Talented Islamorada artist Jessica Ann Cecil has a unique flair for capturing marine life with colorful personalities — and she’s on a mission.
That mission: to connect her patrons, clients and students with Florida Keys marine ecosystem conservation efforts through her art. She founded Jessica Ann Art just seven years ago with a creative soul, a business mind and an open heart.
Now 30 years old, the self-taught Jessica is known for her generosity with donations of her originals — and for often earmarking a percentage of sales to nonprofits Coral Restoration Foundation, Dolphins Plus and Save-A-Turtle of the Florida Keys.
Jessica’s art is a family affair. Husband Chris, previously a Yellowfin yacht builder, oversees the framing and printing of works. Sons Bennett and Griffin, 6 and 2 years old respectively, who both love to paint, come up with creative inspiration through frequent travels on family getaways and art research trips.
Born and raised in the Upper Keys, Jessica attended high school in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Her parents, dive masters in the Keys, maintained a property management business there.
She met Chris while attending Florida Keys Community College (now called The College of the Florida Keys). After marrying, the two headed off to Boca del Toro, Panama, to honeymoon. While in Panama, they were offered an opportunity to manage the Buccaneer Hotel before moving back to Islamorada.
Today, Jessica Ann Art sells original works, prints, hand-painted clothing and keepsake holiday ornaments. Jessica is currently creating a collection celebrating the Florida Everglades that she plans to unveil in November.
Keys Voices: When did you first come to the Florida Keys and why?
Jessica Ann Cecil: I was born in the Florida Keys. I’ve come and gone a few times, but my heart and home have always remained here.
KV: What aspects of the Keys environment or way of life matter most to you?
JAC: I am lucky enough to walk out my door and see our blue oceans and tropical palms. Chris and I make sure the boys learn just how important our environment is and the different ways they can do their part. We teach them to save the many things they have fallen in love with — our wildlife, coral reefs and shorelines they are lucky enough to encounter daily.
KV: Who or what inspired you to become passionate about respecting and protecting the Keys’ natural world?
JAC: Our way of life in the Keys. My parents were big divers and fishermen. I was always drawn to the ocean and I found the most inspiration when painting sea life. I always do lots of research before I paint and I was quickly pulled into learning about our declining reefs, shorelines and other important ecosystems. I started volunteering my time or donating a print to help raise awareness.
KV: What are some of the ways, personally or through your work, that you connect with and/or help protect the local environment and unique lifestyle?
JAC: Partnering with different foundations such as the Coral Restoration Foundation and others that are in line with what I am passionate about saving. I paint full collections of work inspired by their conservation work. I spend time researching and creating work that will tell a story.
KV: What keeps you energized, challenged and focused on your path?
JAC: Our children are the future of our environment, and their choices and way of living will either save or further the decline of our ecosystems. I want my boys to see that I am doing what I love every day while also helping to save our oceans and shorelines. I hope they will also follow in my footsteps and find passion to make a change in something they truly love.
KV: What message do you want your actions and example to communicate to people you encounter?
JAC: The more we each do, the larger the impact — but imagine if we all just bought one less single-use plastic, if we all learned how to do some simple composting, or if we all chose reef-safe sunscreen? Start small, learn more and make one small change at a time.
KV: What’s your favorite natural or eco-friendly activity in the Keys?
JAC: Fishing and diving. Our family also loves long treks through the mangroves while exploring the shorelines.
KV: What do you hope your positive environmental actions will accomplish?
JAC: I hope that my talent as an artist helps to relay a positive message about ocean conservation. I hope to inspire people to protect our beautiful oceans and shorelines by connecting with the work I create.