The Art League talked with Jennifer Allevato, an artist who leverages her love of interiors and floral arrangements to create colorful compositions. Her piece, Seated 21, is part of a larger body of work that features overstuffed chairs, paintings within a painting, and a peek into her creative, color-soaked interiors. We asked Allevato a little bit about her award winning piece, though small in size (measuring only 5″x 5″), is big on character. As Petite December juror, Tegan M. Brozyna put it, “The Best in Show winner added something new—a unique character—to a traditional scene of an interior.”
What was your goal with this piece?
My invented spaces layer color and texture, objects and plants, and even artwork to create a moment of stillness. Painted from the point of view of someone who has just entered the room, the space has an openness that is quiet and welcoming. I want the viewer to feel that they could walk in, sit in the chair, and feel at home.
What’s your creative process like, from an idea to a finished piece?
When I create an interior scene like this one, I always start with the chair. I then use images of spaces and furniture to create a really rough room in Photoshop for basic composition and scale. As I paint, I make decisions about color, accessories, and details. All the extra “art” on the walls is based off previous paintings of mine. It all happens very organically, and I let the chair dictate everything else in the room.
How did you get started with your interest in interiors? Do you prefer painting interiors and still lives to figurative work?
I love interior design but I have no formal training, so I dream up spaces in my paintings. It has always been an interest of my mother’s, so I think it’s just been ingrained in me since I was a child: reading her décor magazines and accompanying her to furniture stores and antique shops, learning terms like “wainscoting”, “Chippendale”, and “hygge”. I love how in a still life I can fully control the scene. In a way, I feel limited by figures and landscapes because something in me wants to draw or paint them only hyper-realistically, thus making me feel very constrained in my creative freedom. A floor can be any color you want, but then I begin to paint grass and I have a mental block where the only option is green! It is a true struggle for me, and something I would like to tackle in the future.
As for your style, we’ve talked a little bit on the blog about your signature “mark”, can you tell us a little more about how you make your work unique and personal?
I don’t think I consciously set out to create personal work, I just think everything I create is personal as it comes from me; it really is how I communicate with the world. Looking at Matisse’s The Red Studio, he has images of his own work within the painting as that’s literally what was in his studio at the time. When I started creating my interior scenes, I needed something interesting on the walls, and I thought it would be kind of funny to put images of my own work within my work, so that’s why I started doing it: my own entertainment. Almost all of my interior scenes also have a window with a view of a giant tree, which is the view from my own studio window. I love having a view of nature from my studio, but I also hate that the tree blocks a lot of natural light from coming into the room. My way of making peace with the tree is to place it in my paintings. I’ve made dozens of new rooms, but the window is always my window.
Was it a challenge to create a smaller work for the Petite’s show?
Creating small works comes with its own set of challenges. I tend to work a bit loosely, and on a smaller scale it can be tough to capture that feeling of spontaneity in brushstroke without it either becoming messy or too overworked in an attempt to “clean up” the teeny lines. I also have to rein in the extra details; one must draw the viewer into the scene without overwhelming them.
What are you working on next?
I haven’t finished planning my next series yet, but I am excited to try landscapes. They bring an entirely new set of challenges for me, and as artists I think we are always looking to challenge our brain, our skills, and our ways of thinking. So I guess the first question is: what type of landscape is relevant to me?
Find more of Jennifer’s work in our gallery (in both the Petite December show, and the December open) as well as at her website.