If Jen Sterling had any doubts about the decision to sell her company and pursue fine art full time, this surely was confirmation: Art Folio Annual named her among “the world’s most exciting artists” in 2021.
Nothing Vanilla Here
The self-taught abstract artist from Annapolis, Maryland, started her career as a graphic designer. Most recently she was “Founder and Chief Red Head” of Red Thinking, a brand strategy/design firm that she sold to her employees. Color played a huge part of her branding work, and is equally prevalent in her fine art. Although a painting coach once told her she needed more neutrals in her work, she retorted, “I am not neutral!”
Colors, Layers, and Textures
“City Lights in the Rain,” featured above, reflects the direction that much of Jen’s work is going as she experiments in-depth with colors, layers, and textures. The 30x30 acrylic on canvas is framed in our Canvas Floater Frame F120. “I’m a super fan of both the Frame Destination float frames and the [GalleryPouch™] storage envelopes,” Jen says. “The simplicity of the frames lets my work shine. The storage envelopes allow me to preserve that shine between shows and on the way to the buyer.”
See More of Jen’s Work
You can find a gallery of Jen’s paintings on her website, on Facebook (where you may also encounter “art boots” and bullet journals for sale), and Instagram. In my Q&A with Jen, discover details about how she made the leap from corporate world to art world, what pulls her out of a creative block, and her favorite color name (hint: she made it up).
Now for Artie’s Eight Q&A with Jen Sterling …
1. What is your background; how did you get started?
Abstract expressionist. Colorist. Entrepreneur. Wife. Mother. Color has always had a profound influence on my state of mind. For 30 years I worked in corporate branding and color almost always played a pivotal role in the brand systems I developed for my clients. In 2020, I sold my last company and transitioned to being a full-time artist. Some of the paintings I create come out of me in just a few hours, fully-formed and ready to blast onto my canvas. In some instances, the art is built slowly over several weeks and layers until it has developed just the right feeling; it evolves into something I did not visualize prior to beginning. Some of my favorite pieces are those that develop over time. They begin with a seed of an idea or a fragment of an image that pops into my head. Slowly, form and motion start to creep in and energy bubbles up. I get more and more excited about what is happening, and that excitement gets translated through my brushstrokes onto the canvas. The goal of my work is to inspire energy and excitement from within — to empower the viewer to do something bold. My paintings are not meant to be “vanilla” or just match your couch. These images are meant to make you feel strong and powerful, to help you feel the excitement I had in creating it, and to burst into your morning with a zing or invigorate your senses after a long day. Ideally, my art reminds you that life is for feeling, stretching, and living. I graduated from George Washington University earning a BA in Visual Communications with a minor in Psychology. I live with my husband, daughter, and our “furry children” in Annapolis, Maryland.
2. What role do you think the artist plays in society?
Each artist can choose their role(s). Some will record history, some will make a statement or push an agenda. Some will “color inside the lines” and some will push boundaries and break rules to make society grow or change. Some choose to make an impact across an entire society, others choose to move a small niche audience. Regardless of the specific role, I feel strongly that a society can not survive without artists. Artists are the bubbles in the champagne that bring awareness, feelings, and knowledge to the surface.
3. What has been a formative experience or the best advice you’ve received within your career?
I maintain a forum (a group of friends/advisors) that I meet with regularly. We discuss business, family, and personal topics. During one of our quarterly meetings, I was expressing my extreme unhappiness in my then-situation at work. They walked me through a visioning exercise that made this clear to me: Not only was I meant to pursue my art, but it wasn't something I had to wait until retirement to do. There was a path right in front of me and they helped me to take the first step. The next 24 months was a whirlwind as I sold my company and set up my art business. I will never forget that day or what they did for me.
4. What ways does your work reflect your personality?
Color. LOTS of bold and joyful color. I am driven to use it, wear it, and splash it anywhere I can. It has such a fundamental impact on my mood and I use it as a tool to help others feel the same power.
5. Creative blocks, do you get them? If so, how do you overcome them?
ABSOLUTELY. Different solutions work at different times. I may dig into books or social media accounts of artists I admire for inspiration. Other times I start by closing my eyes and just making marks on a canvas. Then I have something to react to and build upon.
6. What is your most indispensable tool? (Not counting the obvious, like paints, brushes, canvas, camera, etc.)
Assuming you would also exclude my Mac and iPhone, I would have to say books. I am an avid reader and researcher. Being able to reference works that inspire me, stories that keep me going strong when I am feeling low or at a loss, examples of other artists' work, and sometimes completely unrelated topics that may trigger a random idea that eventually finds its way into my work.
7. Do you have a new project you are working on, or a new passionate idea?
I have spent the past month building a business and marketing strategy for my art. I really spent a lot of time on the left side of my brain. This month I am working through ideas for a new series of work. I have a one-man show scheduled for this fall and I am determined to make a splash with a powerful presentation.
8. What is your favorite paint color name?
It is one I made up: ”squished bug green." It certainly brings a certain color right to your mind, doesn't it? ;)
All artwork and/or photographs used in this post are subject to copyright held by the featured artist.
ARE YOU READY FOR THE SPOTLIGHT? Simply respond to the questionnaire here to apply to be included in an upcoming Artie’s Eight Spotlight.
Last Updated September 01, 2021