Jessica St. Clair ’02 Paints a Brighter Future for Shelter Dogs through her Artwork

Jessica St. Clair '02 and her dog Molly

What began as a fun pastime – photographing her dog Molly – has turned into a business and community service venture for Jessica St. Clair ’02.

The alumna, who earned her BFA in graphic design from WP, combines skills in that platform with original photography and digital art in her “Bark Remarks” greeting card line. Many of the dogs featured in her “doggone funny” creations – sold online and in five stores across Maryland and Pennsylvania – are shelter animals. St. Clair donates a portion of the annual proceeds to A Buddy for Life animal shelter in her hometown of Elkton, Maryland.

“I started making cards for personal use, for my family – fun little cards with my dog on the cover – and they were so well-received, I thought that maybe I should do something more with this,” St. Clair explains. “I wanted to present homeless pups in a fun, entertaining way that would help draw positive attention to the plight of shelter animals.” She decided to visit the resident dogs at her local shelter, and photograph them at play for use in her cards. “I think they just know; they’re real hams and they work it for the camera,” St. Clair says, laughing.

One of her favorite, and most intricately designed cards, shows a bride dog and groom dog driving off into the sunset in an antique convertible. To create the image that nabbed first place in a national competition, St. Clair combined and transformed her photographs of the individual dogs, a sunset over her backyard, the landscape in a park where she walks Molly, wedding accessories from her friend’s big day, and an antique car that her grandparents’ friend owns – which actually wasn’t photographed as an open convertible, but was graphically turned into one by St. Clair.

St. Clair, who is an artist member of the Cecil County Arts Council, was asked to put together a solo show complementary to the theme and mission of her greeting cards. That show, titled “Something to Bark About,” featured 12 pieces of artwork that spotlighted a variety of shelter dogs, her beloved Molly, and even a rescue dog who returned the favor and saved his owner’s life. Each work incorporated a printed word St. Clair thought “best described a beautiful feature of a dog’s personality and what they give to us,” as well as a personal quote to further describe what that word means to her. For every item she sold at the show, St. Clair made another donation to A Buddy for Life.

“I have used everything I learned at William Paterson every day of my life since I was in school,” St. Clair says. “I took so many different kinds of creative classes, and I really loved doing all of it, every bit of it, so I try to work in lots of different creativities – whether it’s painting, building things by hand, designing on the computer, shooting behind the camera – I try to incorporate everything, and have tailored my business to utilize each of those skills.”

The alumna is currently focusing on her fine arts, showing her work regularly as a resident artist at Arts by the Bay Gallery in Havre de Grace, MD. Her favorite subjects are coastal scenes, inspired by her upbringing at the Jersey Shore, as well as rural, natural scenes that convey “peaceful serenity.” This summer, she will be the featured artist at the gallery, and has been busy filling three large walls with her work.

“Do what you love” is her advice to current WP students. “You have to do what you love. You know you’re on the right path when you wake up excited to do your work. As soon as you don’t feel that, it’s an alarm that you’re straying and it’s time to get back to your calling. I knew what I loved doing, what I’m good at doing – what I was meant to do – and I’m so thankful I have that.”

To learn more about St. Clair’s Bark Remarks™ greetings, fine art and graphic design, visit