You might say that Jessica Sosebee was born to be an artist She grew up on Nantucket where some of her earliest memories are of her mother working in a studio. The five year old was intrigued by the calligraphy her mother—who went on to become a well-known painter of quintessential island scenes—did for signs, logos, and menus for Nantucket businesses.
Sosebee’s maternal grandfather, Jack Brown, was also a distinguished island artist as well as president of the Artist’s Association. “I remember visiting him in his studio on King Street in Sconset when I was very young,” says Sosebee, whose parents moved to Nantucket when she was three. “Looking back, Nantucket was an idyllic place for an artist to create, especially Sconset with its wildflowers and peaceful atmosphere. It is still such a special place for me.”
The young artist, whose parents now own and run Nantucket’s prestigious Sosebee Studio gallery representing award-winning local and regional artists, is making a name for herself as a painter and she says her style is a direct reflection of her father’s talents as well. “My father and I both love to work in large-scale, to lay down the composition. Neither of us have the patience my mother has at toiling over the details,” she says.
Despite her artistic heritage, the 39 year old—who splits her time these days between Nantucket and London—made her own way far beyond Nantucket directing animal welfare non-profits. “I suppose seeing my family as artists made me want to do something different, or maybe more practical,” Sosebee says. “I spent 15 years directing animal welfare non-profits before returning to my roots in 2010. I am still finding my identity as an artist.”
Sosebee, who has a master’s degree from Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts, paints with oil and will sometimes add gold leaf or wax to give her paintings depth, layers of color, texture, and added dimension. “My favorite paintings are ones I can stand two inches away from and see every color imaginable scraped and blended together with bold strokes of color on top,” she says.
She prefers to paint animals. “Painting animals was the perfect segue from my previous jobs and it just feels right,” she says. “I want people to pause and acknowledge the importance of a single bird and how we are all sentient beings striving for the same outcome in life.”
When she was transitioning from the non-profit world to life as a full-time artist, Sosebee learned how important it is for an artist to have a niche—something unique and identifiable that builds a strong, steady clientele. “I have been marketing myself as a large-scale, site-specific artist,” she says, noting that she has found a strong market for her work in both the U.S. and Europe.
“Many people on Nantucket have large spaces to fill and want site specific, statement pieces. I really enjoy going to peoples’ homes and finding inspiration in their surroundings,” she says. “There’s something about collaborating with people that I find satisfying.”
Although Nantucket is one of her favorite places on earth, Sosebee says that while she knows how lucky she is to have an art gallery in the family, her dream is to find representation in the United Kingdom. “I have just started exploring options in London and believe that I can find my niche there,” she says, noting that her exposure to great art in Europe has been inspirational.
Still, despite her love for life and culture in far away places she says that for her, Nantucket will always be home. “No matter where I go, the island is in my blood. There’s no place I am that compares to the feeling I get when I arrive on the island after being gone—even if I have only left for 24 hours,” she says. “The smell of the air on the island is unlike anywhere else.” ~ By Susan Dewey