Author Archive | Jen Norton

Mediterranean Landscape, step by step

I was recently hired to do a commissioned painting for some wonderful patrons, and I thought it would be fun to show you some of the process. Every artist has her own process… this a little of mine!

The clients had some ideas on themes, styles and colors they liked, but they weren’t entirely sure what they wanted and had never commissioned art before. I began by working on some formats and sketches based on their interests and the space the final piece would hang. We settled on this sketch of a Mediterranean landscape:

Landscape, sketch idea


I began by transferring the sketch to canvas, and painting in the values for reference. I do allow for the freedom to change my mind, but I try to at least start with the agreed-upon sketch!

landscape–line and value


Then I start adding color. I try not to get too caught up in the end result. This is all underpainting and I’ve found that the more time I spend playing around at this phase, the more interesting the end piece is. I got too involved to remember to take more photos, but I used stamps, layers of bright color and texture, a little collage and messy brushwork to build interest in this phase.

landscape-adding color


When I thought I was far enough along, I showed it to the client. Since they live near me, we could look at it in their space for better evaluation.

landscape-with sunflowers

We decided on less yellow and blue, more purples and reds, including a change from sunflowers to some kind of climbing rose bush. They also decided they’d like a more realistic sunset, with only 1/2 the sun showing. This input is really important because they have to live with the piece, and I want them to be happy! It’s hard to know what you want without something solid to look at so I always allow points for evaluation and reasonable change in the process. Here’s where our decisions lead us… I really liked the new roses!

landscape-red roses

This was really close, but we still decided to pull some of the orignal blues back into the water, lighten the sky and calm some of the turbulence in the sea. The final result… ta da!

Cocktails for Two © Jen Norton


Our Father (The Lord’s Prayer)

Our Father Painted Prayer by Jen Norton

Imagine you’re sitting with your friend Jesus in a local coffee shop today asking Him about how to pray. You have so many needs, so many distractions… Sometimes you just can’t handle it all. Using modern American English, he might offer you prayer advice like this:

Start with a “Hello” to Our (shared) Father, Creator of all, who is above, beyond and through this visible world. Tell Him you revere and respect His great name above all and will only use it with loving intent.

Ask Him to let the work you do bring His kingdom to earth, and not be a futile attempt to try and craft your desires into His plan.

Ask Him for what you and your community or family need just for today, no more and no less (and to be grateful for it);

Ask Him to help you forgive, so you also can receive His forgiveness. No one’s perfect, and sometimes we need His help to see that.

Ask him to provide strength to recognize the things, situations, or people that tempt us away from His will and help us to walk away from them and toward His light.

Finish with your statement of belief and surrender to His will.

But Jesus spoke the words of the Lord’s Prayer, or the “Our Father” in my Catholic tradition, long ago to His disciples on a mountainside in more poetic language, perhaps to allow us to ponder and reflect on the words from different angles and cultural backgrounds over the course of our lives.

So, imagine you’re under an olive tree, along the Sea of Galilee. You are sitting with Jesus one morning while the fishing boats go by and and the sun is rising, wondering, “How should I pray?” And in the whisper of the breeze, under the shady branches, on the banks beside the cool waters, your friend Jesus shares with you the answer to your question:

Our Father
Who Art in Heaven
Hallowed be Thy Name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day, our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

“Our Father”  40 x 40″ Acrylic on Canvas. $4800 (Original Sold) Inspired by Matthew 6:5-15

Prints on paper made in my studio available in my Etsy shop here.
Custom prints by Fine Art America available here.


Lay down your burdens…It’s a Good Friday.

Lay Down Your Burdens © Jen Norton

“Lay Down Your Burdens,” Polymer Clay and Acrylic on Plywood. $250


Do you ever hold on to fears, hurts and pains like they’re precious jewels? Catch yourself telling your troubles to friends who’ve heard it all before? Or think you’re not worthy of something better? Do you carry your worries around day after day, piling them up like a monumental wall to hide behind? Have you forgotten what it’s like to live without all that weight?

Aren’t those stones getting awfully heavy?

Don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s part of the human condition, an addiction that first took hold probably in your early teens, just as your ego was developing. But God came in human form to make sure we knew that wasn’t the end of the story. We are more than those stones. There was a time before we picked them up. With a little bravery, we can put them down and be free again.

It’s good to stand among those dark, cold stones and acknowledge their presence. But maybe we can begin to see that the there are cracks and spaces and imperfections between them. And maybe if we view those cracks from just the right spot, we’ll witness a new perspective. Maybe we’ll see the light of early dawn streaming through the cracks.

Set down your stones on the dark, wet grass and trust that they will stay put. For now, just enjoy the light. Soak it in, let it disperse through you, let all the colors of the rainbow scatter forth from your soul and see what grows where there once was only darkness.

Today is Good Friday, the day the flesh was broken and the stones were piled high. But in a few days, everything will change and the Light will come.

Happy Easter.

Contact me to purchase this original artwork.


Beloved Saint Francis

Saint Francis painting by Jen Norton

There’s just something about Saint Francis a girl like me, born a Catholic in the hippie era of the 1960s, has to admire. He was the ultimate tree hugger, free spirit, lover of the poor, always bearing hardship with the artistry of a smile and a song. But he wasn’t always the gentle animal lover we see in pictures. Like most of the Catholic saints, he started out just a regular guy, flawed and imperfect like the rest of us. As a young man, he had the promise of his family’s wealth and a father who expected him to continue in the family business. He was popular, spoiled, self-centered and enjoyed partying it up with his friends. He was a dreamer who didn’t do very well in school and who set off to win fame and glory by fighting for his home region of Assisi against Perugia, no doubt captivating damsels in distress along the way. Sounds like a typical teen boy.

But in the words of the late John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.” Life happened to Francis. He was imprisoned for a year in the Perugia war. Bummer. Returning home he intended to step back into his carefree life, but contracted a serious illness instead that caused him to face a spiritual crisis. Another bummer. Upon recovery, he tried one more time, enlisting in the Crusades and bravely marching off decked out in the finest haute couture war garb money could by. He was going to be a hero, come hell or high water!

But again, God had other plans. Dang. He barely left town before he had a dream in which God told him he was wrong and he must return home. It must have been some dream because he obeyed, attracting the ridicule of his friends. That decision was the beginning of a slow conversion through prayer and reflection. He lost his desire for his old way of life, seeing it for all its shallowness. One day, while praying in the ruins of San Damiano, he heard Christ on the cross clearly tell him to “repair My church”. God rarely reveals His entire plan up front, knowing we’d never agree to it! Francis only thought this meant to rebuild the ruined San Damiano chapel, so he sold fabric from his father’s business for supplies and began his work.

His father, never a fan of the churchy set, accused him of theft and brought him before the bishop. The kind and merciful bishop simply asked Francis to return the money and all would be provided. Francis not only returned the money, but he renounced his family, all his worldly possessions and his claim to any inheritance. He began to live like a joyful beggar, preaching to all who would listen about returning to God and obedience to the church. He lived in poverty not to abolish it, but to make it holy; to find freedom in it. In his words:

“What can you do to a man who owns nothing? You can’t starve a fasting man, you can’t steal from someone who has no money, you can’t ruin someone who hates prestige.”

That should be of some comfort if you ever feel “less-than”. As it turned out, others were also eager for change and enticed by his simple and happy manner. One thing led to another and before he knew it, he had about 5000 followers and found himself in front of the Pope pleading for approval for his growing brotherhood. At another time he traveled to Syria, meeting with the Sultan in hopes of converting him to end the Crusades. Not only did he live to tell about it, but he impressed the Sultan who remarked, “I’d convert to your religion, which is a beautiful one, but both of us would be murdered.”

God continually cleared the way for Saint Francis to spread his message of peace in spite of human shortcomings. And Francis, once touched by the power of that Love, never lost his cheerful enthusiasm for life in spite of the hardships of poverty, illness, even blindness. He died in 1226 at the age of 45, but left us with a Franciscan legacy of holiness in simplicity. Did you know St. Francis is also responsible for arranging the first Christmas Creche? In the words of the American hippies of the 60s, “FAAAAAR OUT!”  Saint Francis certainly was!

Original: $800 (SOLD)

You can order custom prints in my Fine Art America shop here or by clicking the “Shop” tab above.
Matted prints made in my studio are also available in my Etsy shop here.



Abundant Love

Love Is Abundant © Jen Norton

Valentine’s Day is just a month away, and I have to admit it’s not one of my favorites. Not that I don’t appreciate love, or the efforts of the somewhat ambiguous St. Valentine, martyred in the 2nd century by the Roman emperor Claudius for, among other things, assisting persecuted Christians in getting married. It’s just that the day always seems so fake to me. Overpriced red roses, pre-written sentiments, the expectation that if enough demonstrations of love aren’t expressed on this day, you’ve missed out somehow. I don’t like to be told what to do or how to feel. And I already eat too much chocolate and I don’t wear much jewelry. The traditions that have formed around this day don’t interest me. I’d rather read a book.

But that’s my perspective on something that brings others great joy. And that’s the funny thing about Love…REAL Love. It’s always there, constantly surrounding us, always ready to rain down on us the minute we’re open to it. But often we’re not. Love is always an abundant commodity. Our ability to see it, accept it, believe that it is really meant for us, is often clouded. We hide under our “umbrellas” of fear, judgement, past beliefs. But while this shield might keep the rain out, it will also hide the sun.

What happens if we change our perspective, turn our umbrella upside down, so to speak? Then it becomes a vessel to gather all the Love we want. Sure some rain my fall. Your hair might get wet or your mascara run. But if we have the courage to accept all that is ready and waiting for us, our cup just might runneth over.

Matted prints made in my studio are available here.  Or you can purchase a set of signed Art Cards here.

This original is 9 x 12″, Acrylic on cradled birch wood. To inquire about the original, please contact me directly.


No matter how small, God’s Love is big!


I have a nervous Boxer named Patti. She came to us after years of neglect and abuse and I love her to death. She reminds me of myself at a young age: overly concerned about small stuff, shy and scared in new situations, but joyful once she feels safe. After a few years with us she has settled in to our family just fine. Lately, though, she’s been shivering with anxiety just before feeding or walking times. It’s December as I write this, and boxers don’t have a lot of hair, but I don’t think it’s the cold. We live in CA and have a heater…even a hairless mammal like myself can survive it! But she has to rely on us to open the door to go out, and with the colder weather making her hungrier, her mealtimes can’t come soon enough.

Tonight as she was shivering right before her dinner time, I said, “Patti…you know I always take care of you on time! What are you shaking for?” I mean, really…in almost 4 years and even on my busiest days, I’ve remembered to feed the dog!  But isn’t it that way it is sometimes between us and God? We’re so desperate to get what we need (or want) that we worry and fret and shake. We can’t focus, we annoy our family. We make ourselves sick. What we don’t do is trust in God: that he has our ultimate best interests at heart and will not forget us. Sure, He’s busy…tons of people in the world have way-bigger needs than me, a white American suburban girl. But my needs are still big to me, and God knows that. He’ll give me what I need, fill my food bowl, all in good time. I should let go of my worry.

What do you need this Christmas? What do you desire deep down in your soul? On Christmas we remember that God came to us in human form to show us the way back to Him (have you noticed He always comes to US… ). He was born a small, helpless, poor child in a world where the powerful were out to eliminate Him from day one. You can’t get any more needy than that. Yet, even from that lowly position, He offers hope and promise. I think there is a message here: even in this big scary, seemingly hopeless world, a infant-God is still bigger. Whatever lack-of-faith crisis consumes us, His love is still greater.

I will always take care of my dog, and she’s not even human. How much more does our Father love us? Do not shake and shiver in the cold, wondering if you are loved. You are. Let the One who Created you give you strength to face your doubts. Let His Love fill your heart and give you Joy.

Merry Christmas.

Something Small has Great Value to God


It’s time for those American holiday sales!

Happy Holiday Specials from Jen Norton
In honor of the great American eating and shopping holidays of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday (yikes!), I’ve got some special Holiday Sales for you. If you’re looking for something unique and art-inspired, I may be able to help you check a few gifts off your list. So here goes…This is the week to find the perfect something at the best price in any of my online stores! Coupon Codes will be active until midnight on Monday, December 2!

20% OFF in my ETSY Shop:

In this shop, you’ll find small original work, 11×14 matted prints and Garden Charms made in my studio. Use Coupon Code “Holiday20” at checkout from Monday, Nov 25 to Mon, Dec 2nd, 2013 to get 20% off any purchase!
Enter here: or use the “Shop” tab on this site.

20% OFF in my Fine Art America Print Shop:

In this shop you’ll find reproductions customized your way. You can even matt and frame here and have it shipped directly to you, ready to hang! Use Discount Code “GLUDTC” at checkout from Monday, Nov 25 to Mon, Dec 2nd, 2013 to get 20% off any art reproductions. Please note that this discount will not apply to any framing accessories purchased along with your art.
Enter here: or use the use the “Shop” tab on this site.

Daily Specials from Zazzle:

Sample Zazzle Products

Here you can shop for pillows, journals, clocks, cosmetic bags, cell phone covers and even matching postage and holiday cards made with my artwork. While I cannot offer discounts directly, Zazzle posts daily specials this week on their home page, or you can sign up on their site to receive them in your email. Applicable discounts are applied automatically to any purchase when you check out.

Entere here:

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, if you’re in America. Happy Weekend to everyone else!


How to paint a house

I recently had the privilege of creating a special home portrait for a patron in my hometown. I thought I’d share my progress on how to paint a house here.

We began with some sketches of her ranch-style home, which were then transferred to the canvas. I start all my work with bright, wild colors. This adds  a spark of life to the final piece as bits and pieces of the bright color pop through. If anyone came to check on my progress at this point, they might be a little worried!
Painting progress, step 1

Next I begin to add some of the “real” colors and neutral tones. There is always a mix of many colors in nature. For example, something green usually contains all kinds of blues, yellows and especially reds. I rarely use any green right out of the tube.

painting progress, step 2

Finally, I work on the balance of neutrals. In this case, I wanted the emphasis to lead up to the front door, so I used warmer tones in the path which echo in the door windows and golden California hills behind the house. Like green, using lots of colors in the neutrals adds interest and life to the colors.

painted house commission by Jen NortonMy home portraits make great gifts too! Let me know if you’d like me to capture your special place in art!



Art Box Project #2!

Last year I was privileged to paint one my city’s electrical boxes as part of the Art Box Project San Jose. Recently, I was contacted to paint a second box to reflect the original cherry orchards that used to grace the corner of Hamilton/Pine and Hicks Roads in Willow Glen, San Jose. The patrons who hired me are part of the family who originally owned the farm, and they still own some of the property as well as the beloved family tractor shown on the front of the box! I thought you might enjoy a few pictures of my latest public art endeavors:

Art Box front by Jen Norton




The Value of an Art Education

Detail of Monarch Butterfly painting © Jen Norton

There was a point mid-way through my university art education when my mom kindly suggested, “Why don’t you study business instead so you can get a job?” Ahhh… the lament of so many well-meaning parents. So I added in a business minor. I suffered through every econ, finance and accounting class, but I made it. Thank God I had art to fall back on. Truth is, without art nothing else made sense. Art is my language. I am forever grateful my parents let me declare it my major, even with their misgivings. I am thankful they trusted in my character above their own fears. It all worked out.

Over the years I have been approached many times by worried parents of college-aged kids who want to study art. We all seem to agree that having art in grade schools is a good idea. But study it in college? That’s a whole different jar of paint all together! How will they get a job? What will our friends think? How can we justify the cost? Talent and creativity are great, but you should study what will get you a top job, they argue. I disagree. Unless you are on a specific vocational track, I believe the purpose of college is to prepare young people to live independently with the ability to adapt and LEARN. The arts are uniquely positioned to help with that goal because they encourage creativity in problem-solving. There is no one right answer, but many possibilities.

Art is the language of the soul. In a healthy society, some of us need to speak it fluently so others can experience it. It is the “human” part of our humanity; the proof of God. Art is creating something out of nothing; expressing an emotion in a concrete way. We all need that, whether we know it or not. If you want more than a choice of a burlap sack for clothing, food in tin cans (with no pretty labels), or a plain white card for your birthday, you might need art. What if you could only paint your home white, white or white? What if your only weekend movie choices were military propaganda, there were no books to read or music to listen to? Can you imagine the state of our economy if there were no emotion involved in a purchase? Art touches everything. Someone needs to make all that art. Someone gets that job.

It’s true that it often takes years of passionate dedication to make it as a working artist. I believe this is largely due to the “self discovery” aspect of art. When I look at artists who have made it big or who I admire, they have done so because they figured out their message and their purpose. They know their audience. This discovery can take years, even a lifetime. Sometimes you do need a day job or an understanding life partner. But there are so many lucrative fields one can explore above and beyond the solitary artist stereotype, from graphic design, to movie or video game production, to in-house illustration. If art is your child’s passion, they just might make money, empower others and create a joyful life while they are figuring it out. Or, they might take on a different career, but be an art supporter. Perhaps a music promoter, a designer beautiful office environments or they might discover more creative ways to flow traffic. A life will unfold the way it’s supposed to, but taking time to study art just might open their eyes to some unconventional options.

Here’s the thing: we all have a soul purpose, and the thing that most naturally uses our talents, personality and abilities to manifest that purpose are exactly what the world needs. The world doesn’t need more miserable people spending lifetimes doing something they think they should do. That creates dis-ease. The world needs inspired people inspiring others. So go ahead and let your kids study art if that’s what drives them. They just might become the productive citizens you dreamed of.