21 SECRETS Spotlight :: Jessica Kovan


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Every Wednesday at Dirty Footprints Studio Tonia Jenny, the 21 SECRETS Creative Director & Course Manager,  is interviewing one of the talented teachers in our program.  Be sure to sign up for blog notifications below to never miss a spotlight — and CLICK HERE to check out past interviews. 

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Greetings Magic Maker!

This week’s Spotlight Artist is Jessica Kovan. On element that I adore in Jessica’s work is her inclusion of graphic and textural text. Jessica is another artist I first discovered through working on the Incite – Best of Mixed Media books. I was very keen to learn about the designing process she uses in her journal prior to creating a large piece of art. In her 21 SECRETS Paper, Glue, Scissors workshop—Going BIGGER: Your Art Journal as a Planning Tool to Paint—you, too can discover how to use this cool process for yourself! I hope you enjoy getting to know a little more about Jessica in the following interview.

How have your creative pursuits morphed or changed over the years?

Oh my. My creative life has been so circuitous. I spent a lot of years educating myself on a lot of different subjects, culminating in my Doctorate in Adult Education. To keep my sanity while raising three kids and working, I started taking pottery classes. Pure love. But the studio hours didn’t mesh well with raising kids. So I started painting—with my kids’ watercolor sets—what a gift. Over time, I realized I would rather be a full-time artist than a university professor. And voila. Here I am.

How are the things you value most in life reflected in what create?

It is very difficult for me to paint without an emotional connection. I pour my soul out on to a canvas. Pretty much everything I value in life is reflected in what I create. I don’t know how to do it any differently.

Is there a “secret message” you often want your work to convey?

There are often secret messages in my work. It isn’t necessarily that I want the message conveyed to others, I just need the message to be there. If the painting or journal page is about hope, then I will write messages of hope into the glue or into the wet paint. If I am trying to convey my love for nature, I might write a secret message to my grandmother into the glue about my love of a birch forest. These messages remind me and keep me focused on what I am trying to say with my painting. They keep me honest.

If we were lucky enough to see your workshop’s “outtakes” or “bloopers” video, what would be the scene?

I am so messy. I won’t stop the creative process to clean up. Why would you? My tools (paintbrush, scissors, rags, whatnot) seem to disappear before my eyes as I focus on creating. I have held a paint bottle sideways and spilled red paint (naphthol red, to be exact) down my front without realizing it because I was so focused. I don’t understand how artists stay clean and their surroundings stay clean. It’s baffling to me.

What is your life mantra?

Courage over comfort. Sometimes I have to repeat it over and over to myself.

I don’t think Jessica is alone in her art-induced messiness, do you? To see more of Jessica’s fabulous art and learn more about her process, check out her website and what she shares on social media.

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About Jessica

Jessica-Kovan_headshotJessica is a mixed-media artist and educator. Her art is characterized as thoughtful, storytelling and layered. Jessica uses her paintbrush, scissors and glue as tools for seeing and understanding. Drawing inspiration from the world around her, she expresses in her work what has captured her attention and heart. The additional inclusion of text in her  work serves as an important element for her own artistic expression. Growing up as the daughter of a teacher and a poet, Jessica naturally combines all of these elements.

Jessica’s artwork has been published in several books including Art Journal Kickstarter: Pages and Prompts to Energize your Art Journals, The Poetry of Presence and Incite: The Best of Mixed Media – The Art of Story Telling. She is an active member and signature artist of the International Society of Experimental Artists and the International Society of Acrylic Painters and is happiest when experimenting with new ways to create.

With a PhD in  Adult  Education, and as an Artist Educator for Golden Acrylics, Jessica truly enjoys combining her love for painting with her love for teaching. She offers workshops and classes both in person and on-line, focusing on helping people learn about themselves through creating.

Her paintings are in numerous private collections and have been exhibited and collected throughout the United States.


About Jessica’s workshop: “Going BIGGER: Your Art Journal as a Planning Tool to Paint”

Do you want to paint looser? Does a blank canvas stifle your creativity? Do you want to put more of yourself into your paintings?

Learn to use your art journal as a tool for planning out your painting. It is all about creating a freedom that allows you to capture your ideas and your emotions in your art journal while simultaneously working out your design, figuring out the best way to tell your story, and experimenting. You’ll be ready to tackle your larger project before you know it! And you’ll have captured the moment and your inspiration in your art journal. It’s a win/win situation!

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