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Finding balance between teaching and creating.

Artist/Teacher Jessica Clark

Artist/Teacher Jessica Clark

Fairmont, North Carolina artist/teacher Jessica Clark received a BA in Studio Art from UNC-Pembroke and an MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She now teaches all levels of visual arts, from beginning to Advanced Placement.

Your work is often a reflection of your culture. What benefits do you find in this? Do you encourage students to do the same?

Because my work is a reflection of my culture it is extremely personal. I learn a lot about my culture, family and history when I am doing research for my work. I think it is important to have a personal connection to the art an artist is creating. It really comes through in the work and the audience can connect to it more, plus it’s easier to explain. I encourage my upper level students to create work about something they care about, whether it is family, culture or social issues.

What challenges do you face on a regular basis?

I am a single mother, my son is 17, so it is possible to have a family and art career. It’s not easy but if you have a good support system and the drive, you can achieve anything.

For your Lumbee Pinecone series, you successfully combined various ideas and inspirations that wouldn’t typically be brought together. What prompted you to do this?

The Lumbee Pine Cone series began when I was teaching my students about mandalas. I usually try to create alongside my students in class so I started the mandala project along with them and it just took off. The first drawing was very similar to the mandala design but for the other drawings I began to look at spirals found in nature and the pine cone was a perfect place to start. In NC we are surrounded by pine trees and Lumbee people are often referred to as the ‘People of the Pines.’

How do you balance art making and art teaching?

I balance the two by bringing my work into the classroom and creating a lot on the weekends and during breaks. It’s important that students in an art class know that their teacher is capable of also doing the techniques that are being asked of them.

What does your schedule for making art look like?

 I don’t really have a schedule. Occasionally I make time to create art during the week but I also teach as an adjunct at UNCP so I no longer have much time for that. I like to create when I’m home alone so I can blast my music while I work. Usually on Friday night I will make time to create for a few hours then on Saturday I might paint for at least 4 hours. I work better at night so I try to get all my household chores done and start working around 6 or 7 pm then paint until I get tired.

Do your students see you making art?

I like to bring my art into the classroom and create along with them. Occasionally I have classes that can work independently and I can really focus on what I’m doing. If my work relates to the project they are working on I’ll work under the document camera so they can see my process.

How has teaching changed the way you make art?

Teaching has changed my art in a way I didn’t expect. I use materials that I didn’t use before such as watercolor and ink which is the medium for a lot of the Lumbee Pinecone  drawings. I have also expanded my art practice to include a variety of techniques and materials. Before teaching my primary focus was on painting but now I like to experiment and try new materials along with my students.

What advice would you give other artist teachers?

My advice would be to let your students see you work. And ask them for advice about your art. It will make them feel like they’re part of the process and they might want to try something similar to what you’re doing.  

What advice would you give to a brand new teacher who wants to be an artist as well?

Don’t be so hard on yourself. I often go weeks, sometimes months, without making my own art. But I might be drawing and painting in class along with my students so at least I am making something. And incorporate your practice into your classroom and teaching.

Why is it important to you to continue making art?

Honestly art helps to keep me sane. The school year can get stressful at times so it’s important to have something I can turn to for an escape. And I have built a practice and reputation as an artist so it is very important that I maintain that.

Find Jessica’s art work at:

Facebook Page: Jessica Clark Art

Instagram: @JessicaClark.Art

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Artist/Teacher Laura Voth

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