Jessica Lynn Foster is a visual artist and educator who teaches in various settings, including public school, workshops, and online classes. Inspired by nature, her abstract and botanical works reflect the beauty of the natural world through line, pattern, and color.
Are there recurring themes in your work? What is it about a subject that inspires you to continue exploring it?
Nature is definitely a recurring theme in my work. I think growing up in the woods of the Pacific Northwest has a lot to do with it. I was completely surrounded by nature and had access to a variety of landscapes to explore – beach, mountains, forest.
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners. Your purchases via these links may benefit Create Whimsy. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.
When I was in college, my thesis consisted of a series of wheel-thrown plates with illustrations of various viruses and bacteria that cause food-borne and water-borne illness. I can still draw e.coli from memory, it’s so beautiful under a microscope.
I am drawn to lines, shapes, and patterns found in the natural world. Whether it be a landscape or microscopic bacterium.
How has your creativity evolved over the years? What triggered the evolution to new media/kinds of work/ways of working?
My work has certainly evolved over the years which I think is really exciting. In college, I focused mostly on ceramics while creating paintings on the side.
After I graduated, I found myself without access to all of the ceramics supplies I was used to, such as a kiln and wheel. I began working more seriously on my paintings. Color, line, mark-making, and movement has always been evident in my work regardless of the media. It felt natural to bring what I was doing with glazes to a new format of gouache and paper.
I love to take art classes. I fell in love with colored pencils and learned to draw more realistic botanical drawings.
In the past year or so, I began cutting up my paintings and drawings and weaving them together. It’s been such a fun new way to explore and play with my artwork.
I see the evolution of my work occur both from a desire to learn new things and also boredom. I don’t like to do the same thing for too long. Taking classes or a pair of scissors to a finished work are both ways to keep things fresh for my brain.
Do you plan your work out ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
Both! With my new weavings, I often have an idea of which two paintings will end up being woven together and that will dictate some of the colors, lines, and shapes that I use. However, I’ve also been experimenting with weaving paintings that I hadn’t planned on in the first place. One of my favorite pieces is woven with scraps leftover from other projects.
I think there is something very therapeutic in allowing yourself to just play and explore without a plan in place sometimes. As a natural planner and organizer, it’s important to me that I make space for myself to be more playful.
How do you know when a piece or project is finished and needs no additional work?
I usually know when one of my abstract works is finished. If I feel like it’s close to being complete, I step away from it for a few hours or days and then come back to it. If I want to add one more thing, I try to restrain myself because I have a habit of overworking and overlayering things. I have learned that if I stop myself two steps ahead of my initial idea of completion, I usually like it more.
However, I really struggle with knowing when my colored pencil floral drawings are finished. I have been lucky enough to take botanical drawing classes with a wonderful teacher, Clair Gaston. Through her feedback and the suggestions of other students I am better able to figure out how to finish something.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I have a spare bedroom in my home that I share with my husband as our work spaces. I have a desk on one side with storage and natural light from the windows. He has a desk on the other side for his work-related computer setup. We always envisioned that we would somehow share the space simultaneously. In reality, neither of us feels in the zone when the other is there so we take turns.
I love to take my work outside when the weather permits, being outside while painting is my favorite.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I have a sketchbook that serves as both – I will sketch, do color swatching, and journal in the same book. I also keep every sketchbook I’ve had since college and reference them often.
I’ve noticed that having a practice of sketching or writing daily helps me stay focused on the projects that are in-process. Even if a few days go by that I’m not actively working on an artwork, thinking about it keeps it fresh in my mind and keeps those creative juices flowing.
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
I am always working on multiple things at once. I like to have variety happening in the studio so I have options depending on what feels best that day. The exception to this is when I’m working on a botanical drawing. I can only work on one of those at a time. They take so much time and dedicated focus that only one can be in process. I still may jump between that and a weaving or abstract painting to break things up. Some days I need to paint and that’s all I will do.
Some days, I lay all of the paintings out, pair them up, and start cutting and weaving with a TV show on in the background. Other days, it feels best to spend four uninterrupted hours drawing just a few petals of a detailed flower while listening to a podcast. I like to give myself flexibility to choose what best suits me that day.
If you could have just 5 items in your studio, what would they be and why?
A thick black pen because often pencils leave too much room for perfectionism for me. I love to draw with something permanent so I don’t have a chance to even think about erasing.
Heavy mixed media paper because good paper is the crucial foundation for my work. Scissors to cut and collage when something isn’t working. Gouache and a good brush to round things out as my favorite medium for adding color with the perfect amount of opaqueness.
Do you think that creativity is part of human nature or is it something that must be nurtured and learned?
This question comes up a lot for me working in art education and I truly believe that it is both. I think humans are naturally creative without a doubt, it is so easily seen in young children. I think that as we get older, the pressure from society to specialize in something or to be exceptional in a field grows. Many of us leave art-making or creativity altogether.
There are undeniable benefits by making time and space to be creative. Two things here: 1. Creativity can be practiced. Art making is a skill or a muscle that you can practice to get better at. If you feel like you’ve lost it, you can find it. 2. Being creative and having a creative practice are worth doing, even if you never sell anything or post it to Instagram.
I hope that students in my classes find that making art is worth doing for the sake of our brains and bodies, if nothing else. I’ve had people tell me “teaching art must be so fun, what if one of your students becomes famous one day?”. This should not be the central concern. How you measure up to others or whether or not others deem it worthwhile is besides the point.
Tell us about your blog and/or website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My website can be found at www.jessicalynnfoster.com where I have paintings, drawings, and linocut printed cards for sale. From there, you can also sign up for my newsletter which is so infrequent, you may only receive two emails per year from me. It’s an opportunity for me to share when I’m having a sale or upcoming show for those not on Instagram. For the most updated information and to see what I’m up to, follow me @jessica_lynn_foster on IG
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
I love teaching workshops, especially when there are kids involved! I’ve been an art teacher for 8 years and sharing art with others is a huge passion of mine. Get in touch with me at [email protected], I would love to connect with you.
Interview posted January 2023
Browse through more inspiring interviews on Create Whimsy.