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Check Out Jessica Fontenot’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Fontenot.

Hi Jessica, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
It all started many years ago when I was about to go to pharmacy school and made the decision to go a whole other route and go to art school. I went into graphic design, figuring it was the most practical of the art degrees I could get. I ended up working for ad agencies and tech start-ups for a few years, but I was always making my own art on the side. In 2016 I began a project of drawing a different building everyday for a full year. I posted them to Instagram, and it grew from there. I started doing commissions for people and started making images for businesses, navigating my own way through what being an illustrator meant. I did both for a few years, freelance illustration and a full-time design job—and in the summer of 2019, I became a full-time artist. Since then, I’ve been focused on developing my work and building the business.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Gosh, no. I’ve been extremely fortunate most every step of the way, but that did not make it easy. A lot of the early bumps were hearing from so many people that being a full-time artist was not going to work—you won’t make enough money, salary jobs keep you safe, there are too many talented people out there for you to succeed, etc. I had to really learn how to believe in myself outside of everyone else’s opinions. Another big bump was when I was balancing both freelance illustration and my full-time design job. I did it for two years while saving up to leave my salary job, and I remember being emotionally and physically exhausted from the overwhelm of doing both. I worked nights and weekends, and at the time, was fueled by the desire to build my portfolio as a working artist. In hindsight, that time taught me time management, perseverance, patience, and a bunch of other soft skills that I’m thankful for now.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
My artwork is focused on our everyday surroundings and the beauty of it that often gets overlooked. I began my art career drawing a different building every day for a year—and buildings are what I’m most known for! Which I love because I am deeply in love with buildings. Not just big gorgeous ones, but the dive bar with the old sign, the family restaurant with the quirky paint job, the house that my grandparents raised their families in, etc. I do a lot of commission work for my clients, where I memorialize a special place that holds a memory for them or their loved ones. It’s one of the big joys of my work. I also love to draw machinery and trucks because they’re so complex and unique and sometimes colorful! It’s another part of our everyday world that holds a lot of beauty, but we’re all so used to it. A recent project that shows what sets me apart is my What We Have Lost poster. I drew a large poster of 28 businesses that closed in Austin due to the pandemic. I remember seeing headlines throughout 2020 of this place closing and then that place closing and it kept breaking my heart. At the end of the year, I knew I was the person to make a piece dedicated to what we lost in our town. It’s a great example of how my love for buildings plays out in my work.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
Self-determination. And patience! Self-determination is the biggie though because no one was guiding me into how to become an artist. Actually, everyone was trying to guide me away from it. Every step I took to getting where I am at now, I took on my own and decided it for myself on my own. Self-belief that it was the right thing for me is what pushed me forward in each of those moments. Patience is a big characteristic too that is worth mentioning. The ROI on creative pursuits is very slow if there’s even a return at all. So much of this artist’s life is about exploring and trial and error. You can’t really figure out till you try, and try and try some more. For me, I have to be patient in hoping that a lot of the trial and error and hard work will pay off one of these days in some way that I can’t predict today.

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