Jennifer Myers Kirton
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Gallery Direct Interview with JENNIFER MYERS KIRTON|
Jennifer Myers Kirton tells a story with her ink and pencil drawings using a process that is devoted to technique, detail and uniqueness. Kirton developed what she calls a “spotlight technique” where she infuses portions of her pencil and ink drawings with color to incorporate another view into the picture. Her work has received numerous awards and has been published and exhibited throughout the US and Europe.
Many artists are compelled to draw and do art from a very early age. How old were you when you realized you had a talent and wanted to pursue that talent.
My first grade teacher followed my art until her death when she was well into her nineties. She even had some stuff I had given her. I did not have TV and grew up in the country near a small town in central Florida. I passed the time by drawing on everything I could find. Because we were not rich my Father made me use every bit of the paper both front and back. My earliest recollection of a drawing is a pig I drew when I was 3. I showed it to my Mother while standing in front of the window and both of us were struck by lightening. I do not know what happened to that drawing.
When I was in seventh grade my only art teacher was impressed with some of my art but the school would not let me "waste" credits on art so I had to wait until my senior year to take a partial year of art. My sum total of training is less than one year. I was, however, most fortunate to be mentored by great artists like Chuck Turzak who encouraged me to always ask why, and that art is an illusion under the control of the artist. Joy Postle taught me to observe and draw from real life and then to escape into my own art and add design and a lot of me. Others have encouraged, shoved and made me the artist I am today.
You have won many awards. How old were you when you won your first art award?]
My first award was a national award when I was 12 years old. I then did not enter anything (career in nursing, marriage and children) for a few years but won 5 blue ribbons in my first show. My work was carefully framed in cutout poster board thumb tacked to a piece of plywood painted black I draw not for awards but because it is so ingrained in my being that I simply must draw. I try to draw every day.
What formal or informal training did you find most useful during your career?
The only formal training I had was a partial year of art in my senior year. My informal training came mainly from mentors who had practiced and succeeded in art at their own level. I was told that every time I see a work of art to scrutinize both good and bad.
What was your biggest challenge as an artist with very little formal training in art and drawing.
The biggest challenge was one I gave myself. If I was going to be an artist I would draw everyday for one year or quit. Every piece of art I do I try to challenge myself both in difficulty and in execution. No two pieces are ever the same and I am constantly trying to make my next work my best. I never actually want to succeed with a perfect piece for that would be a stop sign in the journey of my art career
Has drawing always been your favorite media and if so, could you tell us why?
I have won awards in other media and taught almost every media as an adjunct teacher but drawing is where my heart is. I love the challenge of form and value tone. It is a highly under valued media but one that all the old masters respected.
Drawing can be done anywhere and with relatively little set up. I found that a drawing board propped against the steering wheel was a good way to spend time waiting in the parking lot for a child to come out of school or baseball practice
During your career who would you say has given you the most inspiration and/or encouragement?
My Mentors and other artists who saw a young house wife and mother who could barely afford paper and pen but had a great love for art, gave me the most encouragement. My mentors were probably 40 to 60 years older, yet they took the time and helped me to love the art. Charles Turzak would question and prod me into figuring things out on my own. One time (about 30 years ago) an artist I admired very much turned my ink drawing down in a juried league. I was devastated but Don Harris said it was not because they were not good enough for some one else to enter but he expected more from me.
In 1999 I broke my arm requiring a 9 inch rod in my drawing arm. Because I could not draw for months I came back to my art with a new found passion. For nearly a year I could not hold a pen for over 15 minutes without biting my lip because of pain. I entered my first show after this with only works done after the broken arm and won first, second and third in graphics
Your work is very detailed. Do you have a sketch or idea before you begin your artwork or do you develop the piece as you work?
No, all my work is done straight on the paper with Ink. I do not even use photos as reference preferring to work from the real thing or my imagination:
Your “spotlight technique” is very unique. Could you tell us a little about it and how/why you came to use it?
As a black and white artist, no one seemed to take the time to stop and look at my work so I decided that it I added some color to my artworks, maybe they would stop. The first ones upset some of my art friends because they saw it as a cop out, but by doing this it gave me a way to tell two stories or views within one work. I enjoy this because it allows me the freedom of working in two media without compromising either one.
What role do you think your emotions play in the creative process?
Huge, I have dealt with a lot of personal problems and my art helped me escape. It is like a warm balm on a troubled spirit. When my teenage son had back surgery I drew for 6 hours and threw the piece away because it was not my best. I still have the piece I began the day my Dad died. It is a precious piece to me. With out passion an artist is a technician. It is passion and emotion that the artist tames on canvas or paper. I have to draw because I love to draw. I hope that people see that in my work but more important than them seeing it, is that I feel it
As an artist do you think you perceive the world differently from other people?
Ask my family. My children used to use that as my excuse. Yes we are more sensitive to the world around us. Only an artistic person is brought to tears at the site of a rainbow or flower dripping in dew
How do you think or want other people to respond to your work?
I want them to look at the world and the beauty in the simple things. Perhaps stop and see flowers in the weeds. I want them to come back and back again, never tiring of my work. I want them to see in it a story told by the simple things you see everyday
What do you enjoy most about being an artist and what other interests do you have besides drawing?
I enjoy being able to put on paper a moment in time that will last beyond my life. I am a grandmother of 8, so family is extremely important to me. I used to ride horses until I fell and broke my arm. I love nature walks and swimming. We have a 12 acre horse farm with only one horse now and a log house that I did all the contracting on, plus a lot of hands on work. We collect fine art and antiques.
If you could give advise to an adolescent who is interested in pursuing art as career, what would that advice be?
I do this often. Your art must come from your soul. To be good you must want it enough to sacrifice and love it enough to continue. You must always want to do better. You must not let what people say go to your heart. Good and bad both influence your work so do what you enjoy. Too many young people work for the compliments or ribbons and do not grow. Art is a journey not a destination
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