Thursday, March 4, 2010

Interview with Penny Treese

Continuing our series of interviews with artists who have or are showing at Jack Art Gallery. Chelsea Rhinehart sat down with Penny Treese. To see a selection of Penny's work visit Jack Art Gallery.

When did you first realize you are an artist?

I started art lessons at age 8 and couldn't image myself as anything else.

Why are you an artist and when did you first become one?

At age 8, my parents allowed me to take painting, drawing, pottery, and any art class they could find. I continued studying and exploring art through high school and college, earning a Bachelors of Science in Graphic Design (honors program and graduated Cum Laude) from Illinois State University. I’ve continued to take art lessons, classes, workshops and learn from any artist that takes me under their wing. I felt that I was born an artist as early as kindergarten.

What is it that inspires you to create your art?

My artistic talent is a gift from God. I can’t NOT paint, or create what’s inside my heart and spirit. I am also inspired to create art by the desire to express my inner soul through intuitive painting.

What famous artists have influenced you, and how?

I am inspired by aspects of all the masters. However, in 2005, on a vacation to Seaside, FL, I stumbled across an encaustic artist – unknown –who immediately inspired me to find an encaustic class in Atlanta. I found Jason McGrady and have been taking his amazing workshops and classes ever since. I’m addicted to the luscious, translucent layers, ability to manipulate textures and colors – and how easily my “accidents” become “meant-to-be” essential elements.

What other interests do you have outside of creating art?

I love walking through the Decatur cemetery and feeding the geese with my children, husband and daschsun next to its picturesque pond. It’s like hanging out inside Van Gogh’s “Water Lilies.” I adore “hut and jump” horseback riding and crave getting back in the saddle. Vacationing with my husband or best girl friends is top of the list!

What are you currently working on at this moment?

Through encaustic painting, I’m continually discovering what’s earning to escape my heart and thrust itself upon my wooden frame…leaving me with a smile and glow as big as the sun.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Just starting out with their first art lesson or first set of paints – “Do not have any expectations of yourself other than enjoying the present moment and the process rather than an outcome.” I need to remind myself of that with every brushstroke. And paint in the NOW! You can always paint over it or burn it – liberating.

What has been your most exciting moment as an artist?

On a Sunday, I made the decision to step away from my job and take the plunge into painting for 6 months (with the incredible faith and support of my husband, in the midst of the recession.) Two days later, I was offered studio space, two miles from my home, with a 6-month lease. Fate. Faith. No Fear. Only graciousness for dreams realized.

Have you had any formal training in the fine arts?

My experience at Illinois State, (earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Graphic Design) was more like earning a BFA. I took 80%-90% fine arts classes, from art history, woodworking and jewelry to the abstract painting classes that helped shaped the techniques I use today. My past 17 years as a graphic designer, art director and creative director may have deepened my wrinkles, however must have been part of the plan. Page layout and logo & type design provided me with an inherent sense of balance that can be felt while experiencing my artwork.

How would your life change if you were no longer allowed to create art?

I can’t imagine it. Very scary thought! I would create art even if I were blind or maimed or strapped into a straight jacket! (Which you might as well put me within, if I was no longer allowed to create art.)

What are your favorite snacks when you are creating?

Honestly, I forget to eat or drink while I’m painting. I’m “in” the piece that I’m creating. I set an alarm to remind me to eat! I would enjoy red wine, dark chocolate, and of course bags and bags of Cheetos.

What was your first job?

Henderson Advertising in Buckhead (Atlanta), as a graphic designer. I couldn't believe I could make more than $2.35/hr – like I did as a waitress!

Many of your paintings seem to be inspired by nature. Are your paintings of actual locations or are they painted from your imagination?

They are painted from my imagination and probably pass memory of the ocean, a flower, a memory from a favorite childhood book, or colors and imagery that I’ve experienced in a dream. I always dream in color and have learned to mediate into a place of “lucid dreaming” while painting. This helps to keep the paintings alive with the memory of nature’s colors, patterns, positive & negative spaces, and movement of water and wind.

You mention that your focus while creating art is on the joy of the process. How does this in the end affect the finished product? 

Intuitive painting or “Painting my guts out” (as my past art instructor titled her classes) lead me to this place of creating from within my soul and spirit. I revel in the process of brushing on layer after layer of clear wax. Fusing each layer with a fiery blast of the blowtorch. Then feeling which color should come next. Which direction to turn the frame - should I paint upside down or tilted sideways? I let the torch, pigment and wax do what it may, and revealing whatever is inside me, which needs to be released, at that exact moment.

I don't care if it looks funky – I’ll just paint over it! Yet each element is intentional yet intuitive, and will emerge sooner of later. For example, the accidental red splatter I scrapped off must eventually be added back in, or the painting will feel incomplete – lacking in authenticity.

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