Meet Jen Walls
Jen Walls came to the art community as the result of an arm-twisting. A fiery local artist with a teaching passion cajoled, coerced and convinced Walls to join a visual journaling class. And one class became weekly classes which became travels across the country to study under other teachers which became experimentation and practice, practice and more practice. Somewhere along the journey, while experimenting with ink and zentangle (a form of meditative doodling), Walls fell down the rabbit hole and got lost. Lost in tiny circles and lines. Lost in repetition and patterns. She would begin a piece in the morning and look up four hours later, wondering who messed with all the clocks.
The process became mesmerizing and a bit of a metaphor. She explains: “Using repeated patterns on a tiny scale to create a larger piece is an act of complete faith. While you’re engaged in the patterns, you lose sight of the whole. And yet the tiny shapes, repeated endlessly and faithfully, fill the piece with depth, shading, texture and vibrancy. Part of the zentangle process is not being invested in the outcome. So when I come up for air and step back from the piece, it’s like the 4th of July….lots of oooooooohs and ahhhhhhhhs and a childlike feeling of surprise….like how did that happen? Kind of like life. When you keep your nose to the grindstone and work hard toward some goal day after day, at some point you are going to look up and realize you ended up somewhere wonderful, just because you kept working toward it.”
Walls replicates this process on a larger scale outdoors, using 10 yard piles of mulch, one wheelbarrow at a time, to transform the yard. “It might take two weeks of moving that mulch every day. But I don’t think about the end result. Until the pile is gone. Then I step out into the street, look back at my yard and say wow. I did that!”
Walls is best known for watercolor and ink creations incorporating primitive markings, glyphs, tribal patterns and symbolism, though her imajenation can whip up a goat with unicorn aspirations or a rabbit who can fly. “The fascination with ancient markings and symbols has been with me since I was six or so,” Walls says. “I wanted to be an archeologist. To see what was left behind from other civilizations and try to untangle their story. It wasn’t until adulthood that I developed kind of a reverence for the symbolism and spirituality of other cultures, past and present. So much of that is lost in the modern world of emoticons. ”
The animals were a natural progression from the symbols and markings. “Tribal cultures and spiritual traditions around the world attribute certain qualities to animals…like animal totems in Native American culture and shamanic traditions. The animals pull me in with their own personalities and attributes. I try to tell their story and bring the positive energy of both the animal and the symbols into my art,” Walls explains. “Sometimes people develop and affinity with a certain animal and animal strengths. Having visual art around which depicts that animal is a great way for a person to focus on that strength inside him or herself.”
“The past year with Ciel has been a surreal experience,” says Walls. “The culture there is encouraging and wildly energetic! I am using collage, acrylics, carving stamps, creating texture with gesso and caulk fearlessly because there is such an attitude of experimentation among the artists. My goal this year is to add oil painting to my skill set. And next year, something three-dimensional. The more things I try, the more energy and enthusiasm I feel.”
For Walls, the emotion, intention and energy infused into each piece of work are part of the special sauce which can make collectors unexpectedly smile upon viewing her work. “They get it,” she says, “and that makes me smile, too.”
Walls works from her home studio in Matthews, NC under the supervision of a grumpy Jack Russel-Schnauzer mix named Oreo (who demands creative breaks for walks). You’ll find her son in local theater productions (he’s a past Blumey award nominee) and her husband begging her to watch football (yeah, that’s not going to happen).
Her work can be seen at Ciel Gallery, Tuesday - Saturday, 11:00 - 6:00.
Interested in the stories behind some of Jen Walls’ creations? Check out her blog
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