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Jessica Ciani, Spilled Paint

AH: How has being an artist expressed itself in your daily life? /Do you reference personal experience while you are creating?

Jessica- I’ll go last first - I think my personal experiences and feelings are the only thing I can reference when making art. I can’t seem to focus enough to draw or paint without them. Even when I’m going through an exhausted phase I notice it translates into less of a motivation to make art. There are definitely highs and lows. I think it’s easier for me to produce anything I’m happy with if there’s something pushing me or motivating me. Even if it’s just a picture. I have a hard time coming up with an idea if there isn’t some underlying tension or stress or frustration (or happiness - positivity counts too, ha). Even at these lower points (or higher points) I am significantly more satisfied that my brain somehow convinced me to illustrate a part of that feeling. It’s the same as journaling. Maybe. I feel more comfortable and fulfilled that I managed to materialize it.

And when that’s the case, I can maybe ride that high or that momentum just a while longer and keep painting or drawing. I don’t advocate the use of substances for everybody all the time, but I thing sometimes in a really emotional or passionate headspace, they can sometimes help pull out any residual inspiration or creativity. Or suppressed feelings, I guess. That’s all great fuel. I try not to force myself when I’m empty or tired or kind of in the middle. I’m happier when I look at a piece and I remember how intense it was to make it, because I kind of had to.

AH: Are you formally trained or self taught artist?

Jessica-I think a little of both! I’m from Florida and I was really, really fortunate to earn a scholarship for undergrad, so I did get a bachelors of art at Florida State University. I actually didn’t get accepted to the BFA program (super political, yawn 😉) but I think I really saw this as an opportunity to practice mediums I might never get the stance to focus on once I finished school. So I took a lot of screen print classes and etching classes and wood shop. I took advantage of all the art history and anthropology classes too because I secretly love writing papers, I guess. I won’t say that anything independently shaped me as a painter but I had some awesome relationships with teachers and realized how fun it could be to just explore these mediums I’d never known before.

I’ve been drawing and painting since I was about 10 years old. I really credit most of that initial influence from James Gurney’s illustrations in the book Dinotopia. I don’t know how or why my parents had this book but it was the coolest shit ever and I loved all the depictions of humans and dinosaurs interacting and coexisting in this society. He’s such an amazing painter. I still use his Color and Light reference book all the time. That phase, combined with a few years of anime fan art, really kept me in my room drawing and listening to Linkin Park and trying to improve. I was so desperate to get whatever was in my head on paper. And I was never happy with it, but I was happy trying to make it. So I guess between my early influences and school I was eventually able to figure out how I wanted to do things.

Technically, there’s always more to learn. I don’t really know anybody who would disagree with that. I’m still never totally satisfied. But repetition is key and that is easily self taught. If you have a vision you can probably make it happen. If you get these amazing outside opportunities, take advantage of them. It doesn’t have to be your MO. But it can teach you to understand your own process. It’s all learning and it’s never finished, really.

AH: What do you want to say with your art / how would you want people to remember your work or ideology in the future?

Jessica-It’s so weird being a “part time” artist but wondering what people should think of my paintings. I hope that they can see that I tried to illustrate stuff that was important to me. Or inspired me. Or irritated me. Technically speaking, yeah it’s important to make sure you understand some things. I think it’s really similar to being a musician. It helps to understand the basics. I go through a lot of phases of not wanting to paint or draw. And I think for me it’s important to keep it all separate from my main, full-time work so I can use this as a personal, emotional outlet. I kinda like it that way. So I would love if anybody saw my paintings or somebody else’s paintings (there are so many amazing artists out there), or heard a song or watched a movie that made them feel like that wanted to discover another form of expression. Writing, drawing, painting, playing, etc. It’s all just expressing something.

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