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Meet Jess Kirkman of Manifest Jess in Irvine

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jess Kirkman.

Jess, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Having graduated with a Communications Design degree from Syracuse University, I have always been using graphic design to make a living and keep my creative energy flowing. Even with a career as a Creative Director, I was still longing for a true, creative outlet that let me use art and my hand skills on a daily basis.

I started playing with fluid art in 2016 when I was getting ready for a company-sponsored art show. I had been playing around with colored pencils and illustration markers but had never done anything abstract or fluid. I have always been heavily inspired and influenced by nature, the universe and biology. For my art piece that year, I decided I wanted to create a 3D cell structure made of layers of paper. At first, I tried burning holes in regular paper but found very quickly that the paper would burn up and turn brown. I then was on the search for a paper that would melt instead of burn, and that is how I stumbled upon Yupo paper. Yupo is a synthetic paper that is made of plastic so it would create the desired effect I was looking for. Once I found this magical paper in which I would create my first ‘Cell Series’ piece, I started to look into what this paper was actually intended for, and that is how I first came across alcohol inks. So in a roundabout way, I discovered the surface for the medium (before the actual medium) that was about to change the course of my creative journey!

From there, my abstract journey began and not only was I making an entire collection of ‘Cell Series’, but I was painting on a daily basis. I started to document my experiments and results on Instagram and little by little my following grew. I found that Instagram gave me a platform to hold myself accountable, and by creating and posting every day, my skills and grew along with my followers.

After about a year, I started hosting private lessons, and after a lot of success and positive feedback, I gained the courage to host group workshops. Now having taught classes of 20 people or more, I’ve realized that teaching art is just as rewarding as creating, and I am seeking opportunities to teach this art form to more people, in areas outside of Orange County.

When I first started painting with alcohol inks, I could barely find anyone else online doing the same. There were a few artists that I followed and admired, but I was mostly paving the way by myself through daily practice and experiments. Now, a little over two years later, there are hundreds of well-known alcohol ink artists and the trend is seen all over Instagram and Pinterest. Because of this, I am feeling a need to reinvent myself again and explore new mediums that will allow my style to live on in different forms. I’ve been dabbling in encaustic recently, which is an art form using wax as a main surface medium. We’ll see where that goes, but either way, my style of fluidity, nature and cell structures will find a way to express itself, whether through inks, sculpture or wax. I’m excited for where my art journey is taking me.

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?
The biggest struggle I’ve encountered in my creative journey has been on the issue of personal insecurities. Often times I’ve been my biggest critic and have not wanted to post a lot of what I’ve created with the fear that it would be overly judged or criticized. I get in the habit of comparing myself to others which stifles my creative process. I’ve learned to let go, take the pressure off, and create for the fun of creating. My best work comes from those moments of pure release.

Please tell us about Manifest Jess.
My brand, Manifest Jess, is a collection of my art and experiments that focuses on nature, the universe and fluidity. My art is a reflection of who I am as a person, and I create each piece with good vibes, good music, and good intentions. I also try to educate and inspire through tutorials, online advice and by showcasing other artists. My proudest moments come from hearing other people break out of their comfort zones. I often get told that I have inspired someone to try something new, and that’s all I can ask for as an art mentor. I think my subject matter and the way I use different mediums allow my style to shine through.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I recently found a book I made in kindergarten where it asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. In it, I had drawn a picture of myself with an easel, and stated I wanted to be ‘an artist’, Nuff said.

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