Jane Ann Sweeney is a woodcut artist - a rare thing these days. Jane Ann is one of three artists featured at our group show on November 3rd. We caught up with her this week to hear more about her art, how she works, and what's inspiring her right now:
Q: Tell us about your art background.
A: My mom is an artist and had my brother and I painting watercolors of ponds and oceans when we would go on beach trips when we were little. When I got into school and had art classes was when I started to realize I might have talent in this area. Art is satisfying but is a lot of work. I can look back and see I have always chosen concentrations that require involved technical application or rendered my subject matter with extreme detail. I feel like the art I have chosen requires a lot of precision or focus. I think one day I will paint or create with wild abandon but I have yet to find that medium or release yet. I thought that medium was in the theatrical arts so I lived in Los Angeles pursing acting for most of my twenties and there definitely is a more immediate return of the effects of your expression.
I originally went to Clemson and majored in Art. I completed my Bachelor of Fine Arts there in 2003, 5 year plan, and graduated from the Clemson Honors Program. I will always feel grateful for that path because I later pursued a degree in Nursing and was well on my way because of the general education requirements from the Honors College at Clemson.
Q: What drew you to printmaking?
In my freshman year design class at Clemson University, National Championship!!, we studied each concentration offered in the program and created works in each: ceramics, sculpture, painting, drawing, and printmaking. I enjoyed learning about and exploring all of them but when I was introduced to the canvas of white pine shelving and the tools of metal gouges and wire brushes I was fascinated. I could create a work of art that was influenced and utilized the grain in a piece of wood. Maybe I like wood grain and little more than the next person but the influence of the wood fascinated me and always surprised me every time I would carve something and then pull a print. I could never really tell you how it was going to turn out until I inked the wood and pulled my first print. Same with each layer/color and the carving between them.
Woodcuts forced me to take my incredibly detailed and "realism" art and abstract it a little bit to work with a knot in the wood or the grain or the limitations of the my tools. I couldn't force my image to be absolutely stunning because of "how accurate it was to real life" and "wow, that looks like a photograph." I used to think that my art could stand on it's own and had value because of how well I was able to render subject matter super realistically, for example, in the case of a drawing, how much it could look like a photograph. That seemed to be how I defined a good artist when I was younger and even into adulthood. While I can appreciated immensely that art that is fascinating because it is rendered by hand and not a camera, I have come to realize the value in how a piece of art makes you feel with it's colors, it's strokes, it's subject matter.
Originally my art was purely focused on the angst of youth and the struggles or beauties of being female and I focused on subject matter that was too dangerous to be allowed to stay taboo and untalked about. When I moved to Charleston, it was still some years before I started accepting that landscapes are interesting and beautiful as well and since I am in one of the most beautiful places on earth, I better start exploring them.
Thanks for sharing your insights and process with us, Jane Ann! Stop by this Friday night from 6:30 to 8:30 and meet Jane Ann in person.
It's always inspiring when an artist takes a medium, or a couple of mediums, blends them together, and starts creating something completely different. Erika Allen is one of those artists. We chatted with her this week about her background, what's inspiring her, and about those rumors that she paints with a screwdriver...
Q: Tell us about your background as an artist.
A: Art has been a love of mine since I was a little girl. I was very fortunate to have parents that encouraged me and provided me with sketch books and art supplies to further ignite my passion. I remember in detail every art teacher I've ever had and how much they contributed to my journey as an artist.
I've taken with me two very important pieces of wisdom from them. One being, from my third grade art teacher after admiring my green and brown tree she said very kindly, "If you look at trees very closely they have every color of the rainbow." That little piece of knowledge would become so important to me in observing the world around me and applying it to my art.
Secondly, my high school art teacher who also encouraged me to pursue my love of art once said to me, "You've got to know when to stop". In other words, know when your piece is done! I've often been working on a piece when I hear those words in my ear and remember that valuable lesson.
In 2001 I graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. I had majored in graphic design, but soon realized my love of art was not best suited behind a computer screen. I liked getting my hands dirty, exploring different mediums, and making beautiful messes! It took a long time, years in fact, for me to take the leap into working as a full-time artist.
In 2016 I fully committed to living my most authentic life which meant Art was in my life daily! Creating, making, using my hands! Happy to say, it was the best decision I've ever made. I get out of bed every morning looking forward to the day ahead. I'm still very much a work in progress, but I hope to always be; I hope to never stop learning and ever evolving.
Q: You use some unusual canvases and methods in your work. Tell us about that.
A: In exploring different mediums, I became drawn to the use of "reclaimed" wood as a canvas for my art. I started to explore using wood stain and/or acrylic paints to see how they interacted with the wood. Reclaimed wood has so many variations in color and texture. It's truly like painting on a surface that already has a rhythm and a soul.
More often, than not, I make decisions about what I’m going to paint based on the wood's inherent character, color, and grain. Painting on rough wood lends some innate challenges. Some being, how much of the wood should be left exposed? How will the color and texture of the wood affect the colors of the paint being applied?
Using several thick layers of acrylic allow for a very vibrant and textural effect. The contrast between the natural grain of the wood and the strong lines of saturated paint give a unique feel to the painting. You really want to run your fingers across it! I use several different techniques to apply my paint. Mainly using a “drip” technique where I drip my paint off the end of a pallet knife, paint brush or even a flat head screwdriver! Anything I can get my hands on.
I’ve been exploring how different colors interact and play off each other when side by side using a very “impressionistic” approach. The quick, separate strokes of paint appear very different from close up than standing back away from the painting. I love how the human eye makes connections from fragments.
Q: What's inspiring you right now?
A: I’ve always been inspired by nature! After all, mother nature is the ultimate artist! While I love all things outdoors, trees have a special place in my heart, oak trees especially! Charleston has some of the most beautiful community of trees I’ve ever seen! To me, they are the beating pulse of Charleston. So much life and character!
Attempting to express that in a painting is a challenge I’m constantly trying to achieve. There are a handful of times that I work directly from a photo that inspires me, but mostly I work from an image in my mind. The lines and flow of a tree seem to come very naturally to me. I don’t usually have a complete vision of the final piece because it changes so many times as I’m working. I allow the wood to make changes to a certain extent! I use a router to engrave some of my pieces. As I’m pushing one way, if the wood resists and pushes me in another direction, I follow.
Q: What's a typical day like for you?
A: Well, I’m a Mom. This means multi-tasking for sure. For me a typical day includes waking up at 6:15, making breakfast for the kids and getting them off to school. Shortly thereafter, I’m in the garage wakin’ up the neighbors . I do try to wait until about 8:00 for the really loud stuff.
About half my day is spent building my canvases. Deconstructing a beat up pallet and prepping it for artwork is a very labor intensive, dirty, dusty, sometimes bloody process. My canvases have become such an important part of my pieces, I feel it’s worth it to get it just right! While building the canvas I’m brainstorming ideas for possible paintings.
After a little clean up, I get busy in my little cubby under the stairs! I’ve joked, that I’m the artist version of Harry Potter. I literally have a teeny tiny space under the stairs where I’ve set up shop. I do at least have a window! I’m quickly outgrowing it and desperately need a space where I have room to spread out and spill and splatter paint everywhere. I am not a neat artist by any means! We are currently planning for an outdoor studio in my backyard, hopefully to be completed in the next year or so.
For the most part, you can find me sitting on the floor surrounded by multiple jars of paint, paint brushes, pallet knives, and wiping cloths listening to Pandora’s mix of Amy Winehouse, Lorde, and old school Etta James.
My sweet little Pom-a-poo “Maggie” has her station/bed, where she contributes by providing the relaxing sounds of doggie snoring. I wrap things up about 1:30 or 2:00 just in time to get showered up and ready for my two very energetic children that will soon burst through the front door looking for food and needing help with homework. The art world will take a brief pause until tomorrow morning when I’m right back at it!
Erika is one of our featured artists for the Exaggerated Nature group show on Friday, November 3rd. We'll have drinks and music from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. - stop by and say hey!
Man oh man do we have a good tour for you today, and an inspiring interview. Julia Deckman is a Charleston artist who will be featured at our November Group Show Exaggerated Nature. Julia keeps a studio at the new Redux Contemporary Art Center, which is a critical part of our community - arts and otherwise. Let's just get to the good stuff right now: STUDIO TOUR!
Q: Tell us about your background as an artist.
A: I am mostly a self taught artist, the majority of my art education came in the form of elementary school summer camps and high school art classes. I have always loved painting, ever since I was a little girl, so I finally decided to make my passion my career a few years ago. I attended CofC between 2003-2007, and fell head over heels in love with Charleston. I decided to make the Holy City my home in 2012, and its been one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Q: What's it been like having a studio at Redux?
A: Being a resident artist at Redux has been life changing. I have forged several friendships and have grown my art practice into a small business I am proud of. The new space on King st is incredible, I am thankful and excited every time I walk through the doors. I absolutely love working among so many other creative people, and being part of a supportive community. I feel very fortunate to have found a home here.
Q: How you choose your subjects?
A: My first subjects were floral pieces, and I will always come back to my first love. I am obsessed with vibrant color, organic shapes, and light. Now that I have been pursuing my art career for over three years, I find more and more subjects sparking my interest. I try to pay attention to these moments of inspiration and compile them into a body of work that is cohesive, unique, and interesting. Lately, perspective and pattern has been peeking my interest, so I have been finding ways to introduce these elements into my work. I imagine my subjects will change several times throughout my life, but I know that color and light will always be a major focus.
Q: You do commissions - what kinds of things are you painting?
A: I love completing commissions! Its a wonderful way to get to know my clients, and I love knowing the owners of my pieces. I do house/business portraits, custom floral pieces, and pet portraits. Pet portraits are probably my favorite commissions; I am OBSESSED with animals and really love capturing their sweet personalities on canvas. With the holidays around the corner, I have had several sweet pups on my easel, but am open to painting any fur baby.
Q: Tell us about a typical day.
A: My typical day is about to change! yay! For the past few years I have been juggling multiple jobs alongside my art business, but starting in January I will be a full-time creative. I will begin teaching art courses at Redux in addition to painting the days away in my studio. What these means is: there wont be a "typical" day. This is exciting, as well as a little scary, but I am so ready for this change. I have been working towards this goal for a long time, it almost doesn't feel real. But I'm sure reality will set in when I meet my future students.
We're really proud of Julia for taking the leap into life as a full-time creative and we're very excited for the next chapter of her career. Stop by Art Mecca this weekend and see Julia's latest works, then come chat with her at the show November 3rd from 6:30 to 8:30.