'Artists can discover loveliness in the most somber and melancholy of things.'
Jenny Allnutt is an Australian artist who finds beauty arising from darkness, informing her work with traditional techniques, Surrealism, Pre-Raphaelite imagery, religious rituals and mythological themes.
Where is your current studio? What would be your dream studio?
My current studio is half of the living room in our house! In the past I have had many different spaces to create in including a shared a studio with other artists (Fontanelle, Adelaide). I really enjoyed a shared space and being around other artists but I do love the fact that having my studio at home means I can start painting whenever I want, with no long commute and still be in my pajamas! However, it is tricky to switch off sometimes as I am constantly walking past my works in progress and critiquing them! My ultimate dream studio would be a bright airy space surrounded by lots of nature and with many dachshunds.
Studio life can lead to isolation, how do you address this/ keep a balance?
I am lucky in that I really enjoy being alone and treasure time to myself. I have always thought I had the perfect disposition to be an artist as I have been a quiet person for as long as I can remember. However, I do try to go for walks everyday with my miniature dachshund Elli, who is a constant studio companion to me. I also teach painting during the week and on the weekends for a small Australian business called Cork and Canvas. So, I usually get my fix of human interaction and keep a healthy balance this way.
Describe a moment you had an epiphany concerning your creative life.
I would say 2018 was a year I had an epiphany concerning my art practice. I was feeling lost and had terrible creative block. I was not happy with my paintings and felt frustrated. So, I decided to take a short course via the Art Academy to improve my skills. Despite having formal training at a university, I did not really know the first thing about painting. The painting course run by Robin Eley was phenomenal and life changing for me. It truly enhanced my understanding of painting and I was exposed to many wonderful painters during the course. I remember one of the days, I felt completely overwhelmed and a bit like an imposter among the group. Embarrassingly, I broke down in tears while talking to Robin. He was so lovely and took me aside and gave me some amazing advice I really needed to hear. After that I decided I was going to be as true to myself as possible and work hard to improve my skills every day.
How has your style evolved and what contributed to the changes?
I feel that while my paintings have changed over the years, on the search for my artistic voice, at the core of them, they are all connected despite appearances.
During university I used to paint dead animals and people turning into animals. At the time I was heavily into mythology and fairy tales but as my interests shift, so too does my art. Yet at the core of all my works certain interests shine through consistently such as for traditional painting techniques, Surrealism, the pre-Raphaelites, religious art, portraiture, and mythological subject matter.
Certainly, as my skills have improved, and my art practice has developed - what I am able to create can be greater and more complex. Most recently I have been drawn to compositions with lots of detail and trying to make them work with traditional composition techniques like the golden ratio. I have also started painting flowers in my works for the past two years. I really adore them, and they are so challenging, but I avoided flowers for so long because they were considered ‘girly’! A talented artist friend of mine (Nicole Black) really inspired this change with her beautiful floral works.
But ultimately, I believe the biggest contribution to these changes in style is just time and experimentation. My theory is: the more paintings I make, the more chance I will have of making something special.
Nature versus nurture- do you believe you have inherited abilities from creative parents, do you have creative siblings? Can you identify environmental factors or influences which led to your choices or directions?
I think it is a little bit of both. My family is not exceptionally creative however my grandpa was a graphic designer and both the creative patriarch of the family and my inspiration. Knowing that he was able to forge a career in a creative field showed me it was a possible future. Growing up I was not what you would call gifted at art however I was always being creative in some way, usually with my head down drawing or writing in notebooks. Apparently, I took great pride in my writing when I was young, which is something that has slipped over the years!
Despite this, I believe I have two crucial personality traits that led me on my path to being an artist. The first is that I am quite introverted and enjoy being alone, so painting for hours on end is no problem for me. And the second is that I have a lot of patience, I can see a laborious project from start to end, and patience I think is probably one of the most important things for an artist, after resilience of course.
Whilst I was not talented at art, I always had a deep passion for it and over time I worked hard to improve my skills.
Is there something you regard as essential to your preparation or process?
I have several rituals when it comes to painting. My favorite is I love to make a coffee or tea for starters and burn a scented candle. Then I switch on a podcast or playlist to listen to. Most recently I have been loving the Dark Art Society Podcast. Also, I love putting out the paints roughly in order from lightest to darkest. If I have been lazy with my clean up the night before, I must scrape my glass palette clean and lay out the brushes I want to use. I like everything to be neat, if possible, at the start. I feel like these rituals and preparations set me up nicely to paint and be in the zone for the day or snippet of time I find.