Creative Mind Podcast Episode 35 – Jess Velarde, Fine Art Painter

School of Fine Art MFA grad Jess Velarde talks about going back to school to become a fine art painter, proving that life as an artist can begin at any time.

Jess Velarde had a nice career going for herself. She ran a successful photography business specializing in weddings and portraits. She was also getting interior design commissions and design consultancy clients. Lucrative and long-term would be the best way to describe these two paths. The type of path that any art school graduate would be proud of. This is not going to be a sad story of life going off the rails, except for some might be surprised that Jess decided to go back to school to become a painter. Or excited to hear that a life as an artist can be begun at any time.


In this episode of Creative Mind, I talk with the exceptionally skilled and focused Jess Velarde, an MFA grad from the School of Fine Art. When I pressed her about why she wanted to pivot in such a decidedly aggressive away from a solid career she replied, “I didn’t care about it nearly as much as I cared about painting. So, I gave myself permission to fail which is an ingredient that you need to actually succeed at something.” Truer, and more frightening words cannot be spoken.

Getting Started on Art

It was at Academy of Art University that Jess was able to focus on the fundamentals of the craft and the professional side as well – both online. As a painter focusing on figurative work and portraits, the idea of starring at a still life can be boring but Jess found still life’s to be her favorite practice.

“You have this very controlled environment of your subject and you’re really just learning how to see and how to paint what you see and do it well. I grew so much in that, not just in my technical abilities, but in the mindset that I brought to the canvas. It freed me to be able to say, okay, I’m here to practice.”

Fine Art, Fickle Art

For many art school students, the idea of picking up a paintbrush has a level of hubris too it. Fine art, the stuff that hangs on a gallery wall, has an air about it. And fine art is fickle; it is a rocky road, it is angst ridden, it is the plot point of hundreds of movies about being an artist. So why do so many pursue the craft?

Well, that is not going to be answered here, because art is fickle, art is a rocky road and there is a fine dusting of angst that goes into aby good art. But listening to Jess you quickly understand that her work ethic, her professionalism, her drive is what has given her the early tastes of success, that and her work is of a high caliber to be sure. 

Jess’s figurative work embraces the materiality of oils on canvas through brave, textural interpretations of light and shadow that straddle the line between realism and impressionism. She earned her MFA from Academy of Art University in 2020, where she also studied in Florence, Italy. She now works full time as a Fine Artist, creating paintings for collectors around the world from her home studio in Los Angeles.


Follow us on Creative Mind / 
Instagram / Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn / YouTube


Request information on Academy of Art University’s online education program through our admissions representatives. Don’t miss a beat earning your art and design degree.