The Ever-Evolving Art of Jennifer Ferris
By Jennie Mayes
Local artist Jennifer Ferris has traveled a lot, picking up inspiration along the way, but she gives the lion’s share of credit to her mother and grandmother. When asked how her art is a continuation of or departure from theirs, she says, “The most common thread is our love of nature and our choice of flowers and birds as a frequent subject matter. Also, our drive for perfecting our craft — my grandmother wanted to paint a rose realistic enough that you would want to smell it, and my initial desire with my birds was to paint them so they looked like they were about to fly off the canvas. I have since tried to loosen up, and that is one indicator of how my work differs from theirs. While I like to incorporate elements of realism in my work, I tend to lean toward abstraction. My color palette is also quite different, being inspired more by trends in fashion and home decor, and theirs more closely align to those found in nature.”
Ferris first started painting small birds as gifts, and it’s easy to see why these gifts became so popular. Her paintings are full of joy and vibrancy. “My goal has always been to paint happy paintings,” she says, “and I would see the joy in so many of my loved ones while watching their bird feeders.” She also feels that studying birds and nature has improved her work. It has helped her to become more observant over time, “I feel I can ‘see’ better in terms of color and structure. It is hard to improve on the beauty already provided by nature, so really seeing what is there can be key,” says Ferris.
Ferris began with oils, but after an acrylics workshop, she says she was completely converted. “I take photos constantly, and most of my realistic paintings are based on these. I get the most joy, though, out of painting nonrepresentational abstracts right out of my head without any reference, as that is the most freeing for me.”
When asked about her daily practice, Ferris replied that she works on her paintings in a series and will typically have “at least three to five paintings of a series going at once,” and sometimes multiple series, meaning as many as 10-20 paintings at a time.
Ferris has also learned from her students. Paying attention to what works and what doesn’t allows her to continue to evolve both as an artist and as a teacher. “The students who stick out most are the ones at the opposite ends of the spectrum, those who are super excited about the lesson and seem to really get it, and then those who have more trouble understanding the process or direction. The former makes me love teaching so much, and the latter helps me get better at ‘rescuing’ students before they get frustrated.”
Ferris’ advice for beginning artists? “Be authentic. Don’t copy anyone else’s work, and remember that goes for photographers as well. Practice your craft as often as possible. Never stop trying to learn and improve. Find a community of artists to work with, or to at least chat with frequently. Painting can be a lonely endeavor — lots of ups and downs. Try to be super confident at your easel and super supportive of other artists.”
To learn more about Ferris’ work, visit FerrisWheelArts.com or JenniferFerrisArt.com.