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Archive | Art Instruction

My name was Jenny.

Jenny © Jen Norton

“When I was 4, my name was Jenny”

When I was little, my name was Jenny. If I could type it correctly on a computer, the “J” would appear backwards the way I used to write it. Although it’s been almost four decades since anyone besides a few family members has called me by that name, it has taken me a lot longer to drop those two last letters and become just “Jen” than you might think.

Not that people haven’t called me “Jennifer” or “Jen” for some time. But inside, I was still very much “Jenny” for years. Jenny was terrified of the world and debilitatingly shy. She believed you could only be loved if you were perfect in every way. She never asked for help. Even when she fractured her back at the age of 13, she never told anyone, which gives you a clue to her strength. Unfortunately for a long time, that strength was only used to hold up her safety walls. Fortunately, her mom gave her lots of crayons and paper behind those walls, which allowed her imagination to fly where she couldn’t. Eventually, she started venturing out…

Today I started a 10-week online class called Hello Soul, Hello Business* run by licensed artist Kelly Rae Roberts and Do What you Love for Life coach Beth Nicholls. About 200 other creative women and I are beginning by exploring the “Why” of what we do. We were encouraged to give our business a name, which is how I ended up back in my childhood. I would be willing to bet if we really could do what we love, it would involve doing what brought us joy way back before paychecks and taxes were part of our lives. It would include a willingness to share the adult wisdom gained from overcoming our biggest life challenges. I know that’s true for me.

I may be a very different person today, but if I am to move forward and do anything of value, I cannot leave Jenny behind. To forget her or lock her away would be to toss away the seed God planted in my heart as I came to this life. Together, we are on a journey to find the other “Jennies” out there and encourage them on their way to finding their true names. The next ten weeks for me will provide a roadmap. I can’t wait to see where we’re going!

(I dug this painting out of a pile of work done at workshops. This was from a painting workshop by artist Katherine Chang Liu** where we were encouraged in a different way to find out the “why” behind our art. There I am, hiding behind my mom’s leg (yes, she really had those horn-rimmed glasses), peeking up at the scary chaos of possibilities out there. I had forgotten about this painting until today!

*Follow #HSHB on twitter or find out more on Kelly Rae’s website.

*If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, Katherine is going to be doing an Artist Mentoring workshop through the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society in June.

Smart Apples

Smart Apples by Jen Norton

Smart Apples, Acrylic on paper, 12 x 12"

Apples and school just go together. I don’t know how many kids still bring their teachers apples now that we have Starbucks gift cards, but the correlation still holds. This piece is acrylic on paper and meant to play up the school-apple connection. Remember learning Cursive writing? And that brown-ish ruled newsprint paper? I performed my “Art Triage” and painted this over an older piece, using it as a base. I love the freeing quality of destroying what no longer suits me, and painting into something that isn’t sacred and white. And in researching apple names to include, I found lists with hundreds of varieties to choose from! Creativity and abundance, it seems, is unlimited in the fruit world. This painting will be available at my Open Studio on May 21/22, 2011.

Spicing up your art with left-overs.

During winter months we like to make home-made soup. We roast a chicken for dinner and then make stock from the leftover bones, adding vinegar to help draw out the nutrients and boiling them on a low setting for about 4 hours. (helpful hint: I leave the stovetop light on to remind me to turn the stove off before I go to bed. One time I forgot to do this and…well…it wasn’t pretty and it didn’t smell too good either!)

The following day, use the stock to make any kind of soup you can dream up! One of our favorites is my husband’s Roasted Tomato soup. It’s a great use of our crop of late-season fall tomatoes. I decided to use the recipe as my subject for a new painting, using an old painting as my “stock”. Like making a soup base, creating art over an old piece is very rewarding. You don’t have to confront that scary “white paper” for one. There’s already some flavor to start with. And like finding a tasty use for those aging vegetables in your fridge, recycling something that’s been hanging around a bit too long can prove healthy and satisfying. I liked parts of this old painting, but it had outlived its welcome in my repertoire and had not yet found a home. It was time to transform its tasty colors and textures into a new recipe.

Painting “stock”

First, I coated the existing piece with acrylic medium. This is because the original was done in watercolor, and I didn’t want it to bleed into the new work. Since I was going to be working in acrylic, it made sense to seal it with the same medium. After it dried, I painted my new composition over the old and started filling in shapes with color, leaving some areas to peek through.

adding to the base

Having color and texture already on the page makes this process fun. Like an extra pinch of chili pepper, tiny tasty surprises peek through that you couldn’t reproduce if you tried. I tossed in some colored pencil texture, a dash of paint flicked from a toothbrush, and Vwa-laah…Tomato Soup!

Tastes great with grilled cheese…hmmm, might have to paint that next!

Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup, Acrylic on paper

Tomato Soup is framed in a dark wood frame to an 18 x 22 size, ready to hang. $400. Contact us through the email form on this site if you are interested in this piece!