This week’s Studio Sunday allowed us to catch up with Philadelphia based abstract artist, Jennifer Small. We love the bold colors and geometric forms in her work so it was nice to hear a bit about what goes on behind the scenes! Read on to hear about her process and some advice she would have given to her younger self that is relatable to many emerging creatives.
By day, Jennifer Small makes visual designs on screen and by night she makes abstract paintings on canvas. She received her BFA in Painting and BS in Art Education in 2005 from Millersville University and MFA in Painting in 2012 from Savannah College of Art and Design. In 2016, while living in Chicago, she made the transition from teaching to graphic design. Her work has been exhibited in Washington, DC, New York, Richmond, Savannah, and Chicago as well as in New American Paintings and Studio Visit magazines. In 2019, she relocated to the Philadelphia area to continue her career as a painter and designer.
My art, initially abstract in appearance, records a journey of a day in the life—a practice that starts with documentation through the lens of a camera. My eyes act as a viewfinder narrowing down the panoramic into single frames. Compiled snapshots represent blocks of time during my process of seeing and recording aesthetic significance in ordinary routine. I see curious formal elements in common things waiting to be manipulated and transformed into abstract compositions. I collage together the single framed images, simplify and render them in paint to create the lines, shapes, and hues that fill the canvas. Abstracted layers build shallow spaces that depict my translation of the everyday. My work shows my analysis of time and space interpreted by looking through a lens at my immediate environment.
When did you first become interested in art?
I've been interested in art as long as I can remember. I grew up in a creative family where we were always drawing or making something. I knew from a very early age that I would have a career in the arts and be a lifelong creative.
Tell us about the inspiration behind your work and what your creative process is like.
My work is inspired by observing my everyday life. I see daily routine as an opportunity to record aesthetic curiosities that can be used as building blocks for my paintings. My abstractions are collections of these curiosities which represent my personal experience with time and place. I begin my creative process by taking photos of interesting visual sightings observed while moving through my normal routine. Next, I make sketches collaging parts of the photos together to create compositions that work well as formal abstractions. Sometimes the original source material in one painting relates, sometimes it doesn't. Color is a consideration before I begin. I usually start with 2 warm colors and 2 cool colors and during the painting process expand upon or reign it in from there. I work from painterly to more precise (with the help of a lot of painter's tape) combining acrylic and spray paint to build my surfaces into abstract structures that tell my story.
What do you hope your viewers take away from seeing your paintings?
I hope viewers of my paintings see energy, movement, and variety from a formalist abstraction point of view but also their approachability after learning what inspired them. And as a result, they might consider slowing down enough to appreciate their own daily environment.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to your younger self?
I would advise my younger self to be more proactive earlier with sharing work, applying for opportunities, and connecting with other artists in order to build a community and also see personal growth.
What is your favorite thing about being an artist?
My favorite thing about being an artist is its unpredictability. I can't predict what I will make, who I will meet, or where it will take me next but I'm very much looking forward to the ride.
Are there any exciting exhibitions, projects, or collaborations going on this year that you’re currently working on or will be soon?
My work will be published in Vol. 45/46 of Studio Visit Magazine coming out this summer. Additionally, I am continuing to make work and get reacquainted with the east coast after moving from Chicago to the Philadelphia area in April.
Find a selection of her work available online with our new gallery PxP Contemporary!