The first thing you’re likely to notice upon meeting Jessica Dunbar is her hair. It’s teal. And purple. And blue. It brings out the soft gray of her eyes, and perfectly matches the paintings she makes in her spare time. It’s vibrant, like her smile when she talks about art. That’s because Jessica doesn’t just like color, she lives it.
“Color is my number one hobby,” she says. “The brighter and bolder the better.”
Jessica works in Full Sail’s Fine Arts Department, where she teaches Fundamentals of Art I & II. In her spare time, she creates masterful acrylic paintings that seem to burst off the canvas with color and energy.
A graduate of Full Sail’s Computer Animation program, Jessica knew she wanted to study art from an early age. Digital mediums were were just becoming popular around the time she graduated from high school, so it made sense to parlay her interest in fine art into something new and cutting edge. Now, with a decade of 3D experience under her belt, Jessica has managed to merge her two loves into one form by rendering each of her paintings twice—once in Photoshop and once on canvas. Given her background in 3D art, it’s easy to see how one style informs the other.
“I’m a modeler, and model work combines geometry and art techniques. You’re focusing on topology, all these little squares and triangles that add up to a unified form. I developed most of my painting techniques back in middle and high school, but my background in digital gives me the advantage of a point of reference. A lot of painters will be able to sketch something on canvas and just start painting. I like to plan it out digitally, so I can gesture and move things around.”
Although stylistically unified, Jessica’s paintings reflect a wide range of subject matter. Geometrically driven abstract pieces give way to works incorporating images from popular culture—the interior of Dr. Who’s Tardis, for instance, or a Velociraptor à la Jurassic Park. The familiar imagery allows the audience to connect with the artist via a common interest. It also provides Jessica with an opportunity to combine a variety of techniques into a single painting. The result is a dazzling combination of hue and texture.
“I started out painting portraits, which is why it’s surprising that I’ve become someone who works primarily in abstracts. At a certain point I missed drawing figures. I wanted to bring in more natural colors and shading, while still getting them to mesh well with the the colors and shapes of my abstract work.”
Jessica is also experimenting with new mediums. She recently started selling clothing and other textiles featuring original artwork. She says it’s a great way for people who might not be able to incorporate a painting into their design scheme to interact with her work on a more casual, day-to-day basis. In the future, she’d like to try her hand at more large scale projects. She completed her first mural last year, a reproduction of her piece “Tempest” in Full Sail’s Building 5. And the biggest goal, the one that motivates her the most, is to just keep working.
“When I’m having a block where I haven’t painted in a while, I notice that I don’t feel like my usual, creative self. But when I do get back to painting, suddenly I have more ideas than I have time to paint. The best inspiration is to just start doing it.”
“I don’t let myself get preoccupied with trying to achieve a particular mood or theme,” she adds. “In general, I’m just trying to take all the feelings I have about color, and relate them to other people.”
You can see more of Jessica’s work on her website.