What is your background as an artist? How did you get interested in painting?
I was always drawing pictures, ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Originally I wanted to go to Douglas Anderson to study music (I played the clarinet in a middle school marching band) but thankfully my mom encouraged me to pursue my interest in visual art. Although I was not the best high school student it was a very successful experience because Douglas Anderson began my life long concentration in art. I don’t remember ever consciously choosing an art medium I just always used acrylic paint. I painted murals on my friend’s bedroom walls and played with paint on a variety of surfaces, eventually I began working on canvas.
You are a product of Florida’s arts education system, having graduated from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, and the University of Florida. I’ve been really impressed with students coming out of both programs. What is your opinion of the programs? Would you recommend the same path to other young local artists?
I always recommend LaVilla and Douglas Anderson to young artists, I think it is an excellent opportunity and I am so glad that Jacksonville has these schools. I have been on the portfolio review for both schools and the artwork that these kids are producing seems to get better every year.
After I graduated from DA I went to FCCJ South Campus and got an AA degree. Studying with a great art teacher and friend, Professor Larry Davis. Then I went to the University of Florida and received a BFA in painting, the professors were excellent and all of the painting students had 24 hour studio access. I think my experience at UF has had a lasting positive effect on my work. I would definitely recommend this path to anyone interested in pursuing an art career close to home.
The last work I’ve seen of yours was a series of houses. Are you currently working on that series? Can you describe the concept and the process of that series?
I have been painting houses for about three years now. Seriously, the idea came to me in a dream. In my dream someone else painted one of my houses with embedded patterns and childlike perspectives and I remembered being jealous because I wanted to paint that. When I woke up it was a relief and I totally stole the idea from myself.
By choosing one consistent subject matter I’m allowing myself to focus on the expression of the paint. The paintings are not necessarily about the houses more of my emphasis is on the paint application and the pattern and color interaction. The “houses” serve as a vehicle for the application of the paint.
I used to paint a lot of figurative work and the House series feels like a natural progression. The houses I paint have a character to them and the patterns painted inside of the house represent different aspects of that character. I use houses as a form because everyone has a connection to a house, so it is my hope that viewers experience this series on a personal level. My work is inspired by children’s art, which is easy for me to reference because I am an elementary Art Teacher. There are a few different processes for this series: sometimes I paint commissioned portraits of peoples houses, sometimes I just find a house that inspires me and paint it, but most often I work from my imagination and memory improvising as I go.
I know you at one point were working for MOCA Jacksonville. Are you currently still there and how is or was that experience?
This is my first year as an elementary Art Teacher so I am no longer full time at the museum, but I am teaching an evening acrylic painting course there. I was the Assistant Director of Education at MOCA for a year and it was a great experience I learned a lot and I was able to experience the art on a daily basis. I also worked at the Cummer Museum and enjoyed that very much. But ultimately I wanted to be in a classroom setting and now that I am, I absolutely love it.
When I shared a studio with Lee Harvey he showed me Friedenssreich Hundertwasser’s paintings because my work resembled his. I love his colors and patterns and I like to look at his work for inspiration.
Your work seems to all be developed through a series. How does working in a series help your process? When did you begin developing your work that way?
Series help me develop an idea and work through all the excess information. I probably work that way because my training really drove that concept into me. I used to be all over the place.
It’s growing and it’s good! There seems to be a lot of new good creative energy out there from local artists.
The museums are bringing in good shows and always out there doing community outreach, ArtWalk continues to have a great impact on our community. Then there is the Cultural Council, Art with a Heart , and Art and Soul. Hopefully all our non-profit art programs won’t loose all their money because of the new tax cut.
What direction do you see it going? What do you think could help get Jacksonville to the next level as an art city?
I see the art scene going in the right direction. I think it is exciting and full of potential. In order to get to the next level we need to support each other and continue to make ourselves present. Thanks to JaxCal for playing a major role in that.
Some work just happens, really quick and easy. While others have hours and weeks and months invested in them, and I have no idea how long I actually spend on it. I usually work on several pieces at a time, but right now I am at an all time high and I am painting thirteen at once (so we’ll see how it goes!).
What plans do you have for 2008 with your work? Where can we see your work this year?
My plan is always to make more work. I am looking forward to spending my time off in the summer up at the studio.
I just got a new studio on Park Street and we are having an opening in early April. I will be showing at Art after Dark this year, and one of my paintings is at MOCA as part of the First Coast Portfolio educators exhibit.
Just make the work and show the work.
Don’t get hung up on one piece just continue to produce.
To see more of Ali’s work visit: http://www.aliisabelle.com/