Nineteen-year-old Jessica Van Zee’s strawberry blonde hair seems to be the only feature that stands out in the sea of sunken heads — the bright, vivacious color serving as a testament to her bubbly and magnetic personality.
Although only a first-year student enrolled in the fine arts program at CCM, Van Zee has already launched her career in the fields of visual arts and illustration. Fifteen of her art pieces have been featured in art shows across northern New Jersey, and Van Zee has been awarded five scholarships for her artwork from various organizations including the Knights of Columbus and the National Art Honor Society. In total, she has received $2,500 in scholarships.
“In math and science there’s almost a finite line, but art is so vast and wide open,” Van Zee said, a smile widening across her face. “Everything that’s created has to be planned out and drawn, and so art surrounds us. I like math and science don't get me wrong, but I’m partial to art.”
Van Zee’s artwork has allowed her to achieve a certain level of fame within her local community. During her senior year at Mount Olive High School, Van Zee was selected to receive the 2013 Trish Barter-Varrichio Trustees Award, one of the four Mary Gill Art Scholarship awards, the only visual arts scholarship program for graduating seniors in Morris County, according to marygillartscholarship.weebly.com
In addition to receiving $400 worth of scholarship funds, Van Zee’s artwork was on display at the Morris Museum in Morristown, along with the work of the other three young recipients. It was at the exhibition that Van Zee first met CCM fine arts professor, Todd Doney as CCM's Fine Art Portfolio Exhibit was being held on the same date that the museum was holding a reception for the four scholarship winners.
"He was like, ‘You guys should all go to CCM. We need you here,’” Van Zee said.
Doney first saw Van Zee’s work as a judge for the Mary Gill Art Scholarship committee and immediately recognized her talent. Upon hearing that Van Zee enrolled in CCM as a fine arts major, he was excited to have a talented, new addition to the department.
“I knew immediately that she was talented and … I was delighted to discover that she did indeed enroll at CCM,” Doney said. “She is doing very well and progressing well above average … Having a student like Jessica, who could attend any art college in the U.S. and do well, enrolled in our program, confirms that CCM is a worthy choice for art students in New Jersey. Jessica is not the first talented artist to attend CCM, and she won’t be the last. However, she is a talented artist and it is wonderful having her here … Not only is Jessica a terrific artist, she is also a wonderful young lady.”
Van Zee’s passion for art stems from her high school years, where she received overwhelming encouragement and support from her art teachers. This was around the same time that Van Zee’s pieces began appearing in various art shows held in areas surrounding her hometown of Flanders.
During Van Zee’s first year in high school, the teachers that were part of the school’s art department chose four students to submit work to the Teen Arts Festival at CCM.
“I was a freshman, so I was like no way he’s [Van Zee's teacher] going to pick me,” Van Zee said. “He picked my piece. It was a pencil drawing.”
Since her time as a high school student, Van Zee has expanded her portfolio, incorporating different stylistic techniques into her work. She hopes to be employed at Pixar Animation Studios one day, where she can apply her technique to movie and television animation.
For more information on Van Zee’s artwork, visit jessicavanzee.com