Debra Reid Jenkins
Being outdoors in my wonderful home state of Michigan is always an inspiration for my paintings.
Standing on one of the deer trails in the dunes at Lake Michigan, between storms the sun will break through the dark skies, enormous waves crashing on the shore are suddenly illuminated, seagulls are hunkered down and the wind is blowing so hard the sand stings as it hits my face! On another day, the water is nearly flat and the sunlight dances on the sandy bottom with the sound of gentle lapping as the water hits the shore. On the drive home at the end of the day, long shadows across the farmers fields echo the stratus clouds that grow more purple and pink as the evening rolls in. For a week or so every year the cherry orchards come into bloom. I relive the magic I felt growing up with the cherry flowers all around me on my parents property. They shimmer in the light and just as quickly they are gone too soon, fluttering to the ground like faeries returning to the earth. My challenge is, how do I put this on canvas.? As a painter my goal is to capture with paint specific moments in time on canvas. Ideally that canvas will behave more like a doorway than simply an object on the wall. My original training was in portraiture with a strong emphasis on traditional skills and techniques sometimes referred to as academic training. The portrait work led to children's book and magazine illustration which I did for several years. During this time I was also learning to paint en plein air taking my easel and paints out on location in all kinds of weather and I found I loved the challenge! I think my background in figurative work really helped my approach to the landscape, which has always been a kind of portrait of place and time. Having learned what makes a person's face uniquely theirs, I use those same observational skills in the landscape. The water in Michigan is another passion of mine. I've canoed and kayaked rivers and the big lake as long as I can remember. I love reflections in the water and looking through waves. I'm amazed how different it can look from one day to the next.Patterns in water movement are something I find myself continually drawn to. Because of the complexity of pattern and light, I am constantly discovering new ways of seeing and painting. When I was in college I also worked as a hand decorator and gilder (gold leafer). My great aunt, Rose Kozak, owned a furniture manufacturing company that specialized in hand decorated French floral and chinoiserie (stylized Chinese scenery) furniture. I grew up around a lot of different styles of art and one of my first art books was a collection of Hokusai's views of Mt Fuji. I find that the pictorial space in woodblock prints and chinoiserie inform the bones of my water paintings. I've been asked how I can work in so many different styles. I think that in the way some people can speak in different languages, I speak in different visual languages. Ultimately I'm always seeking to communicate what I see and feel. Sometimes this requires different vocabularies. I was born in Michigan and have lived here my entire life. I've had the good fortune to travel to other states and countries, but I'm always happiest to come back home to , what to me is one of the most beautiful and amazing places on the planet. In the end, if I've achieved some truth, you will share in the experience too.