Jill Krasner wears many hats including writer, illustrator, sculptor, craftsperson, designer and painter. Her painting had a huge breakthrough when she moved to Florida’s west coast. Suddenly her work became brighter, more colorful and looser. She began experimenting with new materials, colors and subject matter. Today you can see her big, bold paintings in galleries across the country.
What does mixed media give you as an artist?
Mixed media allows me to ‘play’ with my materials. I can experiment, explore and discover how different materials interact with each other and I am always delighted when I find new combinations, mixing the old with the new to make new art.
What are the general steps you take between a blank page and a finished painting? What are you focusing on at each step?
The first thing I do is apply gesso and texture to my substrate. I often prep several substrates at a time and store them till I am ready to use them.
Next, is the fun step: mark making. I gather a bunch of tools, such as graphite, felt markers, rollers, stamps, pens, pencils, inks --- usually blacks or dark greys or browns --- and I make marks! Squiggles, lines, dots, circles, smudges, even fingerprints all over the substrate. Sometimes I will add a variety of color at this time. This is FUN! I am not thinking about the future painting. I am just playing.
If necessary, I might throw a coat of matte medium over everything to prevent too much smudging or bleeding.
When all is dry, I start working on my background layers. A color palette is created. At this point, I start thinking about composition. Where is my focal point? How do I want to orient the substrate? Often, the mark making has already started to “talk to me.” All my play starts to develop into a plan. A painting is beginning to emerge.
The background goes on in layers. I allow some of the marks to rise to the surface; I bury others. I add colors, textures, more marks. This is so exciting because I now have a plan, a design, starting to evolve. I start to structure the composition, asking myself over and over: Where is the focal point? Do I have small, medium and large motifs? Are my colors balanced? Do I have dark, medium and light.
How much does your process change between your pure abstract work and your work with still life subject matter?
The process is basically the same for all my paintings.
Where in your process do you think about design? What do you have planned out from a design standpoint before you begin painting and what do you leave for discovery while you’re painting?
Occasionally, I sketch out a still life or landscape. More often than not, an idea has been in my head for a while. It percolates while I work on other canvases already in progress. I become eager to begin the new painting, which pushes me through the sometimes difficult finishing steps of WIPs on my tables or easel. I love the moment when I can start a new painting. The blank canvas challenges me and I can’t wait to begin.
What are the most important elements and principles of design for you in your work? Why? How do you use them?
Composition is so important. Where is my focal point? Have I grabbed the interest of the viewer? Am I able to hold their attention? Can they see the ‘story’ ? Does it keep them there, in front of my art, searching for a feeling, a message only they can see or feel. Do they want to come back for another look after they’d walked on? Ah, it is so rewarding when a viewer goes through that process. Alas, most of the time, it’s a lot simpler: They’re wondering how my art will look in their bedroom? Does that color match the couch? Will it fit on that wall?
I wish I never had to think about those questions but , for me, making art is my passion - and it is also my job. So, in addition to thinking about the principles of good design and composition, I also think about current home décor trends, where my painting might fit in a home, what subject matter is currently selling.
I have learned who my typical buyer is…their socio- economic situation, their age range, their motivation for buying art. I try to paint well designed, thoughtfully composed, high quality paintings, with my customer base always in mind.
What are the biggest challenges you see with students trying to work larger? What advice do you give them?
Proportion and perspective. Learn the rules and then you can apply them to any painting, regardless of size or subject matter.
What kind of mood are you trying to evoke through your work?
My work is generally whimsical. Pleasant, not jarring. Unusual enough to be interesting. Different without being controversial.
For someone who wants to learn how to paint abstractly, where do they start? What foundational skills would you suggest they work on?
The foundation for abstract art is the same as for any subject: good composition & design. Active areas and quiet spaces. Create elements, with line, form and color that draw the viewer in and keep them interested.