3 Questions Digital Series

Julia Jensen

An interview from Art in Embassies 3 Questions Digital Series with Julia Jensen, who speaks about her creative process and artwork at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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Full Transcript

So I am julia jensen I live in Putney, Vermont and Nantucket, Massachusetts. I am a landscape painter and although that implies that I’m outside I am a studio painter so I am working pretty much entirely in my studio these days

I live in incredibly beautiful places both here in Vermont and Nantucket the landscape is just a huge part of my life in both of these places when I was first learning how to paint I would set up still lives in the studio because that felt like the easiest most controlled way to work from life and i found that painting that way I learned a lot i learned how to paint but it was a very mechanical kind of process I was really you know how do I get something to look three-dimensional and you know it was really about sort of the mechanics of putting together a painting and as I learned that I fell in love with the process of painting and I really am much more interested now in maintaining the gestures and having the experience of how the painting was put together be expressed in the surface of the painting and I think that landscape is a really good vehicle for that because human beings want to make a story out of surfaces I think when they’re looking at paintings you see faces and you see recognizable things and so landscape it’s really easy to tell a story with just a few gestures and so i think that just landscape naturally marries itself to how I’m painting and what I’m interested in how I’m interested in laying the paint on the canvas.

I always start with an under painting a hot color either Indian yellow or a transparent oxide red which is they’re transparent colors so they have a lot of glow and fire and then I will start coming up with the color palette that I’m going to use and start blocking in color and hopefully at some point during that process I start finding some little moments that are really working and then i start building off of those and so the underpainting may sit overnight and dry and then working or not I’ll let it sit for a while I’ll come back I’ll see if i was right sometimes you’re super excited about something and you come back the next day and you realize I don’t know what I was thinking because there’s nothing here and sometimes the whole thing is just not working at all I’ll take my panel and I’ll flip it over completely and start trying to find something there to build on and so the paintings will move around on and off my easel I you know I’m working on probably at least half a dozen things at any given time some paintings will come together in a matter of a couple of hours and that’s those are really wonderful days but that’s about maybe one percent of the time and then other people just you never know uh it could be layer upon layer upon layer I put paint down I take paint off and that’s actually part of a wonderful part of the process for me is when i have one painting under there and I’ve worked on top of it and then I’ll scratch away at it and reveal something that I didn’t even realize was under there and forgotten was under there um and so it’s building layers and some paintings will take a year before they’re finished and some paintings as I said will happen you know like that and it’s a magical beautiful thing but it’s almost never like that.

I find that my perspective and my paintings is floating above things a little bit and so there’s it’s a slightly dreamlike perspective in them and Vermont and Nantucket are smaller more intimate spaces in Vermont it’s hard we’re tree covered there are a lot of hills and it’s hard to find vast vistas so I’ll start with an idea of where I’m headed but then through the process I you know I’ll get involved with the painting of the picture and so depending on what is happening on the surface I will let the painting lead me and so it won’t necessarily be a specific time or place but it will be echoes of what i started with what the intention was when I started but then as the painting takes on a life of its own I’m really responding to the painting and so you know maybe I’m doing a deep forest and I really it needs a little bit of light and so how am I going to get that sense of light in there but maintain that kind of murky um you know magical darkness I hope that I convey something of a sense of mystery I think what draws me to painting is the magical surprises that happen and I hope that there’s some way in which my paintings can help other people become aware of the world around them and maybe present a way of seeing that maybe other people can get a slightly different perspective on the way on the world around them.