try different techniques and aesthetic styles, but I often fall back on the style informed by my general outlook.
Can you tell us about some goals for the show?
My goals for this show were to get out of my comfort zone, to try different styles, and to try to find some type of understanding between myself and the viewers. I think many of the things I painted for this show are quite common, and I wanted to share my experiences in hopes of creating some kind of mutual empathy.
Anything else you would like to add?
I’m really grateful to City of Reno for allowing me to have this show in McKinley Arts & Cultural Center, it is such a beautiful space.
Jessica White’s artwork can be seen in Gallery East in McKinley Arts & Culture Center, February 5, 2018 – March 23, 2018.