Born in Wichita, Kansas, Jessica Burke (J.B.) is a figurative artist and educator that earned a Master of Fine Arts Degree from the University of North Carolina Greensboro. She is an Associate Professor of Art and Foundations Coordinator at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She is interested in the effect of popular culture on identity. Working mostly in colored pencil in bright contemporary palettes, her figurative drawings emphasize precision, focus and humor. Her creative work is in private, public and corporate collections. It has been included in competitive group and solo exhibitions nationally and internationally including the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts; the Toshima Gallery in Tokyo, Japan; the LuXun Academy of Fine Arts, Shenyang, Liaoning Province, China and the Kepco Plaza Gallery Museum, Seoul, South Korea.
At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to become an artist? Did the realization emerge slowly?
I did not embrace the possibility of being an artist until college. I was a political science major and took a drawing class as an elective. After that class, there was no turning back and I decided art was something I wanted to pursue as a career.
How did you evolve your style and favorite mediums?
I believe style evolves naturally with practice. Part of my style also deals with subject matter, no matter what I did, I kept coming back to the figure as a subject and theme. I am also continually challenged and sustained by perceptual drawing and anchoring my practice in observation. Even though I was traditionally trained as an oil painter, I have gravitated to drawing media for the last 10 years. My favorite drawing media are graphite and colored pencils. When working exclusively with charcoal and graphite, I really missed color, so that is why I started using colored pencils. There is also something meditative about the layering process and slow maturation of both graphite and colored pencil that appeals to me. For the last few years I have also been exploring digital drawing as a supplementary practice to traditional studio work.
What are your time management techniques? Do you have regular working hours...or favorite times to work?
As a professor, it is a constant challenge to manage my time between my teaching responsibilities, administrative tasks and my creative research/artistic practice. I have found that while I would love to have a regular studio schedule, it is just not possible and it works better for me to think of it as a priority instead of a luxury. This allows me to get in the studio whenever I can as consistently as possible. It is not a perfect solution, but it has created a compulsion that makes it feel really weird and uncomfortable if I go more than a couple days without getting in the studio.
Do you work on more than one piece at a time, or primarily just on one?
Typically just one major work at a time but I have smaller, more casual works going at the same time to give me a little flexibility.
Does trying something new and not knowing the rules -- the boundary pushing -- create anxiety or excitement in you? (Or both?)
Both, but I embrace it as a way to stay fresh and relevant. I don't want to be safe and just rely on what I already know how to do or ideas that don't challenge me.
Do you enjoy having the "duality of both chaos and control" or are you happiest with a set plan?
I am probably more comfortable with a plan. I like for the chaos to happen in the idea development stage so that when I am ready to settle down on making a particular work, I have a pretty clear plan in place.
Do you have any projects or events forthcoming?
My work was recently published in Manifest's International Drawing Annual Inda 13. I have an upcoming exhibition at Seminole State College in Florida. I am also part of a collective that will have an exhibition in Carrollton, GA in May 2021.
30 x 20”, Colored Pencil on Canford Imperial (Royal Purple) Paper, 2016
San Antonio Rose (The Bandit Queen)
30 x 20”, Colored Pencil on Canson Colorline (Fuchsia) Paper, 2016
A Dangerous Species
28 x 20”, Colored Pencil on Daler-Rowney Canford Paper (Bright Red), 2018