A Portrait of the Artist (as a Young Woman)

There’s no doubt that Door County has an amazing number of artists living on its peninsula. In my tenure as a freelance writer for the Pulse, I’ve been very fortunate in being able to write about many of them – from artists celebrating decades upon decades of creating art on the peninsula to the new galleries and artists that are just getting their feet wet in this creative culture of ours. However, there is another type of Door County artist that is just as important as the established ones – the artists that are being cultivated at our public schools and through the various art programs our peninsula offers.

Jessica Bradley is a senior at Gibraltar High School, and she is a great example of one of these young artists. Recently accepted into the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Bradley plans to major in Fine Arts at UWM. The only career she wants is that of an artist.

Bradley has been drawing since she could hold a pencil, and says that she doesn’t feel like herself unless she’s painting or drawing. “It’s always been the easiest way for me to express my feelings,” she says.

Bradley says she’s always been into various art mediums and has never needed to look farther than her own parents for inspiration. “Both my parents are creative in different ways, so I’ve found myself looking up to them more than a particular famous artist,” she says.

Although she’s been drawing or painting since she was a little girl, Bradley says that her recent move to Gibraltar has done much for her in terms of evolving her artistic career. “I began school at Gibraltar this past fall, and I know that I’ve grown more this year artistically than in my first three years of high school combined. There’s much more one-on-one instruction, the class sizes are smaller, and I’ve had the chance to take more art classes than ever before.” she says. The two high schools Bradley attended previously were in Florida, and she says that Door County is already much more understanding than Florida about her future career.

“A lot of the people in my class didn’t understand why I would want to be an artist – to them, it just isn’t a career that someone should go into. But there’s such an art culture in Door County – people actually understand that you can make your living as an artist here.” Bradley cites one Door County artist in particular, Pam Murphy, with showing her this. “I went out to Pam’s studio/gallery and spent a lot of time with her, just talking about the artist’s process,” Bradley says. “It showed me that if this is what I really want to do, I should just do it.”

Bradley is about as immersed in Gibraltar High School’s art program as one can get – currently, she’s taking Photography, an Independent Study, and also spends most of her study hall time in the art room. Right now, she’s working on three different art portfolios – one each for drawing, photography, and paintings. When asked about the subject of her art, Bradley is quick to say that the human form interests her the most.

“I’ve always been interested in what the human body can do and the ways it can be manipulated,” Bradley says. “It seems that once you get the hang of the human form, you can draw or paint anything.”

“I’ve never been good at talking about myself or my art,” Bradley says. “I just find it much easier to do it as opposed to talking about it. It’s that natural to me.”