The foundation for my artwork was laid in childhood–a mix of nature and art. Growing up in Gates, a rural suburb of Rochester, New York, I spent hours out of doors climbing trees, playing in fields and streams, my home surrounded by my Mother’s flower gardens. I loved to color and was a happy girl with a new coloring book and a fresh box of Crayola crayons. I would carefully shade and layer colors while “staying inside the lines” to create realistic pictures. An early drawing tool was in my hand and a love of nature was in my soul.
I attended Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY earning a BFA in printmaking and painting. A Masters in Art Education gave me the taste for teaching and I worked briefly in public school. I enjoyed teaching printmaking and figure drawing and contributing graphic design to Allofus Art Workshop, a community workshop in Rochester in the early 1980’s.
Along the way, I worked as a freelance graphic artist designing catalogs and brochures and illustrating greeting cards and calendars for local and national clients.
My concentration for the last twenty five years has been fine art. From study with Tom Insalaco, Tom Buechner, John Whalley, and Carol Marine I have gained valuable knowledge in painting techniques and approaches to subject matter. My paintings have been selected for national juried exhibitions and are included in private and corporate collections, notably Canandaigua National Bank branches.
My representational oil landscapes have been inspired by the rolling hills of the NYS Southern Tier and Finger Lakes, the seasonal changes of the farmlands around my home in Honeoye Falls and the rocky coast of Maine, all of which suggest a feminine form.
In my still life drawings and paintings found natural forms are placed upon discarded man made surfaces inviting examination of the relationship to what both man and nature leave behind. Once I’ve selected objects to work with I arrange and light them, a process that can take several hours and often reveals something unexpected.
I make thumbnail sketches and a finished value drawing. The drawing is then transferred to canvas or panel with a grid, where a grisaille begins the painting process. I use a limited palette of M Graham oil paint in warm and cool primary colors and white to complete the oil painting, applying “pieces of color” to render form.
Whether I’m painting in the field or in my studio, the solitude I experience is soothing and meditative. This is the grace of being an artist, to lose oneself in the act of creating. When that good flow exists, the paintings seem to paint themselves and the harmony within shows on the canvas.
I am continually amazed at the beauty that comes through my hand from the marriage of my heart and the spirit of nature. To be able to express this unique vision is a privileged gift I offer to the world. My hope is that these drawings and paintings provide a place for the viewer to stop, take a deep breath, savor some of nature’s peace and find a stillness within.
I offer instruction in colored pencil drawing and oil painting in my Works Road Studio. Using still life as subject, students sharpen their observation skills, focus on establishing strong compositions and learn to render form in color.
My students are encouraged to develop their own personal style. I provide a nurturing atmosphere, gently guiding artistic growth in technique and expression. Students receive plenty of individual attention, instructive demonstrations and critique. The warm camaraderie among the students makes it safe to ask questions and take risks.
For more information on Jean K Stephens’s artwork and classes visit her website at www.jeankstephens.com. Stop by Main Street Arts to see her painting “Open House” in our current juried exhibition, Structurally Speaking.
Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by Ithaca artist Chris Oliver.