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Meet Jessica Lee Sanders

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Lee Sanders.

Jessica, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’ve always been interested in art, but never considered myself an “artist” until I was about 25, which was only 4 years ago. I took a couple of classes in high school and I remember the moment my teacher suggested I start preparing a portfolio for college.

“Oh, I’m not going to school for fine art,” I recall saying these words with some regret.

My teacher was surprised. I ended up with a B.S. in Communications, Management & Design at Ithaca College in an adorable little hippie town in Upstate New York, only 2 hours from my hometown of Rome, NY. In college, I took a few fine art classes (Intro to Drawing, Intro to Oil Painting, 2d Design.) These were the only classes I remember from college. I had zero interest in the business/management classes nor the graphic design classes. The fine art building was where I longed to be, but I suppressed the urge to change majors. I remember the exact moment I realized how important art was to me: my elderly oil painting teacher from Brooklyn was retiring and I sobbed in the parking lot.

Pathetic, yes, but this professor guided me through my first and only oil painting class and my final still life painting still stuns me today. I had no idea I was capable of creating this type of work, and this professor showed me that it was possible. After graduating from Ithaca College, I moved to LA like a typical 22-year-old. I was seeking adventure and wanted to live in a city filled with art and music. Plus, all my friends were moving. After walking out of an assistant job at a voice over agency after only 2 weeks, I knew a normal 9-5 office job was not for me. I ended up emailing every art studio inquiring if they were hiring. I had one response from a lovely woman named Linda Wehrli, who is the instructor/founder of the art studio in Sherman Oaks called Pastimes for Lifetime.

I started working part-time, and as our clientele/business grew, I became the studio manager. Through all this, I had continued drawing & painting and studying from the old masters such as John Singer Sargent, Joaquín Sorolla, Rembrandt, etc. Part of my job at the studio is to research and interview modern-day masters as well. I became enthralled with the works of John Brosio, Casey Baugh, Adam Vinson, etc. I was lucky enough to interview and meet a couple of these modern-day masters. Ever since I have been studying their techniques and continuing to grow as an artist. I also take commissions on the side when I’m not working on my personal artwork.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think if you are a creative person, the road will inevitably feel a little rocky at times. The struggles I find with being a fine artist is not only trying to make money off of your passion but comparing yourself to others. and self-doubt. Am I good enough? Why is he/she showing more in galleries? Why do I have this obsession?

If you find yourself asking these questions, what really helps is the reminder that you do your form of art, whether it be drawing, writing, or playing guitar, because you LOVE it and it’s as important to you as drinking water. Having a bad day? Paint. Having a good day? Draw. This keeps me going. If you’re passionate then do what you love and the rest will follow.

Jessica Lee Sanders – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am a contemporary narrative fine artist, working mainly in charcoal and oil paint.

People and their emotions fascinate me, maybe because I’m extremely empathetic. I create my work in hopes to portray the strong emotional quality of the subject. Some people describe my work as “dark” or “creepy”, but that can allude to the fact that I love high contrast (hey, Rembrandt!), dark palettes, “Twin Peaks”, dry humor, and Halloween. While many people enjoy bright colors, I am drawn to tone and limited palettes. This creates an overall mysterious quality in my work, which I hope leaves the viewer wondering and wanting to know more about the portrait subject, or artist. 😉

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
One evening during a group art show, I had a woman approach me and compare my painting to Edward Hopper and another drawing to Rembrandt. I think a genuine compliment is one of my favorite things about being an artist. Another memorable moment was during a benefit art show to fight diabetes. I volunteered one of my drawings, which ended up hanging next to one of Banksy’s pieces! My work next to Banksy? Dope.

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