While working for Tommy Hilfiger in New York City, Jess Hurley Scott took her first steps in developing her unique style of painting. Living in Manhattan on the bare minimum her $25,000 salary could afford, Scott managed to scrounge up enough money for a cheap, nude-model night course at The Art Students League.
The class wasn’t meant for critique but to simply be an outlet where Scott could paint. Upon her second year of attending this class, the teacher, Hugo Bastidas, approached her and asked, “why are you here?”
Scott, taken aback, said, “I’m here to keep my hand in, to keep painting and not lose everything I’d done over the years, and this class forces me to come paint.”
“Yeah, but why are you doing this class?” Bastidas asked, “You obviously hate painting nudes. I mean you’re competent at it, but you can tell this is not your passion. What do you paint at home?”
Her answer: landscapes. He told her to take the class, use it to paint landscapes instead of nudes and to bring some of her work in for him to see. Scott thought, “I’m not looking for a critique. This is not what this class was supposed to be.” But after a month or two of badgering, she brought in the few pieces she had for Bastidas to look at.
She didn’t paint much at the time, and certainly wasn’t trying to put together a portfolio, but she had some studies she’d done. “One was on Plexiglas and I had backlit it, and then there was another couple I had done on a single pane of actual glass — they were all landscapes — and one I had started painting on the front and back of the glass.”
Bastidas looked through these pieces and asked, “What are these things?”
She told him about her interest in how color is much more intense on glass as opposed to opaque canvases, “I think part of it was because I work in Photoshop and Illustrator all the time and I work in layers on the computer and I love that intensity of color on a backlit screen.”
Bastidas told her, “Whatever that is, that is what you need to keep working on.”
Scott attributes this moment as the first time she thought about this idea seriously, and that it gave her the permission to keep playing with it; putting in some real time with it.