Jesse Narens

Jesse Narens

Jesse Narens, self-taught, creates inventive compositions that combine elements of wildlife, folklore, and spirituality. I love their rough-hewn, intuitive construction of these pieces that range in size from 12x12" drawings to 72" wide mixed media paintings. Make sure to check out more at the links below!

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Tell me a little bit about you!

I am a self-taught, intuitive artist currently living in Portland, OR.

When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?

I've been making art for as long as I can remember. My dad is an artist so I was exposed to that from birth.

What ideas are you exploring in your practice?: Ive spent a lot of my time from an early age thinking about personal growth, and I use my art to express feelings that I am unable to articulate to myself in clear thought. Im able to look back at finished pieces, and find new understanding for what was going on at that time in my life. This is one of the main reasons that I choose to paint intuitively.

Nature has been the only place that I have found where I am able to clear my mind and just be. The things I paint come from this. I also use this as an opportunity to try and get people to reconnect with nature on their own in an effort to help protect the planet. I think if more people spent even a small amount of time in nature we would see faster action to stop destroying it.

What is your process like?

I always have at least a few pieces going at one time. I jump from piece to piece, and I like having things at different stages around for times when I feel stuck. I work intuitively so there is no sketching before I start painting. Sometimes I have an image in my head when I start, and sometimes I don't. When I don't I usually start by making various marks with a pencil or brush until I start to see forms that I then shape and work with. From there I build up forms and details until the piece feels finished. My pieces go through lots of moments where they may look finished, but since my mind still is unhappy with it I will paint over large portions completely reimagining the form. I will do this over and over again until the piece feels right, often painting over the parts I am most attached to to break the hold they have on me allowing me to move forward.

Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?

A lot of the musicians that I grew up listening to, and the authors that I read, all said to question everything, and think for yourself. Thats something I try to keep in mind all the time.

I read a book once that said we should "swim against the stream,".. something like the opposite of "go with the flow." For awhile I fought with the two ideas because at different times in my life they have both felt correct, until I realized that what really felt right is a combination of the two. To go with the flow, but not just float, swim around and make your own path along the way.

Describe your studio.

I work from home, and have pieces all over the place. I move things around a lot to see stuff in different lights or angles. I also work with one brush at a time usually, and no cups of water. It forces me to constantly walk over to the sink and rinse it off which keeps me moving and looking at my pieces differently.

What do you find most challenging, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?

Because I've chosen to do art for a career it is challenging for me to not feel anxious about not painting on days when I might not feel like it.

If you could sit down for dinner or a drink with anyone, who would it be and what would you chat about?

I've had the opportunity to meet a lot of the people who Ive looked up to or admired, and at one time I might have considered doing this, but I have learned that most people do not live up to your expectations so I'll say my daughter and we would talk about our day.

What are three words you would use to describe your work?

Whimsical, melancholy, feral

What do you do when you find yourself in a creative rut?

In moments when I might not feel like painting I usually try to make something more sculptural, play music, or go on a hike. I don't think I've ever really been in a rut since I can jump around between different things.

What do you love most about your medium? What challenges or surprises you most about it?

I love that no matter how many pieces I make, there will always be another one, and they will never look the same. I also love never knowing what a finished piece will look like.

What do you need or value most as an artist?

Space to be alone and free from distraction.

What keeps you creating?

I'm not sure what else I would do.

What are you working on right now?

I recently created the piece "Tracing Shadows In A Root Cage" and I have never made a piece that looks like it before, and it feels good. I've had similar experiences with pieces in the past and they have always been markers of big transitions in my life and in my work. So Im excited to see where it takes me.

Find more at jessenarens.com and on Instagram @jessenarens!

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