Jess’ portrait ‘Shadow & Bloom’ is of her three daughters and will be hanging in the Western Australian art gallery as a finalist for The Lester Prize.
Jess’ portrait ‘Shadow & Bloom’ is of her three daughters and will be hanging in the Western Australian art gallery as a finalist for The Lester Prize.

Tanawha artist finalist in prestigious art prize

A Tanawha artist and owner of The Art School Co is one of 40 finalists for $50,000 and the title of WA's premier portrait award, The Lester Prize.

Jess Le Clerc found her love for creativity from her childhood growing up on a dairy farm in country Victoria.

"You live outside, you learn all the trees, you learn all the animals, you learn all the plants, you have to interact with cows, sheep and pigs," she said.

"My dad is a scientist so he is all about narrating the earth beautifully so he and my grandfather, because we're fourth generation farmers, are very romantic and their idea of the world is romantic so I learnt creativity that way but the skill of drawing I had to add to that later."

"I didn't even have art supplies growing up."

Her painting is of her three daughters in the "disgusting" dam on Le Clerc's property.

"It's a twin set so I'm working on another one, that's fluorescent red because the dam lit up from the sky one day."

caption: Jess' portrait 'Shadow & Bloom' is of her three daughters and will be hanging in the Western Australian art gallery as a finalist for The Lester Prize.

 Le Clerc said she was surprised it made a finalist for the award as the subject wasn't a famous face.

"[The award] is a portrait award but the painting is figurative meaning it's people from a distance with their bodies that tells the story rather than their faces," she said.

"The director of the Western Australian art gallery called me and said that they were super excited that I painted someone not famous and told the story of somebody that mattered rather than just a famous face."

"My influence comes from watching the lives of real people around me."

"That's why I painted them because they remind me to play and to be alive and to be present in today."

The mother-of-four started teaching art as a 17-year-old but only gave selling her work a "full time crack" when she moved to the Sunshine Coast six years ago.

"I do murals, commissions, illustrations, portraits and designs," she said.

"I'm currently working on [a mural] in Darling Harbour which is eight stories high...it is a narration of the settlement of black wattle bay."

The 38-year-old is thankful for the time she's had in the recent pandemic to sit still and paint as she ended up with more work than she ever has.

"I've done more paintings in the last 4 months than I did all of last year... and this year I've been in five national portrait awards and that's more than I've been in my whole career combined," she said.

"But the art school was impacted massively, everything shut down."

"The Lester award are an amazing award, all the judges are, they make an alumni each year of the best artists in Australia so its judged by other artists, it's one of the only awards that do that."

The 40 finalists' works will be on public display at Art Gallery from October 31 to November 29 with the winners announced on October 30 .



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