Today we’re joined by Jen White. Jen is a phenomenal equine artist. She has a real passion for drawing horses and her work is absolutely stunning. Jen works with a variety of media, mostly traditional. She shows an amazing attention to detail and color, which results in the beautiful images you’ll soon see. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
For the past few years I’ve been marketing myself as an equine artist. I play with other subjects occasionally but horses are my favourite. When I started really limiting my subjects to equines, I began to have a lot of fun experimenting with how I wanted to portray them, the style I was going for in my pieces. Right now I’m working primarily with watercolour as a base, but I also use ink, charcoal, pastel, and gold leaf. Just about all of my current pieces are a healthy combination of two or more of these mediums.
In terms of what I’m actually doing with the work, it’s been a bit of a gradual journey down to road towards essentialism, bringing the subject down to its very base elements. Currently I’m playing with muted colours, limited palettes, and seeing just how big I can go using watercolour as the base medium.
What inspires you?
I love the play of sunlight, I think that’s what draws me to a subject initially. After that I’m looking for action or the emotion but it’s always the play of light and then colour that I see first.
I’m very inspired by other artists as well, I’m always at my most productive after going to a museum or a viewing an interesting gallery of work. Something about what this person did with this colour or what that one did with the light or line work gets me revved up. I’ll typically come back home and spend several hours in my studio working on new pieces and fleshing out ideas.
Right now I’ve been quietly working on a future series of anatomical work, attempting to portray equine biomechanics in a 2D format has been an interest of mine for a while. I’m collaborating with some experts in the field over the next few months to hopefully bring the series together.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always wanted to draw and paint, I was that kid that carried around a sketchbook everywhere and spent hours and hours filling it with sketches of people and animals that I clipped out of magazines. I’d always been told that watercolour was difficult and temperamental, and I honestly didn’t like the look of a lot of what I’d seen of the medium, which put me off it for a long, long time.
At first I thought I’d like to be a hyperrealist acrylic or oil painter, so that’s the direction I went with a lot of work in my late teens and early 20s. You can still see the reflection of that in my current work, I think, but it’s no longer the focus. Once I realized that watercolour could be harnessed and directed I haven’t looked back.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
The subject, horses, is the most obvious, I suppose. Aside from that, I tend to want to leave bits and pieces of the paper untouched or partly finished. I like mixing paint directly on the surface of the work and letting the unpredictability of the medium create some of the drama, or allowing the paint to run. I think that the contrast between unfinished and hyper detailed bits is exciting.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
For visual artists? Quantity over quality. Your skills won’t improve until you’ve put in hours of practice, and until you really have a solid grasp on your medium(s). It’s easy to get frustrated when a piece doesn’t turn out the way you’ve expected, and the most common mistake I’ve seen in artists just starting out is to spend way too many hours on an ambitiously detailed piece before they’ve developed the solid skill base to pull it off, and then they get discouraged with the results and quit, or only do one once in a while.
So my advice is to fill sketchbooks with as many quick little life drawings or still lifes as possible. Get good at drawing shapes, relationships, figuring out how to portray light. It’s time well spent. Play with your medium of choice, too. Don’t be so in love with a piece that you’re afraid to experiment with it.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
The subject doesn’t come up very often, quite frankly. Not in the spheres I travel in, in any case. The most common form of it I come across is just general heteronormativity, which I generally address by casually mentioning the struggles of people right across the LGBT+ spectrum, including asexuality. My goal is to maybe make people stop and think, take a moment to question their views without trying to ram it down their throat. I’ve found that in conversation buffering asexuality with other sexualities on the LGBT+ spectrum will sometimes open people up to the concept.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
It’s existence. Erasure is the biggest problem we face right now. There’s a case for societal heteronormativity and the hypersexualization of modern media, but I would say that the major issue for asexuality in particular at the moment is visibility. In my experience, intolerance often stems from a lack of knowledge or understanding.
My own awareness of asexuality didn’t come until nearly a decade after all my peers were sexually active and getting married and starting families and all the rest. And at first it was like, well I’m just a late bloomer. Then it was that I hadn’t found the right person, that I was too focused on my career, that dating is exhausting. But secretly I was so disappointed in myself. I couldn’t understand why I felt the need to avoid or deliberately sabotage myself in social encounters that would lead to meeting romantic or sexual partners, and spent most of my 20s thinking I was somehow broken.
If I had known, if I had somehow been taught that there was a label for what I was, it would have been a great comfort and saved me years of confusion and many awkward, gut-clenching situations. Knowing that you aren’t broken, that there are others like you, and that you are valid… it gave me a sense of self-confidence that I didn’t realize I was missing.
If we could have some form of representation, some canonical character or real life person talking about their experiences in some form of media… that would go a long way towards helping our cause, I think.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Take your time and do your research. It’s never too late to figure out how you identify, if labels are important to you. And switching later on is ok, too. I spent a few years identifying as an aromantic, and as I get older my complete aversion to having a romantic partner is mellowing out a little bit. Nothing is set in stone.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
Thank you, Jen, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.