Jennifer Young is a professional artist from Richmond, Virginia, most known for her vibrant landscape paintings of France, Italy, and the American South. She is inspired by the beauty she observes on her frequent travels, and paints on location as often as possible.
In addition to teaching painting workshops (www.jenniferyoung.com/paintingworkshops.htm) , she exhibits in galleries in the southeastern U.S., as well as in her own gallery and working studio in Richmond. Her paintings have been purchased internationally by both corporate and private collectors. She also maintains her own online gallery (www.jenniferyoung.com) and writes frequently about painting, art tips, travel, and the artist’s life on her blog, “Paintings of France, Italy, and Beyond” (www.jenniferyoung.com/blog.)
Q – What medium or mediums do you work with?
A. My primary medium is oil painting, but I love to experiment. Most recently these explorations involve watercolor, pen and ink, & acrylics.
Q – How long have you been an artist? How did you get started?
A. It sounds so cliche to say I’ve been an artist all my life. But from very early on, I knew I wanted to be an artist. After college I painted part time for a few years while I worked full time. With the great encouragement and support of my husband, I finally took the leap into full-time professional artist over 12 years ago.
Once in the full time arena, I painted nearly daily, but back then my paintings often took about 2 to 3 weeks to complete. I was painting very large, doing lots of layering, and working completely from imagination. My works and processes then were very different than my current work. I plodded along for a while taking the typical route of trying to get my work “discovered”. I entered juried shows, showed in university galleries, art centers, even a museum. It padded the resume but I didn’t feel like it was getting me very far, and certainly didn’t make me any money.
I got so frustrated with my progress, both as a painter and as a professional artist. When my father died I stopped painting altogether for about 6 months. I questioned everything, including my painting. It was a sad, dark time. Then on my birthday following my dad’s death, my husband Dave bought me a plein air easel. I’d always loved the Impressionists and played with painting landscapes here and there, but never seriously explored it before.
Plein air painting changed everything for me. I was hooked on painting the landscape and the direct experience out in nature was so life affirming and exhilarating. During that same period, I stumbled across a self-published book by artist Jack White called “The Mystery of Making It” (www.senkarikstuff.com/books.htm) . It was probably the best practical, real world book I’d read about art marketing, and I used Jack’s advice as a guide to develop my first art marketing plan. A lot has changed since the book was published, but I still think it has great value to anyone getting started trying to market their art, particularly to those who paint representationally.
Q – Do you have any formal training or are you self taught?
A. Yes, and yes :-). I went to a four year art school, Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. I had a major in Art History Studio, which was essentially only a few credits short of a double major in art history and painting and printmaking. My personal experience at the time was that the school had a good foundation program the first year, but afterwards I found that the painting department was big on concept and light on technique.
The focus was more on abstraction, which probably helped me with composition and design. But for a while after school I had to teach myself how to use my materials, mainly from experimentation and books. Once I started with painting the landscape, I took a few outdoor painting classes to further develop my craft in this genre.
Q – Do you have any favorite art supplies that you would like to recommend?
A. I actually love to experiment with different art supplies and I write a lot about them on my blog. To students in my workshops, I don’t really stress paint brands at this point, because I think every artist should experiment and find what works best for them. Painting is such a primitive activity, and really you need very little in the way of “fancy” supplies to get the job done.
For oils, I do recommend using the best materials you can afford- especially in terms of using professional grade paints and archival supports. Good bristle brushes also help immensely. Unfortunately paint colors aren’t uniform from manufacturer to manufacturer, so I use different paint brands for different colors (often Gamblin, Windsor Newton, sometimes Rembrandt.) I’ve found a wonderful creamy titanium white made by Classic Artist Oils (www.artistoils.com) that is also economical. For plein air painting, I love my Soltek Easel, but EasyL makes wonderful pochade style easels that are good quality and easier on the wallet.
Q – Do you work with any specific styles or subject matter?
A. I like to experiment, but my main subject matter is landscape painting, with some city scapes and still life thrown in. I work often from life and on location (en plein air). As for style, color has always been important to me. Right now I think my work falls somewhere between Impressionism and Realism, though I may use a greater range of values than what I think of as “impressionist” work ( a la Monet), and have a slightly looser style without all of the earth tones that I associate with Realism. It’s so hard to attach an “ism” to someone’s work though, and I find it really only helps to provide a very general description.
Q – Can you recommend any books, videos or other resources that will help new artists?
A. I’m a bibliofile so I’ll stick to books. I write about painting books often on my blog, but off the top of my head, my favorites are “Carlsons Guide to Landscape Painting,” by John F Carlson, “The Composition of Outdoor Painting,” by Edgar Payne, Emile Gruppe’s wonderful but hard to find books on Color, Brushwork, and Oil Painting Techniques, “Alla Prima by Richard Schmid” and Kevin MacPherson’s “Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light and Color“.
Q – How do you get ideas to create a piece? What inspires you?
A. Well, being primarily a landscape painter I’m inspired by nature, and more importantly the effects of light on form and color. I recharge by studying others’ paintings in many styles and genres. Other artists’ works inspire me immensely. While I paint representationally and work both from life and from photos, I use color expressively. I try to see the scene as a starting reference, but I don’t find it interesting to copy a scene. I think it’s the emotion derived from the experience and the essence of the thing that’s important. And it’s the artist’s job to figure out the best way to capture that and communicate it onto the canvas; usually this involves a lot of editing, abbreviating and even rearranging.
Q – Are there any artists that have influenced you and why?
A. Yes, but having an art history background, it would take me all day to list these! For the purposes of this interview I’ll stick with landscape painting. The usual suspects- the French Impressionists and their friends (mainly Monet, Sisley, Boudin, Morisot, Degas, etc.) for their use of color and their innovation. John Singer Sargent’s somewhere at the top of that list for sure. His drawing, brushwork bravura and ability to capture light are all amazing. I love certain landscape painters who are usually classified as realists too, like Corot & Daubigny for their delicate and subtle approach to the landscape.
As for living artists, I enjoy the works of Kenn Backhaus and John Budicin, both of whom I’ve studied under and long admired for their wonderful (and very different) approach to brushwork, color palettes, and drawing. I also admire and love to look at lots of works by artists who belong to the Plein Air Painters of America for the same reasons.
Q – Do you have a website you would like to share?
Q – Finally, do you have any last words of advice for beginner artists?
A. Yes, first of all, be happy where you are and eager for more. We all have artistic goals, but know that no matter how long you’ve been at it, there is always something new to learn and always something greater that you will want to accomplish. (Personally I wouldn’t want it any other way!)
When learning from others, take what is useful to you and leave the rest. There is no one “right ” way of going about it, especially when it comes to art, and eventually you will have to take what you’ve learned and make it your own. It’s great to sharpen the saw with classes and the like, but ultimately it comes down to you getting yourself in front of the easel and doing the painting. And lastly, for those working on making your art your profession, there are three things that I’ve found extremely important; commitment, experimentation, and renewal.
By commitment I mean doing the work you need to do to improve your skills and meet your goals. Largely this involves making the time to show up in front of the easel and painting, but it could also be some form of art-related study.
By experimentation I mean allowing yourself just to play and grow, without worrying about whether the end result will be “good” or “bad”, “sellable” or end up in the trash.
Renewal will be different things to different people, but it has to do with taking care of yourself and your relationships and your “other life” outside of your art.
The challenge is to find a balance and that can really feel like a struggle sometimes, especially when life throws you those lovely curve balls. But when I make an effort to keep all of these things in balance, I reduce my risk of burnout, am more productive and creative, and am just nicer to be around overall! As artist/writer Jack White likes to say, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.“