Jennifer Walden is a visual artist based in Yellowknife, NWT, known for lush northern landscapes. Her paintings have been featured, notably, at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and purchased by collectors worldwide. Currently, Walden and her children are living in Italy for six months, where she will study Renaissance painting techniques and Italian fresco.
Walden’s exhibition “The Land at the End of the Sticks” is currently showing in YAC’s gallery until February 22nd, 2014.
1) What is unique about your process?
Although my work is very heavily textured I actually use very little paint. I sketch my pieces out in pencil and then apply various layers of molding paste. This is like a thick stucco that I apply with a knife, and sculpt it until I am happy with the shapes. The entire piece is all white and very sculptural. Once this is dry, then I begin to apply the colour by applying multiple layers of very thin glaze.
2) How has your process changed over the years?
Texture has always been the element of design that interests me the most. I am constantly trying to find new ways to explore it and ways to push the boundaries with texture. Over the years my ability to control the textural elements has greatly increased, not only in how I use the texture to create the composition, but how I balance that composition on an almost three-dimensional plane. I have been able to increase the depth of relief, and control textural elements that protrude up to 4 inches from the canvas.
3) What has been the most memorable response to your work?
I have been fortunate to have many positive and moving responses to my work over the years. It is one of the most motivating things about being an artist, seeing people respond so strongly to what I do.
One particular memory that stands out happened a few years ago. During the opening reception for one of my solo shows a woman approached me in tears. She had seen a painting of mine a few years back and she was very taken with it, the piece really hit an emotional chord with her, but the painting had already been sold. She had come to this particular opening hoping to find a similar piece. There was a piece that again hit the same emotional chord. The painting spoke to her personal life experience so much that she felt it truly depicted her life journey. But this piece as well had just sold. In great disappointment she shared with me a little of her life story, and explained why it was the piece so strongly effected her. At the end of her story we were both in tears, and I agreed to complete a special commissioned piece for her. To date it is one of my favorite paintings. Being able to make that kind of emotional connection with a complete stranger is one of the miraculous things about being an artist.
4) What is the best/worst thing about being an artist?
The best thing about being an artist is really what I described in the answer to question 3. Being able to connect with complete strangers, regardless of age, gender, cultural background etc… I have found my art gives me an ability to cross all sorts of borders to connect with people. Being my own boss also has great perks!
Living my passion daily is the best, unlike most people I know, I live for Monday mornings, anxious to get into studio, and cringe a little on Friday afternoons knowing I have to wait two full days until I get an uninterrupted block of time again in my studio.
Worst thing – The amount of people I meet that assume that because I am an artist I paint here and there for an hour or two when I feel inspired, and then seem confused when I say “I can’t make it to something because I need to work” and their response is “oh, where do you work?” There seems to be a general assumption that if you are an artist that you don’t really work that hard. Enjoying ones work doesn’t meant you don’t work diligently, for long hours every day like everyone else.
5) What is your dream project?
To travel the world with my art. What inspires me is the natural beauty of the planet in all it’s different forms and colours. Currently I live in the North and it is filled with beauty and inspiration, but there is so much more to this planet. I have the same passion for nature around the globe. I would like to opportunity to paint the great plains of Africa, the mountains in New Zealand, the rain forest in Brazil…. The list could go on forever. The challenge is not only getting to these places, but finding a place to exhibit and share them with people. It is natural for us to want to look at images that are familiar, my dream is to find a way to visit the far corners of the globe, paint what I have observed and then come home and share them in a way that makes them relevant to everyone.
For more information regarding the artist and her work, please visit her website.
Photograph of Jennifer Walden by D. Brosha.