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Jenna Youngwood

Jenna Youngwood

It was a real pleasure to have Milwaukee-based painter Jenna Youngwood on the @youngspacedotcom.wip takeover account the other day for a fantastic look inside her studio! Thrilled to share a wonderful Q&A here along with some of her recent work -- and more at the links below, per usual! x

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Tell me a little bit about you!

I was born in San Diego, raised in Madison, WI, and currently live and work in Milwaukee, WI. I graduated from Peck School of the Arts at UW-Milwaukee in May 2016 with a BFA in Painting & Drawing. My educational experience was rewarding once I learned how to utilize the right spaces, staff, and opportunities that were available to me. I definitely learned how to be a painter in school, but since graduating, I'm learning more about the "real world" aspects of living life as a painter. In June 2016, I moved my painting practice to a spacious studio that I share with my friend and fellow painter, Sean (seanheiser.com). I work mostly in acrylic paint on canvas, with imagery and concepts referencing using my own drawings and visual interests outside of painting, such as animation and art historical works.

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

I have always wanted to make some sort of 2D art into a profession. When I was little, I would tell people I wanted to be a cartoonist or an illustrator. I was always interested in drawing over painting; I loved ink and markers in particular for their immediacy and saturated pigment. Academia has changed my interests from smaller drawings to larger paintings, but my work still heavily incorporates drawing-based imagery.

What is your process like?

Lately, I have been referencing art historical works, my own marker drawings, animated film, and comics. I am working towards being more personal in my work and referencing my own fears and experiences as a painter, rather than a strictly formal/material investigation. My paintings' concepts have changed quickly within the past few years in school, but I have consistently used thin, flat paint application with drawing-based visual references. In the year that I have been out of school, I've gotten into using a projector and Photoshop as painting tools. As much as I love the way they've influenced my work, I am still figuring out what I want my paintings to look like. Currently they're visually sparse, but I want to work towards more active compositions where every part of the canvas is engaged.

I work on one or two paintings at a time. I have tried working on more than two at once, but they start to feel disingenuous; they demand my attention and I get overwhelmed. I do a lot of thinking about each painting's composition and they can change quickly with each layer. Depending on the size and visual complexity of the painting, they can take anywhere between an afternoon in the studio and a few weeks to complete.

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

At UWM, my instructors who influenced me most were Leslie Vansen and Shane Walsh. Their instruction got me into not only pursuing painting, but reading about painting and keeping up with what's going on in the art world on an international level. In my last year of school, I was fortunate enough to have a studio visit with Clare Grill. She encouraged me to "let the paint be paint" and to appreciate how paint application can influence an overall work. Working in acrylic, it's easy for me to forget the versatility of the paint and the options I have in terms of surface-handling. It was the best advice I could have asked for as an impatient painter. I'm sure I've received bad advice in the past, but nothing monumental enough to remember off the top of my head. Most of my art instructors throughout my life have been very helpful and encouraging.

What is your studio like?

My studio is next to a cement factory with awesome brutalist-looking concrete structures. It's a spacious studio with white walls and floors and two massive windows, overlooking boat storage and a few silos in the distance. I get one half of the studio and I usually have a couple paintings in progress on the wall.

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

Finding the time to paint has been a challenge for me after graduating. Not only time, but money as well. Wanting to make good paintings while actually enjoying making them is also challenging. I tend to be overly critical of my own work, which affects the amount of work I decide to share, either through gallery/publication submissions or on my Instagram.

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

Barbara Rossi. I am a huge fan of her work. She's been painting for so long and she is still teaching, which seems like a great life to me. I'd love to hear about her experience in the Chicago Imagists and as a professor. I'm interested in hearing the perspective of a seasoned woman painter who's had a ton of experience in the art world. I would ask for advice about how to keep my practice going and how to handle being a professional painter.

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

Meticulous, fluid, colorful.

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

I try to learn about other painters rather than think about my own work. I've gotten into listening to artist-interview-based podcasts like Deep Color and Sound & Vision. Hearing other painters' life stories puts my own practice into perspective. If I'm frustrated with painting as a professional pursuit accompanied by frustration with my own paintings, I'll spend time with my cat, go to the park, watch a movie, or take a nap. I don't like to think about painting when I'm mad about painting.

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

Acrylic paint comes in many forms and consistencies, so I can usually find the right kind of paint for my next move. If I know I won't be able to achieve what I want with acrylic, I'll use oil, but I'll use it sparingly. I don't like getting messy with paint, which is hard to do. One particular challenge is trying to keep paint stains off of my clothes! Lately I've been loving Golden's High Flow series. The color is so opaque but it flows like water.

What do you need or value most as an artist?

Educational resources, internet access, a space to paint in, and time to paint.

What keeps you creating?

I enjoy making paintings because it's so incredibly challenging, both mentally and physically. To me, making a painting means making a big object. I sweat more than I'd like to admit when I make a painting. The fact that I've never wanted to do anything else is also what keeps me creating.

What are you working on right now?

I'm referencing my own marker drawings more. I am trying to rely less on photoshop and a projector because some of my paintings have turned out a little stiff from my complete reliance on these tools. In each painting, I am forcing myself to consider both physical and digital sources. I'm battling between abstraction and representation in my work, and I'm still not sure what will come of it. Let's hope I end up with some good paintings.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thanks for reading!

Find more at jenna-youngwood.com and on Instagram @jenna.j.y!

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