Jessa Gilbert

Artist: Jessa Gilbert
Photographer: Ingrid Love

The Art Process Feeds off Adventure and Play

Jessa Gilbert‘s paintings and drawings emerge from her experiences in the backcountry, blending the creation process with adventure to capture the spirit of exploration during her time outside. These adventurous artworks also serve as studies for murals, bringing backcountry adventures back to urban and daily life.

Art and adventure seem to go hand in hand for you. Can you tell us a bit about your artistic process?

I’ve always split my time between painting in the studio and getting outside for adventure and play. It wasn’t until moving to BC that I adjusted my creative process and began bringing my materials out along my adventures with me. I was curious about articulating how it feels to spend time outside and celebrate the wild places we are so fortunate to call home. The art process feeds off adventure and play, and I hope the pieces I create feel joyful, lively, and in a state of perpetual motion. I don’t set out to create paintings and drawings that look exactly like the textures of the terrain, but instead focus on how to translate the feelings of spending time outside: how the clouds move, how the wind feels, and how the warm sun glows. My long-term artistic goal would be to have these pieces inspire others to get outside on their own adventures, and in turn, help protect these wild spaces from over-development.

Is there anything about our community/area/province which inspires you as an artist?

I love how inclusive the community of Nelson feels – everyone and everything feels welcome to spread out. I feel the terrain reflects that here as well. The tight valleys feel intimate, and the high peaks feel that much more refreshing to get headspace above it all. I really adore the winters here, and love how playful the treed terrain is. I find myself constantly balancing between wanting to pull out my sketchbook at every kick turn and wanting to push further to gain another ridge or take another lap. The act of painting is such a pleasure in itself, but I would be lying to say I don’t crave powder days and loamy mountain bike rides. I feel really grateful to live in a community where you can be both an artist and an adventurer without having to sacrifice anything.

If you look at existing murals around Nelson (and other artworks!), it’s clear that Kootenay nature inspires and informs many artists. As a muralist, what are your thoughts on the juxtaposition of nature being painted onto human-made creations such as walls?

I love the idea of bringing nature into city centres and challenging what a human-made structure should look like or do. I know when I’m in large urban cities that I crave lush landscapes and mountain tops. Fortunately, Nelson is situated within a pristine landscape, so the town itself never really feels that far from nature. Blending the lines between buildings and natural environments is really interesting to me because of the interplay between organic and inorganic forms. Murals, to me, are reminders that people with diverse interests and personalities inhabit spaces, build things, and create communities. Whether a mural is of a natural element or not, the fact that it is a brush stroke from an individual is enough to enliven a building or space and give it personality.

What effect (if any) does the mural festival have on Nelson and the surrounding area?

This mural festival is such an amazing investment from the community to enliven the sometimes forgotten spaces and alleyways of Nelson. It feels like a visual representation of the diverse personalities that exist in this community and makes every wall feel full of intention. I’m a big believer in art being for everyone, and love seeing how children and families interact with public art. I often have people tell me they ‘don’t know how to look at art’. Having art in public spaces is a great way to give people the opportunity to have art in their daily lives, regardless of their background, profession, or trade.

You can find Jessa’s murals “Ymir Peak Sunrise” and “Kootenay Flow” at the end of Vernon Street; one is on the retaining wall of Edgewood Avenue, the other is on the retaining wall at the end of Vernon Street. 

Interviewer: Ingrid Love – 2019

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