STORYTELLERS (Art with Heart): Jessie Barber
This story is for anyone drawn to the mythical and magical. It's a story for everyone, really, because who among us hasn't wished that fairy tales really do exist? Our everyday lives are often so routine and full of challenges that tempt us to run away. Maybe this is why we love to dream of imaginary worlds of wonder, filled with delicate but powerful creatures who use their gifts to tame dragons and make troubles disappear in a wink.
Jessie Barber paints for "anyone who has an interest in the faery world, who dreams of riding dragons and who wants to expand their imagination." This self-taught fantasy artist lives in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, in the perfect place for one who is most inspired by nature and animals.
Jessie's worktable is situated against a window that looks out on the woodlands and fields surrounding the horse farm where she lives with her boyfriend and parents. She loves to get right to work after an early morning walk with the dogs, "just soaking up the beauty that nature has to offer." And a kitten named Sadie bounces around the studio as Jessie works, her "energy and life" providing endless inspiration. When she's stuck in a rut, a ride on her horse or a mountain-cabin retreat is just what Jessie needs to gain new perspective.
As she channels all the energetic majesty and peaceful wonder of nature into her work, Jessie works her own magical touch into the watercolors, creating paintings that are as delicate and ethereal as the pixies and fairy characters themselves. Meet them all in her Etsy shop: Faery Dust Art.
"Watercolors are a perfect medium for creating faery worlds and the creatures that inhabit them," says Jessie. "They have such a lovely, delicate effect and rich colors. They really help give my characters and paintings that whimsical, bright and magical look."
Jessie grew up on a diet of fairy tales and communed with the natural and invisible worlds from a young age. "I used to leave little gifts among the roots of trees for the faeries and build them little houses," she says. And she always had her pencil and crayons handy, drawing with her sister and creating characters and stories. The skills came easily--she was always among the best of her friends and classmates--and making art was something she simply loved to do.
"When I was a child I had a certainty in me that I was an artist and would always be an artist and a successful one at that," says Jessie. "I never went to college or art school, but I did have a wonderful art teacher in my last two years of high school who taught me the core and foundation techniques of creating fine art. He was someone who really believed in me as an artist and gave me great support."
But Jessie says that even with the technical skills and encouragement she received from her teacher, throughout her teenage years she lost the certainty she'd felt as a child. She remembers feeling especially "directionless" just before she turned 20--she knew that she still wanted to make art, but what kind?
"Finally, a couple of years ago I entered into a small craft fair with some of my artwork, where I had many compliments and interest in the one fairy painting I had done. After receiving a suggestion from my sister that I should paint more fairies, I decided to listen to little voices of the faeries and dragons that lived inside my imagination." Jessie also makes jewelry from miniature prints of her watercolors--whimsical lockets and other accessories with an antique bronze look, perfect pieces to capture the imagination as relics from a magical realm.
In essence, Jessie's is a story about re-discovering the faith and imagination of childhood: "When people view my work I want it to bring them a sense of joy, wonder and magic--feelings I think we feel quite frequently when we are children but begin to lose as we become adults." And the best part of creating, for Jessie, is when her work is part of this amazing and joyful process of re-discovery--when she can help "to awaken the imagination and bring a smile to someone’s face."
Jessie's artwork has also played a role in the storytelling of others. An avid reader of fantasy novels herself, Jessie jumped at the chance to collaborate with an aspiring fantasy writer who hired Jessie to create custom paintings of the characters she had written into life. "We had a really fun time communicating and work on the project together," says Jessie. "When I finished the paintings she wrote a lovely little piece on her blog about how perfectly I had painted her characters and that they looked exactly as she had pictured them in her head. She said my artwork was inspiring her to continue writing and to finish her story and get it published. It was so empowering to hear about how well I was able to interpret her vision."
Some of the best feedback she's ever received was the story of how her art helped a young girl down her own creative path: "Recently I had a woman purchase a print for her daughter for her 12th birthday. Afterward she sent me a message saying that when she showed my Etsy shop to her daughter it inspired her to start drawing again."
With the care that Jessie puts into lovingly creating her characters, giving an identity and story to even the smallest inhabitants of the imagination, it's no surprise that Jessie thrives on the way her work has connected with people on such a personal level: "I believe that everyone has the ability to create art. To know that my artwork has inspired even just one person to keep drawing and creating is so rewarding and satisfying."
Make that two people, Jessie. Thank you for inspiring me too! See more of Jessie's art in her shop on Etsy.