Artist Info
Jennifer Kershaw ~ Fine Artist

Artist Info Artist Statements

Marbles - Artist Statement

TrioIt all began with a composition exercise in my Painting II course with Monica Tap at the University of Guelph in 2002.  The exercise was to create an all over, top-down view of a still life on a square canvas.  For reasons unknown to me at the time, I was drawn to a stray marble I (inexplicably) had in my painting kit and decided that I would try painting a group of them for my still life (a funny description for items that liked to roll around all on their own!)  I knew they would be tricky to work with for logistical reasons – in a shared studio space, my set-up was bound to be bumped into, sending the marbles sliding off everywhere, but I never considered it to be too tricky technically – I felt that if I looked hard and long enough, I would eventually figure it out.

And I stuck with it, despite being told by many that it would be too complicated to pull off – I just kept my head down and went for it.  My instructor helped me attack them better by steering me toward Dutch Baroque still life paintings, specifically ones with grapes.  Studying how the Dutch masters approached painting semi-transparent globe-shaped grapes, which were jewel-like in their intensity, helped me find the key to understanding the marbles in my own composition.

The result of this assignment was the beginning of a fascination with trying to capture the essence of “marbleness” – studying the beautiful reflections, shadows, and the slices of light and colour within.

As I kept painting marbles in the following years I began to question what it was that made marbles especially appealing to me.  It wasn’t just the physical nature of the marbles or a need to prove to myself and others that I could do it.  It was the things that happened when they were lit by the sun or my desk lamp.  The first thing I noticed was the intensified slice of light at the base of the marble, which offered its own challenge – how could I capture that with paint?  In my first attempt to paint the slice of light, I made the mistake of equating “light” with “white”.  White is actually the thickest, most opaque of the paints and is the last to dry.    I had been taught that the canvas must be covered fairly thickly with paint; otherwise, it would be labeled as an “under painting”; but, eventually, I figured out that to achieve those brightest of bright spots, I would do the unthinkable and leave not only the under painting exposed, but the bare, grounded canvas, as well.

So, I had figured out was technically compelling, but what were the conceptual reasons? 

It had been in front of me the whole time.  I am basically an optimistic person; I have a strong belief that no matter how bad things seem at the moment, it will get better, and that a way to see myself through the bad times is to focus on the positive things that are happening.  With the marbles, the same holds true.  Even in the darkest part of the marble or shadow, there is always light and there is always colour – there is no absolute black, it is always tempered with a colour, or many colours.  The shape of the marbles themselves, also, are basically “happy” -- is there a friendlier shape than a circle?  Their basic positive energy is what I think really draws me, and keeps me fascinated as it speaks to my own outlook and philosophy.

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Rat in the Pot
© 2008 - 2012 Jennifer Kershaw