Name: Jen Norton
What do you do?
I paint. My subject matter is the everyday moments that reflect our commonality. These days, I feature food, family recipes and food-related occasions in order to explore food as a means of fostering communication and to honor family traditions.
Where can we find your work?
a. Start with my website: http://www.jennortonartstudio.com
b. I also have an Etsy store, which you can also get to thru the shopping tab on my site:http://www.etsy.com/shop/JenNortonArtStudio?ref=si_shop
c. FB fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jen-Norton-Art-Studio/43248608987
d. twitter account: @nortonstudio
e. If you want to see my work life, it’s best to check the “show schedule” tab on my site. I hang work in local venues and do outdoor fairs and I post it all there. Right now I have work in Sherman Cellars tasting room in downtown San Jose, Wisteria Antiques & Gardens in Soquel and at the Presentation Retreat Center gift shop in the mountains above Los Gatos. I’m not in a permanent gallery right now...still looking for the “perfect marriage” on that one!
What inspires you to create and how do you keep motivated when things get tough?
The joy of painting and putting all my thoughts down in tangible form is the beginning of the inspiration. Over time, the message behind what I paint has gotten more focused and personal, so I am now more open to various form factors and design options beyond painting. The possibilities of that add a whole new dimension of creativity. When things get tough creatively, I remind myself (perfectionist that I am) that I do not have to have all the answers up front to start...I only need to start. I switched from watercolor to acrylic years ago just because of this reason. I needed to know I could change my mind mid-stream. I will also go back through journals and sketchbooks to regain my focus. Usually whatever I put down there meant something to me at one time, and I may find meaning again when I’m unfocused.
What do you think is more important content/finished product or technique/process?
The most important thing to remember is that all art, including visual, is a form of communication. Therefore, your message, the content, is top priority. What are you all about? What do you need to say to the world? Your technique should fit the message, not the other way around. For example, the guys who draw “Life is Good” use very simple line and show simple, everyday imagery. Their simple message and simple technique match. You simply get it right away. I paint food, which could be a simple subject. But I want to show deeper meanings behind what we put on our plates and who we share it with. I love to make large, delicious, complex paintings of this simple subject so the viewer will look at it and say, “Wow...I never knew swiss chard was so beautiful!” I want to elevate something you may take for granted to eye-stopping Fine Art (with a capital “F”).
Who are some people who influence and/or inspire you?
Gosh, where do I start...way to many to name. I love the post-impressionist painters because I think that’s where things started to get interesting. Cezanne, Van Gogh, Mary Cassatt for their use of color and texture to depict the everyday, ordinary; Milton avery for his use of simple shape (I wish I could be that simple), American illustrators like Gary Kelley or the Balbusso twins because their work is simply beautiful, writers Barbara Kingsolver and Laura Esquivel because I can feel their stories, singer/songwriter Amy Grant for expressing connection and common emotion so eloquently,Ketra Oberlander and Dorothy Varacel for leading inspiring lives after tragedy struck, my daughter Emma for being more amazingly awesome than I ever was at her age. Pour me a glass of wine, and I’ll come up with more!
If you could be any fictional character who would you be?
Hmmm. Off the top of my head, the time-traveling heroine Claire from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series because she’s like a medical McGiver who was drawn through time to find what clearly is the most awesome manly man who ever lived. :-) Although she’s had to survive some experiences I’d rather leave out of my life, given the choice.
When do you get your best ideas?
Waking up in the morning, while driving, falling asleep at night. The trick is to remember them long enough to write them down. I wish I could clear my mind enough during a normal day to get the same level of inspiration, but life is just too darn busy. Maybe when I retire...
What materials/tools do you use most to create your work?
Acrylic paint on canvas or paper, lots of texture-creating stuff like tissue paper, bubble wrap, rollers, old credit cards (they’re my #1 tool, and new ones come to me in the mail for free all the time!)
Are you self taught or formally educated? How do you think that has influenced or affected your work?
I have a Fine Art degree from Santa Clara University, but honestly, my life since has really been what’s crafted my work. I was just too young and socially immature to take real advantage of what was offered to me in college at that age.
If your creative work was edible what would it taste like?
The most fabulous chocolate brownies ever...and you could enjoy the whole pan and not get sick or fat.
When you are not creating what do you like to do?
Read, take my dog to the dog park, travel (when we can afford it), eat whatever fabulous cuisine my husband cooks up with a glass of wine.
How did you learn to access your creative talents and gain the confidence to put it out there for everyone to experience?
I was painfully, debilitatingly shy as a kid. My poor mother...they told her I was “retarded”, whatever that means. Thankfully, she didn’t believe it. I loved to sit and draw all day (safe form of expressions), so I was always encouraged to do it. I really don’t know how to NOT think like an artist. I spent the bulk of my earlier career as a graphic designer, which meant I had to learn to defend my work to clients who were paying lots of money. That experience really taught me a lot about having solid thinking behind your work and helped me develop a tough skin.
What advice would you give others just beginning their creative adventures?
First of all, create, create, create. Even if you have another job, don’t let laziness or fear keep you from making art because it’s the only way to break through your own ego-driven desires and get to the heart of what you’re meant to do. Art is not a get-rich-quick endeavor. You have to be called to it. As you create, in the back of your mind always be thinking, “why am I drawn to do this?” “what am I meant to express?”. We are content providers, and the world never has enough good content. Take that job seriously.