Jennifer Small

Artist Q&A with Jennifer Small

Jennifer Small is a Wilmington, DE-based painter and visual designer whose work focuses on elevating everyday routine through representational abstraction.  Small’s work combines hard edges, patterning, and bold use of color. 

“Diner Windows to Tennis Courts”, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 36 x 24 in | 91 x 61 cm, 2020

Who is your favorite artist of all time?

My favorite artist of all time is Georgia O’Keeffe. She was directly inspired by her environment to create abstract paintings and during the process of her life and career. She was a bold, inventive, and fearless leader in paving the way for American abstract painters that followed.

Why did you become an artist?

I’ve considered myself an artist from a very young age. I grew up in a creative family. Both of my parents, and brother and sister, are all very artistic, so making art was always encouraged. The steps toward becoming a professional artist started in high school and continued through my undergrad and graduate studies. During this time I developed my skills and found my voice as a painter, but was also surrounded by encouraging teachers and classmates who helped me to connect with people and opportunities beyond the school community where my work could be shared and enjoyed by a larger audience. After finishing graduate school I continued the process of honing my skills as a painter, applying for opportunities, and expanding my network as a result. My journey as an artist is ongoing. With positivity and hard work, I am confident I will see continued growth in my work, and success as a painter.

When is a piece finished for you?

A piece is finished for me in a formal sense when it achieves balance, a focal point, and engaging visual interest through the juxtaposition of color, pattern, and edge. Conceptually, a painting is finished when the parts of the composition evoke a memory of the time and place that inspired it.

How is your work different than everything else out there?

I think my work is different than other abstract painting out there because my compositions stem from relatable subject matter: mundane environments. My hope is that the viewer can connect to the work on both an aesthetic and conceptual level while opening up their minds to the visual opportunities that can be found in overlooked areas.

Jennifer Small, photo by Rich Ekelman

What’s different about your current body of work?

The most recent body of work I just completed for “Beauty in Banality” is different than past work because all of the paintings were inspired by a collection of photos taken during my everyday routine, but then were broken down and collaged together in a complex drawing and digital painting completed on my iPad. Both the drawing and digital painting acted as the starting point for all nine of the new paintings included in the show. 

What are the influences and inspirations in your new works?

Visual interest in everyday life inspires my work. I see my environment as a collection of observations that contain curious elements that are directly translated into my abstract compositions. 

Tell us about a few of your career highlights or moments that greatly affected your career? 

Completing the MFA Painting program at SCAD has probably affected my career the most because I had the opportunity to develop as a painter and creative professional in a supportive environment surrounded by very talented classmates and instructors who believed in me and my work from day one. Immediately after graduate school, my work was selected to be published in New American Paintings MFA Annual, which was a moment of recognition that gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities to be successful as a painter.

The most recent highlight came this past year when I was invited to join the Artfare platform, an e-commerce space for artists to connect with collectors, where I was discovered by Robert Berry of Robert Berry Gallery and have had the opportunity to show my work and put together a solo exhibition through his virtual platform.

“Beauty in Banality” installation view. Courtesy of Robert Berry Gallery.

What’s coming up for you?

I will have two paintings in a group exhibition at Georgia Southern University curated and organized by my former graduate school professor, Jason Hoelscher, which opens on January 11th, 2020. In addition, I plan on beginning a new body of work in the new year.

Who are some of your favorite under-appreciated artists that you don’t think get enough attention?

There are a few artists, all female abstract painters, whose work I have been admiring lately online, Kathryn MacNaughton, Ky Anderson, and Deborah Zlotsky. All three artists are making work that is not only fascinating to look at but also unique, unapologetic, and full of personality in voice and aesthetic. 

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out today?

My advice to an artist who is just starting out would be to open to experimentation with every aspect of your practice (media, content, concept) and through the act of experimentation not be too precious with your work. Trust the process and the product will come.

“Sunny Side of the Net”, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 66 x 48 in | 168 x 122 cm, 2020

To learn more about Jennifer and see her current show, click here.