“In each painting I am committed to creating sacred space, portals into imagination using abstract expression, color and texture. My paintings express an internal landscape that provokes emotions.”
— Drea Jensen —
Touch the soul with images. This is what the artist Andrea Jensen achieves with her wonderfully emotional works on canvas. She has developed a deep connection to art since childhood and had already found a special approach to emotions and her own soul at an early age. For her, art is not only her chosen form of expression; it is also a special power and energy that can deeply touch and connect people. Her works are doors to the mind and to the heart, they express inner feelings, good and bad, and touch the viewer on an individual and personal level.
The painter from California in the USA has already learned from her grandmother, who was also an artist and painter. Later, Andrea passed on these skills as a teacher in class and imparted knowledge and wisdom via art. But that’s what she does with her art in general and tries to animate and motivate people in her surrounding and online around the world. What to do? Yes, of course! To discover the creativity in oneself and to be active artistically! Art liberates, art relaxes, art brings new ideas, art expands the senses and perspectives of how we look at the world. Above all, art connects in a very special way people to each other and people to themselves.
We recorded an interesting and in-depth interview with the fantastic artist Andrea Jensen in an online chat. From one side of the earth to the other. From Frankfurt to California. The podcast is now online here, as well the conversation is written down below and filled with wonderful passionate artworks by Andrea Jensen aka DREA ART.
When did you start painting?
When I was a child I worked on art projects with my grandma Pearl. And my relationship to her was very unique, because we share the same birthday. And my grandmother was an artist, she painted. And she worked in a gallery in Wyoming. So when we did spend time together she always encouraged me to use my creativity and to express my emotions with art and painting. So I was always encouraged to use art as a tool of self-expression. And we painted and drew and took photographs together. When I was younger I did attend summer art classes and I was always using my artistic eye and my creativity. I always wanted to explore feelings and imagination by using art. And it was in high school that I started taking photography classes and really found tuning composition by looking through the view of the camera and then capturing this on a piece of paper. And in high school some of my images were used for some drama productions and as posters. When I was actually giving birth to my son Orion than I started painting again. And ever since I do my best to complete a painting a month. Because for me it is a place or a portal to emotions and I want to share it with the world. The unique way how I see things.
I am following your art since a while and I really like the mix what you do. Which is in some way like abstract art where the colors get into each other in some kind of even cloudy way. They mix into each other. But on another point there are structures. And you mix this two parts together, but in a very smooth and softly way. The artworks you do are very touching. And when I read the comment you had somewhere written once, that it is “A door to the emotions”, I could understand your art much better. So this is your way how you open the door to your emotions and you show it as well to others and this has similar effects to other people.
Yes, I think you’re right. One of my favorite poets is Marry Oliver. And any time I post something new online on my Virtual Artist Altar or on Facebook or Instagram, I like to use quotes by Marry Oliver and one of my favorites is: “Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable”. That is kind of the very essence of my paintings. It is about your heart and about expenses, about emotions that you are maybe absorbing from the world or your personal experiences. And it is about being fluid. It is interesting, because when I was in high school I was using photography and I was taking pictures of what was happening in the world. Well abstract art was as well very interesting for me, because I felt like, then I could start to make a snapshot or an image of a feeling or an abstract of emotion. Something which is happening in the world, like how am I feeling about what is happening politically in the United States. And then you can put that image on to a canvas using acrylic paint and people can respond to it in their own way. So you can look on it and you can see, you can have an experience just by viewing the painting. So that was pretty much why I wanted to paint. I like using Marry Oliver, because she also, when she paints with words in her poetry, it’s similar. She is talking about similar things and the nature. But you come away with a feeling of emotion or a feeling of peacefulness. Those are some of the things that intrigued me about art and there is kind of a push pull about your emotions and how you are feeling and about the things that are happening in your life. And then also how that can relate to other people.
You just said, you paint on canvas. But are there also other objects where you paint on? Tell me a bit about the instruments. So on what surface do you paint on and what colors do you use?
It was really interesting to me when I first started painting after my son was born and I just found I was exploding with imagination and with colors and feelings. And I took a class from a teacher and she taught in Healdsburg California. So I went to that workshop and I painted and it was really exciting to me to use a paint brush and use paint. Always when I start a painting, I want to cover the whole canvas with the color. It is almost like if you are looking on a blank piece of paper and you are going to start writing. Sometimes it can feel intimidating when you look on a canvas and it is just blank white. So usually I am using a color to cover the entire canvas to start. And then it is almost if you start then to have structures. Maybe you will have the bones and then the muscles and then the tendons. Each I am layering on a different thought or idea or feeling. And often times with the paintings, they really have a mind of their own. It is almost like each time when you are painting you might have an idea which you start with and as you work with the images that are coming out, you start to realize that it has something to say itself. Usually the process for me is done with many layers of paint and using acrylic paint and covering the entire canvas, and then maybe blocking out certain forms and shapes. And then to go over it with another color because what I want to do is to pull things out from under and add them by putting on another layer. Sometimes with what you start with and with what you end up with that can be very different things. Because what is needed to come through that moment, it has kind of voice of its own. It is a matter finding that balance. Yourself are the creator and also the painting as the piece being produced.
You said acrylic. So do you use as well other colors like aquarelle or spray cans?
The acrylic medium is really helpful, because then you can add the color and the medium gives you a little bit more of a touch. I think it is similar when you see the oil paintings. So that you can get a felling for there is the pigment, but then there is also the medium that allows you to push it around on the canvas in a more fluid kind of expression.
And oil? Did you tried this also?
I have not used oil paints yet. It has always been acrylic for me. It dries faster. There are advantages in using acrylics for me.
On the website I do, a big part is about graffiti and there are streetart maps and there are interviews. But for me this all one thing, it is like expression of people. How people express themselves, but in the way of art and not in the way of war or in the way of consumption or whatever. It is about creativity and I want to show this on the website. And I want to show, that everybody can do this and that there is some power in it. When you do art it gives impulses to others but as well a lot to yourself.
Yes. Well so for a number of years I was a school teacher. And I did use art in my classroom to teach, because it was a wonderful vehicle for students to get in touch with feelings but then also to explore new ideas. So it is very important to include art in education. One of the highlights of teaching for me was having my students to the SFMOMA and experience in small groups being in front of a masterpiece, but then being encouraged to create something and response to what they were looking at. That was very exciting. For me and for the students, to have access to a museum and to see these beautiful pieces of art that are huge and maybe famous and then letting them create their own expression of how they responded to it. So that was very exciting. Also with my Virtual Artist Altar, which is my way how I put my work out into the world. I also wanted to encourage other people to do that as well. Because you are seeing it, but you are also encouraging others to express their creativity. To paint, to dance, to sing, to do whatever it is, that inspires them and that releases the spirit of happiness of being alive and sharing that joy with others.
A good friend from Berlin who is working on the Berlin Map there, his name is Holger Peter and we have a Streetart Map of Berlin on the website. He just send me today of some very nice photographs of a huge mural. It is a whole house painted by the German artist couple Herakut, her name is Hera and his name is Akut, together they are called Herakut. It is on a house wall and there is a woman holding a child, it’s white and red and the colors are very intensive. They are masters of this kind of artworks and they wrote on the bottom this sentence: “In this game called life there is a hidden resource of strength. You will find it once you start caring for someone.” This is written there. And they make this combination of the message and the effect of the artwork and people understand. They are really very famous here in Germany and also around the world. Art has a power, you can reach the heart of the people and their brain and the artists are there to wake them up.
Yes, I think that’s true. It is really interesting to watch the interaction of you are creating art and then someone responding to your artwork and how that can affect them. I think it is a great compliment, if you spend time with the work and having working outside or works like graffiti and a mural on the wall for the public to appreciate is really exciting. Because then the people are able to interact with the art on a daily basis. That is just super exciting.
I think every human being is kind of an artist, can be an artist or can do art. But only a few want to be artists.
Yes, well, it’s interesting, because first when I put out my Virtual Artist Altar it was about maybe 14 years ago. I had to say who I was and so I was including other things. So I said I am a teacher and I am a writer and I am an artist and now it seems I am able to be a little bit freer with that. Now I can say, I am an artist and feel like that is enough. It is enough to be an artist and I am also working in galleries right now. That has been very helpful for me, because I am able to share my excitement about art and represent artists in a gallery and then encourage clients or guests who come to the gallery to see and appreciate the art as well. And then they are also giving me excitement, because they would see something in a painting, which I haven’t seen before. Then together we are having a dialogue and communication about the excitement of what we are seeing in front of us. I think it is really interesting to work in a gallery and to be an artist. It gives you some sort of tools for talking about art. It is almost like the guests who are coming to the gallery maybe trust you a little bit more or they feel a little bit more comfortable if you tell them that you are an artist yourself.
You are not only in the gallery, you are like you said as well in the online world. That’s also how I found you and I liked your posts. Of course every artist posts his or hers art and the website and all that, but also it is about showing art in general. Showing the people how diverse it is how many different types of art are existing to motivate and encourage others to try their own art. I liked your posts very much and the way how you are doing that, very nice, touching and motivating.
That is kind of interesting, because the gallery owner told me when I am painting it motivates her also to paint. I think when I am putting things online on Facebook or Instagram or Virtual Artist Altar, I am allowing other people or encourage other people to be creative and share their creativity with the world. That is exciting to me because then you are having a dialogue and you are forming some connections. One of my paintings “Aubade”, which talks about a poem that can be sing in the early morning as a compliment to someone, that was actually found by a professor of Cambridge and he was writing and publishing a book and one of his chapters of the book was titled “Aubade”. So I think what he did was that he googled it and up came my painting. He sent me an email and wrote: “I would really like to use your painting as the cover for my book that I am going to publish”. That was really exciting to know that there was somebody all the way on the other side of the world able to find your art online through the internet and the want to use it because it expresses for them what they were trying to represent what they were writing about poetry and the lyrical song that is in poetry. That was very validating to me. A very validating experience to know when you put things into the world, somebody can be in a subway or at a university and they are looking at your work and you are having a dialogue. The work is having a dialogue with the person who is looking at it.
So there is the painter and there is nothing in between. Or let’s say there is actually the painting and the person who is observing it.
It is an experience and I think that is what is so exciting having work in a gallery or work online. You are able to allow another human being to look at that piece of art and have an experience with it. And I think it is really important to provide an opportunity for people to experience. It is almost that they can go to that space in between thoughts or in between emotions. That kind of sacred space that is in between those. They can access it much faster by looking at a work of art or listening to music or experience drama or dance. You are giving the human being a chance of experiencing something that everybody is searching for I think. We all want to go to that little place of space that is in between the thought or the activities of the day or a to do list or something like that.
I think we are a big organism, the humanity. And we are always in some way destroying ourselves but we are also developing and there is always a part which is holding it together. It is very complicated how all of this is put together, but art is always something strong, some option or some way you can use and everybody for himself or herself and which has effects. And now we have the internet and I think it is fantastic. Of course all the bad news and all the hatred can spread also around. But come on, I mean look what we are doing at the moment. I am in Germany in Frankfurt, you are on the other side of the world in California and we are talking about art. And art brought us together now.
I think that is the most exciting type of connection human beings can have. I know that the Dalai Lama talks about that we are actually a community now. Like a global one. We are global citizens. Because as well what we see now with the whole pandemic that it is actually manifesting all over the world and affecting everybody. We cannot just think of ourselves isolated from everyone. We are actually interconnected. So art and my paintings are a way for me to connect with myself but also with others. And I think that this is really valuable. It is exciting to see that people who maybe don’t speak the same language as you speak, they can also look at a work of art and have a feeling or an effect. Or they can experience something that is universal to all humans on the planet.
Tell me a little bit about your exhibitions. How is it going at the moment, are there some plans and what nice exhibitions did you already have?
In the past I have participated in some Arts Alive exhibits. They have been at some local businesses around and you would have a chance to show your art and to have other to experience the art. I have also participated in the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, they have a membership show and when you are a member you can include you artwork. And I also had some pieces shown at the Occidental Center for Arts and it is also been real important to me of showing my art for different fund raisers. In my own life I experienced a young man who died on Leukemia and so if a piece of artwork can go to have the community and community members who are trying to raise money for younger people who are battling cancer, that is also another way that I like to give my art to help raise money for people who are needing assistance. Those were some of the projects or the exhibitions where I have been a part of and ways how I have showcased my art locally.
If other people want to see more of your art, how can they find you on the internet?
Well I have a blog that I do. So it’s called Virtual Artist Altar and the page is www.virtuartistaltar.com. And people can click on that and it will showcase a work of art and also Marry Oliver poetry. And then I have a Facebook page, so there it is Drea Jensen Art. And then there is also Instagram where I started including images because it is an exciting way to show art with others. As well I have quite a few people who I follow on Instagram, so it is fun to see what they are working on and what they are posting. I think it gives people a little bit of an idea of the process that artists go through to make a painting. Just recently I was watching a video of a ceramist and he was asked: “How long does it take to make that pot?” Then he said: “It took about fifteen years of experience to produce it.” I think it is similar for me with art that painting can take hours or days or weeks. But it is actually a creative process that is happening for fifteen years to create the energy and the excitement and the motivation to make the painting. Those are some ways to view the art and to see. I also have my paintings online so if someone wants to purchase one they can look at it and contact me.
I just remembered another saying of a friend who is an artist. Because he was as well asked once like you: “How long did it take to make this part of the painting or this move?” And he said: “Yes, to do this move, it took me five seconds. But to be able to make that move, this took me ten years.”
Yes. And I think the more emergence that people can have on art whether it is in a museum or looking on artworks online or connecting with other artist via the internet, it just creates this feeling that you belong to and you are sharing a common experience and that it is useful for society. And people appreciate the energy that you are putting out to the world.
Very nice. For the ending of the nice interview, what would you like to tell the other upcoming artists or older artists?
I think it is just really important to believe in yourself, to believe in your process and to really continue to be positive. It’s important to find a way to navigate through difficult and challenging times in a way that feeds your heart and your soul and can help others to feel connected instead of feeling isolated and alone. You can really connect with other people and other artists and start to feel like you have something to offer and they have something to offer for you as well. It is a mutual experience. So keep going and working on your art! Because it is important! It is important for you yourself and your own growth, but also it is important for others as well.
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