Second Phase of Saving the Chamberlain House

Good grief! What a ride it’s been since I last blogged about what I’m now calling The Chamberlain Project. I need everybody to go read the first blog before you continue with this one because it lays out all of the information about why we’re here and why the Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain house is an important American landmark that needs our help. It has been one of the most fulfilling and challenging things I’ve done as an artist.

Briefly, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a Union general in the American Civil War who rose to that rank without formal military training (he was a professor before the war). He volunteered for service, and then later became a four-term governor of Maine, followed by president of Bowdoin College. National history largely forgot Chamberlain until Ken Burns heavily featured him throughout his documentary series, The Civil War. Then in the early 90s, Jeff Daniels played Chamberlain in the film, Gettysburg, followed ten years later by playing him again in Gods and Generals.

Together, you and I are helping the Pejepscot History Center preserve and restore his home, which is now a museum.

CBS Evening News

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The wildest part of this whole thing is that the CBS Evening News did a feature on me a couple of months ago outlining my project and the Pejepscot History Center’s involvement in it. When I got the initial call from the producer in New York City, I actually thought it was a prank and I almost deleted the message!

CBS sent a crew to my home a few weeks later after some scheduling conflicts. Who would have thought the New Hampshire primary was a bigger story than trying to preserve and restore an American landmark? Said with humor. It worked out better having the scheduling conflict because it gave me time to get a head start on my second Chamberlain-related project, which we’ll discuss further down in this blog. You can see a photo from the shoot I did with CBS that day on the right. They were getting what’s known as B-roll of the new piece of art. B-roll is what you see on film while a journalist or narrator is talking over it.

I think I did all right. They shot about 45 minutes of footage for a 2-minute story at the end of the nightly broadcast. To be honest, I could do an entire hour-long show about how exciting and important historical preservation is, and the crew even mentioned how knowledgeable I was about the field. Clearly, I missed my calling. I should have gone to college to get into historical preservation.

Here’s my segment on the CBS Evening News.

The Numbers

Jessica Jewett

After my segment aired that night, I got a lot of new orders for not only the Chamberlain house drawing but everything else in my Etsy shop too. I got more than I expected and it was, quite honestly, more than I could handle by myself, so it has taken a while to get all of the orders shipped. I’m down to my last dozen or so right now, which will go out in the mail as soon as my latest restock batch arrives. This process has been difficult because I don’t have the money to get my own printer capable of doing 11×17-inch prints. I have to outsource the printing process.

I promised you all that I would be up front about the earnings and donations numbers. If you want more specific information, you can always pop me a message and ask.

We have raised $1,800 so far, which is being given to the Pejepscot History Center in three separate payments. I only expected to raise a couple hundred bucks in the beginning, so this number pleases me. People still buy the art print without me doing much advertising now that it shows up in Etsy searches and such.

The PHC has been incredibly grateful for our work!

The New Project

Right before CBS came to film my segment, I began putting together my second project. I’ve been in this art business long enough to know that sales will eventually taper off and you need fresh things to keep customers interested. I knew I was going to divide The Chamberlain Project into three distinct art pieces so I could keep providing the PHC with donations throughout the year of 2020.

Guy

The first thing I needed was a photo reference that I found inspirational for the story I wanted to tell in Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s wartime career. Enter my friend, Guy Gane, who is an actor, casting director, and tailor. He agreed to let me use him for reference (any artist who says they can work on highly detailed portraits without some kind of reference is either a liar or inhuman) since he has the same body type and similar features as Chamberlain, especially in the hands. Since Chamberlain was about four inches shorter than Guy, I chose a photo that would conceal the height difference rather than accentuate it. The photo on the left was the one I chose.

Next, I needed to mentally put this modern candid photo in a wartime context. What would Chamberlain be holding instead of a cell phone? Either dispatches, orders from his superiors, or a letter. What’s more emotionally compelling to the viewer? Letters from home, clearly. Everyone who has heard of Chamberlain knows something of the bond he had with his family.

I created a story around this piece of art from there, knowing I wanted to steer clear of Gettysburg because that topic has been done to death.

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In the last weeks of the Civil War, Chamberlain was a brigade commander in the Battle of Quaker Road on March 29, 1865. That day, he had been ordered to take the Confederate position and led his men on horseback until he was wounded in the arm after his horse had been shot through the neck. He was briefly knocked unconscious and witnesses thought him killed.

Riding ahead until the wounded horse couldn’t continue, Chamberlain dismounted and continued on foot until he got so far ahead of his men that he ended up alone, surrounded by Confederate soldiers. Quick thinking, a faded, filthy uniform, and a knack for mimicking accents convinced the Confederate soldiers that he was one of them until he managed to get out of the dangerous situation – all while suffering with a wounded, bleeding arm.

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My drawing imagines a quiet moment of contemplation the night after that close call. Chamberlain is depicted thoughtfully reading a letter from home and is surrounded by his books and a photograph of his wife, Fanny. Now that the danger has passed, he has time to think about what he could have lost if yet another close call had ended him after all. It’s a hint at the post-traumatic stress disorder to come, which is something not a lot of people talk about in terms of their heroes.

It was not easy completing this piece, on a personal note. One of my dogs was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and she died within two weeks of the diagnosis. Then my other dog broke her foot and the subsequent bone infection resulted in one of her toes being amputated, a procedure from which she is still recovering. COVID-19 messed with our household income and now the virus has spread to more than one house on my street. Given my weakened immune system, contracting the virus could be deadly for me, not to mention the surgery I was supposed to have on April 16 being pushed back to sometime this summer. I’ve also been nursing a broken heart.

Yet, I managed to finish this piece even with all of the terrible things happening around me. I suspect things in my personal life did, in fact, draw me closer to the mood of this piece. Maybe it helped me make it better. I need to believe I channeled my pain into something bigger than myself. That’s the artist in me.

In the end, this is how the second piece turned out.

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I, personally, like how it looks but there are always things I would change about every piece of art I do. It was done in a combination of Pentel mechanical pencils with .5 mm lead and Prismacolor Ebony pencils on mixed media paper. You’ll be able to buy various sized prints of the original art over on my Etsy shop. The original is 11×14 inches and has already been sold. Prints (5×7, 8×10, or 11×17 inches) range in price from $13.80 USD to $27.60 USD and are made on high quality cardstock with a glossy finish. Original art prices are calculated based on the materials used plus a $15 hourly labor rate, which is quite low for many artists.

Let’s not forget why we are here.

A portion (75%) of the sale of this drawing benefits the Pejepscot History Center in their efforts to preserve and restore the Joshua L. Chamberlain house for generations to come. The porches that Chamberlain himself built on his home of over fifty years are in structural danger due to wood rot and lack of maintenance over the last century. Together, you and I are going to help with the restoration costs. Buildings like this one belong to all of us.

What’s Next

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There will be a third piece (technically fourth if you count the church) to finish out the year and hopefully generate more donation revenue. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to do something involving Fanny Chamberlain because, most of the time, she is reduced to a footnote in her husband’s history. She was a deeply complicated woman in her own right with passions, interests, beliefs, and dreams of her own long before she was ever a married woman.

My plan is to do something revolving around Fanny Chamberlain, possibly in the downstairs blue parlor, which the family had built after the Civil War. I suspect I’ll have her playing the piano but I’m not quite sure yet. It depends on where my inspiration leads like it did when I chose Guy Gane to model Chamberlain for me.

How To Order

These are the links to order all pieces I’ve done relating to Maine. I had done the church a long time ago before all of this started but I figure it can be included here as well.

First Parish Congregationalist Church – BUY HERE
Joshua L. Chamberlain House – BUY HERE
After the Battle – BUY HERE

Please consider purchasing these art prints. It’s such a worthy cause. I realize there is a lot happening in the world, and I’m doing my part for those causes as well, but we should care about American history too. We need to be thinking about what kind of tangible legacy we’re going to leave our children and grandchildren. Wouldn’t you want to teach your descendants to celebrate and honor a man who believed in the qualities of a better world that we’re still fighting to create? What better way to honor him and his family than to help preserve the place they loved and called home for over half a century?

If you’re not interested in buying my art, that’s quite all right. There are choices.

One option is to let me collect the donations at PayPal.me/ArtByJessicaJewett and I’ll get it to the Pejepscot History Center for you. Please specify that you are donating to the Chamberlain house in the notes. I’ll send donations on the 15th of every month (when there are any) and I will give you copies of the receipts.

Or you can make a donation directly to the Pejepscot History Center, but please make sure you specify that your donation is for the Chamberlain house. They don’t have digital donations aside from the annual membership drives. The new 2020 membership drive hasn’t been created yet since they are closed until February 4.

To donate by mail:

Pejepscot History Center
159 Park Row
Brunswick, ME 04011

By phone: Call (207) 729-6606 to provide a credit card number. They take all major cards.

In person: Drop by their offices at 159 Park Row during open hours.

Once again, I thank all of you for joining me on The Chamberlain Project’s journey!

The Pejepscot History Center is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. Your gift is tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law.

I’m not affiliated with the Pejepscot History Center in any way, nor do I work for them. My fundraising efforts are as a private citizen.


Donation

Please consider making a donation to help me keep up with the cost of art supplies, living expenses, equipment related to my disability, and so forth. The minimum is set at $10.00. Thank you for your generosity.

$10.00


Follow me on social media!

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We’re going to save the Chamberlain house!

af0aff4365aeb4f3debee9d880a14d28Short story (although I beg you to read the entire blog): I’m selling a drawing of the Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain house and donating the profits to preservation and restoration efforts.

SOLD! BUY THE CHAMBERLAIN HOUSE ORIGINAL ART HERE.
BUY THE CHAMBERLAIN HOUSE ART PRINTS HERE.

Now, let’s have the whole story. The links will be at the end of the blog again too. I don’t know if my efforts will be successful but my hope is you’ll feel my passion by the end of this blog.

We’re here to talk about something very near and dear to my heart – the Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain house in Brunswick, Maine. The porches that Chamberlain himself built on his home of over fifty years are in structural danger. Together, you and I are going to help. Buildings like this one belong to all of us.

Briefly, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a Union general in the American Civil War who rose to that rank without formal military training (he was a professor before the war). He volunteered for service, and then later became a four-term governor of Maine, followed by president of Bowdoin College.

His wife, Fanny, was a rare example of an independent woman, having a career of her own as a music teacher and an artist before she decided to get married. The two of them were quite liberal in a lot of ways; believing women should be admitted to college wherever they chose, believing in the right to contraception and family planning, believing in racial equality, and so forth.

For a bit of context into the time and place the Chamberlain family lived, they knew Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and attended church with her for years. Stowe sometimes held gatherings of Bowdoin College students in her home where she read chapters of Uncle Tom’s Cabin aloud. Chamberlain took Fanny to some of these readings while they were “dating” (dating wasn’t the term in those days).

968497ed4cf524aa8abf7c61cac8037eNational history largely forgot Chamberlain until Ken Burns heavily featured him throughout his documentary series, The Civil War. Then in the early 90s, Jeff Daniels actually played Chamberlain (seen in character on the left) in the film, Gettysburg, followed ten years later by playing him again in Gods and Generals.

His impact reaches far beyond Maine. Even I live in Atlanta and I’m just three miles from both Chamberlain Street and Oakland Cemetery where one of his best friends, General John B. Gordon, is buried.

You’re beginning to see why this family and this house matter to American history. We could sit here discussing Chamberlain’s fascinating life and undeniable affect on Maine history until we write a book. In fact, there are a lot of books about him, his military commands, and his family.

Not only did the family live in this house for over fifty years, but Henry Wadsworth Longfellow rented rooms in the same house before they bought it. Longfellow’s presence in the house is still felt today in the upstairs parlor where a portion of the wallpaper he put up is still there.

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This is the house today. Originally, it was only one-and-a-half floors. Chamberlain had the entire structure moved to the corner of Potter and Maine, and then lifted about eleven feet off the ground to build an entirely new first floor addition. He designed most of the first floor himself, including a beautiful curved staircase that greeted guests upon walking through the ruby red foyer. It’s is one of the most architecturally important houses in the state of Maine due to the odd mixture of building and decorating styles blended together from different popular aesthetics in the nineteenth century – Cape Cod, Gothic Revival, and some Art Nouveau influences. Chamberlain wasn’t even a trained architect or interior designer.

The Pejepscot History Center (PHC) rescued the house from demolition in 1983 after decades of being rented out to Bowdoin College students. It had been chopped up into seven apartments and the interior was painted psychedelic colors when they acquired it. Almost 37 years under the careful stewardship of historians and volunteers has seen great strides toward preserving and restoring the home to the way it stood when Chamberlain lived there, but only partially so.

As of my last visit, renters still live in the upper portions of the house in, I believe, three apartments because renting brings in money for upkeep. Many of the unoccupied rooms upstairs haven’t yet been restored either, including all of the Chamberlain family bedrooms. The downstairs bathroom with original fittings and the master bedroom upstairs were being used for storage instead of teaching and tourism. It takes a lot of money to preserve and restore historical buildings. Brunswick is a small town and Maine is a small town state.

FB_IMG_1578705918469Why does the decay of an old house matter to me?

My family name is Jewett. That was, once upon a time, an influential name up in Maine, so much so that if you take a drive over to South Berwick, you can tour my ancestors’ home. I’m related to Sarah Orne Jewett and she left her home to Historic New England when she died. If you click on her name, it’ll take you to the website for that house. There, you’ll see the potential when important places have the resources for full, meticulous restoration and preservation. I have a vision for the Chamberlain home being just as preserved, studied, and restored as the Jewett house.

I’ve had the privilege of visiting the Chamberlain house twice. Tour guides were wonderful and well-informed, the gift shop was better than most battlefield gift shops, and there was a beautiful wheelchair ramp built onto the back porch – a rarity for historical landmarks. In the above photo, you’re looking at my first trip to the house twelve years ago when I was quite sick and underweight compared to now. Sick or not, historical preservation is my passion. So I went to Maine.

I’d like to show you more photos from my trips to the Chamberlain house. I quickly grabbed some from my collection so you can see how special this place is to many of us in the American history, women’s history, and Civil War fields.

In 2018 and 2019, the PHC raised $48,000 for serious restoration work on the exterior of the house. They even got the wheelchair ramp rebuilt on the back porch as a bonus. It was a really spectacular job and it all looks like it belonged on the house from the beginning, although General Chamberlain never had a ramp back there.

The old ramp and porch.

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The new ramp and porch.

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I’m showing you this because I want you to see what’s possible through the help of donations, foundations, and grants to not only restore historical landmarks but also to make them accessible to more people in the future. Places like this really depend on tourism for cash flow in addition to the few grants that are available. Tourism matters economically to small towns. It pays to have interesting landmarks, speaking in practical terms. We’re American. We understand that money talks.

Take a look at this photo of the house from the 1870s. Do you see the glass porch on the first floor, and then the open air porch above it? Pay attention to those.

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I’m letting the Pejepscot History Center explain what happened. This is from their fundraiser page. I’m not sure if the fundraiser page is still open, but if it is, I’ll update this blog with a link.

Thanks to $48,000 raised from foundations and individuals over 2018-2019, we were able to undertake extensive exterior restoration work on the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum starting in the spring of 2019.

Four faces of the building have now been lovingly restored, but in the process, considerable rot due to deferred maintenance in the past was found and corrected.

This led to fewer funds available for addressing the final part of this Phase I restoration effort: the two historic porches on the southeast corner of the building, which have some of the most interesting architecture on the building, and provide considerable structural support.

Unfortunately, they too have more deterioration than originally anticipated, necessitating additional funds to repair and rebuild the porches correctly.

Chamberlain raised the house 11 feet in the air in 1871 to add the lower story, thereby adding the first floor porch himself. He especially loved these porches. Over the years, he and the family enjoyed sitting on them and raising plants in the ample southern sunshine.

IMG_20200106_124930So I decided to make donations interesting. Individually, none of us can afford the $20,000 the PHC needs to raise to save Chamberlain’s porches from decaying and deteriorating. I know I can’t.

But what I can do is use my skills as an artist to draw attention to the house and make it worth your effort to help rescue the house. I’m a portrait artist most of the time, selling commissions of ordinary people as well as portraits set in highly researched historical scenes. To me, the Chamberlain house like all other historical houses are like living things with souls and sets of memories all their own.

The idea occurred to me that if people were willing to buy my portraits of people, perhaps they would be willing to buy a “portrait” of a house. I had already done a Christmas-themed piece of art showcasing the Chamberlain family’s church, First Parish, and I was interested in doing another piece anyway. If I could use my artistic drive to raise awareness for historical preservation, all the better.

So I got to work. Watch the video below to see me in action.

Yes, the manner in which I do my art is a bit different. We’ll go ahead and address the elephant in the room since many of you might be new to my website and my art. If you didn’t guess from my other photos, I’m physically disabled. I was born with a condition called Arthrogryposis and the nature of it means I need to do everything with the tools in my mouth, whether it’s writing, typing, chopping vegetables, sewing, or creating art. I’ve had about nineteen surgeries to date with a high probability of two more surgeries in 2020. Selling art is how I make extra money.

This time, however, I’m not making money from the art. I’ve decided to sell both the original and various sized prints made from the Chamberlain house piece for the benefit of the restoration project. When I sell this piece, I will make a donation from 80% of the profits (I need 20% for shipping, materials, etc.) to the Pejepscot History Center and I will make public all of the pertinent documents. That way everything is crystal clear and there are no questions.

This is the completed piece of art.

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It took me about three weeks to complete it. I used a combination of Pentel mechanical pencils with .5 mm lead and Prismacolor Ebony pencils on 11×14-inch mixed media paper. Each detail of the house was researched and replicated to the best of my ability down to the placement of the trees, the curtains from the 1870s photographs, the wrought iron fence design, and the woodwork. If you look up top, you’ll see the famous chimney Chamberlain added after the war with the Maltese cross. He was a Fifth Corps officer and the Maltese cross was their insignia, a symbol found throughout the house.

You’ll be able to purchase this piece of art in my shop.

SOLD! BUY THE CHAMBERLAIN HOUSE ORIGINAL ART HERE.
BUY THE CHAMBERLAIN HOUSE ART PRINTS HERE.

The original, as in the actual piece of art I worked on, is 11×14 inches and costs $385.00 USD. Prints (5×7, 8×10, or 11×17) range in price from $12.00 USD to $24.00 USD and are made on high quality cardstock with a glossy finish.

Orders larger than 8×10 inches are shipped in a tube with the art rolled inside to protect it from rough postal workers. Orders 8×10 and smaller are shipped in flat bubble mailers reinforced with cardboard. All customers are given a tracking number so they can keep an eye on their packages with the postal service as well. Every order within the United States includes free shipping. Shipping for international orders will be calculated at the time of purchase.

Please consider purchasing this piece. It’s such a worthy cause. I realize there is a lot happening in the world, and I’m doing my part for those causes too, but we should care about American history too.  We need to be thinking about what kind of tangible legacy we’re going to leave our children and grandchildren. Wouldn’t you want to teach your descendants to celebrate and honor a man who believed in the qualities of a better world that we’re still fighting to create? What better way to honor him and his family than to help preserve the place they loved and called home for over half a century?

If you’re not interested in buying my art, that’s quite all right. There are choices.

One option is to let me collect the donations at PayPal.me/ArtByJessicaJewett and I’ll get it to the Pejepscot History Center for you. Please specify that you are donating to the Chamberlain house in the notes. I’ll send donations on the 15th of every month (when there are any) and I will give you copies of the receipts.

Or you can make a donation directly to the Pejepscot History Center, but please make sure you specify that your donation is for the Chamberlain house. They don’t have digital donations aside from the annual membership drives. The new 2020 membership drive hasn’t been created yet since they are closed until February 4.

To donate by mail:

Pejepscot History Center
159 Park Row
Brunswick, ME 04011

By phone: Call (207) 729-6606 to provide a credit card number. They take all major cards.

In person: Drop by their offices at 159 Park Row during open hours.

The Pejepscot History Center is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. Your gift is tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law.

I’m not affiliated with the Pejepscot History Center in any way, nor do I work for them. My fundraising efforts are as a private citizen.


Donation

Please consider making a donation to help me keep up with the cost of art supplies, living expenses, equipment related to my disability, and so forth. The minimum is set at $10.00. Thank you for your generosity.

$10.00


Follow me on social media!

Jessica Jewett, InstagramJessica Jewett, FacebookJessica Jewett, TwitterJessica Jewett, YouTube

Learning Landscapes

Jessica Jewett, artI have been a portrait artist for so long that I almost got to a point of never imagining myself doing anything else. That’s not necessarily a good thing, however. Artists, in my opinion, should definitely develop a style but not at the expense of challenging themselves. There comes a point when you’re doing the same thing again and again that your creativity goes flat, so it’s incredibly important to find ways to stretch your style into new subjects.

A few years ago, I did this colored pencil piece when I was visiting family in Wyoming. This was where we were camping on the North Platte River a bit upriver from the Alcova Reservoir. I sketched it out in person, took a photo, and then added the color when I got home. It’s fairly obvious to me that I was hesitant and uncertain about how to work with earthy colors as opposed to flesh tones. It’s not terrible but I wanted it to be better. This piece now belongs to my father.

Wyoming Mountains Landscape

I’ve attempted painting landscapes with water elements before. This one turned out very well, much better than I expected at the time. It wasn’t any place in particular but more like a reflection of my thoughts on death and crossing into the afterlife. All in all, not a bad effort but I took it as a fluke because I did this under the guidance of a more experienced painter.

Night scene with a boat dock and the moon.

A trend has been developing, it seems, of me doing better with pencil scenes. It’s not that much of a surprise considering I’ve always done stronger work in charcoal or graphite. But I don’t think landscapes are meant for black and white unless you’re trying to create a darker mood with cemeteries or dilapidated houses. Nature is filled with beautiful colors that express every kind of mood or emotion in the universe and that is the real challenge for an artist to master.

But then I decided to at least work in black and white for a while to master (or at least get better) the technical parts of creating nature-based art. It’s totally different than portraits of people. I cannot approach those things the same way, otherwise I’ll fail at what I’m trying to accomplish. It could be said that people and nature have completely different souls that can’t be interchangeable on paper or canvas.

Recently I attempted doing a drawing of the coast of Scotland in color after such a long time of trying to understand things in black and white. My Scotland drawing was done in Copic markers, which has the benefit of mixing and blending the way I want to do with oil paint but I’m not quite ready to be that advanced yet. Oils are my ultimate goal but it’s been so long since I used them that I think I’m back down to the beginner stage again. That’s fine, though. I can play with color using Copic markers until I’m used to deciphering nature’s palettes and then I can go back to paint.

I’m definitely more energized and ready to try doing more landscapes and seascapes again. Seeing my marked improvement from the Wyoming piece to the Scotland piece tells me that practice really does make perfect, as much as I hate those little sayings. I wanted you all to see the improvement too because some of you might be struggling to master something in your artistic goals. Keep your old stuff because you will see your development over time. And seeing your skills grow will do a lot for your self-confidence as an artist. I certainly haven’t mastered landscapes or seascapes but I can see the evidence that I’m getting better. That’s enough for me.

Take a look at Scotland.

Scotland, Jessica Jewett

Donation

Please consider making a donation to help me keep up with the cost of art supplies, living expenses, equipment related to my disability, and so forth. The minimum is set at $10.00. Thank you for your generosity.

$10.00


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Six months into the #CopicColors art challenge!

Welcome to June! We are halfway through the yearlong art challenge put on by Copic Markers and I’m still hanging in there.

If you haven’t been following me on Instagram, I’ll give you the lowdown. Every first of the month, Copic issues three colors that we have to use to create art. The only rules are that we have to use those exact colors and the only other tools allowed are black ink or pencil and white ink or pencil if you choose to add highlights and emphasis.

Let’s take a look at my first six months. All of mine are done on the same white paper but I don’t have professional lighting to keep the same brightness with every photo.

Each month, I’m creating a fashion plate from a different decade in the nineteenth century. The rhythm goes like this:

January: 1800-1809
February: 1810-1819
March: 1820-1829
April: 1830-1839
May: 1840-1849
June: 1850-1859
July: 1860-1869
August: 1870-1879
September: 1880-1889
October: 1890-1899
November: 1900-1909
December: 1910-1919

Next month, July, we are getting into the real expansion period of the United States when immigrants started coming over from Europe by the millions. I plan to use the next few months to depict the diversity in the country to the best of my ability.

July I have a reference photo of former enslaved people learning how to read. August I have planned an indigenous woman called Pretty Nose. September I will probably do something with the Chinese community in San Francisco at that time. Since October is Halloween, I have a reference photo of women wearing witch costumes in the 1890s. November I wanted to depict the Jewish community in the Lower East Side tenements of Manhattan. And finally in December, I want to depict the final Christmas before America went into World War I.

Even though I want to explore what it really meant to be American in the second half of the nineteenth century, the flow will remain the same throughout the whole year. You will recognize all twelve illustrations as part of a continuous series. That means all of the indigenous and immigrant clothing will be just as heavily researched as my first six illustrations. Textiles have always been the way to view a woman’s life in any century.

Prints of this series can be found in my Etsy shop for $10 in the small size and $20 in the large size. Supporting indie artists like me is important so we can keep creating new things.

Keep checking back for more in this series!

Donation

Please consider making a donation to help me keep up with the cost of art supplies, living expenses, equipment related to my disability, and so forth. The minimum is set at $10.00. Thank you for your generosity.

$10.00


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Portraits of the Dead

Sometimes I do portraits of the dead I’ve encountered in my life. It’s not a habit I openly discuss all that much, not because I’m ashamed of it, but because a segment of the population will find it evil or repugnant or whatever. But I figure if you’re here reading my blog, you already know something about me and this won’t be news to you at all.

Drawing, Jessica JewettDrawing, Jessica Jewett

I drew these on the left when I was a small child. You were probably expecting this to begin with astounding drawings of people from my childhood that solved centuries-old mysteries, thereby establishing me as a child medium powerhouse. If this was a movie, that would be the greatest ending to a childhood plagued by isolation, misunderstandings, and scary ghost encounters. This isn’t an “I see dead people” movie, though. This is real life.

I was indeed filling my little girl sketchbooks with dead people – that much is true – but I never told anybody what I was doing, nor did I want to show anybody the evidence. To be perfectly truthful, I never quite understood what I was drawing in terms of “these are actual dead people” because I had very little understanding of death until my great grandmother died in 1994. Yet notebooks filling up with Civil War people when I wasn’t yet able to write a full sentence probably gave my family or the kids in school some idea that I was “different” but nobody ever said anything to my face.

Much of my art was my way of keeping track of the dead folks I met even before I understood what death meant. But some of my art was my way of trying to make sense of my past life memories, like the drawings of old houses from approximately the 4th grade. I used to see those houses in my past life memories enough that apparently I felt the need to draw them. I know now that the house on the top was my attempt at recording the Harriet Beecher Stowe house in Brunswick, Maine, which I visited a few times in my lifetime before this one. The house underneath it is certainly from the same lifetime, probably in Maine or Massachusetts, but I never successfully identified it. The reason why I think it’s a past life memory is because a child that young won’t make up that much detail from mere imagination.

Here is a postcard of the Stowe house to compare with my childhood drawing.

Harriet Beecher Stowe House

When I got old enough to understand what death meant, I also began to understand that the other people I saw out there weren’t living anymore. I became fearful of who might see my sketchbooks and school notebooks, so I threw out a lot of my earliest portraits. Obviously I regret that now.

School art classes made me start new sketchbooks, however, and I found it necessary to keep one for the teacher to see and one at home for my “real” work. For school art classes or playing with friends, I was very careful to only draw images from Disney or anything else we thought was cool as we grew up. Most of my friends gave up markers and crayons as they grew, but I never let go of my compulsive need to create things. Slowly I morphed into everybody’s quirky artist friend. There’s always one!

As you are going to see in the rest of this post, my spirit sketches are never complete or polished pieces of art because I can’t see them well enough to get down to the serious nitty gritty. I will show you the progress of my spirit sketches but it’s important to note that they’ll never reach my full artistic potential. Spirits are vague, washed out in colors, with whole spots that are see through. They also don’t pose. They don’t hang around more than a few seconds either because of how much energy it requires for them to show their images at all. My process is to pick out something that stands out – some detail that I can make very clear on paper – and then I estimate the rest. The average manifestation lasts about five seconds for me, so there isn’t much time to grab that main detail. I’ve gotten much better at it as I’ve grown into adulthood and developed much stronger technical skills.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Jessica JewettMany of the drawings I made in my childhood were of these two people over and over again in different poses and doing different things. Since I threw away most of my old sketchbooks out of fear of being judged or questioned, I only have these examples to show that were done several years ago. They are Fanny and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who were deeply connected to the house drawings from earlier in my childhood (seen above). The Chamberlains were from Maine and lived through the bulk of the 19th century. Lawrence was a college professor who volunteered for the Union Army in the American Civil War, eventually rising to the rank of Brevet Major General. After the war, he became Governor of Maine. His wife was a music teacher and artist trained by highly respected creative minds of their period.

Fanny Chamberlain, Jessica JewettIn 1999, I realized through events too numerous to list here that I was Fanny Chamberlain in a previous life and my obsessive need to keep drawing these people was my subconscious mind trying to say it out loud. Specifically from ages six to nine, I filled page after page of drawing paper depicting mostly Fanny and Lawrence but also many other members of their families. I had no idea who they were until the summer between my junior and senior years of high school but their lives replayed in snippets of my memory. Drawing their faces soothed me a little bit, especially when I was plagued by nightmares of Civil War military hospitals. And that was what I was really after in my mind – soothing the unexplained images by dumping them onto paper. If this story interests you, go take a look at the book I wrote about it called Unveiled: Fanny Chamberlain Reincarnated.

Fanny Chamberlain, Jessica JewettHere is another drawing of Fanny surviving from a much earlier period in my life (right). The best way for me to date my drawings is to place them before or after the bulk of my real technical training in the late 90s. I believe I did it somewhere between 1995 and 1997 before I knew who Fanny was, and then I fiddled with the skirt again many years later after I learned more about drawing fabric. This sketch is incomplete to this day.

It’s a reference to a memory of being outside near a barn at night in the rain but I never got that far with it. Like I said, drawing Fanny or anything related to her used to frighten me into silence and I threw away most of them, which I regret now.

Moving from Missouri to Georgia in 1998 completely changed the way I viewed the spiritual overlapping with the physical. Not only was my language and awareness finally in a place where I could talk about it and ask questions but it seemed like every square inch of the Deep South was rife with the dead trying to be remembered.

Here are some of the scattered sketches I did in high school of spirits I saw in different places. Most of the time I saw spirits at battlefield parks or other historic sites for obvious reasons. You can click on them to make them bigger.

To preserve my sanity, I had to develop skills in blocking and shutting down that part of myself so I could finish high school. I allowed myself to channel the things I saw and experienced into more recognizable pop culture references. That way I could still relieve my need to create and my need to memorialize people from history. I made a few sketches from historical movies like Titanic and Gone With the Wind, while leaving nobody in question of what I really needed to do.

This is one of my sketches from 1998 before I really developed technical skills.

Titanic, Jessica Jewett

Gone With the Wind, Jessica JewettBy mid-2000, I had developed much stronger technical skills and embarked on a large, highly detailed piece from Gone With the Wind. It was my effort at keeping myself occupied through the summer to stay “normal”. Once I realized a few years before that I was seeing the dead, I wanted nothing to do with it. I was a teenager desperately trying to fit in as all teenagers do.

I only got so far during the summer of 2000 and I didn’t attempt to finish it again until 2016. Life got in the way, I developed other interests in writing books, and my eyesight began to fail beyond what I could overcome in my art.

Gone With the Wind Boudoir II DrawingIt took 16 years and surgery on my eyes to pick it up again, seen here.

In the 16 years between starting and finishing this Gone With the Wind piece, I hardly drew anything at all. Challenges in my life made me set aside those things and go at it without the crutch of my sketchbook, as I thought of it at the time. I had to find a way to make peace with my ability to see the dead as well as sometimes seeing into the living. And I had to achieve that peace without trying to hide it with secret messages in my art. I had to learn how to communicate with them, how to send them away, how to block it out, and how to let it happen when necessary. Being a mere observer means you get followed and they attach to you more often. I had to accept what I was while developing boundaries.

Learning to accept the presence of the dead in my life was only half the battle. Doing so much art with the pencils in my mouth due to lifelong quadriplegia had ruined my vision. I was so visually impaired by 2000 that I couldn’t see beyond a foot in front of my face. Around 2007, I had surgery to correct my vision. I thought that would fix everything and I could start drawing again.

What I wasn’t counting on was the abrupt change in perception, color, light, and darkness. Surgery changed how I saw everything, which in turn changed how I perceived my artistic abilities. I developed a fear of laying pencil to paper because I was absolutely sure I had lost my ability to create after I had surgery on my eyes. Rather than witness my own failure as an artist, I refused to try it at all. I punished myself and wasted almost two decades due to how my vision changed.

Even through 16 years of barely touching a pencil or paintbrush, the dead never went away. There were lulls when I didn’t see as many and there were spikes of seeing them on a daily basis. They were my normal as a young adult. Of course I had friends and I lived a very mundane life but I was learning about them underneath it all.

I began looking into spiritual literature and talking to the older people in my family. For a very short time, I went to Catholic Mass and Episcopal services in an effort to fill a void of knowledge. It didn’t work and I never felt comfortable with Christianity. It never lined up with the experiences in my life. So I shifted to the other extreme – atheism. That never felt right either. Finally I decided to simply figure it out for myself without trying to squeeze into a category, which then opened my eyes and allowed me to read about Buddhists, Hindus, Kabbalah, Judaism, Islam, Spiritualism, and so on and so forth. Along this exploration, I also took an interest in genealogy. That was when I found the other women of power in my blood.

Newell, Rulon, Oliver, Jessica Jewett

It turned out my mother, grandmother, etc., going back through the generations in the above photograph from the 1890s all had some sort of extrasensory ability. They used their abilities within the context of their time period and church-based American culture but I found private letters between these women talking to each other about communicating with the dead, the spiritual properties of plants, reading auras in my grandmother’s generation, and much more. As I developed my understanding of the wider universe and began having conversations with my grandmother, I realized our traditions and beliefs at their core came from our varied Celtic ancestry in Ireland, upper France, Scotland, and England. In the 21st century, it translates to neopagan and witchcraft life. So that’s what I became and I haven’t looked back since.

The most important lesson that came to me was blinding in its simplicity: the dead are not out to hurt the living, nor do they want to frighten us the way we are taught to think in movies. They simply want acknowledgement. They want to be remembered. They want their truth understood. And when they realize someone like me can see them, we become like lighthouses for ships in the night. That realization inspired one of my first serious paintings after I tried to get my skills back.

Night scene with a boat dock and the moon.

Water is a conduit that helps spiritual energy move and manifest. The imagery of crossing a river is synonymous with dying and making the transition into the afterlife. Therefore, this painting was my tentative toe dipped back into the spiritual artist pool. I think this was in 2012 and I didn’t do very much for a few years after that because I wasn’t yet convinced that art was completely good for me.

For the last few years, I’ve thrown myself back into art at full speed. I don’t really know what made me choose this period of my life but doing art now is much more fulfilling than frightening. The same goes for my relationship with the dead. I interact with them now on my terms when I feel strong enough so the experiences don’t drain me too much or pull me away from living my life. I have known too many people who got too wrapped up in toying with the dead that they forgot to live for the here and now, which is obviously incredibly unhealthy. Life is meant to be lived to the fullest so you don’t take regrets with you into your death.

St. Louis teacher, Jessica JewettLast year I did several new sketches of the dead I’ve met. I thought back to the one who frightened me the most when I was about 8-years-old and I committed the experience to my sketchbook (seen on the right). My uncle and aunt shared an apartment in St. Louis when I was little that used to be a school at the end of the nineteenth century into the early twentieth century. That building was always uncomfortable – something my mother and I never discussed until I was an adult. She never saw the teacher but I did and feeling such negativity from a spirit that abused children in life frightened me into silence for years afterward. Mom knew I was telling the truth because she had the same sensations at the time as well. The teacher was not at rest, probably because she died believing she would be judged for her deeds in life and refused to move on, instead getting stuck in the building where those deeds happened.

Here are some more recent sketches of spirits. Again, please click on the photos to see the larger versions.

So let’s talk about these people. Three of them are spirits that I’ve met around my current neighborhood southeast of Grant Park in Atlanta. One of them (the soldier aiming a gun) was a spirit I had seen back in 1999 on a day trip to see North Georgia history barely a year after I moved here. My trip to Chickamauga always stuck with me and I wanted to memorialize this poor young man. The women are a bit different. They never hung around. Sometimes I have spirits simply passing through the area and I never see them again, which is completely normal.

The lady on the far left was dressed in that hazy area between the Depression and World War II. I woke up one night to find her bending over my bed looking at me curiously like she was trying to figure out who I was and what I was doing here. Naturally it startled me so hard that I jumped up and turned on my light (at the time I had a touch lamp that I could turn on without needing help with a switch). She wasn’t bad. She was actually very friendly as you can tell by her facial expression. What startled me was how bright her colors were. Usually I see spirits as faint shapes with washed out colors and the entire experience is not so jarring. This lady was bright, like illuminated, and her outer edges were pretty solid. At first I thought a living person broke into my house and that startled me into ready to fight.

On the far right is a lady that hung around for about a month. I had some communication with her after my mom and grandmother complained on more than one occasion of smelling smoke. Apparently Atlanta had a rather large city fire in 1917 around the Old Fourth Ward extending southward to almost where I live. I had never heard of it until I met the Smoky Lady (I give them all nicknames if they don’t give me real names). She indicated that she died of the smoke triggering an asthma attack from which she couldn’t recover and was never listed as a direct casualty of the fire. From what I recall, there weren’t any direct casualties. Why did she tell me? Who knows.

Celine II, Jessica JewettI’ve come full circle in a lot of ways with this spirit art. It began with drawing my past life memories, drifted into drawing the dead around my city, and now I’ve allowed myself to memorialize another past life of mine. Drawing allows my mind to go silent and I meditate on every little line. And when I need to release something to the universe, sometimes drawing it in great detail facilitates that liberation for me.

This is who I was in the eighteenth century. I witnessed the end of the French monarchy but I didn’t survive the Terror. It’s much clearer than my other sketches because it’s a recurring memory that I’ve experienced many times for over a decade now. The profile is actually a mirror reflection, which is the only way I’ve ever seen myself at that time. This is the face of a woman who knows her family will disappear soon.

Since I committed it to paper, I haven’t seen this reflection in my dreams again.

I’m in my thirties now and I find it much easier to do these spirit sketches. In my youth, I did them because I didn’t understand the things I saw and I was essentially trying to purge the weird from my system. Now I realize that these little pages in my sketchbooks are memorials for the forgotten people dead so long there isn’t anyone left to mourn or remember them. Now I consider it my responsibility to preserve their memories and give their souls a little bit of immortality.

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Please consider making a donation to help me keep up with the cost of art supplies, living expenses, equipment related to my disability, and so forth. The minimum is set at $10.00. Thank you for your generosity.

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My Love Affair With Arteza Fineliner Pens

Arteza Fineliners, Jessica JewettIt was a total impulse buy a few months ago and here we are now. My honest confession is that I can’t stop using these pens. They live on my desk on a permanent basis. I’m regretting the fact that I only got the 24 set considering there is the glorious bounty of a 72 set too.

Essentially what you’re getting is a metal tin filled with a variety of colors in the 0.4 mm tip size. To compare with the Sakura Pigma Micron fine liner sizing system, these pens are the same as their 04 size. That means you won’t get the super fine line you can get with the smallest Micron pens but I think Arteza isn’t going for the smallest line. They’re going for something in between that appeals to some professional illustrators right down to people filling in coloring books to relax.

Arteza Fineliners, Jessica Jewett Arteza Fineliners, Jessica Jewett

Now let’s look at the claims Arteza makes about the 24-pen tin that I purchased. The inks in these pens are water-based, which means they are nor permanent like other fine liners. However, they are advertised as being made with non-smudging, odor-free, and acid-free ink. The nibs are long-lasting metal-clad encased tips for precise detailing with rulers and stencils. The triangular-shaped barrel is designed for a perfect grip with the added benefit that they won’t roll off desks or tables. Another claim states that they are ideal for left-handed use.

I can’t say whether these pens are good for right- or left-handed people because I draw with the tools in my mouth due to my disability. I can, however, say the barrel is one of the big reasons why I favor this pen. If you have a mobility impairment, it’s difficult to catch or grab rolling pens, so the triangle shape is easier to hold. The plastic is sturdy as well. I’ve been using these pens regularly for a few months and I haven’t managed to crack any of them yet. So the barrel design is a major pro on the decision whether to try these pens or not.

On the other hand, water-based ink can be a con in the decision-making process because a lot of illustrators out there who use ink often prefer alcohol-based ink. Personally, though, I haven’t found the ink problematic so far. I have found the ink mostly smudge-resistant, bright, strong, and smooth. Only one green pen has minor drag issues but I think that’s a fluke in my pack as opposed to anything reflective of the whole set. That one nib is a little stiff compared to the others. The difference is so minor that I only notice a little drag when I have to fill in a block of color. It is true that the inks are odor-free. I’ve never smelled anything when I use them. When I draw thin lines or fill in color, the ink does not bleed or move around my paper (so far I have used three kinds of paper – two white and one gray). Generally, the ink in these pens is fantastic quality.

Art By Jessica Jewett cropped-artbyjjlogo5.jpg
Forget-Me-Not Pentacle, Jessica Jewett Here are some of my experiments with the Arteza Fineliners.

I’m working on mock ups and ideas for logos, headers, etc., for my art shop, website, business cards, and general publicity. Since they’re just mock ups, they’re not final products. I still have a lot of ideas to sketch out, but that’s the great thing about these pens. You can do a lot of different art styles with them. If I had the bigger sets with more color choices, I could do a lot more too.

The pentacle is something I did for fun, for myself. Pentacles are symbols mostly used by Pagan people today, although they have been used in ancient Christianity and other religious paths as well. It’s important to know that the upright pentacle seen here is a symbol of spirituality, positivity, power, and harmony in  the universe. The inverted pentacle, meaning one turned upside down, is a symbol of the darker arts. They’re not the same.

And forget-me-nots are an important flower to me and I’ve been wanting to practice drawing them. Drawing flowers wreathing different objects has been an exercise of mine lately. I’ve been working on mastering nature, greenery, flowers, rocks, trees, and so on, so I thought the Arteza Fineliners would keep my practice sessions interesting. I respond to color. I’m very stimulated by it. These colors make practice work and experimentation fun for me.

I highly recommend these pens.

You can buy the Arteza Fineliners on their website in different sets ranging from 24 to 72 in number. Prices range from $7.99 to $16.57 on their website at the moment. Those are sale prices and are subject to change at any time.

This was not a sponsored blog. I bought these pens with my own money and I wanted to review them for those who have disabilities and are looking for good products.

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My #CopicColors Challenge So Far

Last month, I came across an awesome art challenge on Instagram. I immediately wanted to get involved even though I was unaware of it until the second month, so I caught up quickly.

The challenge came about from the Copic brand of art supplies famous for their alcohol-based markers and fine liner pens among other things. On the first of each month, Copic announces three colors that we are to use to create art that month. It can be any kind of art we please but it has to be done only with the three colors they select (plus optional black or white pens for emphasis).

Copic Sea Ocean Markers

I used to be hesitant about using Copic markers. Okay, that’s not entirely accurate. I was afraid of using alcohol-based markers in general because I have to draw with my mouth. As most of you know, I have a disability that makes it impossible for me to draw or write or do anything else with my hands, which means I do those things with the tools in my mouth. If pens crack open or paintbrushes aren’t clean, I can ingest the ink or the paint or whatever, and I can get sick. But I was gifted a pack of ocean-toned Copic markers last summer, so I tried them out. Long story short, they are very well made and I’ve barely left teeth marks on the barrels whereas most markers or pens crack in the first use.

And when this drawing challenge came around, I got excited. I thought it would be fun to do an art project that a lot of other people were doing, like being part of a community.

I wanted to make sure, however, that being part of an art community didn’t compromise my artistic style. The truth is I’m not a typical artist. My subjects are almost always historical, inspired by feminine power in history, or reflective of my religious upbringing (I’m a witch raised by a witch). I knew whatever I did for the color challenge wasn’t going to be like the popular illustration style I’ve seen with Copic artists, nor did I want my art to fit into any mold.

Godey's Lady's Book, February 1856

In thinking about what I wanted to do for my year-long challenge, I only had to look to my antique book collection. I have a full year of Godey’s Lady’s Book from 1856. Godey’s was like a combination of Vogue and Martha Stewart Living for women of the nineteenth century. There are hand-colored fashion plates (like illustrating Vogue models, let’s say) that are stunning works of art to me. Just look at this one on the left from my book.

I love historical fashion plates and I wish we still used them. That was when it hit me. I can create fashion plates progressing from 1800 through the next twelve decades, but instead of copying the old style, I could use the Copic challenge to modernize it with color. I think there’s something interesting in exploring fashion history while layering it with modern color ideas.

Presto! My theme for this year-long project was born. I wrote it down to go like this:

January: 1800-1809
February: 1810-1819
March: 1820-1829
April: 1830-1839
May: 1840-1849
June: 1850-1859
July: 1860-1869
August: 1870-1879
September: 1880-1889
October: 1890-1899
November: 1900-1909
December: 1910-1919

It’s too bad we aren’t on a thirteen-month calendar because then I could have gone into flappers of the Jazz Age as my finale piece! Maybe I’ll do that for myself anyway after the rest of them are done.

Let’s look at the #CopicColor challenge pieces I’ve done so far. The paper I have been using with Copic markers is listed as the “Hammermill Paper, Color Copy Digital Cover, 100lb, 8.5 x 11” on Amazon. I was recommended that paper by Baylee Jae in one of her YouTube videos and I think it’s great for alcohol-based markers but not pencil art. It’s definitely best for ink. You get plenty for your money too.

Miss January – The Purple Lady of 1803

#CopicColors Miss January, Jessica JewettI found the inspiration for Miss January in a portrait from 1803 of a woman who actually lived at that time. I made her into a fashion plate instead of a painting, which created a new and different woman altogether. This was my first fashion plate illustration and I feel like I made some mistakes since I had no real experience before with this style. I’m honestly making it up as I go, which means I ought to be more forgiving of myself, but I’m very critical. I see lots of things that should have been done differently. Still, people seem to like it!

Miss January reminds me of Jane Austen, as does Miss February. You’ll see her in a second. All of Jane Austen’s stories took place in this period. Sometimes I call Miss January and Miss February the Jane Austen Girls.

January’s colors assigned by Copic for this art were B91, V17, and BV02. The only other tool I used was a Micron pen in size 02 for emphasis.

Buy Miss January:

5×7 print on Etsy for $10.00
11×17 print on Etsy for $20.00

Miss February – The Pink Lady of 1815

#CopicColors Miss February, Jessica JewettI’m personally very enamored of this one. I got the inspiration for Miss February from an illustration that was dated 1815, although I don’t know if it was an actual fashion plate or not. Sometimes artists just used the popular style of the period when they were doing pen and ink work. I think the original version was yellow but I might be mistaken.

Naturally I used the colors assigned to me instead and I changed some of the shapes. I’m not adept enough at this illustration style yet to draw it out of my head, hence the inspiration photos from the period. My goal is to be totally historically accurate down to the month if I can.

Miss February was specifically done this way to keep with the Valentine’s Day feeling. I like the way she’s gazing at a double portrait in her hands. I especially like the way she’s sitting incorrectly in her chair (according to etiquette at that time) because it tells me she’s a little bit of a rebel.

February’s colors assigned by Copic for this art were RV32, RV34, and E74. The only other tool I used was a Micron pen in size 02 for emphasis.

Buy Miss February:

5×7 print on Etsy for $10.00
11×17 print on Etsy for $20.00

Miss March – The Green Lady of 1822

#CopicColors Miss March, Jessica JewettI’d say this one has been the hardest for me to do so far. It was probably the plaid fabric that made me struggle as much as I did. I had trouble seeing where the natural skirt folds should be vs where the plaid pattern went. Green is a tough color for me to see for some reason. Multiple shades of green tend to blend into one bright shade if I’m not completely and utterly focused. I think I did fairly well, however.

The inspiration for Miss March did indeed come from a fashion plate dated 1822. I thought all of the foliage in this one made it nice for the green shades assigned to us, although the foliage was not colorized in the original. The first artist intended for the dress and hat (that feather!) to be front and center, so everything else was without color and distraction. I wanted Miss March to feel like a woodland nymph in a way.

March’s colors assigned by Copic for this art were G17, YG17, and YG23. The only other tool I used was a Micron pen in size 02 for emphasis.

Buy Miss March:

5×7 print on Etsy for $10.00
11×17 print on Etsy for $20.00

And there we have it! Those are all of the pieces I’ve done for the #CopicColors challenge up until the present. Sunday is April 1st, so we will most certainly receive our new color assignments that day unless Copic takes a day off for Easter. We’ll see!

I’m also tossing around the possibility of turning this series of illustrations into a calendar or maybe even a book of some kind. It all depends on what I feel after I have all twelve of them in front of me. It also depends on what interests my followers. Who knows? Maybe I’ll do a calendar and a book of short stories based on select illustrations. There are things that interest me about both ideas.

Keep checking back for more in this series!

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Video: Star Trek fan art

Recently, I posted a speed drawing video on my YouTube channel. Speed drawing videos are basically where you watch an artist complete a drawing without any tutorial tips. It’s sped up so you don’t have to watch hours and hours of tedious work that is, for the most part, only interesting to the artist.

This speed drawing was done as a birthday gift for my friend, Wendy. She was the one who took me on the Star Trek cruise at the beginning of January and we had a big discussion about whether Spock blushes green because Vulcans have green blood. Yes, we are a fabulous level of nerd. I told her I’d do a cartoon of Spock blushing green for her birthday when I got home again.

Cartoon illustrations are a weak area for me. I was trained in more of a classical, realistic style, which is why my illustrations look totally different than my “regular” art. I just haven’t had enough practice with this style to say I’m good at it.

Here’s the video.

And here is a photo of the finished illustration, which Wendy will own as soon as I get it mailed to her.

Jessica Jewett, Star Trek fan art
Star Trek fan art by Jessica Jewett. Copic Ciao markers, Tombow brush pens, Micron liner pens, and Prismacolor colored pencils on white 9 1/2 x 11 cardstock.

As always, if you enjoy my videos, please feel free to subscribe to my channel. I’m hoping to hit 1,000 subscribers this year. Your support means a lot to me!

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Please consider making a donation to help me keep up with the cost of art supplies, living expenses, equipment related to my disability, and so forth. The minimum is set at $10.00. Thank you for your generosity.

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Video: All of my art done in 2017.

I wanted to put together a compilation video of all my various art projects in the last year. Hopefully if I do this right, you should be able to watch the video below. I’ll also provide a direct link to the YouTube page in case it doesn’t work here for you.

Looking back on it now, 2016-2017 has been my biggest period of growth since I was a student, as far as my technique development and my creative experimentation is concerned. This past year I tried playing with subjects and ideas that I never would have considered a few years ago because I used to be so stuck in the little box of what should be viewed as “fine art”. That can be a bit of a downside to being exposed to any sort of classical training. You do need those technical skills but you’re also at risk of falling into the us vs them trap of what’s real art and what’s not. I’m happy to say that I think I’ve grown beyond that trap and I’m much more willing to experiment these days.

Now, let’s see if I can post the video here.

Here’s the direct link: https://youtu.be/Vo4z4gJbdq8

As always, if you enjoy my videos, please feel free to subscribe to my channel. I’m hoping to hit 1,000 subscribers this year. Your support means a lot to me!

Donation

Please consider making a donation to help me keep up with the cost of art supplies, living expenses, equipment related to my disability, and so forth. The minimum is set at $10.00. Thank you for your generosity.

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That time Jonathan Frakes saw me doing really terrible art, but it was okay.

Imagine, if you will, lying by a glorious swimming pool on a warm, sunny afternoon. You’re an artist, which means you carry around pencils and sketchbooks the way other people carry around gum and loose change. Since you’re on vacation, you’re hoping to sketch without the pressure of perfection. The coast of Belize is behind you. The breeze is a welcome relief from the humidity.

Jessica Jewett in Belize.
Jessica Jewett drawing on the Norwegian Jade off the coast of Belize.

Ah, there’s the happy place. You pull out your pencil bag and you begin sketching for no real artistic value – just for your own love of color and light. It’s a terrible sketch that you decide to redo properly once you’re at home with your “real” supplies. This is why you became an artist in the first place. Colors are stimulating and having total control over the story in your sketchbook is the most liberating feeling in a life that often makes you feel trapped in a wheelchair seat belt.

And then, it happens. You feel footsteps close by on the pool deck, so you look up and there he is fussing with his cell phone.

He’s your favorite.

He’s the reason you’re on this ship in the first place.

And he’s coming closer with the warmest grin despite being on the phone, because he remembers you as the lady with the smile and the lovely perfume from the previous night. A toxic sensation of dread and elation washes over you, leaving you rigid and unable to do anything but smile. You don’t want this charming human to see your terrible art lying innocently on the pool chair in front of you because you know you’re capable of so much more. The chance to be impressive is slipping through your fingers.

What’s worse is suddenly realizing your pencil is poking out of your mouth like a blueberry cigarette. You can’t spit it out right there in front of him. That’s so unladylike. Yet you wonder with certain horror if he’s silently trying to piece together why you’re on you’re stomach drawing with your mouth rather than your hands.

I can explain! I’m really a much better artist than this! Let me show you my gallery pieces!

It reverberates in your brain at the same rhythm as his approaching footsteps. Panic begins to bloom in your throat. He’s looking at you in your most vulnerable position, seeing you work with the pencil in your mouth because the universe never gave you the use of your hands. You’ve struggled your whole life to allow people to see you actively being different and he has no idea that it was an internal battle just to come out to the pool deck and draw in front of strangers.

Don’t stop. Please keep walking. But no, wait. You’re my favorite. I want to talk with you and take a photo together. Stay for a minute. Just don’t look at me with pity.

You manage to croak out something resembling, “Hello!” instead.

“Good afternoon,” he says in his cheerful way through his charming smile.

He’s disappearing into the crowds and the moment lets go of your throat. You breathe, torn between thanking the gods and goddesses that he was too busy with a phone call to stop more than a second, and wishing his call had come later so you might have enjoyed a few more seconds of your favorite.

A little while later, you peer down at your horrible sketch and you decide to finish it anyway. Screw it. Jonathan Frakes remembered you from last night. You’re a goddamn queen for a day.

Jessica Jewett, Belize sketch
“The Day Frakes Walked By” by Jessica Jewett. It reads: Upon this day on the ship Jade, whilst sketching the coast of Belize, Jonathan Frakes not only walked by my pool chair twice but remembered me from last night’s meeting. I am the lady with the smile and the good perfume. Always remember Jonathan Frakes likes J’adore by Dior. This sketch is really terrible too but thankfully he didn’t look too close. Oh, and Brent Spiner walked by my pool chair too.

And this, my friends, has been a dramatic retelling of my ten-second encounter with Jonathan Frakes. I wrote it to be tongue-in-cheek but I really did want to tell this story because every type of artist has intense insecurity sometimes, especially faced with another artist that they admire. Intimidation can be very toxic to a person’s creative energy in some ways but it can also push people to do better and challenge themselves more. It just depends on how you channel feelings of intimidation.

The truth is Frakes probably didn’t even notice my odd little setup that afternoon by the pool. If he did, nothing about it struck him as odd. He never stared or flinched or made faces like what the hell is going on here like some other people have done in my past. My tongue-in-cheek story is really a commentary on how we can talk ourselves into believing we’re being judged when that’s the farthest thing from the truth.

So be careful of that toxic thought spiral if you’re an artist. Not everything you do needs to be perfect. Not every artist needs to be perceived as perfect all the time because that’s simply not possible. Doing occasional “bad” art without the pressure to create a masterpiece actually makes you better at your craft.

Here we are in the full shot with my friends Dmitri and Wendy. I love Frakes so much that Wendy gave up her photo op tickets with Gates McFadden so I could meet him. That’s a true friend.

And I’m a true artist even if I was seen doing bad art.

Jessica Jewett, Jonathan Frakes
Jessica Jewett with Jonathan Frakes and friends, Dmitri and Wendy, on the Star Trek cruise in January 2018.

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