Jessica Brennan
Jessica Brennan, a senior art major at UNL, poses in front of her capstone project, a collection of black-and-white drawings of Greek and Roman statues to communicate her message that tattooing belongs in the fine art world. Brennan was working four jobs, selling art and finishing school before social distancing restrictions put her classes on hold for two weeks and shut down her jobs indefinitely.She used the increased “free” time to dive into what she really wanted to do: make art for profit.Photo courtesy of Jessica Brennan.

One month ago, Jessica Brennan realized her four jobs just weren’t going to cut it. 

For a solid week, the freelance artist went “hardcore” on social media – posting about her art, networking, reaching out to anyone and everyone who might be interested in buying or commissioning a drawing or painting. 

“Hit me up, I need the money,” was her call. Her college tuition wasn’t going to pay itself.

One month ago, Brennan was frantic. Today, her business is doing better than ever, and she has COVID-19 to thank.

“Honestly, (it) is the best thing that’s ever happened to my business,” Brennan said.

Brennan, a senior art major at UNL, was working four jobs, selling art and managing classes before social distancing restrictions put her classes on hold for two weeks and shut down her jobs indefinitely. 

“I viewed it a completely risk-free opportunity for me to sample what being a full-time artist would be like for me,” Brennan said. “It took all my choice away. I can’t prioritize going to a job where I know I’m going to make $9 an hour. I don’t have that option for my days anymore. It’s all there is.”

The time that would have been split between work and classes has yielded at least three to four more times the art that Brennan was making before the restrictions were set in place. 

Now, she can spend more time on pieces that make her excited, like the 36”x36” Frank Ocean oil painting she made for a client that gave her free reign to paint anything she wanted. That one only took her 20 ½ straight hours between 11 a.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m. Saturday. 

But since online classes started Monday, Brennan is having to shift her focus once more. She still has more time to sell art than before, but now she’s having to navigate complicated courses online, too. And for someone who doesn’t “sit so well,” that is a big deal. 

Brennan plans to become a tattoo artist, but that profession isn’t so accepted among her fine art classmates and professors at UNL. She wants to show that tattooing has a place in the world of fine art through her capstone project: drawings of Greek and Roman statues, covered in tattoos.

Brennan got her idea from learning about the role these statues have in communicating the beauty of the human body and its movements. She said she wants to put tattoos on statues because “statues were the way they got the beauty of the human body into a gallery,” and this is her way of getting tattoos into a gallery. 

But the beauty of statues, which Brennan likens to the beauty of tattoos, is that they’re representations of something more.

“When the human body actually moves, it’s more beautiful (than the statue),” Brennan said. “When tattoos are on the skin, they’re more beautiful than the drawing.” 

Brennan has noticed that more people are spending time on social media, which is another benefit for her business. Brennan thinks this could be a perfect opportunity to continue to communicate to her classmates the importance of the kind of work she creates.

Even though her main goal is to sell her pieces, she wants people to see that her style of art still means something to someone, even if it’s not always herself. 

“This is like the perfect storm for me,” Brennan said.