Jessica Masters web

By Jane Litchfield

You might know Guelph artist Jessica Masters for her images of waves that roll right off the canvas, or her iconic jumping swimmer from the 2018 Art on the Street poster. Masters was a co-recipient of GAC’s Jane Graham Memorial Award in 2018, and since applications are now open for the 2019 award, we thought we’d check in with this GAC member.

Jessica Masters in front of her Wave Series at R.I.C.A Gallery, Sept 2018

GAC: Tell us a bit about your art and what inspires you.

JM: For the past 20 years I have been working as an oil painter and pastel artist. I am inspired by light and colour, but how a subject makes it onto my canvas depends on how the subject affects me personally. Often I paint a subject because it is technically challenging and I know I will grow my skills, but it needs to speak to me on an emotional level, too. In my interpretations of my subjects I want to provide enough visual information to provide a context to the viewer and still capture an atmosphere that can bring about memory and emotion. In short, I want to allow the viewer into the work and leave room for their experiences to also play a part. This process is always evolving because I am always growing as an artist. 

Jessica Masters 5 Skies web
New series: SKIES, soft pastel

What challenges have you faced as an artist and what helps you succeed?

As artists we tend to work in isolation, which can mean we can lose perspective of our work and process. Engaging with a like-minded community helps to provide me with the reassurance, reality checks, and sound advice I need to feel supported. I have a group of artists that I meet to talk with, but I also include the support I get from my family, my framer, gallery owners, and the students I teach in my art workshops as part of my working network.  These groups create my community and make me feel like part of something bigger. I am part of social media, too, but for me it can’t replace the value of the groups I described. It’s a myth to think we can do it all by ourselves, we need a team.

You were a co-recipient of GAC’s 2018 Jane Graham Memorial Award. How did you use it?

With my award I chose to study with an American painter named Felicia Forte. I chose her because she had a simplified and poetic approach to painting, allowing the message or feeling of her subject to resonate strongly with the viewer. I strive for this same connection with viewers in my work, so it was a good fit. One of her biggest messages was the importance of composition and drawing in the early stages of the painting process. Her reminders of “making sure you got it right before you move on” have strengthened my work and coincide with the message I give to my students. I think It will be at least a year of processing the information for me to see all the benefits. I look forward to that.

Where can people see your work?

I will be in a two-person show this fall at the Earls Court Gallery in Hamilton from September 12-October 19. I also have work with R.I.C.A. gallery in Guelph, In2Art gallery in Oakville, and will be on the Guelph Studio tour on October 19-20. I am also teaching three new workshops in Guelph on pastel painting this fall. People can connect through my website with inquiries about my art and workshops and find me on Instagram @jessicamastersart

Jessica Masters Wave RICA 2
WAVE show at R.I.C.A Gallery

Established in memory of local artist Jane Graham following her death in March 2005, the Jane Graham Memorial Fund is managed by the Guelph Community Foundation, allowing GAC to help visual artists in Guelph or Wellington County pursue professional development opportunities. For more information about the Jane Graham Memorial Award and Guelph Arts Council, please visit, phone 519-836-3280, or email [email protected]

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