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Check Out Jessica McNeil’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica McNeil.

Hi Jessica, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I’ve always liked drawing since I was a little kid but didn’t take any art classes until middle school and then one year of art in high school. I knew I enjoyed art but just like most people, I didn’t know I could make a career out of it. Towards the end of high school, I decided I wanted to become a teacher so when I started going to Santiago Canyon College, I told my counselor that I’d like to go into teaching and therefore started taking child development, some other General Ed. Courses… and then art for fun! After taking child development, I decided working with children was not something I was interested in, which is so ironic because I am an art teacher now and love it!!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I would definitely say that going through college and studying art was fun but always had its challenges. As many people might relate to – I had people around me who did not realize or understand that art is very essential and can lead to many different careers. Most of my friends and all of my family members supported me but I still struggled to prove to some people that I was a part of an important community! Going through “art school” was fun but I struggled in my painting and drawing classes because I didn’t have a “niche” until my last year of college. I started Cal State University, Fullerton as an oil painter who thought too hard on what to paint and always ended up painting a self-portrait. I loved animals but never saw anyone painting them for fun in my classes. Towards my last days of school, I became known as the one who paints her dogs and I love it!

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Most of my time goes towards working as an art teacher to students 4-16 (and sometimes older) but I also enjoy doing commissioned watercolor portraits! I love portraiture and it has a very special place in my heart. Almost all of my commissions are of family pets done in watercolor on paper. I enjoy watercolor because it is peaceful to do in my home. When painting pet portraits, I paint them realistically with colorful backgrounds and with plants! I think I enjoy the plants because they are beautiful and full of life just like our beloved pets. Many of the paintings I do are of pets who have passed away so including lively backgrounds is important to me because I know it will brighten up a dark place in their owner’s heart. In my personal work, I tend to paint my own pets. While I love working in watercolor, I tend to paint in acrylic on large scale canvases when painting my animals. I’ve lost 2 dogs recently in less than 6 months from each other so it is important to me that I do my best to capture my pets while I still have them. My art not only captures my love for my pets (and animals in general) but also my simplistic lifestyle. I have painted my mom many times from life often sitting on the couch with her feet up on the coffee table or just watching tv. While she was posing in front of me while I painted, these poses were natural and represented our day to day life. If you see some of my paintings, you will see objects that are not fancy. They are simple and often times random. I have struggled with my happiness and still do but I believe that capturing these moments in my life help me truly appreciate everything I have, big or small, boring or fun.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Some might not take my art seriously because I do paint dogs and cats and I love it! You may see occasionally troll dolls in my paintings and you may wonder why is she painting that? But I am attracted to the objects with bright colors and the objects, people, and animals around me are important. I do not use a tablet or computer to create and I am definitely not tech-savvy. I paint traditionally but do not paint fruit in a bowl. During my last semester at CSUF, I had the opportunity to have my own show, which was titled “Dogs and Cats and Stuff and Things.” Yes, that was the title. And yes I know, it’s lengthy. It was meant to be different from everyone else’s. My pets are important as well as the people and objects that surround me.

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Image Credits:

“Lisa Simpson” purse: Brandy Byl

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