Artist Spotlight: Jessica Pisano

Inspired by the natural beauty of her hometown of Martha’s Vineyard, Jessica Pisano’s interest in art started at a young age. She pursued her passion for the arts at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, graduating in 1999 with a BFA in painting and photography. Pisano participated in a year abroad program to study fine art at the Lorenzo de Medici School in Florence, Italy. In 2002, she earned an MA in Arts Administration from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Jessica is an award-winning artist and her work is widely collected in both private and public collections all over the world. She lives on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard, MA.

Jessica Pisano art, tree paintings.

A series of trees in progress. Jessica celebrates trees for their majestic beauty, strength, stability and growth.


“If you observe nature closely, there’s a dance in every tree, a song by every bird, and a story behind each ocean wave – countless gestures and poses in nature’s landscape; ever-changing yet timeless – inspiring me to capture these moments through painting.”

How did you get started as an artist?
I guess I got started as an artist right from the start — according to my parents, I was always painting and drawing. I was fortunate that my mom saved a bunch of artwork that I made when I was little. Actually, the best painting that I ever did, I did when I was two.  However, my formal beginnings of being an artist started as early as High School, when I enrolled in as many art elective courses as I could. From there I decided to go to a liberal arts college instead of attending traditional art school. I did this because I wasn’t 100% sure that I wanted to go down the path of being a fine artist – so going to a liberal arts college gave me the flexibility and options to fall back on another major if need be. I was (and still am) very interested in nature conservation, so for that reason, I wanted to go to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR because they had both an excellent art and environmental program. But, soon into my freshman year I was sold on pursuing my passion for the arts. I graduated with a BA in both photography and painting in 1999. The following year I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I got a Masters in Arts Administration. I felt that if I had a fine arts degree in combination with an arts administration degree then I would be well prepared for what it takes to be a professional artist.

Jessica Pisano art

Jessica’s childhood art (painting from when she was two) and today, working in her studio.

How does your love of nature influence your art?

Fascinated by the beauty that is all around us — I could sit all day in a field and watch the way the light hits the blades of grass as the sun goes down, or watch the ocean waves roll up and onto the shore for hours. I could forever stare at the leaves of trees being gently blown by the wind, and I could watch birds fly in and around each other as they dance. Stories within nature are everywhere, inspiring me to capture these moments through painting.

What are a few words that describe your work?
I’ve got three words that immediately come to mind…Dreamlike, Calming, Peaceful.

Jessica Pisano art, work in progress and bird painting.

Nature is Jessica’s muse. She is drawn to birds because they are light, delicate and epitomize freedom.

Tell us a bit about your technique.

I use the traditional indirect painting techniques of the Old Masters by applying oil paint in many translucent layers giving the painting a highly rendered look. As a contrast, I also use contemporary techniques, applying paint in an experimental and intuitive manner. I work in oil paint on wood panel with the occasional inclusion of gold and silver leaf.

What is a typical workday like for you?
A typical day for me usually starts with waking up on the early side. Coffee is my first mission, then I go for a walk with our dog on the beach. If I’m not working on a commission or getting new paintings ready for a gallery/show, then I’ll take some time to get outside and do some plein air sketches (with oils or charcoal/pencil). For inspiration, it’s important to get out of the studio and outside. I also take my camera to shoot landscape reference shots to use back in the studio. I paint six days a week, so yoga is also an important part of my day to keep my sanity intact 🙂

Jessica Pisano artist studio, tree painting

Jessica working through distractions in her studio and one of her tree paintings with gold leaf.

What do you listen to while you work?

I listen to a lot of podcasts. Right now my favorite one is “John Dalton – Gently Does It”. He interviews wonderful artists and it’s always interesting to listen to while I’m painting. As for music, lately I’ve been listening to Anouar Brahem, Alabama Shakes, Susan Tedeschi, Oliver Mtukudzi and Morcheeba (I know…an odd mix)!

What is your favorite thing about being an artist?
Is to be able to do what it is that I love.

Photos courtesy of Jessica Pisano.
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