Sedona ARTSource: As an artist, you’ve been described as “an intuitive colorist who overlays brilliant hues in subtle transparencies that reveal several dimensions of energy and light.” What one notices foremost is your use of beautiful, pure colors. Are your paintings done with the technique known as “acrylic pour?”
Jill Amundsen: I guess you could say it is a variation of an acrylic pour. The difference between my method and a typical acrylic pour is that a painter who uses that technique mixes the paint with some type of pouring medium. I never use a pouring medium. I do pour the paint, but I also use brushes to pull the paint across the canvas. Sometimes I paint in details but mostly the work creates itself. As many artists say, “I am just a channel for the work to come through.”
Please explain your usual use of un-stretched canvas as a support.
Painting on an un-stretched canvas gives me the freedom to manipulate and turn the canvas in various ways throughout the painting process. This allows the poured paint to ow in whatever direction I shape the canvas to.
Could you describe your process for shaping the piece and applying the paint?
My technique takes a bit of time to set up. I don’t have the luxury to just put up an easel and start painting. I staple the un-stretched canvas to four separate pillars. I then experiment with the different directions of how and where I want the paint to ow. I ow the paint onto the canvas, which is moved around numerous times during the various pours. I thin the paint with water which helps to form the layers of transparent color. My goal is to create a harmonious effect of color, light and movement.
How long have you been painting in this style?
I have been painting this way for many years. I have dabbled with other styles but I always come back to this because I love creating the layers. In the past, I was told that I should ll the whole canvas with paint and that I should not leave areas unpainted. The rebel in me did not listen and many of my pieces have large areas of primed but unpainted canvas, such as “Atlantean Sea Foam” and “Native Spirit.” It has become my signature style. I feel it works beautifully for what I want to achieve visually. I also enjoy filling the entire canvas with color such as the piece, “Canyon Spirits.”
Your website mentions that you use meditation or dance before painting.
Music, mantras, movement, meditation and playing my Sun gong, are all part of my studio practice. I get into trouble when I paint from the head and not from the heart. For me, painting from the heart is always a key ingredient to a successful painting. Sometimes sitting quietly and going inward before painting helps with that, but not always.
Now enters the dance! That seems to be the best way for me to get out of my head and into the ow. The wilder the dance, the more colorful the art tends to be. The piece, “Interwoven” is a good example of that. If I am chanting mantras then the art is typically more gentle and calm such as, “The Giving Hand.”
Some say your colorful artwork changes the energy of the room. Why do you think this may be true?
I have had wonderful feedback from my buyers in that regard. Many years ago, I learned Reiki, which is basically an energetic healing technique. I had a Reiki practice and did healing sessions. Before doing a session on someone, I would activate my hands with the Reiki symbols and let the energy ow. One day in my studio, as I was beginning to paint, I felt that energy coming through my hands and I just started painting.
Now, before creating a piece, I allow the Reiki energy to ow through my hands into my paint, my brushes, my canvas; it lls the whole room. I never dreamed it would become such an integral part of my paintings! My hope is that each piece will be more than just decoration. I hope the energy and colors will be healing for the viewer.
I have always found it difficult to talk about my art because it is so personal. That brings me back to one of my first art shows in Oklahoma. I recall walking into this large gallery and seeing all my pieces hanging on the wall. I thought to myself, “Yep, there I am, bits of my soul hanging there for everyone to see, to love or hate, to rave or criticize.” It was a bit terrifying then, but now when I feel vulnerable, I always recall the wise words of my grandmother who said, “One of the best places you can be is above caring about the opinions of others.” Still, it is so rewarding when your painting speaks to someone. When someone resonates with the work so much that they want to put it in their own home, I feel quite honored and it keeps me inspired to paint.
You mentioned your grandmother’s guiding words. Was she an artist?
My grandmother was a wonderful artist but never took it further than a hobby. I was always curious, and probably somewhat annoying, peeking over her shoulder as she painted. I fondly remember one particular day when I came to visit her. She guided me over to an old painted chest of drawers. She opened a drawer and said, “This is all yours.”
It was like a pot of gold to me. There were brushes, paints, paper, colored pencils; a huge drawer full of art materials. It felt like Christmas. This was a wonderful gift but perhaps the best gifts she gave me were her words.
I remember as a young child being criticized by my art teachers at school for drawing outside the lines, painting trees purple and using colors that were not considered the “normal” colors of the object involved. My grandmother told me to never listen to other people’s opinions on how to create art. She said, “Do not listen to negative opinions and by all means, do not follow the rules!”
Being a bit of a rebel, that last part was the easiest for me to embody. I often feel my grandmother Mary’s spirit watching over me and smiling as I paint.
What led you to Sedona?
I first came to Sedona in the 1980s. I was living in Tempe, Arizona and I wanted a spontaneous road trip so my boyfriend, who was also an artist, wanted to show me a magical, mystical place. Like most everyone, I instantly fell in love with Sedona. I visited many occasions since then but have lived here full time for seven years.
Has living in Sedona influenced or changed your artwork?
One of my favorite things about painting is that when I paint, time seems to stand still and I love being in that eternal “now” moment. Like many artists, nature is my muse. We are lucky to have so many places here in Sedona to get out and be in nature. The creek is such a special place for me; it really helps me get in the ow. I also love how the light, color and shapes you see on the red rocks are always changing. I can look at an area on the mountains I have seen a million times and I always see something different. This seems to help remind me that no matter how many times I have a blank canvas staring me in the face, there is always some new unique color and form to be created.
Thank you, Jill!
The art of Jill Amundsen may be found at Gallery of Modern Masters in Sedona.
The Art of Jill Amundsen | Sedona Art Source Volume 5
Interviewed by Lynn Alison Trombetta