“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Twelve year olds Jessica and Dylan, sat together every day in their home-schooling class. They were two of only three students in the class and over the years, they became the very best of friends. The time came when school finished and each went their own way. Dylan began studying in Victoria and Jessica left for Sydney to do volunteer work for a group called Youth Alive.
Dylan missed his best friend, and realising that his feelings for Jessica were stronger than friendship, he travelled to Sydney to study. Within six months they were married and this was the beginning of a new chapter in their lives.
Together they pastored their family church back in Echuca, Victoria. Jessica dreamed that this would be a lifelong endeavour and someday their son would take the leadership role after them. Dylan loved his vocation, but he couldn’t ignore a persistent niggling.
Jessica was teaching art at the time and had an extraordinary talent, something that came straight from her heart. His wife could paint, but it was more than that. Dylan knew it was leading them to another place but where?
When Dylan shared his thoughts with Jessica, it caught her off-guard. Their life was settled and their four children were surrounded by a large extended family and church. Why would she want to move? Where would they go and what would they do? This was ridiculous and Jessica laughed it off.
The niggling continued and Dylan only became increasingly convinced that this was something they had to do. Eventually Jessica felt strongly that she was to follow Dylan even if it failed. There was a choice of two printing houses that they would need to be close to if their plan was to succeed. One was in Melbourne and the other was in Brisbane. Jessica had no intention of moving to Queensland.
“I never planned to move to Queensland!” says Jessica. “Melbourne I would consider, but Queensland was never on my radar.” But Jessica felt strongly to follow Dylan on this so they packed up, said goodbye to family and headed for Queensland.
“It ended up being exactly where we were meant to be,” says Jessica.
As they travelled, Dylan and Jessica received a call from some friends who asked them to stop in for a meal on their way to the Sunshine Coast. It was here that they were offered the position of co-ordinating the SPARC group in Queensland. SPARC is a community of creative people in any area of ‘the arts’ who network and share ideas and talents for different projects.
Unexpected but welcome, Dylan and Jessica happily accepted the position. This was the beginning of many doors opening for them in their huge step of faith.
Once settled into their home on the Sunshine Coast, Dylan began work setting up the business side of Jessica’s art while Jessica dived into what she loves to do the most, teaching and painting.
Her reproductions began to sell and stores started to take her work almost immediately.
“Everything just kind of exploded,” says Jessica.
Very soon, the applications for the Archibald art prize became available. This is a major Australian annual art competition established in 1921 by journalist JH Archibald whose aim was to ‘foster portraiture as well as support artists and perpetuate the memory of great Australians’ (artgallery.nsw.org.au).
It had been a dream of Jessica’s to one day enter a piece of artwork into the Archibald competition but it had always seemed a long way off. When Dylan encouraged her to enter the 2015 competition, she was hesitant. It was her desire to enter the Archibald prize but was now really the right time?
Spurred on by Dylan and others, with only two weeks before the closing date, Jessica decided to go for it. She made some calls to see if anyone knew of a good subject for her portrait, one that lived locally. Australian artist, David Hart was suggested. Perfect! Jessica had been fascinated by the Hart family story and artwork since as early as she could remember.
Not knowing if the process would go any further, Jessica was elated to receive a call from David Hart after a friend had given him her number and explanation of her Archibald intentions.
To her relief, David was only too pleased to sit for her. Not only that, but David and his wife Christine were extremely helpful with the process, going the extra mile for her. David even hand built the canvas frame that she would paint his portrait on and drove it to her house when it wouldn’t fit in her car.
“Being painted for the Archibald was a great honour. I felt very privileged to have been asked to sit as a subject for Jessica Le Clerc and I also liked her approach to capturing my character by using her theme of painting living stories. Jessica and I spent quite a few hours in my studio where she asked a lot of questions and listened to my story and my vision in great detail.
As we talked Jess also grabbed the odd unplanned and unexpected digital photo, hoping to grab me off guard I suppose, and keen to capture the shot that would best suit what she was hoping to achieve with the portrait.
I got to see the finished portrait around two weeks later in Jessica’s studio and in my opinion, her final interpretation of my life as a living journey was exceptional and very impressive to say the least. Jessica captured not only my character, but also my story on canvas. She depicted the highs and lows of success and the determination it takes to keep pursuing your dreams and calling.
At times we do carry our life on our backs and we wear our experience as we journey to new highs and adventure, Jess has done a wonderful job of capturing my living story on canvas and I congratulate her for her achievement in becoming an Archibald finalist and look forward to following her achievements in the years ahead.” -David Hart.
It seems Dylan’s niggling was a direct positioning for important moments in time for Jessica as an artist and for them as a family.
Jessica was still a little overwhelmed by the whole opportunity and doubted she would have the painting completed by the closing date. With only two weeks before the entries closed, she had quietly decided to finish the painting and just present it to David Hart as a gift. If nothing else, it was an opportunity to honour this great Australian.
The day Jessica finished the painting, Dylan had the forms filled out, painting wrapped, posted and admitted into the competition just in time. It was all such a whirlwind that later, Jessica could not recall what she had written on the application as the title for the painting.
Within two weeks, Jessica received a letter from the Archibald competition. Nervously opening the envelope, she couldn’t believe the news that was contained within. Jessica’s painting had been chosen as one of 10 finalists out of 400 pieces of art. Shock, elation and disbelief flooded her.
“I lay on my studio floor, had a cry and thanked God,” says Jessica. “I couldn’t believe it!”
The weeks that followed were a dream come true. Jessica and Dylan travelled to Sydney with David and Christine Hart for days of interviews and media attention. Jessica was thrown into a whole new realm and was now in the midst of artists she had only ever dreamed of meeting. These artists, including David Hart, taught her more in four days about the art world at that level than she had learnt in the 17 years that preceded it.
In her element and with new opportunities, Jessica has been spurred on to begin a collection of 20 pieces of artwork that will be the first of hers to be offered to galleries around the country.
Jessica paints with a combination of people and nature. She takes her art seriously and finds the deeper meaning of a subject to imbed within her paintings. Her work leaves you with a feeling, an emotion that speaks to the soul reminding us of what’s really important and showing real life at its best.
I am looking forward to seeing the next leg of the Le Clerc journey, and watching as it is illustrated on her canvases. Life is an art and art is life.
(C) Rebecca Moore 2015
Photo by Amy Higg: amyhiggphotography.com
Originally published for The Good Life magazine Summer 2016 edition