On Golden Bay: artworks by Jen Shepherdson

This is me at the Rockingham Art Awards, at the opening night. I went back a couple of days several days later, and the coordinator said that there had been some great comments from the public. The artwork sold at the show.

Q: What does airbrushing mean to you Jen?

Airbrushing has become a major part of my life. I first tried airbrushing about 20 years ago. But I never did much with it. But about 6 years ago, I did the courses with Airbrush Venturi in Perth WA, and from that point on, airbrushing has become a big part of my life.

I love the art form, I love the creative process, I love the people that I have met and the sense of community that pervades airbrushing in Australia. Vanessa, who runs the Perth central and South courses has become a genuine friend. She is an inspiration to me.

The artwork was a bit of a struggle to create. I tried to create an artwork that was in reverse, like an old photograph negative. But when I painted it, it looked very dark and I didn’t like it.
This photo shows the artwork half way through the process of painting it as a proper image not in reverse). I have flipped the water, but not the spinifex on the sand.

This artwork is called “Negative Space”. It is created from a photo I took near home at Golden Bay in Western Australia. It was a colour photo, and I printed it out as a B&W.

I gave myself a lot of creative freedom to not follow the photo tightly. I didn’t care if I didn’t paint the water precisely to the photo. I was more interested in the feel of the shapes.

Once I had finished it, I didn’t like it. As always, I only saw the mistakes. But after the show, I took it home and hung it, and as time has passed and I no longer see the mistakes, I have come to really like.

The creative process I used ended up creating a far better artwork than I would have created normally. The fact that I painted the artwork in reverse to paint all the shadow shapes in white and all the highlight shapes in black) . . . and then turn around and paint it again, but this time I painted all the highlights with white and the shadows in black . . . in the end I created a complexity that was wonderful and gave the artwork much more life.

I hope that you recognise the power of the rendering systems that I was taught. I love the skills that Airbrush Venturi have given me. The fact that I painted everything in reverse, then changed my mind and literally flip all the shapes is amazing. Without that knowledge, I would have thrown the artwork away and started again. But using these systems meant that I ended up creating something with a real sense of life and detail.

Q: The next artwork is called “School of Life”. Tells us all about this?

I started with the background. The artwork is 1.5m wide. Because of how big it is, I used aerosol cans for the background. I will never do this again. I really struggled with trying to get the smooth blend of the blues. I tried fixing it with the airbrush, but really it was too late.
I didn’t have a spray gun at the time. If I had done the background with a spray-gun, I could have cross-blended the blues more and got a very different result. But also, once I had created all the small fish in the background, I would have then created the mist of the water, over them. Despite all the difficulties, the result still came up well.
I did not count how many fish that I created, but there were an awful lot. I inverse rendered every single fish flat base, shadow highlights) several times over. At so many times during the artwork, I seriously questioned why I had chosen such a complex artwork.

I saw a photo of school of fish and I thought it looked incredible. The light, the movement and the complex detail. I thought it would be a great challenge.

I think that my crazy need to choose incredibly difficult subject matters has something to do with a need to paint things that I find “truly beautiful”.

This artwork now hangs in my home. The more I love with it, the more I like it – as always. By creating this artwork, I really feel as if I literally swam with these fish. I have met every single one of them and painted their portrait, one by one.

Q: There is a definite marine theme across these three artworks? Tell us what this is about?

I take the dogs down to the beach every day. The beauty is amazing. Every day it is different. The light changes as I walk, the waves change from rough to smooth, from aggressive to calm. It is visual music.

To take the photo that I worked from, I waited till the wave receded right back and then ran forward and took the photo and ran back before it caught me. The shapes of the waves when they first start to rise are different. They are curling under, pulled under by the film of water running down the sand.
This photo was taken at a public event to do with rockabilly music. Painting in front of people is always enjoyable for me. It is a very social thing. I don’t have any issues with people watching me. I love the interaction and feedback. They are always positive and you meet some very interesting characters. It always amazes me how many people I meet that are seeing airbrushing for the first.
I loved painting this artwork. I have recently had it framed. I am putting together a collection of artworks. I hope to hold an exhibit at some stage in the future. I am also going to start a Facebook page just for my art.

I think that what I have learned about my art is “paint what you want to paint, not what you think other people what to see.” Also to not stress about just copying photos and to have enough faith in yourself to paint what you think is important in the imagery. Lastly, to not worry about whether you think you can do something or not . . . to just start and nibble away at it.

Tony – Thank you so much from your time and effort Jen. The artworks are wonderful and your words are quite interesting.

If you have a interested to learn to create wonderful artworks of landscapes like Jen, we have great courses that you will enjoy and find rewarding.

If you would like more information about the courses in Western Australia, in Joondalup, Salter Point and Wandi, go to the Airbrush Venturi course timetable, HERE.

If you have questions please ring us on 1300-247-278 (1300 AIRBRUSH) or email us HERE.

Written by Tony Vowles