Living in or around Conway, it’s hard to miss the gorgeous murals suddenly appearing downtown. From Wunderhaus to Kings to the peacock outside Righteous Remedies (Formerly the Naked Hippy Cafe), there has been a wave of vibrant, original installations brightening up local businesses and street corners all over the city. Residents might be surprised to learn that all this art is the work of one extremely busy mother of two, Jessica Jones, whose work ethic and drive are just as impressive as the art itself.
The young artist doesn’t have a day job like you would expect of someone in her position; for the last year, she has been the sole breadwinner in her house based mostly on the income she gets from art commissions. Despite this, Jessica Jones faces an odd kind of social stigma on a daily basis. “There’s this big misconception that you can’t make money as an artist,” Jones explained, “I still have people, people I know really well, asking me if I’m okay, if I’m eating well, if I’m going to be able to pay the bills. And I’m like, no, I got this.”
Jones wants to get rid of the idea that you have to be poor or starving to be an artist. Aside from devaluing art in general, it also prevents people from getting into the field: “I’d like to see more working artists around Conway. Believe it or not, I don’t want to be the only one doing high profile work around here.” Working in a smaller city might seem like a disadvantage for an artist, but according to her, there’s a relatively low number of people even trying to make it, probably because they don’t think they can.
That’s not to say that it’s an easy job, but it is possible, even in a small city or town. “The key is being consistent and reliable,” Jones said, “that’s gotten me farther than talent ever has.” She also wants artists to know that working is always going to feel like a risk: “I thought that once I achieved some level of success, I’d get this magical sense of confidence. So far, It hasn’t come. I still panic during every project that they’re going to hate it and I’ll get fired, but it’s never not worked out.”
Jones also has advice for people who want to support career artists, “If you can’t afford a $500 canvas painting, almost every artist has prints you can buy for significantly cheaper. There are ways to support artists without spending all your money.” Even if you have no money to give, there are ways of showing support that can positively impact an artist. “The next time you take a selfie in front of a mural or painting, just tag the artist on social media. It takes no effort and it leads to people commissioning that artist later on down the line.”
Appreciation for the arts is slowly growing in Conway and all around the country thanks, in part, to artists like Jessica Jones. If you’re a creative person or want to support creative people, there’s never been a better time to get into the field and make a living in the fine arts. With social media and a growing desire for art in spaces public and private, the only barrier to success is a person’s willingness to put in the work. Because of that, people like Jessica Jones are able to support their families and thrive while brightening up the communities around them.
If you like Jessica’s work you can find a collection of her paintings at Palmer Music on Oak Street. She’ll also be attending ArtsFest on October 6th along with several other local Conway Artists. You can contact her for commission requests through her website, artbyjessicajones.com or reach her via email at JessicaKathrynJones@gmail.com
Wells is a freelance writer specializing in fiction and narrative commentary. A graduate of the University of Central Arkansas’s English program, Wells spends much of his time at Blue Sail Coffee, frantically writing down articles for this website or editing a novel that’s just one fifteen more drafts from being complete.