and the yellow brick road was actually thirty shades of gold

Self-taught with no pre-defined creative process or swanky studio, Jenny Andrews Anderson’s abstracts explode with color, whimsy, and eccentrics, just like her character.

interview by ciara bird / photographs by paige french

What kind of person are you? I am passionate, sensitive and eccentric.  A long time ago one of my acting teachers said to me, “Jenny, you fart up more colors of the rainbow than anyone I know.”  That pretty much sums it up.

What’s your uniform? Pajamas. I work from home so it works for me.  If I’m leaving the house it’s usually cut-offs, a t-shirt and flip-flops.  The winterized version would be jeans, an oversized sweater and high top sneakers or boots.

What’s your creative process? Do you have a set idea in mind before you start, or is it more of a journey and exploration that leads to the final piece? I don’t have a process.  I do usually have a concept though, which tends to be color driven.  I paint in the abstract so I am mostly inspired and moved by colors and seeing them together.

Why do you paint? I wish I could say because I’d die if I didn’t or something dramatic and poetic like that.  But in truth, it’s because it is a way for me to make a living doing something that I enjoy. I am an actor by trade and just a creative person in general so it’s in my blood to create things. I would die if i didn’t create, period.  So I guess in that sense it’s poetic. The thing about painting for me is I love to see colors together.  I feel a bit like a scientist when I am painting. and there is something about it that keeps me checked in and in tune with my creativity.

But I always feel a tad guilty that I have had such success as a painter and I never really had any ambition to do it.  I just sort of fell into it. As an actor I would always feel bitter resentment toward people who said they never wanted to be an actor, they just fell into it and then they went on to gain massive success.

I guess a part of me believes there are a fair number of artists out there who feel that way toward me.  That is obviously a total assumption and something I clearly need to get over. It isn’t doing anyone any good to think that way.

I wish I could say because I’d die if I didn’t or something dramatic and poetic like that.  But in truth, it’s because it is a way for me to make a living doing something that I enjoy. I am an actor by trade and just a creative person in general so it’s in my blood to create things.  I would die if i didn’t create, period.

What items are essential for you to get started? Your favorite medium? All I need is the paint and some paper or canvas.  I guess my favorite medium would be soft pastels.  I love the intensity they bring to the paper.  I love layering them over the paint.  It’s truly a thrill for me.

Do you have a go-to color palette? Hmm… pink will always make it better.

Are you listening to music while creating a piece and does it have any influence on your work or is it simply background noise? Yes, I do.  It depends on my mood and what I am painting. When I paint my jellyfish series, I always listen to the cello. It absolutely has an influence on my work. If music doesn’t invoke some sort of feeling or emotion I tend to not be interested in it. This is why I can’t stand pop music.  I don’t go for happy music.

What artists influenced your oeuvre? There are so many artists that I look up to and who inspire my work.  I discover new artists every day who use color in ways I hadn’t thought and it inspires me to create something similar.

Who would be your spirit animal? A person in a bee costume eating fudge.  At a regular party.

Do you need chaos in order to create or do you like things neat and in their place? I definitely need things to be in their place.  I am not a fan of chaos – visual or otherwise.  There is chaos in my brain as it is…I choose to eliminate it in my periphery.

What’s your favorite thing about your studio? Well, my studio is my dining room and the best part about that is it’s attached to the rest of my house.  I love the fact that I can stop painting if I need to and go watch the housewives on bravo. Or work out. Or clean. It’s convenient to work from home and I feel super lucky to get to do that.  However, I’d trade it all for a beautiful, light-filled studio where I didn’t have to clean up my paints at the same time every day because we also eat there.

What other art forms/kinds of artists do you have high appreciation for? I am always in awe of artists who can paint realism to such a degree that you would think it is a photograph. That, to me, is mind-boggling.  But abstract will always be my favorite. I always love when people tell me that abstract art looks like something a kid could do.  I take that as the highest compliment.   Kids paint without pretense and with such abandon. Any abstract artist will tell you that their best work comes from that place. And as an adult it’s not easy to get to that place.

What are you completely tired of? Pink and gold together.  Separately, I love them.

As an artist do you see any shifts happening with art since the explosion of micro-blogging sites such as Pinterest and Tumblr? The only shift I see is availability to the masses.  But I think that’s a positive. It means more people are exposed and they are learning what kind of art they love. Art is so important. Viewing it, making it…it’s all part of our insides.

Tell us something interesting about your neighborhood. I live in historic College Park, which is south of Atlanta, near the airport.  It’s very loud here.  But it’s safe and cute and there is a real family atmosphere here.  How would you describe the space you’ve created?  Your favorite room? What I have created is a warm and cozy home that is modern and relaxed. I tend to stay away from trends for the most part and decorate over a long time.  My favorite room right now is my family room.

I painted the walls farrow and ball black blue and I went all the way – painting the trim, windows, molding and doors.  It was the best thing I could have done for this tiny room.  It is covered in windows and they are now covered in blackout shades for the ultimate tv viewing room.  I wanted to go white-white-white and even bought the paint and then at the last minute I had an epiphany.  I asked myself, what do I want this room to be? and the answer was a cozy den where my family could curl up together and watch movies on the weekend.  It’s also what we do at night after Fiona is in bed.  We catch up on our favorite shows.  We are tv people. It’s how we unwind.  So it seemed like a no brainer that we decorate the room around that idea.  It’s what the room is used for.  What a concept!

Anything in particular that you are currently searching for or obsessed with? Everything!  I am always searching for thonet bentwood cane armchairs.  I need four more.  I am also searching for a big french bed, something like Marie Antoinette would have slept in, for my daughter.  I have spotted a few on craigslist, but not “the one”.   And I guess I have a thing for mid-century pottery and Beni Ourain rugs.  I’d love an Yves Klein blue one and a bright red one and a few traditional white ones.

What was the last experience that totally blew your mind? Walking with my family through the Yorkshire Dales last summer.  It was everything I’d hoped it would be. In that moment, I would have died happy. I can’t wait to go back.  Good thing I didn’t die.

This interview was conducted early 2014.

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