You could say member and artist Jen Chambers has a bit of a following at the Bellevue Club. With paintings now hanging in at least 10 other BC households, her large-scale works continue to catch on like wild fire. Read the following interview with her to find why.
Reflections magazine: Have you always been interested in fine arts? Was it a childhood passion?
Jen Chambers: I did take an art class as a child, but I wouldn’t say I was passionate about art by any means. I was too busy playing outside most of the time to want to come indoors to draw or paint. I would say I’ve always been more of a creative type, though. Growing up, I was aware of the beauty of art as my mom had many of her own paintings hung on the walls of our home. Although she chose a career in finance, painting is a passion of hers as well, so I like to say it runs in my blood.
RM: What drew you to interior design before painting, and where did you get your degree?
JC: After receiving my bachelor’s of art in psychology from University of San Diego, I found it quite difficult to separate my career (which was working at an inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility) from my home life. I knew that wouldn’t be fair to my future family, or good for my soul, so I decided to move home and go to Bellevue College for my AA in interior design. I’ve always loved interior design, and the ability it has to completely transform a space and create a mood. I worked for a high-end residential interior designer for about five years, but once I had my first son in 2008, I started working just one day a week for her and began taking on a few jobs of my own. By 2011 and the addition of our second son, I was only taking on a select job or two and had realized that painting was the creative outlet I found more joy in. Although I absolutely love interior design and am still obsessed with all things interior, I’ve put that professional chapter to rest, in favor of my art. Painting for me is an outlet; it’s a deeper expression of myself. I begin to feel almost antsy inside if I don’t paint on a regular basis. It’s truly become a part of me now.
RM: What was the first painting you sold?
JC: In 2007 I was hosting a party for a friend at my home, and a guest was complimenting a few pieces of my artwork. When she found out I had painted them, she asked if they were for sale. I gave her a number, and I sold my first two paintings that day! I continued to paint when time allowed, and then in 2009 I was hired by a designer to do my first commissioned pieces.
RM: What is your process like?
JC: The majority of my work is commissioned, and I typically meet with the client and/or their designer in their home so I can get a feel for the space. We’ll discuss what style they’d like the painting to be, colors they’d like to incorporate and measure for the correct size of the piece. With a background in interior design, I am also able to help assist, if asked, in suggesting what type of piece would best enhance the space. I’ll oftentimes ask clients to have pulled pictures from magazines to give me more of an idea of other pieces they’re drawn to. Once we have all the details nailed down, I usually estimate around three to four weeks for the painting to be completed.
I always try to clear my mind before I start painting. I say a prayer and attempt to go to a completely emotionally open place. I let the painting create itself and go where it needs to go. I’ve learned you can’t force a painting to be something it isn’t intended to be. The painting process itself is an incredibly fun and emotionally freeing time for me. I have to let go of everything in my world and just be with the canvas; it’s very therapeutic. I turn up the music, dance, smile and have fun letting it all go. I get into a vibe with each painting, and I try to maintain that same emotional state throughout painting that particular piece. I even listen to the same album on repeat to maintain that same feeling. As odd as it sounds, I’ve tried switching artists mid-painting and it always alters the painting in an odd way. I like to take a few days in between painting sessions to get away from the painting emotionally and try to see it through a fresh pair of eyes. Once the painting is complete, it’s extremely rewarding to see the painting installed in the client’s home. Somehow the paintings just seem to come to life in their intended space.
RM: You have a distinct style and aesthetic. How do you develop and further that personal style? Is it hard to always maintain your style when taking commissions?
JC: I’ve learned over the years how important it is to stay true to yourself. I’ve had to turn down jobs because I wasn’t comfortable with the direction they wanted the painting to go. It can be a balancing act, taking clients’ ideas and visions for a piece and interpreting them into my own style.
I’m constantly playing around with new tools, ideas, textures and processes in my studio to grow as an artist. I love to follow other artists, interior designers and creative people online to continually inspire me and promote growth.
I don’t like to name my paintings as I feel it leads the client to interpret my art in a particular way. My paintings, especially my landscape series, seem to evoke an actual emotional response, which many relate to a certain place that’s special to clients. My intention is that my art becomes almost a personal escape to that place for them. A glance at it brings them that sigh of relief or that moment of joy, which we could all use a little more of in our chaotic world.
RM: What inspires you most?
JC: The joy my paintings bring a client is what inspires me the most. To see their emotional reaction from something I created that will continue to bring them that same feeling on a daily basis is a powerful gift. It’s an honor to be given the opportunity to create something a person wants in their home.
What inspires me personally is nature. Everything from the textures of bark, moss and rocks to abstract forms found in everyday living. A rusty item, a shadow, the natural gradation of mountain landscapes at sunset. Designs made in the sand by waves, sounds, architecture. There can be beauty and inspiration found in anything if you choose to see it.
RM: What would be your ultimate dream as an artist?
JC: For now I am living my dream. I have an incredibly supportive and encouraging husband, and I get to stay at home with my three children while continuing to paint consistently for wonderful clients and designers. When my children are older and in school full-time, I would love to focus more time and energy into growing my business into a full-time endeavor. My goal in the future is to have an exhibition at a well-respected gallery and to have my paintings hung in various commercial spaces, such as in hotels and restaurants. I want people to see one of my paintings and know it’s mine. I want my art to be recognized.
RM: What is the biggest misconception about fine artists/painters?
JC: That all artists are unorganized. I run into this a lot. People are often surprised that I always meet my deadlines and run my business in a professional and organized manner.
RM: Who are some of your favorite artists/painters?
JC: Jared Rue, Betsy Eby, Tracy Rocco, Franz Kline
RM: Where can people see your art?
JC: As the large majority of my art is commissioned, I do not stockpile many pieces. However, I do have a collection showcased at C. Michele on Mercer Island. Additionally, if a potential client wants to view my art in person, I have numerous pieces hanging in my home, and in the homes of many clients. My art can also be seen on my Instagram account, my website and my Facebook page at: