Sometimes a piece of art just catches your attention, calls your name, invites you in. That is exactly what Jennifer John does with her work. At first glance you see beautiful tone on tone, with pops of neutral colors mixed in - and it calls to you - beckons you to take a deeper look. And then you see it. All the layers, the texture, the color beneath the neutrals peek through, just enough for you to know it is there whispering to you, but not overpowering the piece.
Jennifer's art reminds me of having coffee with a friend, a good friend - the friend, whose layers of life you love. That friend whose eyes twinkle when she talks, showing the slightest wrinkle from years of laughing. That friend whose stories are deep, experience profound, and love never-ending.
So, tell us a little bit about yourself...
Let’s see… I have been married for 15 years to my college sweetheart, Eric. No one makes me laugh like he does. We have two boys, Wyatt (12) and Dixon (11). They are really the best kids. Curious and creative, spunky and smart.
I feel really lucky to be able to what I love for a living. They say to "do what you love and you’ll never work a day”, but not everyone gets the chance. I am very grateful for that. Its hard to put yourself out there, but so worth it.
Where are you from? Where do you live?
Born and raised in Houston, Texas. I still live in the Houston area suburbs with my family.
How long have you been a professional artist?
As long as I can remember I have been sketching and painting. I went to the University of Houston to pursue and career in interior design (which I still do) I only recently brought my art out of my studio.
Why did you pursue art as a career?
For me there was no other option. It is really just a part of me. I don’t know how to turn it “off” I am constantly thinking of colors and textures and how things play on one another whether I am creating or just seeing things in the world.
What is inspires you to paint? I love to explore how things play on each other. I do this in my painting, my interiors, the way I dress, cooking… really everything. I think that when you work with opposites whether it is texture, color, technique, or forms …. that is when it gets interesting. Often my favorite details are ones that happened by accident.
When you are not painting, what do you like to do?
When I’m not painting I love to hang out with my family and friends. I love to cook, it really relaxes me. I think cooking can be a lot like painting. Sometimes the best meals aren’t using a recipe or planned.
Favorite gift received
My favorite gifts I have received are gifts from my Grandma. She has given several pieces of her jewelry that I wear constantly. They are vintage and special and I love to mix them with my newer pieces.
That is a tough one! It’s hard to pick just one so I’ll say anything that is made from scratch with fresh veggies and fish. But a little pasta and cheese thrown in there didn’t hurt anyone. Oh and you need dessert, so anything dark chocolate will do.
I think my favorite drink would be wine. Although being from Texas, I have never passed up a margarita either. Especially my husband’s. They are delicious.
Favorite vacation spot.
My family and I love to take long road trips. A few years ago we drove from San Diego up the 101 to Northern California. It was really beautiful. This spring we are headed across Texas to Big Bend and Marfa which I am really excited about. I love any destination where the natural beauty of the area is the star.
3 things you could not live without (at the moment).
Let’s see….. at the moment my paints, true crime podcasts, and a little quiet at the end of the day.
Whitney paints to share her awe of Creation — the land, the sea, and the sky. Painting provides a unique way to translate the ever-changing landscape, which for Whitney is always a vast and inspiring subject. From a more technical standpoint, Whitney explores perceptual elements like color, value, and edge while constructing an image. She is also intrigued by the physicality of oil paint, and its infinite potential for the development of surface quality.
Visiting with Whitney in her studio, I got a sneak peak into Whitney’s mind and space. Tucked in the back of a local framing store, Whitney is surrounded by her creations and a table full of colorful palettes, the wet oil paints shining under the soft light. Pinned up around the room are Whitney’s paintings, big and small in varying stages of development and on the easel, a large canvas with the beginnings of an ocean wave. The first layers coming to life as deep blues mix with soft whites of the ocean foam. Looking at this piece, you can almost smell the salty air and feel the spray of a crashing wave. Whitney is skilled with a palette knife (always traveling with her favorite one) capturing the realities of nature in vivid color and layers of texture. In her studio, I observed Whitney’s natural ability to use the flat metal surface of a palette knife to create the minute details in a skyscape. Having worked side by side with Whitney, I know that using a palette knife is not easy, but Whitney has mastered the technique making it look like a mere extension of her hand– wielding paint across the canvas in a soft skipping motion, leaving dabs of color as she goes.
Taking thousands of photos as inspiration, Whitney is able to enhance the colors we see in every day life and translate them to art that is beyond stunning. The colors are vivid. The strokes are strong. The layers of texture giving each scene depth and richness that is often brighter than real life. Whether she is creating a soft sunset, the deep colors of the morning sky, broad yellowing corn fields, or hidden pump houses each piece Whitney creates brings the natural world to a crisper view.
See below for more our conversation and follow Whitney on instagram @whitneyknappbowditchstudio.
You can find some of Whitney's amazing art right here! These pieces will be available for the month of November.
When did your journey into art begin?
My love for painting began twenty years ago when I was in high school. My art teacher at the time suggested that I study the visual arts in college. I began looking at schools that had strong art programs, and spent a summer at Skidmore College taking Advance Placement Art classes. After that experience I was confident that I had found my direction, and went on to earn a BFA and an MFA in painting.
How has your work changed over the past couple of years?
My paintings have become much more vibrant and textured, which is largely due to my shift in technique. I began painting with a knife and absolutely fell in love with the freedom that it provided me. It was the answer to a number of technical problems, and enabled me to move away from my literal mindedness to a more abstract application.
When you are creatively stuck, what do you do?
I force myself to go to the studio! I keep a file on my desktop called “to paint” and I’ll flip through images until I see something in a photo that inspires me. It may not be the entire image - it could be as simple as a color relationship that will initiate a spark.
Music, snacking, and coffee are also tremendously helpful to me! Oftentimes after I eat or turn on music, my energy will shift and I’ll feel much more inspired.
What is one of your biggest challenges as an artist?
It’s difficult to pick just one! Battling self-doubt is a huge challenge for me as a painter. So much of my work is made in isolation, so it can be particularly difficult to feel confident about my output without the feedback from other painters.
Another significant challenge is balancing all the administrative aspects of being a full-time painter, while still having significant time to create, and managing a well-rounded personal life and a clean house.