by Anne Honeywell
COLOR IS HER GREATEST INSPIRATION. And if you spend any time in her home, studio or on her Instagram page, you will know this is a true statement. Her dining room ceiling is hot pink! Meet Jessica King- Bernard. She’s a New Orleans artist on the move.
“My mother is creative, and I believe I developed an eye for detail from her. Some of my earliest memories include watching her sew Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. She was always making something,” explains Jessica. “She was my first artistic influence.”
Jessica grew up enjoying art, both the creation and study of it. Art was her favorite subject in school growing up in Lilburn, Georgia, near Stone Mountain. ”I’ll never forget making a balsa wood sculpture that was chosen to be displayed in Atlanta’s High Museum of Art. It was such a proud moment for me.” Proud indeed, and a feeling she never forgot. Her sculptures and her paintings were getting noticed, and Jessica’s high school art teacher suggested that she could earn a scholarship to attend an art school, but the focused student decided to attend Emory University and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and women’s studies. She went on to build a successful fifteen- year career in the non-profit sector, all the while still painting and creating her art.
“During those years, I used to dream about being able to be an artist ‘full time’—and now, here in New Orleans, my dreams are coming true.”
It is a very happy time in Jessica’s life, and it shows in her work. Her husband’s career, and his desire to return home to New Orleans, brought her family back to the Crescent City. And along with a new city, came a new focus. “I am finally at that time in my life when I can pursue my passion. I have a dedicated studio in our home that is filled with light. It is my own space, and I love it!”
Jessica is primarily a self-taught artist, although she has enjoyed taking art classes here and there over the years. Locally, she has studied with Zona Wainwright and Nell Tilton at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts. “Zona is an incredible teacher and mentor for me,” says Jessica.
“I’ve always been an abstract painter. Abstract art is what I am personally most drawn to. I tried to paint in more of a loose expression. And I love Zona’s style, but I could never pull my paintings together. Over the years, I developed this style of kind of ‘boxing stuff in,’ a kind of geometric look. It is interesting to me, because I think of myself as a pretty outgoing person and sort of a free spirit—so where is this coming from? I am doing all of this wild, crazy and colorful art and then I am boxing it all in. Containing it. I am still trying to figure that out,” Jessica says with a smile. “My process always starts with color, and my palettes range from subtle to adventurous, but I’m most drawn to the combination of bright, bold and vivid colors. My process is an energetic exercise in following my intuition.”
Jessica paints on canvas and wood, but prefers to paint on paper. “I like the way the paper accepts the paint. And for me personally, I feel like the colors shine through the best on paper. It just feels a little bit more forgiving to me.” Jessica explains that she starts and finishes most works in a single session and often works on multiple paintings simultaneously. “It is always my intention to create a well-balanced and harmonious piece that conveys the energy present while I was creating it.”
A couple of years ago, Jessica made a promise to herself. To put herself ‘out there.’ To open an Instagram account and show her paintings on her page. She had been painting for friends and family, which of course generates referrals and interest, but had shied away from the exposure of her art on social media. “So I took this big leap of faith, and it has been very organic.
No ads or paid promotions, just posting photos of my work. I have two small children, so I am finding my balance in doing what I love, which is being an artist, and a mother and wife.”
One of her paintings, which was a commission, was shared on Instagram tagging Jessicakingbernardart, and she was off!
All the encouragement from her family (most especially her husband’s aunt, local artist Lynette Collins Walker) and friends during her early years was now encouragement coming in the form of followers, likes and new clients!
“I love doing commissions. My years as a professional fundraiser were very social. It was a very social job, and I loved meeting so many people and being out in my community. Painting is very solitary. Commissions give me the opportunity to connect with people, create relationships and learn what they’re passionate about and what’s important to them. I go into their homes and look at their furnishings, learn what colors they like. I love the challenge that comes with trying to paint that perfect piece for a room. It is a challenge, and I am enjoying it.”
Jessica signs her all her paintings, but never in the same spot. The placement can be anywhere on the canvas. It becomes a part of the painting. “I like to put it where I think it fits in the painting, and I contemplate different places. Sometimes, truthfully, it is exactly what the painting needs to balance it out. It looks like it belongs in that spot.”
Like her signatures in her paintings, Jessica has found where she fits. She’s a talented abstract artist in New Orleans, right where she belongs, and her cheerful and colorful inspiration is just what we need.