We had the good fortune of connecting with Jess Nielsen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jess, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
I credit my ability to pivot, adapt, and hone in on my brand over the years, especially on social media, as the biggest factor in my success – even though “success” still seems like a far-off concept sometimes. It has been a journey trying to work in a number of various mediums, and I finally feel like I am integrating my skills in a way that feels sustainable. I think this takes continual, ruthless honesty about what is working, what is not, and what you truly want to be doing with your talents and time.
The runner-up would definitely be my amazing clients, followers, and art community (both in-person and online), who have all been my biggest supporters, and encouraged me to keep making and creating.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My career as a professional artist has evolved and shifted since I started it in 2009. I have definitely gone through some unpleasant growing pains, including a few name changes and many different types of day jobs/desk jobs over the years to support me while I pursued my small, freelance work on the side. I have done everything from special effects makeup artistry, painting commissioned portraits and large-scale murals, making custom, live-edge furniture, laser-cutting jewelry and photos, to sewing pinafore aprons and COVID masks. Right now, I support myself and my art as a technical editor, which affords me the flexibility to practice whatever art I feel like creating in my spare time.
I’m fascinated by conceptual processes and continual improvement. No piece is ever really “done,” which is why it is so difficult for me to part ways with it. My portfolio is a mixture of experimental fine art and more mainstream, trendy, and commercial pieces. I am having a major moment with art nouveau and loving that style. I make art as a form of therapeutic processing, as a way to work out an internal struggle, or a way to process what is happening in the world. For this reason, I love to share my progress on social media and with trusted artists and friends who will give me encouragement and honest feedback. However, sometimes I create just for the sake of my hands having something to do (ahem, knitting), which is why I end up making a wide variety of art. Everything I make includes a personalized touch, whether it is the type of fabric I select, to a hand-painted “thank you” card, which speaks to the amount of effort and level of detail I pour into every piece.
I am proudest of my pieces that I have fully executed from start to finish and that have required a lot of time, effort, and trial-and-error. I have had an artist’s eye my entire life, but becoming a professional seemed out-of-reach. I had a lot of self-doubt and every excuse to not pursue it. But being adaptable and resourceful helped me overcome obstacles. I struggle with the issues that many artists have, such as how to stay competitive, how to price my work, how to network and market, and how to stay relevant. The difference now is a level of confidence I gained through letting myself fail and start over. In the words of Bob Ross, “No mistakes, just happy little accidents.”
The name of my studio is Odd Vox, and vox means voice in Latin. I was teased and called names, like “oddball” and “weirdo” early on in my life, so naming my studio Odd Vox was a way for me to reclaim my awkward, goofy personality, and makes me feel proud that I have something to say, however nonsensical!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First, I would check out the local parks and museums here in Houston, of course, like the Menil Collection, followed by live music with a lunch picnic provided by The Pit Room. Next, we would go on a city bike ride to Memorial Park and ride the trail, then head downtown to Heritage Park for a tour. After that, we would watch 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from Waugh Bridge at dusk and finish the day with a scrumptious dinner at Paulie’s.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would love to shoutout my friend and artist Amie with @gournals, for her constant source of inspiration and support, Lisa with @composto.fiori and her amazing floral arrangements and photos that are seriously like a living Dutch-style painting, and her awesome friendship, of course, Hilary with @flowearcreations, who hand-presses locally sourced and hand-picked flowers and turns them into jewelry – how amazing! @jerrysartarama_houston for providing me with endless art supplies and custom framing for all of my shenanigans, and Carolina with @makewhatmovesyou for inviting me to be part of a recent art fundraiser to benefit Beirut and the Lebanese Red Cross. My painting from this event is for sale on my Instagram page, with all proceeds being donated to support the fundraiser!