STEPHIE JONES | OPENS THURSDAY, JUNE 9TH AT 10AM
Nothing makes us feel more like summer, than the return of artist Stephie Jones' signature oysters and water scenes to our gallery walls! Stephie creates large, colorful paintings that are sure to remind you of your favorite oyster bar or festival on the water, the taste of salt and hot sauce, blue skies, sunsets & relaxing with friends. Each piece is truly stunning. Get to know Stephie in our interview below; the first time she saw the ocean, what she loves about creating & her best "find" . . . and you will quickly see why we adore her work.
WHEN THE ICE MELTS | 48" x 48" x 1.5", acrylic on canvas
GET TO KNOW STEPHIE
How do you feel when you're painting?
That’s a challenging one to answer in words. How does the sun feel when it’s shining? How does a heart feel when it's pumping blood? Could they stop on occassion, even if they wanted to? I imagine it wouldn’t go well if they did (or even could). To paint and create is my nature. When I’m painting, I feel like I’m in alignment with my true self. It’s a satisfying experience (even when I’m making a painting I know I’ll trash later). I paint for the act of it—so I can feel whole and at peace.
What's the general process of creating your art?
I have a rough process I try to follow, but my nature is to be a more intuitive painter. What I think that really means is I follow parts of a process over and over until it’s second nature and I don’t think about it anymore. Having a set process is like following a recipe for a meal you’ve cooked a hundred times. At that point my process is more of a guideline and serves as a reminder if I find something isn’t quite working out or find myself suddenly lost in the middle of a painting.
In general I try to look for inspiration that might inform my color palette and subject matter. Then I’ll shoot reference material (in this case that means I ordered a variety of shucked oysters from The Atlantic on Pacific in Virginia Beach. I photograph them in natural light and use those images for references as I paint (yes, I eat all the oysters right after I photograph them - yum!). Then I look at the number of pieces I want to make in a collection and the sizes, then I’ll sketch out composition ideas. From there I start painting.
I remind myself to mix up enough paint, determine the stroke style and consistency (will I need mediums? Will this be a layered effect or more blended approach? Will I use short textured strokes or keep the brushwork brushwork less visible?). I’ll think about focal points and lost and found edges, color palettes that will work for the piece, and the mood I’m evoking. I work in acrylics so I’ll start by laying in rough areas of local color that are experiments of the tonal value I’m looking for. I’ll usually start laying in darks, then medium values, then my lights. I keep repeating that process all over the painting as I work from large areas to smaller (moving from my largest brushes to my smallest as the painting develops). I’m always thinking about shapes, edges, value, hue and chroma. I step back and squint a lot to see relational values better.
What are you most grateful for?
Good health. We’ve had a number of health challenges with our children over the past two years and those moments of uncertainty (and let’s be honest, blinding fear and panic) remind you how important good health is. Those reminders are a gift. My son and daughter are both in situations where their treatment plans are ongoing and routine doctor’s visits are now melding as a part of our everyday life, but in the long run of their lives, these ailments will be remembered as temporary players, just supporting characters that showed up for a few chapters and then disappeared when no longer of service to the plot. And I’m deeply thankful for that.
What's the best way to relax in your opinion?
I used to try to unwind by watching tv, gardening, reading or hanging out with friends and family (all are enjoyable), but now I’d firmly say meditation is my most steadfast method for actually relaxing and truly recharging.
I never thought I’d be the kind of person to ever meditate, my brain is very busy and distracted! I aim for 15-20 minutes daily, and I’d say my mind only really quiets down for the last few minutes, but when I finish my practice I feel recharged. Those last few minutes of a session are when I can truly hear my higher self. Good ideas and intuition flow freely in that space. I notice that after starting this practice, I’m generally calmer and slower moving throughout the day (which is a very good thing for us Type A people).
Joy becomes readily accessible to me, and I’m less anxious about human hang ups like being on time or keeping a social commitment even if I’m exhausted. I feel more in tune with my body and surprisingly find myself going back some days for a 5 minute meditation session later in the day as a refuel. Who knew?
What's your definition of happiness?
Happiness is something I see a decent chunk of people forgoing in pursuit of the seriousness of life or the perceived nobility of other actions, like self-sacrifice and martyrdom. I’ve learned happiness is our own responsibility and is a gift you can choose to give yourself in any moment. Anytime I want to feel happy, I just look around and find something, anything, to appreciate. Then I do it again, and again, and before I know it the momentum builds and I’m there.
If you had a button which, when you press it, does anything in the blink of an eye. What would yours do?
Clean up my house. I’d wear that button out!
As an artist, how do you describe the meaning of your work?
My current work is all about evoking a nostalgic mood and a happy peaceful feeling—I love it when viewers connect with the subject matter in a way that brings up good memories for them. For me, that feeling is late summer nights slurping oysters on the beach. No schedule. No place to rush off to. Watching my kids run around and yell while the wind lifts my hair off my neck.
The first time I saw the ocean I was eight and greeted by an endless stream of shells. All free, all for me, no limited supply. I was inspired and elated. I’d comb through them and lose time. So much variety and activity without limits. With my own paintings now I as a viewer get lost in the smoothness, I explore the odd shapes. It invites my mind to wander and then come back again.
Which artists have influenced you the most?
Right now I find myself more recently marinating in work by Matisse, Monet, Klimt and Van Gogh. How boring and expected, right? Maybe that influence will show more in my work one day. I often sit down to paint and allow my hands and head to go on their own journey, I never know what I’ll end up with. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but more often I’m pleased. I also love DaVinci’s line drawings. Another odd influence who I’ve always loved are the illustrations of Alvin Schwartz.
What do you enjoy most about creating?
Creating is a meditation, it feels so good to lose yourself as you work. Somedays it’s effortless and rewarding, and other days the work sputters out with difficulty and leaves you feeling unsatisfied as you work out small failures. I love the high of the effortless days and the challenge of the unrewarding days. I always say you can’t fully appreciate summer without a winter, and allowing “stink” days helps me to appreciate “flow” days even more.
What do you wish your brain was better at doing?
Sorting and prioritizing details. I recently learned I have something called time-space synesthesia.
I’ve always been able to “see” time as a loop around my body. I see the whole calendar year that way. I thought everyone did this, and just found out randomly this year that most people do not seem time that way after reading a book where the author cited they had this form of synesthesia. I also saw color for days of the week when I was a kid (Mondays are white and Wednesdays are red, green and black plaid, in case you’re interested).
As a side effect I can recall birthdays of people I no longer see regularly (1998 high school boyfriend: August 3rd) because I can see it on the loop. Once a birthday is "on the loop” it doesn't usually come off.
Another aspect of this synesthesia is that an average person recalls 39 details from a memory and time-space synesthetes recall 123. So I tell LONG stories because all details seems equally important to me.
My friends joke that if I was an eye witness to a crime the officers would be very irritated by the time they were done with my three hour interview.
What stereotype do you totally live up to?
Woman driver. I can’t tell how fast cars are coming when I need to cross traffic. My apologies to anyone who has ever sat behind my car waiting for me to make a left. Bring a book next time.
What is the best way to start your day?
Lately, a few days a week I like to start my day with a workout at home, and then I use my cool down time to meditate. I’m surprised to find I am enjoying both.
What favorite song do you have completely memorized?
Despite my loving music, I have almost no ability to sing a song from start to finish. I’m infamous for being unable to properly hear lyrics. I really love the melody, that’s where I feel the power, I don’t really care as much about the words. Don’t ask me for an album title or song name, I won’t know it. Anything from the 60s and 70s floats my boat. And Claude Debussy makes me cry, in a good way.
What do you consider to be your best "find”?
My husband. I saw him twirling a pen around his hand in a study hall and that was all it took. I saw him, I wanted him, I made him mine.
What is one of your favorite smells?
Gardenia from my garden (all artists have gardens, right? and cats? and too many books?)
Which of your scars has the best story behind it?
I nearly died of hemorrhage when I gave birth to my daughter and after several days in ICU and another week recovering in the hospital, I decided I’d pursue a career in art instead of being “sensible.” I went through a number of surgeries that week and one revision surgery later. Those scars are long and short, and they remind me that life can be long or short, you don’t have a guarantee of tomorrow. And a trauma today doesn’t guarantee you won’t face another tomorrow. Go for what makes you happy.
We also loved the longer version of this story on Stephie's site:
"I was working as a graphic designer until something terrifying happened, and it changed everything. Before that time, I was always an artist but I wasn't sharing my gift and life's purpose with anyone. It's a doozy of a story . . .how something very simple changed my life forever."
What book or author has impacted you the most?
I’m influenced by a lot writers, but as an artist I’m most influenced by the feelings I get when I’m reading. I love nostalgic chills. Every September you’ll find my nose hidden in “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” by Ray Bradbury. It’s like clockwork.
What do you regret not starting when you were younger?
Becoming an artist. I was playing it safe and listening to (what seemed like) “sound” advice from people who cared about me, but who had never taken much risk to pursue their dreams either. Anything worth having comes with some risk. I also learned to take advice from people who had already done what I wanted to do.
What challenging things are you working on lately?
Resting. As a mom and business owner I find I think it’s not okay to rest, that it’s lazy. Maybe it’s our current culture? I know that it’s not lazy, but I’m working on believing it so I am intentionally resting and making efforts to recharge without judging myself.
What is something you like to do the old fashioned way?
I love to cook and I tend to make food that way, from scratch. Taking hours to let a sauce simmer produces true magic. I make a mean pasta alla vecchia bettola.
When do you feel truly "alive”?
When I’m laughing with my family or friends, and when I’m painting, of course.
Thank you Stephie, we are honored to share your work!
STEPHIE JONES ARTIST STATEMENT
I earned my degree from James Madison University in the rolling hills of Harrisonburg, Va. I pull inspiration from nature and the world around me, from light dancing off of trees and grass as I drive in the country to the way clouds gather over the ocean at sunset. I am happiest sipping a coffee in my studio while listening to jazz and creating. I occasionally take breaks from painting to chase around my children, husband, cats and dog.
FOR THE LOVE OF ART!