Local artist Jessica Johnson fell into a shark tank when she was 5 years old. But it’s not fear she remembers feeling—instead she says the whole thing was rather humiliating.
“It all happened so quickly, but I remember that almost immediately a man pulled me out,” said Johnson, who had grown restless waiting for her mom and began climbing up the side of an aquarium. “My adorable red dress was soaked and I began walking around looking for my mom. When I finally found her and saw the astonished look on her face, I immediately burst into tears.”
Johnson says she’s never depicted that experience through her art, however, preferring “simpler, pretty paintings” even as a kid.
“I would sit in my room for hours talking to myself and making up themes and lives for the people I was drawing,” said Johnson, who grew up in Poway. “I always loved drawing girls in long, flowing dresses and that ultimately drew me to a major in fashion design. My enthusiasm for art and design has never diminished.”
Now, Johnson teaches art to children and adults at the HuaCheng Chinese School in San Diego and the Xpressive Arts Center in Poway.
“I love the connection I feel with my students,” she said. “It has been one of my greatest blessings to date. Hardly anything can compare to the pride I feel watching students grow in talent and experience, and develop the esteem that comes with exceeding their expectations.”
One of her favorite classes is the B.Y.O.B. class at the Xpressive Arts Center, where students bring in a picture they would like to paint along with their favorite beverage.
“The paintings always turn out beautifully, and everyone tends to be shocked that they had such a talented artist inside them,” Johnson said.
When Johnson isn’t teaching, she’s busy working on Hidden San Diego, a website she created to features different parts of the city that people may not know about. The Rancho Bernardo High School alum also runs an art collective called Aesthetigeist, which consists of local artists, performers and vendors.
“But art has always been a primary part of my life no matter how busy I was,” Johnson said. “I continuously create and sell paintings as a sideline, and teach art to students of all ages on a contract basis.”