J. Austin Jennings is our August 2012 Artist of the Month. Her acrylic painting Sunsphere was a finalist in the abstract/experimental category of The Artist’s Magazine’s 28th Annual Art Competition. “Everything in life inspires me, but especially nature, the earth and metaphoric ideas, ” says Jennings. “Every morning brings a new opportunity for seeing something that will inspire. It is why I live.”
Art is my main occupation, meaning I think it, do it and plan it around the clock. I also teach art at various local institutions and open my studio weekly to students for small group/private lessons.
I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember. Although I wasn’t allowed to go to art school for college, I studied art at The Dayton Art Institute throughout my middle and high school years, and then continued studying art at Sinclair College, in Dayton, and at the Ohio Institute of Photography & Technology. Because I was expected to work for my family’s business, I did not pursue an art degree.
A Sphere of Inspiration
While walking through a park that commemorated the site of the 1982 World’s Fair, in Knoxville, TN., I notice the reflection of an ornate brick bridge on the surface of a pond, and I wanted to capture the vivid orange and blues that I saw. Only later, after photographing and working on the piece, did I realize I had also captured the reflection of of the distant 200-foot glass/bronze tower known as The Sunsphere. It appears as a small shape in the upper right portion of the painting.
While working on Sunsphere, I found myself mesmerized by the abstract, curvilinear forms made by the reflections on the surface of the water. I loved getting lost in the formations, but I did feel challenged at times to keep things precise, as I wanted my painting to accurately reflect the photo capture.
Jennings’ Painting Process
I primarily work in acrylic paint, but I also utilize a unique collage application technique in which I combine cut-paper collage and layered acrylic paint. My typical palette is a contrast of warm and cool colors. I enjoy using bold colors that create pockets of opposition, tempered by areas of pure harmony. I use a combination of painting methods when I work– I prefer working from nature outdoors, and I participate in several painting events, en plein air, as well as working on my own whenever and wherever I can. Having started on location, I will usually use photographs taken by my husband, photographer Randy Jennings, to aid in the completion of the piece back in my studio. Sunsphere was created strictly from a photo capture in order to freeze the constant motion of the water. I rarely have the patience to make working drawings beforehand because I prefer a more spontaneous approach that allows my original idea to change and evolve based on what happens during the process.
Right now, I am working on a 17-piece collage entitled Great and Small, which features animals from the wild collaged using tiny shards of cut paper and layered over varying sizes of acrylic paintings of their natural habitats. I expect to spend the remainder of the summer working on it, with a goal of completing this collage sometime in the fall.
A Gorge of Silence
One of my most memorable painting experiences occurred when I was working en plein air in the Smoky Mountains National Park. I had climbed—equipment in tow—into a deep gorge where a roaring waterfall fell into a rocky stream. It was so loud that I couldn’t hear anything around me except the rushing water. I was deep in thought and in my work when I saw a flutter of movement above me on the ridge. My husband was waving vigorously at me, trying to get my attention. Beside him stood an older couple who had been touring the mountain road and felt it was a novelty to see a painter working. It seems that the couple had wanted to photograph me and wanted to get my attention, but their calls had gone unheard. Randy told me later that he had told them simply that I couldn’t hear. The kind old couple let out an immediate expression of sympathy. They thought he had meant I was deaf.
View more of J.Austin Jennings’ works on her websites: www.2-artists.com and jaustinjennings.blogspot.com. Artists of the Month are chosen from the list of finalists of The Artist Magazine’s Annual Art Competition.
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