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Meet Jess Apel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jess Apel.

Jess, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I spent a few of my years bartending part-time and making gig posters for musicians around Fort Worth. I was only taking a handful of classes, with no real sense of direction of where I was going. The only thing I really knew was I had to support myself, and I knew school could get me to the place I wanted to be.

Before I ever considered going into the UTA Painting program, I was an English major. It quickly became apparent that my heart was not into it. (Also, failing a class my first semester was a red flag as well) : ). I had to really tune into my heart and soul and ask myself – if money was not an issue, what would I do? (Thank you, Alan Watts)

That is when I put my foot down on the gas and went full throttle into what I loved most, and that was making art. I found myself in the painting studio the next semester surrounded by the best professors I could ask for, and good friends who would later become like family to me. It was the first time I felt like I belonged, and that I could do what I put my mind to.

Now, I am a semester from graduating, a handful of shows under my belt, and I am ready to go even farther.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The complete truth of it is, yes, it was incredibly arduous. The hardest part is finding what matters to me – what really matters – and painting it in such a way people will resonate with it as well. Making art is harder than most people think. You have to dissect yourself to the point of almost going mad.

These last few years, I have had more self-discovery than any of the years prior combined. There is good and bad to everything, and I realized that when I made my decision to study art. It was not easy, but – I am having the time of my life. I think it was C.-C. Chang who said, “The greater the doubt, the greater the awakening.”

And I found this to be profoundly true. I had to dig myself out of the bar life, not knowing how or what to do to get out. I followed my heart, and it took care of me. As cliche as it sounds, if I had not followed my intuition, I would probably still be pouring drinks. Not like there is anything wrong with that, I just knew I could not stay there long.

The smoothest part of the whole transformation was being accompanied by wonderful professors at UTA. They are able to give guidance and ask you questions that help you get to where you need to be. I will forever be grateful for them.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I originally began making abstract art. Somewhere along the way, I grew a little bit disinterested in it. Maybe because I felt like I was not really saying anything new. I think it was my Junior year at UTA that I really dove into figurative painting.

The body and facial expressions can speak a thousand words, and that is what I was after. My work now is a reference to childhood, memory, nostalgia, empathy, and most of all – trauma. This series began by looking back on my old photos as a child and trying to understand what happened to my family.

There are photos that imply something is “off,” and there are photos of pure joy. I decided to paint both, and use my memory and emotions as guidance for rendering the figures and mark making.

I am most proud of my transformation and my relentless need to understand people and myself. I believe that is what led me to this series. All artists are set apart by one thing – our stories. Life leads each of us on a different path. Art is the stories we as artists tell about our experiences and reactions to those experiences.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Oh man, hands down playing in the streets of Istanbul with the neighbor kids. It was complete anarchy. We would play hide and seek on the streets, almost getting hit by cars, playing soccer and accidentally kicking satellite dishes out of peoples balconies. We were little heathens, and it felt like complete freedom.

The whole neighborhood was like one big family. We would play from sun up to sun down and come in smelling like wet dogs. It was one of the last times I felt truly free. All my favorite childhood memories usually end with getting in trouble. : )

Contact Info:

  • Phone: 817-304-6039
  • Instagram: @jessicaapelfineart

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