Ashland City resident Jessica Arnold Crouch is an accomplished artist who is making a name for herself across the country, while making a few changes in setting aside time for creative endeavor.
She has pieces on display at several galleries nationwide including Studio Door in San Diego, Fine Art Institute in New Orleans, Brownsville Museum in Texas, Sanger Gallery in Key West, Fla., as well as a recent show at 311 Gallery in Raleigh, N.C.
“It was a pleasure to have Jessica visit the gallery during the 5th annual The Crow Show,” said artist Patric Stillman of Studio Door in San Diego. “Her artwork ‘The Red String of Fate’ was one of the strongest pieces in the popular, national show. I could have sold that same piece at least to five different patrons. I'm eager to see what she creates next.”
Crouch received her degree in studio art from Austin Peay State University in 2010 right after working in advertising design at The Ashland City Times.
While at The Ashland City Times, she had started making jewelry on the side, calling her collection l.rae Jewelry. She offers between 60 and 70 retail necklaces.
“Last summer I changed the brand around, focusing on boutiques and stores rather than individuals,” she said. “My jewelry is in over 30 stores throughout the U.S. It takes all of my energy and time, but now I’m hiring people to work for me. Even though I do sell to individuals, I’m also in the wholesale market, selling directly to stores and boutiques.”
She said that she had felt uninspired, making the same things and being so busy. She put a lot more energy into redoing designs for her jewelry and focusing on what she calls the Bohemian style, including items like deer antlers, gemstone beads and her own leather tassels. She describes that line as “more upscale.”
“I did this so I would have more time for painting,” she said. “My five-year plan is to work smarter so I have more time to paint. With the jewelry I want to make money. With the painting, I’m just throwing myself into it.”
She is married to District Attorney Ray Crouch.
“Ray is very supportive,” Jessica said. “He always reacts to each of my pieces like they’re magic, and he wants them for his office. But he also helps to keep me grounded and sane.”
The couple had twins in 2011 — Lucy and Marvin. The eight year olds get to add brush strokes to each of Jessica’s paintings.
The philosophy of art
“I work in layers with oils,” she said. “I’m inspired by nature, flowers, animals. I’m also influenced by artist Andrew Wyeth and the Wyeth family, as well as Dutch Art because of its use of dramatic contrast of light and dark, with shadows to make things realistic.”
Jessica said she had never sat in front of the TV or played video games or sports as a child. It was always art, adding that her kids are like that.
“Art should be accessible and not intimidating, and it should be affordable,” she said. “So many times art is presented in a way that makes it seem elitist. I don’t think that way. The purpose of art is to share.”
When the family dog of Ashland City Elementary School music teacher Jared Greece died, Jessica painted a picture of the dog for him and his wife, Harpeth Middle School choir teacher Lindsay Greece.
“I feel about art like he feels about music,” Jessica said. “Its purpose is to reach people and touch people. It’s not about making money, achieving fame. It’s about impacting someone in a way that’s moving or touching or affirming that’s not superficial or frivolous.”
Lindsay Greece said she was touched by the painting.
“Hund was a dog we rescued off the street that some had abandoned,” she said. “I had seen several of (Jessica’s) pieces on the Internet, more specifically on social media. One piece in particular really stuck out to me. It was a crow or a raven carrying like a red ribbon or a red string. I have always been fascinated with those kinds of kinds. They’re very intelligent and there’s something very endearing about those birds to me.
“The spirit in her paintings just drew me to asking her to see if she could paint a picture of Hund. She said, she was going to message me to see if she could paint a picture of him, but she was gonna wait a couple days out of respect since we’d just lost him. She had lost her dog a year before and said she knew what we were going through. The picture is stunning. Her daughter, Lucy, brought it to school. It was just like seeing Hund again in person. It is my prize possession now. She got his essence in the painting.”
Jessica said that she works on art an hour in the morning and then several hours at night, adding that it’s her therapy and her meditation.
She is currently working on a series of paintings of large florals.
“My ultimate goal is to have a gallery space within Cheatham County that can build an artist community,” she said. “Artists inspire other artists. I want to get creative people together to create. It is important to — find your people for support and encouragement. Art is a form of communicating and connection.”
She stressed that she would truly love to work with more teens on making art.
“I do my art because I love it,” she said. “What others think doesn’t bother me.”
Follow the artist
Jessica Arnold Crouch is on Instagram @jessicacrouchart