From now until October 5, Tomato Head features the many-hued and luminous paintings of Jessica Payne. One of our favorite local artists, Jessica’s work fills the space with vivid color and imagery that never fails to excite conversation. One of her favorite memories is when, “I was eating at the downtown Tomato Head during one of my exhibits a few years ago, and I saw a family in the middle of the room looking around and discussing my paintings. At one point a little girl, maybe 8 or 9 years old, went up to look closer and immediately turned around and with a frown said, ‘Mommy it’s already sold.’”
Jessica grew up in Knoxville as the youngest of six in a long line of artists, and drawing and painting were hobbies that she came by naturally – both her father and grandmother spent their free time putting color on canvas.
But while she took art classes and thought at times that her career might veer toward the arts, it was only after she took a degree in Social Work and Women’s studies and started a path to law school that she felt a tug to a more creative vocation.
It was in the week of her 25th birthday while she sat outdoors when she committed to a different way of life: “I spent my birthday weekend sitting and observing so many beautiful things that had been around me for a long time. I felt an intuitive pull to change my life in a drastic way.”
Promptly thereafter, Jessica joined Americorps where her urge to create found expression in the earth as she worked to help establish Beardsley Farm; later the same urge would lead her to study cooking, until finally through a variety of online courses and her own drive, she found both an approach and technique for painting that helped unlock her artistic life.
She says: “A huge thing I learned from artist Flora Bowley, after taking her online course Brave Intuitive Painting, is to keep painting until something works.” This approach helps keep Jesssica’s creative energy in flow, and it works in conjunction with her technique of layering.
“I find something that works and then focus on that. If it doesn’t work, I paint over it. I often keep painting over my canvas until something clicks or sparks with me. This opens the door to the philosophical idea of non-attachment. I’m not afraid to paint over something that I spent a while creating if it no longer works/looks pretty.”
Jessica’s technique results in vibrant and multi-faceted imagery that contains the genuine chaos of natural creativity that, she says, eventually evolves into order: “After I have a few layers of marks and colors, I like to take my painting outside and look at it far away. I like to see if I can see any images in the painting…sort of like seeing images in clouds. Sometimes I see birds, mountains, vases, trees. Working and expanding upon what is already there after the spontaneous marks, is part of my process, too. This process is so fun and mysterious.”
One of the most fun aspects of Jessica’s art is that her paintings often shine. She says, “I love things that sparkle. My inner five year old is always ready to play with glitter! Because of the use of glitter and mica, my paintings change when the light source changes. There are many times when I walk by a painting and it sparkles so much that it looks like it is plugged into electricity. When the sun hits a painting with glitter, it glows.”
The color, the variety of imagery, not to mention the playful use of glitter and mica, give our featured artist’s work a liveliness that almost leaps from the walls in a joyful celebration of the beauty that surrounds us and lives inside us, too.
Don’t let it pass you by.