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Portland Painter Jenny Jo Oakley

on September 3, 2015
"Self-Portrait" (oil on canvas)

“Self-Portrait” (oil on canvas)

ELEVEN: What do you enjoy about painting?

Jenny Jo Oakley: I like how tactile painting is. I like stretching my own canvas, the smell of the oils, the physicality of it. I like the endless possibilities of painting, being able to illustrate whatever is in your head.

11: How did you discover that oil painting is your preferred style of work?

JJO: A lot of trial and error with different mediums, but overall I love how versatile oils are. I like how they can be applied like watercolors by diluting them with turpentine or linseed oil, layered over a pencil drawing using a medium so they take on a sort of encaustic effect, or applied thick with a palette knife.

"The Monkey Lady" (oil on canvas)

“The Monkey Lady” (oil on canvas)

11: What other types of art have you done in the past? 

JJO: Sculpture, pottery, theater, and music.

11: How has your art changed recently?

JJO: I don’t think my painting style has changed much over the years. The mood of it pretty much stays the same regardless of the medium I’m using. However, I’ve been focusing a lot on creating stop motion films using little creatures created out of clay, fabric, wire, hay, twigs…whatever I can get my hands on.

11: What direction do you see your work heading?

JJO: I see myself focusing heavily on film projects, which will allow me to combine three things I love: art/painting, music, and stop motion.

11: Is there a story or theme you like to convey in your artwork? Who are the people in your paintings? 

JJO: I don’t intentionally start off with a theme or story in my artwork, but it often tends to be darker in nature. Usually an idea will be sparked by a dream, somebody I meet on the street, a song or line of poetry. Most of the stories and people in my paintings are symbolic of things I’ve experienced in my own life.

11: Who are some of your favorite artists and why? 

"Naughty Boy" (oil on canvas)

“Naughty Boy” (oil on canvas)

JJO: Nan Goldin, Gregory Crewdson, Sally Mann, Lucian Freud, Jenny Saville… these are just some of them. Probably these are some of my favorite artists because their subject matter tends to be a bit unsettling. Nan Goldin would photograph her friends in the ’80s. They would generally be drug addicts, prostitutes… those living outside of accepted society. She was able to show beauty in something most people would find disgusting. Gregory Crewdson builds elaborate sets where he poses people in sometimes mundane but always unsettling positions, usually as a depiction of American homes and neighborhoods. If asked for a comparison, I’d say I find his photography something akin to a David Lynch film. As for Lucian Freud and Jenny Saville, I like their subject matter but am most impressed with their loose and drippy oil paint application.

11: How do you stay inspired to create? 

JJO: Good question! Some days I’m not inspired at all, honestly. I find having more than one artistic outlet has helped tremendously in the inspiration department, though. If I get tired of making art, I know I can switch over to music. Being able to switch between the two keeps me inspired to create. »

– Veronica Greene

"Erika In The Bathroom"

“Erika In The Bathroom”



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