About Jessi Leigh
Most "About" pages are typically written in third person, likely because it's "just how things are done." However, I will be writing mine in first person, because honestly, who would know my history better than I would? Also, third person feels a bit strange, and a tad pretentious if I'm to be honest.
I'm Jessica Reid, mostly known as "Jessi Leigh" online. I'm a 28 year old artist who has been drawing and creating practically from the womb. In May of 2015 I graduated from Indiana University Kokomo with a BS in New Media, concentrating in Graphic Design and minoring in Fine Art. Currently I work as a freelance graphic artist, and strive not only to create, but also hope to inspire others through my work. I enjoy creating both digitally and traditionally, and try to add an otherworldly feel or a twist on reality in many of my pieces as a way to escape the boredom of a world where magic and wonder tends to wither and die from most as we age. I'm inspired by stories and music, finding those who can create entire worlds and make you believe them to be remarkable. Inventing an entire realm is something that just can't be taught.
I've always wanted to be an artist throughout my life, I was always drawing or making something, even when I was very small. My mother can attest to this. She had to replace many rocking chairs because I would literally wear them out constantly rocking in them as I drew.
In middle school I discovered I could create art digitally, and would sit at home drawing TV characters in MS Paint, drawings that unfortunately disappeared forever when the blue screen of death informed my siblings and I that our computer had crashed, as old computers were wont to do in the early 2000's.
Then, in high school, I took a photography class and discovered Photoshop, which lead me down the path to discovering more classes that taught how to use more digital art programs (as well as how to code for the web!) and I began to create more digital art. (For while I was mostly photoshopping my family into aliens, let's be honest.) This all led to me taking a class my senior year where the students would design the yearbooks for our high school, (I was assigned the art class spread, of course haha) and honestly, my only regret is not discovering that the class existed sooner, as it became something I really enjoyed and influenced the degree I pursued in college.
So, I continued this path through college, taking many creative courses that would help me on my way to obtaining a degree in my desired field.
All was well at first. I was enjoying my studies and did fairly well in my classes, taking digital art courses as well as several traditional courses such as figure drawing, sculpture, and working with metals. All of which allowed me to learn and enjoy creating many stimulating projects.
Unfortunately, things wouldn't remain this easy. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had an issue with my thyroid that caused me many problems (and looking back, likely began while I was in high school), one of which was unfortunately falling into a depression, which was also worsened by the passing of my grandfather, who I was very close to. I wasn't open about any of this to my loved ones or peers. On the outside I'd appear normal, but on the inside it was dark.
All this caused me to struggle. I would be late to morning classes because I just couldn't find the strength to get out of bed in the morning. I found it hard to concentrate on work that I would normally breeze through, and too often I would find myself working until the next morning when it was time to make the very long drive to campus, of which I'm sure couldn't have helped the state of my body or mind at the time.
This condition also caused me fatigue, and I'd find myself fighting to stay awake through classes, even on days where I knew I had slept well the night before. I remember one class clearly. One of my favorite professors was lecturing on a subject I was very much interested in, but I was fighting to stay awake. I wasn't bored or trying to be rude, and I genuinely did love the class. I couldn't understand it. I got to the point of actively doodling in some classes to keep alert to the lesson. I remember feeling guilty, but also feeling like I couldn't bother my professors or advisors with the reasons for this behavior, that it would simply look like I was creating excuses for laziness. Looking back I see now that if I had been open with my professors it would have been more likely that one of them would have referred me to the free on-campus therapy offered to the students -a service I learned about late in college and unfortunately did not make use of, and I really should have.
Despite all this, I was somehow able to work through these issues well enough to graduate on time with good grades. I went on to marry the love of my life and continued to create.
However, my condition only continued to worsen, to the point where those who cared for me were starting to really see something was wrong. It affected my art as well. I had started out a year intent on completing a daily drawing challenge for one year. I laid out prompts for the whole year, and was excited to see what a year of drawing would bring. I started out great, and even though I technically completed it, I failed, because by the end I was barely able to make myself draw even the simplest image for each prompt on some post-it notes most days, even though in my heart I wanted to do more.
It was by this time that I would finally be convinced to see a doctor. They discovered what was wrong and treated me for the condition, and what a difference it made. I was no longer extremely tired all the time, I was no longer locked in a darkness inside my own mind. I can't describe the relief I would later feel when I finally realized none of it was my fault, I had just been sick. Those who cared for me would also later say they could definitely tell a difference.
Now, I must confess, normally I would never be as open as I have just been in this "About" section, and anyone who knows me will attest to that. If any of them happen to read this I'm sure they'll be needing to lift their jaws off the floor from the shock.
I'm sharing this part of my story for no other reason than to try to help others who may be going through a similar situation. If you feel something isn't right, if you are suffering from depression, please get help. There was a time where I had convinced myself that life doesn't get better, and had I not been convinced to seek medical treatment, it never would have. There's no guarantee I'd even be here, writing this today. There's no guarantee I'd still be here creating. Either the thyroid condition would have worsened until it eventually killed me, or the resulting depression would have. And it would have been a shame, because I would have missed out on beautiful years with the love of my life and my family.
I promise you, it will get better. Don't give up. You will find your happy ending.