Community Interviews

Living Creatively: An Interview with Jess Velarde

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Interview with Jess Velarde | Passport Voyager

This interview series has focused exclusively on bloggers and Instagrammers so far, and largely on the work of people I haven’t met (yet!) Although, side note, I met up with Deni here in NYC last week and we had such a great time chatting about nerdy Instagram and blogging-related things. However, this week, we’re taking it back to my California roots, to one of my real-life friends from high school, and I couldn’t be more excited! Jess Velarde is painter and poet based on the Central Coast of California, and one of those kind-hearted, genuine people that everyone has no choice but to love. (Not to mention, she’s super talented.) She has always had that creative spark. I remember admiring Jess’s ability to write and draw and paint back in high school, wishing I could create visual work in the way she could. She made it look so effortless (though I’m sure it probably wasn’t)! Seeing her beautiful new work pop up on my Instagram feed always makes me happy. I could go on and on about how I feel about Jess and her art, but I’ll just let her take over and tell you her story in her own words! Read on to learn more about Jess’s work, life and where she’s headed.

P.S. You can sign up here for updates from Jess if you’re curious about what’s next!
P.S.S. Photos of Jess are by Rachel Zee Photography.

Who or what inspires your work?
My truest answer to this is so well encapsulated in Mary Oliver’s quote; “We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.” That. That is the nearly undefinable thing that drives me to paint, or to do anything creative – even travel. That unquantifiable, soul-ache when you encounter beauty. I want to embrace that. To cultivate it. To live slowly enough to recognize it when it’s right in front of me. And I want to help others to see it.

What inspired you to start sharing through Instagram?
I started sharing on Instagram when I finally gave myself permission to be an artist. I’d been skirting the edges of this dream my whole adult life, pursing other, less risky, creative roles, all the while unfulfilled but believing the lie that, for me at least, fine art was a self-indulgent pursuit. After being let go from a full time job I loved, something finally clicked, and I gave myself permission to say “I want to do this.” Instagram was the closest tool on hand to begin that journey. It was this sweet, pre-established community of real life friends and online inspirations. It was accountability. Once I said “I am going to do this” online, it be came real and kept me going. It still serves that purpose and I’m so grateful for it.

Any travels coming up this year?
I hope to spend some time in New York soon! It’s one of my favorite cities but I’ve only had brief visits in the past and would love to spend a full week soaking in its art culture and exploring its streets. That’s first on my list. Beyond that, I’ve got a long list of “someday” trips to places I’ve never been – like Scandinavia, India, Nepal, and Japan.

What is your favorite quote about traveling?

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable. – Mary Oliver

Do you have any trip planning tools or packing tips for traveling?
Pack light, then take less than that. Also, if I don’t wear the red maxi dress at home, I won’t wear it in Europe. Bring the black jeans and grey tees. 

Psssst! For some of my own personal packing tips, click on over to How to Pack Like A Pro!

What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?
After starting and already raving about Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, a friend recommended her podcast, “Magic Lessons”. Each episode is a shot in the arm for any creative – full of “me too” moments and healthy pinches of pain towards improvement. In a less productive mood, I’ll always revert to Friends or Gilmore Girls.

Who are your favorite Instagrammers at the moment?
Kaitlin, @kaitlinmeagan, has been a recent favorite for beautiful vignettes of daily life – mostly lovely interiors and foliage and her cats. I’ve also been seriously encouraged by Lindyn Williams, @lindynwilliams, who is a photographer and social media coach for creative entrepreneurs. She shares the most authentic, joyful images and has consistently challenged and inspired me with thoughtful prompts in her captions.

Editor’s Note: To see who else I’ve interviewed for this series, click on over here!

What is the soundtrack to your travels (or daily life)?
All I really need is anything by The Weepies, The National, or Bethel Music. Three very different picks. But between them all, I feel like my soul has found its musical language for life.

One piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring creative.
Worry less about your work and more about the health of your soul – then make things along the way. It takes bravery, but like anything else, it gets easier with practice.

Can you name one place you’ve traveled that surprised you the most, and tell us why?
The East Coast of the US! I’ve been full of wanderlust for the world since my teens, always subconsciously dismissing my home country as somehow less interesting. Then, when a job change took my husband and I to Pennsylvania for three years, I finally explored the East Coast and fell hard for the richness and charm of its big cities. 

What is your favorite place in the whole wide world?
Anywhere land meets sea.

What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself in the past year?
That the best thing I can do for others is to be the healthiest version of myself – which absolutely includes pursuit of what makes my soul come alive.

What equipment do you use for capturing your work, daily life, or travels?
Despite spending past years as a full time photographer, I rarely use my “grown up” camera anymore except to document my art in high resolution (for those curious, it’s usually the Canon 5D and 50mm 1.2 lens). If I’m honest though, my iPhone 7 serves as my most trusty documentary tool – primarily because it lives in my pocket. 

A big thank you to my dear friend Jess for sharing with us this week!
I highly recommend following along on her Instagram and signing up for updates on her website!
She’s such a bright spot on my feed, and I’m sure you will love seeing her on yours too.

To get in touch with me or inquire about a blog feature, contact me here!

Interview with Jess Velarde | Passport Voyager

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Alexa
    August 2, 2017 at 6:11 AM

    Wow, what an interesting person is your Jess 🙂 I can see many similarities like utter love towards the sea and painting ^^ This series of interviews is so good, can’t wait for next post 🙂

    • Reply
      Sierra
      August 2, 2017 at 6:25 PM

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it Alexa! Thanks for reading. More coming soon!

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