Guest Artist: Jess Polanshek

Jess Polanshek spent most of her childhood moving throughout the cities and forests of Florida and Vermont. Along with traditional art education, she spent time traveling overseas which has been a great influence on her artistic progression. Within these different environments, Polanshek’s art has always revolved around elements of northern forests and the creatures that inhabit them. Focusing on high detail and loose realism, her art has evolved into an illustrative and whimsical style with a strong focus on the beauty and intricacies of the natural world.

Jess resides in Fairfax, VT and is the guest artist for our Keepsake exhibition.

How did you get started as an artist?
I’ve been making art in one form or another since I was a little kid, but didn’t consider making a living out of it until after high school. I started working at an art supply store and slowly but surely found my favorite medium (pen and watercolor) and began sharing it through shows and social media.

Jess Polanshek mixed media illustration - There are infinite aspects to draw from in nature and I can't imagine ever tiring of it."

“There are infinite aspects to draw from in nature and I can’t imagine ever tiring of it.”

How does your love of nature influence your art?

I draw what I love and there’s little that I love more than the forest. There are infinite aspects to draw from in nature and I can’t imagine ever tiring of it. Considering I mostly draw at my studio table, I love bringing the woods into my work. In Vermont we get a very short warm season and I find that dwelling on it in my drawings helps get me through the Winter.

What five words best describe your work?
Intricate, Earthy, Whimsical, Woodland, Natural

Jess Polanshek - a work in progress from her Keepsake: Collector series featuring a bear with a treasure pot.

Keepsake: Collector II (bear with treasure pot) – work in progress. Jess begins each piece with a pencil drawing.

Tell us a bit about your technique.

Each drawing starts with a faint pencil outline that I gradually fill in with small black pens on paper. Once all the patterns and figures have been outlined and textured in pen, I paint thin layers of watercolor to build up vibrant earthy colors.

What is a typical workday like for you?
Every day is a little different! I like to start working around 8AM and generally work until well after dark with lots of mini breaks to take care of my two dogs. Some days I get to paint for several hours, but those are a little rare lately. I do all of my own printing and production in-house, so a large portion of the day is spent creating prints and cards, packing them up and sending them off into the world!

Jess Polanshek studio.

Jess enjoys applying her artwork to various objects such as cards, stickers and pocket mirrors. She also loves spending workdays with her two ‘studio assistants’ – Gonzo pictured here.


What do you listen to while you work?
I like to put my favorite shows on Netflix in the background while I work. I’ve found that music can be distracting because I’m always stopping to change the song or look something up! The Office, Parks and Rec, 30 Rock and Arrested Development are my go-to background shows.

What is your favorite thing about being an artist?
I like pretty much everything about being an artist, but here are my top two: I love being free to draw literally anything I can imagine and the fact that my drawings always turn out different than I planned. I never really know exactly where they’ll end up, which keeps things interesting. My other favorite thing is being able to apply my artwork to various objects. I love making useful things like notebooks and pocket mirrors a little cheerier with my art. Actually, scratch that. I have to add a third. I love that the first level of my home is my studio and I can hang out with my dogs while I work all day. It’s perfect.

Photos courtesy of Jess Polanshek.