Let’s begin! I usually start with some background information. I like for the artists to see that we come from all backgrounds, ages, and walks of life!
Where are you from? Where do you live? Are you married? Children?
I’m originally from a small town of under 1,000 people in rural Northeastern Nebraska. I went to school at the University of Kansas as a painting major and then moved to Los Angeles when I graduated. I am married (14 years!) and have two boys, ages 12 and 7.
Wonderful! If I may ask, how old are you?
Oh great! So, tell me, do you still paint!
This is my “second” career. I was a graphic designer / art director for video games for many years. I only bought a camera 6 years ago.
I gave up painting when I had kids. It was too messy and the chemicals were too dangerous and I didn’t have room in my house.
Oh wow!!! That’s an amazing career!! I used to want to be a game designer!
So photography became my outlet once I had my second son and no longer was employed by a video game company.
Oh I definitely understand!
Ha, yes. I wasn’t a game designer.
I was in charge of the art for marketing.
I did all the box covers for games.
World of WarCraft for Blizzard was my last title before I “retired”.
That’s amazing!! How cool!!! You have amazing experience then!!!
That is really exciting to know actually! I’m sure a lot of people will love to know that!
I think that line of work – conceptual ideas for posters, ads, box covers — really helped shape my photography
What made you pick up a camera instead of something else?
Because I wanted nice photos of my children.
My sister is a photographer
She started about 6 months before me.
Ah I see!!!
She does a lot of portrait work.
I will be sure to check out her work!
I admired her stuff and wanted to take photos of my own babies.
I needed a creative outlet too.
It’s how I work thru emotions and how I feel good about myself.
Yes, I understand! .You started out with taking photos of your babies and how did that evolve into something else?
How did you start doing more creative work?
Yes, very soon I wanted to take photos of a LOT of things, mostly portraits.
But in my head, I was always thinking of painters I admired.
And you were inspired by that?
I wouldn’t have cared so much about photography had I not been able to do all the fun digital stuff with it that my background in art taught me. I LOVED adding textures, playing with color, playing with light. Trying to make my work not look like stuff I was used to seeing, trying to have fun with it and be experimental.
My first real “conceptual” work that was for me, was around then
WOW! That’s great. So, after starting portrait work… you turned it into a business? Started taking portraits for clients?
Yes, I did. I was doing standard portrait work, just not weddings. But family pics, holiday cards, newborns, etc.
You began doing conceptual work. Do you remember what that work was? Can you tell me about it?
This was maybe my first real one. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jessicafressica/3040962367/ Can you see that?
And from then on you kept taking clients and did more conceptual work?
That is from 2008, I was just experimenting. But it was the first time I ever used a model to express something that wasn’t about them, but instead was about me.
What were you wanting to express?
That photo was about a miscarriage.
It was a powerful thing to be able to express.
Even in a quiet way.
It made me feel better.
That’s exactly the message I got from it. That’s such a beautiful message.
And yes, conceptual work can serve as a sort of therapy for many of us.
It didn’t matter if anyone understood it or not for what it was about for me, it could mean something else to them, but I was moved when people seemed to get an emotion out of it, I felt a connection to them.
I think I am looking to try to connect with people without offering up this or that sob story that is all about me.
We all have our painand our stories and our happiness.
And sometimes it’s nice to connect on a certain level that can be shared.
Where it’s not just about me, it’s about us.
Does that make any sense?
That’s definitely true. What a wonderful perspective you have on this. Maybe it’s best to leave it to speak to ourselves (as artists) and then to the audience without telling them what to feel?
I think so.
But I am a very private person.
From a very small town.
Where you don’t go broadcasting your life.
Good or bad.
I have the “Midwestern Reserve”
But I also like it when as an ADMIRER of other’s art
I can feel like it’s not so specific to one experience.
So, it’s more about “I feel alone” than “I felt alone that one time that….”
Because we all have times where we feel alone
Okay. I can see and understand that. I see that you simply want to connect by letting the image speak for itself. You want your art to move a person, to convey your message on its own without you having to explain.
Shifting into another topic, talk to me a little bit about something surprising that comes with success. You are a very successful artist and I know that sometimes, everything is not happiness.
Sometimes I feel bad when people say “I want to be really well known” because they don’t understand that there is a really sad side to that sometimes.
Again, not that I’m really well known but it’s been very weird seeing how certain people have acted towards me the last few years.
Since I started getting stuff published.
Perhaps. But it’s just so odd because I don’t care about any of that stuff. I am just trying to make sure that I can work enough to help take care of my kids and not have to go back to a full-time job.
Something else is that with all of this… you sometimes lose friends. Friends that you thought were good ones.
Yes. You want to believe in people but then at some point, something happens, and you realize they were only a friend to get something from you or they get mad at you for things out of your control.
So you picked up your camera to photograph your kids. You photographed lots of different things, then got into portraiture and finally began creating conceptual work. Then, you were inspired by painters that you like? Did they influence your style?
Tell me about that!
About the painters and your style!
My very first love is post-modern art – stuff that was coming out of New York after WW2 – and I think it’s subtly reflected in that I could care less about “rules” that some photogs seem to be bound by. But in portraiture, I am thinking a lot about people like Ingres, Singer-Sargent, Velázquez, Albert Pinkham Ryder.
I also greatly admire the illustrator Andrew Wyeth.
I love the portrait of Madame Monet.
I remember seeing it when I was in high school.
WOW! That’s incredible. Yes, that is beautiful.
I purposely got “lost” from the group in DC so I could see that painting.
Oh WOW! haha, you were very passionate weren’t you? It looks like you still are.
It was a risk as I would have been sent home for leaving the “buddy” system but I didn’t care
I was going to see that painting.
How did you learn to channel that style into your own work? I assume that’s how you came up with Jessica Drossin Textures?
I think textures / overlays can do very interesting things.
They are done apart from your work so they are kind of random.
They introduce something different and they change the work.
It’s exciting, not having all the control.
That’s definitely true!
That’s where my love of post-modern comes in.
I love collage, I loved the whole Kurt Schwitters Merz
thing… adding junk and elevating it to art.
haha, WOW! I love “hearing” all this.
I had a great painting teacher.
He would tell me that my favorite part of the painting was the part I needed to destroy because it was holding back the whole part.
I had to try to re-invision things as a whole.
Little details, little favorite spots were holding me back. Textures / overlays throw a whole different look, force you to reevaluate.
WOW. Gotta love art professors. I’ve heard similar things from mine. They see things differently though and I love it.
It’s just so great, so inspiring.
And thinking about what ART is reminds you that ART isn’t necessarily popular.
Very! LIke you!!! You have definitely inspired me today!
You are NOT supposed to worry if you’re not getting 5 billion likes on FB.
You are just supposed to be concerned with doing something that has meaning and is solid.
My personal work, I try so hard to do that.
I think we all get a big boost in our ego when we get all these likes but honestly, it makes me so happy when I see the end result of whatever piece I’m working on. I can see what I’m capable of and that if I work harder I can get even better results.
And like we were saying before, usually it’s a sort of catharsis… whatever feeling we had, we expressed it and can sometimes let it go.
I have mentioned this before, but one day I put up a photo from Eugene Smith and it only got about 70 likes. It won the Pultzer and changed an industry.
So you cannot judge yourself or your work or others work by LIKES.
Okay, I want to know about Jessica Drossin Textures. How did you develop it? How was it born?
OK Long story
This is one of my “pre-photography” projects.
Oh my gosh that’s so awesome.
Actually – this is a better one to discuss as it was the first time I really figured out textures
that I made myself.
So I was using textures I made to blend things for my work then, that job ended.
So along comes digital photography.
And at some point, I heard about photographer’s textures and gave them a try.
I learned I really enjoyed making my own — they were like creating little abstract paintings!
It was so fun and relaxing!
I love abstract art.
Oh wow, you make your own! That’s wonderful!
I never thought of making my own!! haha
Oh I love it!
I’m a huge fan of people like Frankenthaler, rothko, etc. So, it’s my chance to make digital paintings.
I get very into it.
But then the challenge arises — how to get it to look decent on a photograph?
I modify it and rework and modify and rework.
Basically about 5 years ago, someone said “can I buy your textures?”
So I made maybe 10 and there was this girl on Flickr, I don’t even know anymore.
But she was a “contact”.
She had 5 kids and her husband left.
I put my 10 textures together and asked people to donate money to her
and that was the first texture pack.
I’ve made sooooo many since.
What a great and interesting story.
And they change to reflect how I’m changing as an artist.
I never use the old packs any more, but many still enjoy them.
I create new ones when I’m tired of what I have
or want to go a different direction.
I cannot wait to buy some of your packs. I need to save up for it. They are perfection.
I do have freebies!
I will go find them!!!! I think I have like one or two of your free textures.
I want to say they should all be on my jessicadrossin.com website.
I will let you know! And so it all became a big part of your business then?
Yes, it kind of became its own monster.
Have you done well with your business?
I think so because I’m still very inspired to keep working. I’m able to pick my own projects at this time and do not have to go back to a 9-5.
That’s incredible and truly the best thing one could ask for.
What is your favorite part of all this?
I love shooting. I love processing. LOVE. I also really do enjoy making products – I love getting feedback from people, I love feeling like I’m collaborating with other artists. I never ask that people say that a cloud overlay or whatever is mine in THEIR art, but I LOVE seeing it there. It just makes me happy to see that I’m helping someone else find their vision.
I HATE the administrative type stuff.
Haha! I bet
But there is so much I love that it’s OK.
What special projects have you done that you are truly proud of?
I’m most proud of some of the therapeutic projects I’ve done with others — the series about my friend who lost her newborn and the series about the little girl who lost her friend. It means a lot to me that I can give something back to people who have lost something of that magnitude. I’m very excited about the Nebraska book project I am working on. Honestly, it’s evolving differently from what I had envisioned, but I’m excited about where it is going. I am also very excited about the job of taking photos a Grammy-winning Jazz musician for his next album. I am still trying to make sure the schedule works as they would need me for 6 days in New Orleans but I’m very, very excited.
I used the word excited far too many times.
The coolest thing ever though was working with George Lucas in Prague on documenting the scoring session for a film.
The work isn’t fine art, but I ADORED that project and I love the fact I was able to do something in my career that was with my childhood idol George Lucas.
WOW, congratulations to all of that! It all sounds beautiful!
What are your goals for the future?
I’ve been very lucky.
I would like to make short films and I would like to work on more photo-books.
Oh I love that!
I like telling stories but can never figure out a beginning or and end
so I hope to do some stories where you only see the middle.
And you can make up the rest.
OMG THAT’S THE MOST AMAZING IDEA EVER!
You are so creative!
haha! Thank you!
Tell me what advice you’d like to give fellow creatives out there who want to follow their dreams?!
Firstly, be inspired by others but don’t try to be them. Be you. I realize everyone gives this advice but people are so quick to try to chase what is popular instead of thinking about what it is that truly means something to them.
I would like to see people be more confident.
I would like for them to truly think about their work — be critical of it themselves — before they put it out, but then once it’s out there in the world, OWN it. Stand behind your decisions.
There are soooooo many loud mouths in photography.
You have to tune them out.
Or you’ll be utterly confused about what it is YOU want.
When you are just starting out, experiment.
Don’t try to lock in on a style right off the bat.
Just produce. A lot.
I really think that is a big deal.
Working and finishing.
Not pining over an image for weeks and weeks.
I love all this advice.
Don’t let things become too precious.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. But keep moving.
Does that make sense?
Yes it does. It’s perfect advice. I love it.
It’s an excellent ending to this interview/conversation.
I have enjoyed talking with you, so much!
Well thank you! I enjoyed talking to you as well!
Jessica’s Gift of Inspiration:
Hurry, it expires in 5 days!!