We had the good fortune of connecting with Jessica Buhman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jessica, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
Over the course of the last few years, I have become especially focused on how my art business can help my community and others. When I first started painting, I primarily focused on painting things I thought to be beautiful. My focus has shifted slightly, especially over the last few years to asking myself, “How can my art send a message? How can my art help others?” Though I still like to create to try to add beauty to the world and share that with others, I felt called to make more paintings with political or encouraging messages. I had painted a phoenix for a customer a few years ago, but when the pandemic hit, I started painting a lot more phoenixes. The phoenix symbolizes renewal and rising up from the ashes. It is an especially powerful symbol right now.
I am fortunate that I live in a community that is very supportive of the arts. We have a group called Free Art Fridays Twin Cities where artists “hide” a free piece of work somewhere around the Twin Cities and post clues to help others find it. I have used this group to hide many original pieces and prints of my work. I painted a lot of quotes or positive affirmations during the start of the pandemic and hid those in various areas. It has felt good to share art with the community when we have been hurting and you sometimes feel helpless as to what to do.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have been actively painting for nearly 10 years. I loved drawing growing up, but I never felt competent in painting. I saw a watercolor artist, Cate Parr’s work online in 2012 and it really inspired me. She creates paintings of primarily women in an abstract, colorful style. I loved how loose her work was and how the colors blended together so seamlessly. I also loved the amount of negative space she used. Her work helped me to realize that you don’t have to do watercolors in a certain way. There can be a lot of negative space and you can be messy. It can just be YOUR way. I admittedly first tried to mimic her style, which is actually a big no-no in the art world. I have since messaged her confessing this. It is how I learned and her work really motivated me to create at a really dark time in my life. However, I eventually found a style of my own painting primarily animals. I especially love painting eyes, as they convey so much emotion and spirit. I often paint an animal in a sort of mug shot style — looking straight at you. I try to get the eyes detailed and then get loose with the rest of the painting. I have been called a colorist before, as my work relies on bold, vivid colors that often make my work recognizable.
I have gone through and continue to go through many learning curves in owning my own art business. It can be hard to find a work/life balance. Since I work 30 hours a week at a non-profit healthcare organization and am a mother to a 3-year-old girl, it can be hard to find time to create and work on my art business. I have made it a point to do at least one thing related to my art business each day. Even if it is just sharing a post on social media or sending an email — it has helped me to continue to work towards my art goals, while having a day job.
Over the course of the last 9 years, I have made several mistakes and the goal is to learn from them. I try to speak with other artists to help them avoid making the same ones! I am hoping that my background in teaching can help me a bit in this new chapter to help other artists. I am going to be hosting an online watercolor class soon and it is my goal to create a course on selling art online within the next year. I want other artists to know that they don’t have to feel 100% ready in order to pursue their passion, you just have to start and be willing to learn along the way!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my best friend was visiting from out of town, I would first take them to the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District for both dining and entertainment. Northeast Minneapolis is filled with hundreds of artists’ studios in primarily historic, industrial buildings. It is home to the largest open studio art crawl in the country, Art-A-Whirl that takes place in May of each year. There is also an assortment of breweries and restaurants to choose from. Since I love craft beer, it is the perfect combination! We would grab a pint or two from one of the breweries, such as Dangerous Man or Indeed Brewery. Then we would walk through different old buildings, peeking in artists’ studios that are open. At some point, we would have to visit The Guthrie Theater where you can get a spectacular view of Downtown Minneapolis and the Mississippi River.
There are endless options for delicious food and drink in Minneapolis, but one of my favorite places for food is Christos. They serve delicious Greek food in Uptown Minneapolis. The staff are always welcoming and it has a simple, beautiful Mediterranean ambiance with white walls, blue accents, and plants galore. I love the Greek salad, but anything there is delicious. Then we would venture to Volstead’s Emporium, a speakeasy. It is within walking distance of Christos in Uptown Minneapolis, but in true speakeasy fashion, is difficult to find. You enter in the back of the building and go down a basement. They have delicious beverages and food, plus a unique ambiance and experience.
If my friend was visiting during the fall, I would take them on a drive to Taylors Falls, Minnesota to see the beautiful changing leaf covers along the way and hike along the Saint Croix River. There is also a magical place called FAWN-DOE-ROSA just across the Minnesota/Wisconsin border in Saint Croix Falls, WI. It is a farm and petting zoo where you can feed deer, ducks, and other animals are freely roaming. I am a big fan of deer, so when I first visited here, I was so excited by how they come right up and eat out of your hand. I have recently enjoyed sharing this experience with my daughter.
We would probably avoid the Mall of America, unless my friend reaaaally wanted to go, as I am not a fan of malls and this one in particular is a big one. Instead, we may opt to go the Minneapolis Institute of Arts where you can find over 90,000 pieces by many prominent artists, including Vincent van Gogh.
Though Minneapolis is my first love, I now live in Saint Paul and it is really growing on me. I would take them to another brewery in Saint Paul, Barrel Theory that makes a wide variety of delicious, hazy ales. Then we would likely venture to The Commodore for dinner. The Commodore was a frequent stop for F. Scott Fitzgerald and makes you feel like you are transported back to the 1920s.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to give a shoutout to my parents for allowing me to pursue my passion for painting and helping me at a time when I was really struggling. I went to college in 2005 – 2010 and received degrees in Elementary Education and Special Education. I worked in schools for nearly two years after college, but realized teaching was not for me. I hit a really low point in my life after I left my teaching career, where I thought since I did not feel competent teaching children, I would not be competent in anything. I had a major depressive episode and was also struggling with anxiety. It was really hard for me to ask for help, but I knew I needed it. I moved back in with my parents and they helped facilitate help for me, I started seeing a therapist and took medication at that time (both of which I was hesitant to do). In between working an assortment of awful temp jobs, I spent nearly all of my free time painting in my parents’ kitchen. Though they wanted me to find a job that I could do permanently, they also knew how much painting helped my mental health at that time. I created a majority of my paintings during the year I lived in my parents’ basement. If it was not for their support and help getting on track mentally, I am not sure where I would be!
Besides painting, I schedule medical appointments for a nonprofit healthcare company for my “day job” and occasionally get to speak with others who need to schedule their first mental health appointment. If someone seems hesitant to ask for hep, I try to let them know that it is one of the bravest things they can do. I also try to emphasize that though I am not sure when or how things can get better for them, that they CAN get better in time.