Contemporary Portrait Paintings by George Jennings

AP: Tell us your short biography.

GJ: My name is George Jennings and I live in Seattle, WA U.S.A. who began my interest in art in my hometown of Washington, D.C. under the tutelage of my grandfather, accomplished Washington, D.C. artist John N. Robinson during the 1970’s.

George JenningsAs a child, I entered and won many art competitions, once even winning both 1st and 2nd place at a tri-State youth art competition for middle school aged children from Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia.

I attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts for only one year which was my only form of formal art training.

As a child, I grew up in a low-income household where either military service or getting a job upon completion of high school were the only options I was encouraged to pursue so for many years, a career as a professional artist was truly only a dream.  At the age of 19, I joined the U.S. Air Force but continued to hone my artistic abilities through several years of self-training.

During my four years in the Air Force and during my years working traditional 9-5 jobs, I would receive constant praise from my co-workers and supervisors as well as friends and family but I still never thought that a career in art would be a reality for me.  In 1996 I met my wife and in 1997 we moved to Seattle, Washington where, with her encouragement, I began creating artwork and pursuing art as a career.

From the late 1990’s until now, I have participated in various art festivals, juried competitions, solo and group exhibitions in the pursuit of my ultimate goal, to hopefully soon, trade my current day job with a local county government for the job of creating pieces of artwork that will bring joy and years of visual pleasure to people around the globe.  Being able to wake up every morning and create art as my full-time career would not only be a dream come true but also the most fulfilling way for me to spend my life.

AP: Your first works. What did they look like?

George JenningsGJ: My first works were when I was ten years old.  They were portraits of celebrities.  I was inspired by my grandfather who was a professional artist.  In the summers, as a child, I remember when my grandfather would do his daily morning studio session for several hours until lunchtime.  And after lunch, he would come downstairs from his studio and sit all six of his grandchildren (between 7 – 10 years old) outside on the porch and give us group art lessons.  He taught us the basics of art composition, color theory, and light and shadow.

He would then quiz us on what he taught us and give us challenges, asking us questions like: “If light was coming from one direction, where would the shadow fall on the object?”  My sibling, cousins and I would each take this knowledge home and apply it to our individual artwork to try to impress him the next day during our art session for that day.

At this point in my development, I created pieces that were nothing more than just copying images that I saw in magazines.  I drew a lot of pictures of things like airplanes and cartoon characters.

My grandfather would then give us each an in-depth critique and even though we were just kids, he would critique our work as if he was looking at any other artists work. We weren’t ever discouraged by this but rather it motivated us to work harder to impress him with what we had learned from his tutelage and critiques.

Later as a teenager, I was influenced by fantasy artists such as Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta.  I felt that their imagination and their use of color was a step above other fantasy artists.  The pieces that I created during this time in my life looked like combinations of both Boris and Frank Frazetta’s work.  I would paint reproductions of their images on any items I owned (jackets, book bags, notebooks, etc.).

AP: Do you have any formal education in your sphere or were you self-taught?

George Jennings GJ: Although I received my introduction to fine art from my grandfather and went to one year of art school during my high school career, I didn’t have the opportunity to receive any formal training and consider myself to be a self-taught artist.  I don’t being creative is that difficult but the challenge is to created something that is appealing to myself as the artist and a wider audience.

I gained my skills to make my works more creative by looking at other artist’s works and other things like automobiles, architecture, images in fashion magazines and designs in nature.

AP: What genre are your works?

GJ: My art most reflects a combination of Art Deco, Art Nouveau and traditional portraits.  The only difficulty that I found was trying not to fall into a specific genre.  Also, my genre would constantly change it was not a static thing.  As I grow as an artist, I’m sure that what I found important at one point will change. I also hope that as I grow as an artist that my work won’t fall into one specific genre.

AP: Can your works be characterized as unique and unusual?

George Jennings GJ: I do believe that my works can be described as unique but not unusual.  What I always try to do in my work is express the sense of and feeling of peace that I experienced while creating it. My hope is that when viewing any of my work it will cause a person pause and they will connect with the entire piece or even just a portion of the painting because it brings up a positive memory or thought of something that takes them back to a time in their past that could be as far back as childhood or even just yesterday but regardless it brings them joy.

AP: What kind of equipment and techniques do you use to create your works?

GJ: At present, I use acrylic paints.  I paint using layers of acrylic washes.  This is something that I’ve been doing for the past two years and something that is constantly changing as I find techniques that are more conducive to my style.   I lay down a complete value layer usually in black or brown and then I apply color by laying transparent layers of acrylic paint over it starting from light to dark.  I place a transparent barrier between each color to avoid muddying of the colors.

AP: Would you consider yourself as an expert in this sphere?

GJ: I think that the term “expert” means you have reached the limit of knowledge on something and I hope that there is always more to learn.  So I do believe that I am a professional artist but an “expert”, no.

AP: What is the formula for success in your activity?

GJ: I’m not sure what you mean by “formula for success in your activity” but if you mean successful as an artist, then that would be being pleased by what I produce.  If you mean successful as a professional artist, that is an ongoing process.

George JenningsRecently, I have participated in various solo and group exhibits, art fairs, apply for various calls for artists, display my work in various online galleries as well as connecting with art lovers and other professional artists around the world through various social media platforms.  I also feel that part of my success is by meeting and connecting with other artists in person in my local area.

AP: Who or what is the essential part of your creativity?

GJ: Part of my success as an artist is due in large part to the help of family members and friends who support my work it is not a solo effort.  In particular, my wife who is just as invested in my career as I am.  As hard as I work creating art, she puts the same amount of effort into the business side of things (promotion, advertisement, maintaining my online presence, keeping my website updated, finding out about and tracking new opportunities, etc.).  And my mentor who is a well established artist who gives me inspiration and a tangible goal to achieve.  He’s supportive in many ways by being a guide, a source of knowledge and a supporter of my career.

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