Jessica Potenza :: Biography of the artist

Harold Braul
View Jessica-Potenza’s paintings

Jessica Potenza is Self-taught. Jessica Potenza’s painting technique involves combining natural pigments with acrylic and ink, transferring energy to canvas with use of a Chinese brush and methods that she has discovered by trial and error throughout her practice. Jessica’s tendency to use natural pigments (ie. coffee) began early in her artistic explorations, when the only paint substitutes at her disposal were those found within arm’s reach while at home in the pantry or on the road working with horses. Jessica Potenza started experimenting with these pigments with Japanese ink and watercolours, and her technique has evolved from there. These days she more often substitutes Japanese ink for acrylic ink, mostly because it provides her with more choice of colours, but she continues to implement it into her works because she loves the organic effect ink has. She works light to dark, starting out with an almost transparent medium, then adding darker pigments and inks, manipuating them but still letting them do their thing. Ink has a mind of its own sometimes, and she finds it adds another dimension to her work. As for coffee, She dos find herself using it more sporadically, primarily because it is very unforgiving – permanently staining anything it comes in touch with, leaving absolutely no room for error. She does however love natural warmth and richness it gives to a piece, so usually manage to use it for detailing here and there.

As for the strip of linen or material that runs through some of her pieces – that all started in a collection of smaller abstract pieces on paper she made back in 2013. It was a study of energy in things such as dance, yoga, kamasutra. The energy in these pieces was either upwards or more drawn out, and she used a strip of craft paper tape to represent this before working with watercolour and ink. Jessica received a strong reaction from that body of work and feeding off of that, hoped to find a way to evolve it to larger format. In early 2016 she finally had the idea to put to use the offcuts of a roll of linen she had lying around the studio. This strip now exists in most of her work, always representing energy. 

Exerpt  from a recent interview

So why cranes? So since you have identified yourself so much with horses your whole life, do you plan on exploring different subjects and how will you choose them? How do you plan on balancing the subjects between horses? I.e. will you always paint horses as well? 

Yes! I absolutely plan on exploring different subjects, but just as life evolves organically so does my art practice. Over the years I have been asked or encouraged to pursue different directions, and while many of these are good suggestions, I believe in letting things happen when everything feels right. For one year (2012) I committed to studying the human figure – I wanted to learn proportions, and be able to draw the human figure as naturally as I knew I could horses, having drawn them my entire life. Actually, I held off on painting horses completely until 2014 … when the time felt right and I felt I was ready to launch myself into it. I really believe it was because the time was right that everything took off from there. After an opportunity with Mimi & Coco on Laurier, Cavalia discovered me and then from there, Bright’s Gallery. This then provided me with a demand to supply, encouraging me all the more in that direction.

The majority of my time in the past nine months has been spent supplying Artêria with inventory for the 9 international exhibitions we have done together – and it’s been a lot of nonstop painting. To give you an idea, at one time there were containers traveling to three different parts of the world, which meant supplying three shows at the same time. Although these art fairs are some of the top in the industry, they can be hit and miss depending on timing with respect to politics etc. I.e. I near sold out in Singapore, but was one of only a few artists’ pieces sold in NY – the day after the presidential elections. Shows like that can be discouraging, however it buys me a little time to focus on custom orders I need to get done, or equally as importantly, time to focus on new projects, new subjects and what feels right. This is actually the first time I feel I have some time to create, or recreate. Launching myself into avifauna (birds) is an idea I have been feeling out and thinking of for a while. 

Why birds? Not sure. I have always been intrigued by them, their freedom and their way of working together. Their synchronicity is fascinating. Last year while having my lunch on a paddleboard out in the middle of a lake while camping and creating in Algonquin Park, I felt blessed observing a loon swimming only a few meters away from me. I had painted a few loons back in 2013 and this reminder planted the seed in my mind that I should re-explore the subject. 

I am drawn to and have been influenced by the style, subjects and media used in oriental art. I grew up surrounded by oriental pieces (furniture and art) that my parents had collected over the years. I was always bewildered by them, loving their peacefulness and their intricate yet minimalistic execution. One subject in oriental art that have always been drawn to is cranes, “the bird of happiness”, also representing good fortune and longevity (Horses representing power and strength). I am currently working on a series of crane pieces, my vision being to eventually create a long wall of birds, arranging panels of different widths together.