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  • Jonathan Drexler

The Portrait Of A Stranger

Jessica Bajoros (@jessicabajoros) is a New York City based artist who studied Illustration at Parsons. I recently caught up with her regarding a project she started in the beginning of 2017—the project is centered around painting portraits of total strangers at first sight in watercolor. The goal of this article is to shed light on her work and current musing.

This project caught my attention given its sense of the unknown. People tend to put on their bravest faces at first glance—seeking to make a lasting first impression. The idea of getting painted at first sight brings out the perfect blending of charm and humanity—this shows in the emotions of Jessica’s portraits. Observing her work, there is clearly an innocence that she captures in each portrait with the use of light colors while there is a strong sense of the unknown with each portrait having at least one feature exaggerated by a sense of surrealism.

Jessica on the origin and significance of the project:

“Early in January of this year, I was sitting at home desiring a different approach to portrait making. The normal or standard portraits that I learned are very academic in nature. For one reason or another, many people continue with this approach. The portraits that proliferate the art world remain in this light. I continued this approach, too. Initially, I would setup a precise photoshoot one on one with direct lighting and work from the photograph.

This series of painting strangers is a complete 180 from that. The idea of painting people you know can create a sense of distance—in my mind. I tend to think I know and understand their features. Whereas, with a stranger; everything is fresh and new. There is freedom to exaggerate my impression of them.

That is why I work with the medium of watercolor. I think the medium matches the nature of the work. Watercolor is very raw and immediate. I see a similarity there with the emotion of meeting someone for the first time.

Obviously, I am not going out and inviting them into my studio. I work on this project by going out with a group of friends with my sketchpad and colors on me—I look around and observe my surroundings. Sometimes, it can be someone’s features or outfit that gets my attention. However, it is most often a personality that will stand out to me and inspire me to paint. Occasionally, the subjects approach me--but it is not often that people are that confident and would want to be painted their first time meeting me.

My goal with this project is to complete 100 portraits that I would like to have in a showcase. Kind of like a rotunda of paintings in a room that people can walk around in a room full of strangers to capture the emotion I have felt while working on this project.”

Jessica’s project is worth following and keep an eye on. Only recently she has joined Instagram to promote her work and progress on this series of strangers. Learning about this series of hers provided a healthy amount of food for thought and I look forward to her showcase down the road. Be sure to follow her on Instagram and keep up with her to see how this turns out.

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