To help inspire us creatively, I’m doing a series of artist interviews about art and how to make it happen. Today, mixed-media artist Jen Walls answers my seven questions.
1. What do you create? How did you know this was the medium for you?
I am a mixed-media artist, which basically means I use whatever is around to create my art. Acrylics, oils, watercolor, pens, inks, ephemera, glue. The many layers of mixed media pieces make me very happy.
2. How did you learn your craft? What are you still learning/practicing in your art?
Learning was a mixture of classes, workshops, and logging many hours in the studio. My first art mentor continually challenged me, and I simply said YES to whatever she put out there, and I learned by leaps and bounds. An artist I greatly admire told me 400 paintings would make me a pro. I am, today, at 301. I take instruction seriously, and practice many hours every day.3. What are your top three favorite subjects/themes in your art and why do those speak to you?
Three favorite subjects: animals, primitive markings, and faces. Mostly the faces of children. Combining all three makes for some super mojo and good energy, I think. Animals have a message for us, and I love to find out what the particular significance of the animal is in native traditions or shamanism, and then bring that meaning into the piece. Primitive markings and cave paintings have fascinated me since childhood. And doodling them! Well, that is just the best meditation out there. Children’s faces are full of old wisdom and youthful play. They capture something we lose as we grow up, and I love bringing that childlike play to my art.
4. Which artists have influenced you and what have you learned from them?
Hmmmm, I have been influenced by Caroline C. Brown, who taught me the irresistible juiciness of mixed media and collage. Jesse Reno, who is a prolific creator and astute business person as well as a magical mojo maker in his art – raw and primal but often pink! Who can resist that? Of the greats, Mark Rothko, a myth maker and abstract painter whose subway people I find enchanting.
5. Why do you create? What do you get out of it?
Why do I create? There is magic in art. The magical ability to evoke a smile, a thought, tears, or joy. The ability to connect a person and emotion like the best of matchmakers. And when a collector connects with a piece of my art and brings it home because she just has to, it feels like Christmas morning to me. Simply magical.
6. How do you prioritize your art among all the other things you do in a day or week?
So as a priority, art comes first. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes there are many things in a day which get in the way of studio time. But wherever I am, I can sketch out ideas, play with concepts, observe the world around me, and jot down inspiration. I work at art like a full-time job. I show up every morning ready to work, and put in the time whether or not the muse decided to show up. And often, if I show up, the muse eventually makes an appearance.
7. What message or advice do you have for would-be artists?
My advice is this: protect your head space. Don’t let people mess with your mental mojo! Do work every day, and suspend judgment. Your job is to create! Your workspace is a sanctuary and a place of magical creativity. Make art every day and surround yourself with people who believe in you.
Plantation, Florida-based Jen Walls is best know for watercolor and ink creations incorporating primitive markings, glyphs, tribal patterns, and symbolism, though her “imajenation” can whip up a goat with unicorn aspirations or a rabbit who can fly. Her fascination with ancient markings has resulted in a reverence for the symbolism and spirituality of other cultures, including Native American shamanic traditions and animal totems, reflected in many of her works.
Walls is a member artist at Ciel Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina, teaches mark-making and doodling (or “jentanglement”), and is an advocate for doodling in the classroom, the boardroom, and the waiting room.