Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Painted by Jess

Our first featured artist is photographer and painter Jess Richardson. Welcome, Jess!

What type of photography or art do you do? (For example: portraiture, landscape, still life, oil painting, watercolor, woodwork, sculpture, etc.)

I use various Virtual Paint mediums (oils, pastels, charcoal, acrylics, chalk, and occasionally pencil) to create custom portraits from existing photographs, using Corel Painter 11. My favorite medium is probably oil, though I am becoming quite fond of pastels as well.

What attracts you to this form of expression?

I think what I love the most about painting is that you can take a simple snapshot -- something that many photographers would either delete or at the least never print due to various technical issues such as poor lighting or focus -- and transform it into something that you would be proud to display on your walls. I love that I can look past any technical defects of a photograph and allow the underlying emotion to become the focal point.

Virtual Paints also allow a lot more freedom since you don't have to worry about drying times, or things like young children getting into your art studio and destroying your paints!

Do you remember the first time that you realized that this was your passion? What brought about that realization?

I discovered Digital Painting a few years ago on one of the photography forums that I frequent, and after following a few tutorials, I realized that I could tweak various techniques and create my own brushes to make something that was entirely my own. When I first began with Digital Painting, I was a Photographer first and a Digital Artist second. I began to get frustrated with the field of photography, both due to the changing economy and the frustration of working with children, who, as you know, are not always the most cooperative subjects. As soon as I discovered the world of Virtual Painting, I knew that I had found an outlet for my creativity that didn't rely as heavily on outside sources; I could transform mediocre photographs into something that could easily be passed down for generations as a family heirloom. I also realized that this was something that had much more flexible hours than photography, which was especially important at the time as I had two small children and my husband worked third-shift, making it difficult to schedule photography sessions with clients.

Who do you look up to the most in your field?

I'm completely in love with the work of Jill Garl. I love that she has such a distinctive style while still retaining the photorealism of her subjects.

How has your art or photography changed since that first moment behind the camera or canvas?

My techniques have evolved, and I've definitely developed a much better workflow that allows me to complete my creations in a much more timely manner. I started Digital Painting using Photoshop, but quickly realized that my particular style required the flexibility of a dedicated painting software, which is why I upgraded to Corel Painter. I also find myself becoming more selective with my subjects as time goes by, and tend to choose images that speak to me rather than random images that I thought would be good for practice studies.

What do you do to get yourself ready mentally for a photo shoot or an art session?

I turn on some music! I truly believe that without a soundtrack, I wouldn't be able to create. My favorite music to listen to while painting is what I like to call "Epic Classical"; heavy on the strings and percussion, and often with choral accompaniments. I also tend to change the tempo depending on the style of painting. For my Painterly Style paintings, which have much looser brush strokes and less fine detail, I definitely prefer music that is fast and loud. I often listen to Apocolyptica, Escala, and Within Temptation for this style of painting. For my Classical Style paintings, which have a much higher emphasis on fine detail and porcelain skin, I tend to listen to music that is much gentler, such as Yo Yo Ma, Yurima, and slower ballads from Broadway.

What is the most interesting piece of artwork or photography that you have created?

I'm not certain about interesting, but one of my absolute favorite pieces is an early work of my youngest son when he was in the PICU shortly after he was born. The original image was of him holding my finger, and you can see all the wires that he was connected to in the background. I loved it as a photograph, but I loved it even more as a painting. I'm also inordinately fond of a full-length nude female that I painted when I first got Corel Painter. The original stock image was a snapshot, and I was very happy with the final transformation.

Where do you expect to be with your photography or art five years from now?

I hope to have my name be more well-known, and to have a wider client base. Regardless, I see myself still curled up with my computer and my tablet, jamming to classical music, making magic on my canvas.

Do you have any parting words of advice for someone desiring to enter this field?

Paint because you love it, not because you have to. Never be afraid to ask questions. You are never done learning. Invest in a good tablet for your PC (I love Wacom myself), and don't skimp on the software or the computer processor that you plan on using. Always, always, always back up your work and save often! Share your knowledge with others if they ask, and always remember that you were once new at this yourself. Remember to be patient; I've done paintings that have literally taken weeks to complete, so don't try to take shortcuts or rush through it. Know when to stop; sometimes you can ruin a beautiful painting by over-tweaking it. A painting should be a living, breathing thing. Never ever burn any bridges; you never know if that one person you want to strangle today might turn into your best patron in the future!

Jess Richardson
Artist, Paintedbyjess.com


  1. What an amazing concept. I've enjoyed reading this post, because I don't know much about other forms of art besides my own. Thanks for telling me about this!

  2. You're welcome, Kimberly! Please pass it along to other artists and photographers that you know. Thanks so much for stopping by and for the kind comments. :)


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