Claudia Lady Bird Johnson once said, "Art is the window to a man's (or woman's!) soul. Without it, he would never be able to see beyond his immediate world; nor could the world see the man within." When I look at Jess Buhman's watercolors, I feel like I'm gazing into her soul. She expertly uses color to create vivid and deceptively simple artwork. Artwork that is so stunning and unique that I've already set aside wall space in my bedroom. Please give a very warm welcome to Jess Buhman of Jess Buhman Art! Visit her Etsy shop here.
What is your name?
Jessica Buhman, but I often go by Jess.
Please describe your business.
I paint watercolor portraits, primarily of people, animals, and nature. I sell my paintings both on Etsy and in local shops.
How and why did you open your Etsy shop, Jess Buhman Art? Do you do this full-time?
I opened my shop on Etsy to see if anyone would have interest in my work. My shop sat dormant for a few months with just a few bird paintings in it. I was nearly ready to throw in the towel when I made my first sale. I was ecstatic! I made the sale on a particularly bad day when I was leaving an awful temp job. It was the little boost I needed to take bigger risks with my art and to put more faith into it. Though I didn't feel that painting would be my full-time job anytime soon, it made me feel like I could continue this thing I love and maybe people would keep responding to it. Though it is still not my full-time job, it has gone a lot farther than I had imagined. I never dreamed of making over 100 sales at the beginning - so you just never know where something might go. I am continuing to work hard on making my art into a business, but I am remembering to enjoy the process as well. I am hoping that if it continues to grow, I can still find a balance of creating for pleasure versus profit.
Tell us about your artistic background and why you find joy in creating.
I have loved drawing ever since I was little. However, I didn't really like painting growing up. I think art classes can be great, but for me I didn't like being told the right or wrong way to do something. I took art classes throughout my grade school years and took two art classes in college. After becoming an "adult", I kind of abandoned art until two years ago when I saw a painting on Pinterest that inspired me. It was a colorful watercolor portrait of a woman and was so free flowing. It made me want to attempt to paint again and see if I could create something similar. I started off painting again by mimicking others' work and this taught me a lot. I eventually developed a style of my own, though I still draw inspiration from all sorts of places, particularly photography.
Your style is so unique (to my untrained eye). I found you while searching Etsy for artwork and was immediately drawn to your shop. How did you begin creating such striking, bold art using watercolor?
I don't think I will ever cease to be amazed that others are drawn to my work. For me, it still feels very much like a hobby and I don't feel like I know what I am doing very much of the time, but I sure do enjoy doing it. What inspired me to try painting again (after several failed attempts growing up) was seeing artwork online that moved me. I saw styles of watercolor when browsing Pinterest that left a lot of negative space on the page. I decided to play around with ink and watercolor paints. I like that watercolors can blend together to create something so unexpectedly beautiful. A lot of times I have happy accidents painting with watercolors and that is why I love the medium so much.
Describe your life as an artist. What is your day to day routine?
A lot of times I plan to spend a whole evening painting, only to realize I am just not feeling it. One thing I have learned about creating is that you're either in a groove or you're not. You can't force it. So I have learned to set the paintbrush down at those times and go for a walk, listen to music, exercise, or do something that might inspire me. If I really don't feel it that day, I work on editing my listings on Etsy, promoting my work online, or pinning inspiration on Pinterest. For these reasons, I don't really have a set schedule when it comes to my art, but I try to work on SOMETHING in regards to it every day. I try to balance it with my day job, working at a non-profit health company and my other obligations. I really struggled initially with selling my work on Etsy because I was trying to juggle too many things at once. I have become a lot better at taking on only what I can handle, setting deadlines for myself, and consistently working on something regarding my artwork each day.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
I would say to make daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals for yourself. Write them down and monitor your progress towards them. There is something very powerful about putting goals into writing. Don't be afraid to dream big! Work towards your goals consistently, but try to find a balance between business and the rest of your life. You may want to set a limit for yourself in terms of hours working each day. Take advantage of free social media sites to promote your work, network with other artists, and reach out to local businesses to make connections, too. You will never know if something is a possibility for your work to progress until you ask/check it out.
What are 3 things most people don't know about you?
Most people don't know that I have struggled and continued to struggle with anxiety and depression. I am doing a lot better as of late, but art really helped me to get back in touch with myself when I was feeling lost. I had previously taught Special Education, but had quit teaching because it was causing me too much stress. I felt like a failure after quitting and like I had lost a huge part of my identity. When I was feeling particularly low, art was the one thing that made me feel like I could be good at something again. My hope is that my art can help others to see the world and themselves in a more beautiful way. I hope to help others with mental health issues in some capacity - even if it is just realizing that they are not alone or abnormal.
Are you working on any new projects this year?
This year I plan to continue to paint with watercolors, but also try a couple new mediums. I have tried painting with oil paints once and I plan to try many more times this year. I also am going to invest in a good camera for my birthday and try to learn some photography techniques from my friend and studiomate, Sarah Fuller who is fabulous with a camera. I am hoping that I can take photos to later paint or possibly combine with watercolors.
Connect With Her
Thank you very much for taking the time to read a bit about me. Please feel free to message me with any questions, comments, or just to say hi.
by MRH, CMO