I've been drawing since before I could read. My parents encouraged us to experiment with all the arts and where I grew up in Princeton, NJ, offered a wide variety of cultural opportunities with fantastic teachers. After I moved to Atlanta in my mid twenties, I studied privately with the Chatovs for about eight years, learning color theory and anatomy at their studio. I'm intensely concerned with chroma and how colors work with each other. My early studies of Johannes Itten and Hans Hofmann influenced how I use color.
Looking at your website, I see that you have your work categorized by the places where you have lived. Can you share with us a bit about how each of these places influenced and inspired your work while you were there?
I've been working exclusively from landscape for about 15 years, although the content usually devolves into abstraction. I'm interested in finding a way to broaden or intensify emotional content within the abstraction of form.
Place has significant meaning for how I respond, and in concept. Each city or region has offered distinct palettes and subject matter. It was great to walk over from my house in San Francisco to sketch in Golden Gate Park, and I still love the works that came out of that period. I've also taken painting trips to the Pacific northwest, British Columbia, and Vancouver Island - the rugged coastlines and peaks of the west are some of my favorite locales. Lately I've been painting my yard, like Bonnard, and really getting to know the change of light on certain trees at various times of the year.
I think a universal painter's dream would be to paint in Italy and you have! Was it as dreamy and magical as I imagine it would be?
I spent almost a month in Umbria at an artists' residency, the International School for Painting, Sculpture and Drawing. Yes, it was so wonderful to have nothing else to do except to paint every day! The light in Italy is similar to northern California and it was sublime to actually be painting and listening to Italian opera on my Ipod in such a historically rich arts region of the world. Residencies can be helpful because there is a community of artists for feedback and camaraderie. I developed a couple of life-long friendships from that one month at the residency. I would suggest that any serious artist look into doing something like this.
Your abstract work is so visually powerful and as a painter, I see so many elements that move me. How would you describe your work to someone who isn't familiar with abstract art but likes what they see?
Thanks! The 'mark' in a painting has to be genuine or authentic or it won't make much of an impression on the viewer. The beauty and poetry of any theme in art, music or literature is that it doesn't have to be fully understood to be appreciated. Everyone should bring their own interpretation and imagination to works of art.
Great question. My focus on being an artist has taken precedence over almost everything - except for gardening and my volunteer work for historical preservation and sustainable agriculture. I worked full-time in television from 1990 to recently, and knew that I needed at least the weekends to produce.
I've been lucky to have had an artist mother, and a sister who's a writer and artist. Several of my close friends are painters, video artists or artisans. We offer each other great support and feedback. And the community of Etsy is another mostly woman based community that offers wonderful feedback and nourishment. I've learned a lot from various women artists here.
There is a definite lack of support in the arts world, for women. You can see this from the ongoing disregard of important women artists in major museums; their blockbuster shows inevitably marginalize women artists. It's changing slowly, but women have not been paid the attention they deserved.
I see you have a history of showing your work in real life venues and gallery exhibits. What led you to selling your work online and do you have any tips for visual artists that would like to do both?
I began selling online with Etsy and other sites, just over a year ago. From my years doing motion design and interactive graphics, I knew a website was a necessity, so I developed my own domain and site back in 1998, before I even had my first home computer. Having a blog and online references to the work is crucial for any artist.
After being out of work for the past year, I made the decision to build a business with my own work. I have exhibited in galleries and museums, but I think online is a big part of the future for both gallerists and individual artists. It's important for artists to keep exhibiting because it does add credibility to their work. Getting reviewed is also critical, but harder to control.
Who are some of your favorite creators? This doesn't have to be just visual artists, it can include musicians, poets, whoever inspires you.
I've had various influences and have studied the gamut of art history and theory. I prefer the early to late expressionists, whose work has astounding passion, freedom and of course, color. I've been strongly influenced by Joan Mitchell, Kline, DeKooning and Hofmann. I have links to a global art scene through friends who live in the UK and Italy, and I'm looking at new work all the time.
My first love was music, I studied violin, piano and voice - so I have a huge interest in the medium. Jazz and classical are my favorite styles, but I'll listen to almost anything. I've used poetry to influence my work and did a few paintings recently based on Whitman poems. I love works by Mary Oliver, Tess Gallagher, Neruda, Rilke, Gary Snyder. Again, too many to write about!
Take us through one of your average painting sessions - do you work on multiple pieces at once or one at a time? Do you devote certain parts of the day or week to painting? Does your mood change each time you paint or is there a consistent mood that painting inspires in you?
I usually work on one painting at a time unless I'm struggling with it. I like to give it some breathing room and come back to it over a period of a few days. Time is an equalizer for artists. We just need more of it. I love to paint figuratively too, from live models.
I couldn't say that there's any one 'mood' when I'm painting. I try to pay attention and be in the act without interruption. I do use music, but it has to be either jazz or classical or something that doesn't require a lot of attention. Art is a discipline just like any other vocation.
Is there an art form that you haven't tried before but would like to explore?
I've never attempted any kind of sculpture and watched my mother sculpt a beautiful head out of clay when I was a teenager. And I'm attracted to abstract work like that of Louise Nevelson, Lee Bontecou, David Smith, and Deborah Butterfield. But the tactile plasticity and modulation that I can get with color and especially with oil paint, is something I doubt I'll ever give up.
Taking a pulse on past, present and future, how would you describe your work ten years ago, right now, and what do you see your work evolving into in, say, ten years from now?
Ten years ago I was working on the series of abstractions from nature that has influenced my current work, so I'd say I have a continuum going from that point. As for lifestyle, I've always wanted to have a small farm or at least enough land to protect, out in the country where you can see stars and hear owls. That's my idea of heaven. I hope that in much less than 10 years I will have built up a thriving online business! Etsy is certainly a great resource, and I appreciate all the other artists there who have helped me. Ad Reinhardt's famous quote about what art is sums up my thoughts on the subject: “Art is art and everything else is everything else.”
Thanks Jessica, for your thoughtful questions and for being such a great interview partner!