Q+A: Jenna Mishelow, RAW Indianapolis’ Visual Artist of 2012

RAW: Natural Born Artists is an independent organization for artists that provides resources and exposure for up and coming creatives. Each year they hold an awards competition where there is one winner voted in each category to receive a “best of” award. For 2012, Jenna Mishelow won the “best of” for Indianapolis Visual Artist of the Year. I had a phone interview with Jenna and enjoyed learning about her paintings and her processes for creating art.

Jenna’s Artist Statement:

I create many contrasts in my work, such as bright, abstract, organic shapes vs. thin, gesture lines, and glossy vs. matte finish. I do this by creating many layers and textures using much mixed media. I love to find the beauty in things that other people have discarded. I tend to take found objects, newspaper clippings, sand, twine, and glue to uniquely individualize my oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings. I also listen to my subconscious, striving to paint intuitively. Another process I use to give a distinct characteristic to my paintings is my application of thick layers to build up the canvas creating a somewhat sculptural feel. Some of my paintings are very conceptual, but I do not believe that it cannot evoke a personal feel for the viewer as well. Living in downtown Indianapolis has inspired much of my hectic city life and fast paced traffic series.

You clearly have a passion for painting and art. Do you want to pursue this as your full-time career or do it as more of a hobby?

Well, I do have a full-time job now; its not art related, but I’m a nanny. I started this job to help put me through college, and over the years I found a family I really like and have now been out here for about six years. I do art in my spare time, I’m always interested in little art jobs but I worry that if I weren’t able to do my own style of art that it would end up being just another job. I would rather be inspired and do my art in my own time.

Did you attend art school? What were your takeaways from that experience?

I went to Herron Art School and graduated in May of 2009. I have an Art Education degree to teach kindergarten through twelfth grade and a minor in art history with a concentration in painting. I really enjoyed school for the first time at Herron; of course I enjoyed my studio classes more than the bookwork classes though. I took a lot away from the foundation year, learning the traditional design composition elements and how you can lead the viewer’s eye from one point to the other, how to use shapes and how to make things in the background darker – perspective. It wasn’t always fun to learn about at the time but I always keep these elements of composition in the back of my mind now when I am painting.

Your current project is your Women’s Series. You described your process as using no sketches or forethought. Can you elaborate on this style and process?

Yes! It’s not my usual process, but with this series I have found it to be deeper for me to not plan. I tried to plan one or two but they ended up just looking too thought out. I feel that my models for this series have a lot to do with my process. Each model that I choose and that sits for me brings a lot to my paintings. I let them choose their positions and it says something about them, it evokes emotion and a sense of who they are – and I appreciate that. Anything I had planned before they showed up in my studio feels very contrived to me. Typical art school taught us to sketch, to have five thumbnails for every drawing but for this series it’s more emotional for me not to. For any other painting I’ve done, I do research, I find Google images, take my own photos and make multiple sketches on my own to plan, but just not for this particular series.

How did you decide on you subject matter for the Women’s Series?

It kind of just found me. I was newly single and it [painting] was a fun thing to do with my friends on the weekends. I would ask them to hang out in my studio and I would paint them; it took off from there and developed on its own. The thing I love about a woman is that, in an instant, I can look at her and see what she’s self-conscious about. I like that; I like that all women have something they are self-conscious about, I exaggerate it and paint that.

What media do you typically use?

I mostly use acrylic paint in the Women’s Series; I also use oil pastels, crayons and watercolors with salt.  I also have some found object sculptures where I use items and repurpose and recycle them to create something new.

Is there a reaction you hope to get from your audience with your work?

A couple of my women could be viewed as shocking, but that’s not the direction I wanted to go. I just hope that people are inspired by them and think the women are beautiful. I want people to want to hang my art in their houses.

Any tips for new artists or graduates on how to get out there as an artist in Indianapolis?

I would recommend using the Arts Council of Indianapolis website; it’s only for Indianapolis residents. You can add an artist statement, awards and pictures/prices of your work to your profile on the site.

Since you work here in Indianapolis, would you say the city inspires you?

Definitely! For my Fast Paced Traffic Series, Indianapolis was the inspiration. All of the images are of and inspired by this city. I love our city; I love the contrast of it. I like the interpretation that Indianapolis is my area, I like the contrast of people in business suits versus the homeless, bars and fancy restaurants versus fast food, trash on the street next to recycling bins and quiet neighborhoods next to highways and skyscrapers.

You can find out more about Jenna Mishelow and contact her by e-mailing her at prizmofcolors@gmail.com or visiting her website.


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