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Author Archive | Jen Norton

Out of Darkness

Artichoke © Jen Norton

“Artichoke” by Jen Norton, 5x5

My Irish grandmother used to say, “Into every life a little rain must fall.” She wasn’t just stating the obvious. She was speaking a necessary truth.

You can’t have “happy” all the time, no matter how much you wish it. But then, without the darker times, would we know happy when it came our way? Would we appreciate the spring sun without the contrast of dark winter days?

The same is true in art…negative spaces and dark shadows are necessary to give reference to light and color. They are essential. A deep blue sea appears much deeper blue when black has been used in the underpainting. A glowing window or flower will not appear to glow unless surrounded by duller neutral tones. And an artwork with a strong pattern of lights and darks can move your soul like the drum beat at a rock concert.

My inspiration, Amy Grant, says it best when retelling a story by one of her inspirations, Minnie Pearl:

Open Studio 2012 This Weekend!

Strawberries © Jen Norton

“Strawberries” by Jen Norton

I’m all packed up and about to go set my booth up for Silicon Valley Open Studios 2012! Over the past week I have introduced you to a few of my fellow exhibitors. There will be 14 of us in all. The rest of the artists selling their awesome work at this location include: Terri Hill, Judy Welsh, Robyn Crumly, Jane Hofstetter, Sandi Okita, Kay Duffy, Donna Orme, Shirley Motmans and Pat Suggs. All of us have shown in galleries, exhibitions and taught art, so this is your chance to pick the freshest art in the valley! Plus, we’ll be holding a free raffle with work from most of the artists in attendance.

We look forward to seeing you! Print your flyer here if you haven’t already done so, or just meet us at 19880 Lark Way in Saratoga, CA. 11am to 5pm on both Sat & Sun, May 12 & 13.

…And a very Happy Mother’s Day to all my fellow moms. I hope you are appreciated on Sunday and everyday for all you do! From the words of St. Therese of Lisieux, “The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother.”

Artist Feature 4: Jane Ferguson (countdown to Open Studio 2012)

home portrait paintings © Jen Norton

”Grandma Mac’s House“ by Jen Norton

Hi everyone…You may have noticed that I now do Home Portraits, one of the ways I am using my art to honor and celebrate family traditions and stories. I will have a few samples at my Open Studio this weekend for you to see. The great thing about paint is I can make your flowers look bright, paint your house the color you really want it to be…or keep your house just the way it is. It’s up to you…it’s YOUR story! How about ordering one for your mother? Or purchase a gift certificate so she can commission a home or recipe painting for herself.

Summer Blooms © Jane Ferguson

“Summer Blooms” by Jane Ferguson

Today, I’d like to introduce you to my friend Jane Ferguson who will be one of the 14 artists showing with me this weekend at site 256 during Silicon Valley Open Studios. Jane also knows a bit about making flowers bright. Her joyful personality comes alive in every work she does! In Jane’s own words:

“In creating my paintings I like to use bold colours and a variety of mediums. My goal is to achieve interesting  designs in my work and move away from photo realism. My paintings are more about the use of paint and colour than actually depicting the subject matter. I enjoy experimenting with new mediums and techniques and painting on different surfaces. I want to encourage viewers of my art to find their own imagery with in the pieces. The constant experimental and learning process in Art is what I find so addictive and keeps me loving what I do.” 

The Big One © Jane Ferguson

“The Big One” by Jane Ferguson

See more of Jane’s abstracts, florals and illustrations here. We look forward to seeing you this weekend!

Artist Feature 3: Floy Zittin (countdown to Open Studio 2012)

Garden Charms by Jen Norton

Finishing up my Garden Charms!

Today I’m putting the finishing touches on my Garden Charms® for this weekend’s Open Studio. These are super popular because they allow you to hang art anywhere…kitchen, bath, even outdoors! And speaking of outdoors….

Leafy Labyrinth 2 © Floy Zittin

Leafy Labyrinth 2 by Floy Zittin

I want to introduce you to today’s Featured Artist, my friend and amateur birder Floy Zittin. Floy has years of experience in scientific illustration and uses it to gracefully capture birds in their local habitats, which she renders with a mystical quality using watercolor on both paper and canvas. You can see more of Floy’s work on her website or in her new Etsy store. We’ll both be exhibiting this weekend in Saratoga and you can get all the info here.

 

 

Sparrows © Floy Zittin

Sparrows by Floy Zittin

Artist Feature 2: Andy Ballantyne (countdown to Open Studio 2012)

Coastal House art © Jen Norton

Coastal California Originals and Prints on Wood

It’s going to be hot weather this weekend for our  Open Studio, but maybe my coastal house art will make it seem like a day at the beach! I love my new 6×6″ paintings on wood panel. Each one is painted with layers of fluid acrylic on carved gesso. Plus, I’m making small prints on canvas adhered to carved and painted wood for a fun, giftable option! Originals are $135; Prints on wood are $24.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to another one of my Allied Artist West friends who will be showing his work. Andy Ballantyne is a retired high school art teacher who clearly knows his stuff when it comes to composition, shapes and color. He works in oils, watercolors and pen and ink. All his work is great, but if you don’t believe me, take a look for yourself here.

Goldsmith Seed Farm © Andy Ballantyne

Goldsmith Seed Farm by Andy Ballantyne

Chickadees © Andy Ballantyne

Chickadees by Andy Ballantyne

 

See you this weekend in Saratoga!

May 12 & 13, 2012

Artist Feature 1: Yao-pi Hsu (countdown to Open Studio 2012)

Cool Summer Salad © Jen Norton

“Cool Summer Salad,” 20 x 20", Acrylic on canvas

Hi Art Lovers and Fans…

I’m getting all my art ready and planning my booth for my Open Studio this weekend, May 12 & 13, 2012. Today I put the hanging wire on this fun piece called “Cool Summer Salad”. Doesn’t it just make you want to eat healthy? And one of these days I’m going to design some fabric with this pattern…wouldn’t that be awesome to put on my table under my cool summer salad?

I also want to introduce you to some of the other artists I’ll be showing with this weekend. There will be 14 of us in all, set up on a beautiful property at 19880 Lark Way in Saratoga, CA. I’m going to feature one artist each day this week to whet your appetite. You’ll just have to stop by the show to meet the rest of the artists!

Today’s featured artist is my friend and photographer Yao-pi Hsu. Her work was recently selected for the Chief Curator’s Choice Award by the Chief Curator himself of the Triton Museum of Art, Preston Metcalf. About her work, he said, “It is not always the case that a photographer has the eye of a painter, but Yao-pi Hsu does, and she composes her photographs with a delicate of form and color…”

See you this weekend!

Tulip © Yao Pi Hsu

“Tulip” by Yao Pi Hsu

 

My Relationship with Art

California Coastal vineyard and boat with Pinot grapes

I have a never-ending stream of ideas running through my head. Sometimes it’s a good thing, or even entertaining. Sometimes it’s a stumbling block that keeps me from moving forward.

I’ve always loved pattern. Pattern takes all that chaos and puts in into some kind of pleasing order. As a designer, I always preferred brochure design the best because I could take words and pictures and make something orderly and logical out of them. In painting, I have much more freedom and often too many possibilities, making it hard to start. Thankfully, I have found ways to jump that hurdle. This is how I tackle a painting:

Stage 1: The Anxiety Stage
1. Develop a concept, sketch or at least some basic idea of where I want to go.

2. Don’t think about that scary blank canvas. Just start putting stuff on. I have evolved my painting style specifically to move me out of anxiety and into action. I embrace the chaos.

3. Slowly start to refine large shapes, color themes. I start to tame the beast, which moves me into…

Stage 2: Conflict Management Stage
4. As the large shapes take form, I break them down into smaller areas, make decisions about which will be light or dark areas, develop the “story” of the painting. I have learned both from teaching art and making art that art doesn’t lie. It can’t. It’s creative, from the Creator, pure love. If you make something you truly love, it is truthful, even if some don’t understand it. This is the stage where the rubber meets the road and I use my technical skills make life or death judgements. I should note that this could easily be an area full of self-criticism (I’m not good enough; what if they find out I really don’t know what I’m doing?). All par for the course in the creative process. I have learned to block this out. This is fear, not love. By stepping way from emotion and returning to my practiced skills, I can walk through this wall.

Stage 3: Euphoria
5. This is the stage where I can get lost in details for hours, adding texture, refining colors…all the romantic, emotional qualities that make the piece uniquely mine. I am mesmerized in the making of patterns that have formed from my earlier chaos. This is the stage most non-artists think we makers live in all the time. No, you only get to come here after going through the other stages. Sometimes Stage 1 & 2 can flow more quickly…say if you’ve been divinely inspired. Most of the time, you’ve got to do the work. And yes, art is work.

Art is a bit like life, don’t you think? If we all had the chance to make more art, maybe we’d be better at life. I’ll be showing some of my latest Work at my next Open Studio on May 12 & 13, 2012 and I hope you can come.

The piece above is a sample of one of my paintings…filled with the patterns of the vineyards that grow in the Santa Cruz Mountains near me. This piece is titled, “Coastal Pinot and Chardonnay” and is being used by the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce as their 2012 graphic. With coastal fog and a warm climate, the Santa Cruz mountains are known for their Pinot grapes…and “Chardonnay” refers not to the grape, but to the boat passing by…the Chardonnay Cruise that runs along the Santa Cruz Coast!

You can purchase a print of this artwork here. Please contact me directly to purchase the original.

Love is Patient…

“Patience” © Jen Norton, acrylic on canvas

The painting above is titled “Patience,” one of the nine fruits of the spirit bestowed upon us by the Creator.

In the U.S., Mother’s Day is coming up and I think most of us would agree that the vocation of motherhood requires a lot of patience.

Moms are the primary teachers and authorities on how to interact in the world with grace and compassion. Our moms encouraged us to share, assured us that our identities were not defined by what our friends thought of us and offered forgiveness “seventy-times-seven”-plus. In adulthood, the selfless service our moms becomes crystal clear as we raise our own children.

No one can influence family life like a mother, yet the job is often willingly given away to other children, schools, media or corporations. Maybe people just don’t know how important the job is because there’s no money tied to it. Maybe some are jealous of the power of mothers. Maybe their own mothers weren’t able to teach them its worthiness.

I’m not talking about getting help if you work outside the home. I’m talking about the deeper stuff…having the talks around the table or in the car where the family’s beliefs are passed on and a child learns her value. I’m talking about the impact of living your life with integrity so daughters and sons have high expectations of themselves. There are just jobs that should not be farmed out, and mothering is one of them.

Without mothers, we might be strong, but we might not learn how to serve.

Without mothers, we might be able to deal with fear, but we might not learn to comfort.

Without mothers, we might know what to die for, but we might not learn what to live for.

Without mothers, we might have a house, but we might lack the creativity that makes a home.

Without mothers, we might know honor, but we might not learn our faith traditions.

Without mothers, we might know what is right, but we might not know how to be kind.

We live on a planet desperately lacking in enough peace and compassion. It’s not that the resource is depleted. It’s just that we don’t always empower our best teachers, our moms, to feel good about teaching it. The currency of thoughtful children and a peaceful home should be honored more than the power of paper money, but that is not always the case. Yet mothers soldier on anyway, with unending patience. Go Mothers!

Purchase a matted print of “Patience” here or an art card here.

See more stories by artists who love their mothers here: www.nerdwallet.com/coupons/contests

If I weren’t an introvert, I might not be a painter.

Yesterday I went to my daughter’s school to help with a teacher appreciation lunch. It’s the end of the year, and all the kids were gathered in the central lawn with a photographer to take the official group picture. It’s a pretty large school, so that’s about 700-800 kids. My daughter is quite popular and lots of her friends stop in at our home after school, so they know me too. So as I’m walking by this enormous group of teens I hear “Jen!”, “Hey Jen” over and over. I just started waving like a celebrity…but inside I’m thinking, “Boy, what a difference 30 years can make to your middle school fame!” I was such a painfully shy child at that age. To make things worse, we moved to a different state between my 7th and 8th grade years and I remember well-meaning friends telling me that this was my chance to “reinvent myself” at a new place. I think someone even gave me a book! Oh, if only I could pass on the wisdom of age to the children I know now and tell them they will find their way. They don’t need to change. It will all be OK. I do tell them, but you know how we humans are. We’ve got to live it for ourselves before we believe.

I spent years trying to overcome my shyness, but even in my most talkative moments, someone will invariably come up to me and tell me how quiet I am. More than once someone (who later became a friend) told me their first impression of me was of someone who was aloof or scary. Guess I’ll never be one of those people who cheerfully tell prospective employers they’re “a people person.”. Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace my introversion. Without it, I would not be a painter…a job that requires hours alone in my own mind pondering life, connecting to God applying layers upon layers of paint to express myself. I wouldn’t be able to soak in the wisdom of books, listen attentively to a friend in need or find deep joy in pondering patterns in nature. It is who I am, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Are you a fellow introvert? Take comfort…I found this great Ted talk by Susan Cain (Author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking”)

And I do step out of my shell once in a while. If you’re in the San Jose area this weekend, I’ll be exhibiting and selling work at the San Jose Made event in San Pedro Square. Here’s the scoop: www.sanjosemade.com

A Little Cottage on an Emerald Isle

Irish Cottage painting by Jen Norton

When our daughter was about 9 months old, we traveled to Ireland (for the second time) for the wedding of some very special friends. Their family owns a traditional Irish cottage in the Cork countryside where we stayed for a week. It’s been renovated for traveling guests and now boasts a modern European kitchen and electricity. The indoor trench formerly used to wash out animal waste, should you have to bring your cows indoors during inclement weather, has been removed. The thatched roof has been replaced by a newer, less-upkeep version. It did, however, still have the meat hooks hanging from the ceiling (as it turned out, we never needed them). Each morning the proprietor would come down and light our fire for us, warming the 5-foot-thick-walled house up to a nice cozy temperature. We were traveling with other family members…enough that we needed a large van to carry us all from place to place. My husband, being an ambulance driver and the only non-drinker, got the job of primary chaperone. It’s not an easy job in a land with narrow roads and left-side driving. On some country lanes, one must pull in his side mirrors and inch by oncoming farm trucks, narrowly missing collisions on one side and the hedges on the other. It’s safe to say “shoulders” on a road were not an Irish invention. Then of course, there were the times you just have to stop and wait for a heard of sheep as they cross, just like the picture postcards! The real fun happened after our van broke down and the only replacement we could get was a 15-passenger manual transmission van! NO ONE but my husband could maneuver it…and he had to do so with a new mom (me), his own mother and a nun screaming behind him at every bump and tousle. He held his stress in check, but I know if he were a vengeful man he would have unleashed the cry of a Banshee on us during that trip! Oddly, each night he gladly volunteered to walk our colicky time-zone-traveling baby around in the quiet sheep pastures while I slept. I’m sure he was secretly regaining his calm out there in the midnight fog. There is nothing like removing noise and distraction to reconnect with your soulful self. In the end, we all survived, our daughter cut her two top teeth and took her first step, and the trip was remembered as lots of “good craic” had by all.

You can buy my little Irish Cottage painting here, or a print of it with an Irish Blessing here.