In our Fall MainStage production of The Woman in White, two of our story’s young heroes are artists: one is a highly accomplished painter, the other is his student. Local artist Jessica Brown demonstrated her range in creating both the fine art paintings by the master as well as the amateur efforts of the student. Several works-in-progress paintings were also created, as our actors spend periodic stage time working at the easel!
We are all so thrilled and impressed with the work and how it contributes to the show. I was eager to know more about Jessica, so I asked her a few questions and share her answers here (along with a little peak at one of her images).
Did you come from an artistic family? How did your interest and abilities in art first show themselves?
I did, indeed. My father has always had the music bug; he had an electric organ that he’d play by ear. My mother has always been an exceptional artist. So art is certainly in the blood. I also have a step-mother who’s artistically inclined. While I continued to draw, my sisters developed talent in singing and writing. All of them have been so encouraging and supportive throughout the years.
In grade school I remember a small crowd of classmates gathering as I drew hearts and rainbows. After that, I was usually volunteered to take on any drawing projects and was happy doing it. I also remember taking clippings of fashion models from magazines and copying them onto notebook paper. I’d spend hours listening to music ( a lot of Enya at the time) and tweaking those drawings. I had no idea that I was training myself to be an artist.
Who inspired you as a young artist?
I’m a big Jim Henson and Brian Froud fan. Their collaboration on various works like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal really left its mark on me. I remember spending a lot of time pouring over the faery and goblin illustrations of Brian Froud. I was also really inspired by supervising artists like Glen Keane and Chris Sanders at Disney, as well as Don Bluth. I copied what I saw in The Little Mermaid, Lilo and Stitch, and The Secret of NIMH. More recently I am awed by artists like Tony Diterlizzi, Alan Lee, and Charles Santore. My obsession with children’s books began with some of those artists as well as Holly Hobbie (Toot & Puddle series), Mary Englebreit (The Snow Queen), and Jennifer Eachus (The Big, Big Sea).
What was your formal education?
I earned my associate’s degree in illustration from Mercer County Community College. I later transferred to Moore College of Art and Design where I received my bachelor of fine arts in illustration.
What brought you to Lifeline?
I had just moved to the area and was exploring the local entertainment. Lifeline Theatre was running the production of Pride and Prejudice. I purchased tickets to see the show and had such a great time. Not long after, I began wondering how I could possibly get involved in some artistic capacity. I found some information on the website about volunteering and decided to contact them to see how I could help.
How did you and your work intersect with the rest of the production team/process?
My part in production came a bit later as the vision of the play really began to take form with the actors and set coming together. It happened suddenly and actually was pretty exciting as direction came in quickly for the different pieces. I’d had a bit of an idea of what was expected, but ultimately changes were needed as the vision of the set shifted. It was a wonderful challenge.
How did you decide what to create for this show?
I mainly took my direction from the set designer Alan Donahue and the play director, Elise Kauzlaric. I was given a lot of creative leeway with my interpretation of their ideas. The art style needed to be indicative of that time period and sensibility, so I did my best in adhering to those guidelines. The press photos were certainly key in helping me depict an accurate likeness of Laura. The nature studies were inspired by what most of us would see walking outside; a pudgy squirrel or a rabbit hiding in the grass. The landscape needed to be exemplary of a pleasant scene in Cumberland and also capture the spirit of affectionate collaboration between the two main characters.
Anything else you’d like to mention about yourself or this experience?
I had so much fun putting these pieces together for the play. It reminded me that if we allow ourselves to stretch and grow, we can accomplish pretty much anything we set our mind to.
Words to live by! Thank you, Jessica, for your beautiful and exciting contributions to the production!