Monday, February 14, 2011

First National Bank Featured Artist

This is the article that was published in the local Sangre de Christo chronicle. I couldn't access the article online but that is probably a good thing. I looked super dorky in the picture! So, FYI:

First National Bank Featured Artist: Jennifer Cavan, Painter.

Jennifer Cavan is the next artist to be featured at the First National Bank of New Mexico.

You may think you know Jennifer, and her work, but how she goes about creating those vivid Northern New Mexico images may surprise you.

Jennifer and husband Rees put down roots here in 1996. It wasn’t that hard to choose, after many visits with Rees’s family, the love affair with Angel Fire had already ignited.

Leaving the corporate world behind in Chicago, we wondered if Jennifer knew she was destined to become a much-loved artist. “Well, it was in my hopes, I think. I knew I wanted to do something creative.” (Jennifer Cavan) She first explored the creative in the more traditional craft of creating Retablos and Bultos (She called them Bultos because she stuffed them with sawdust, find carving not her bailiwick.) Not long after she began to show them at the Angel Fire ArtsFest.

Along the way she picked up a set of oil pastels and began to play In 1999, she included three of her now famous oil pastels, and sold them all at the Premier Reception of the 1999 ArtsFest. That was all the “sign” she needed. The rest is history. Fingers colored with pigment, “smooshed” oil pastel occasionally making its way the bottom of her shows and all over the studio floor!

Now a bit about her process. Did you know her painting surface is pre-colored, whether it is paper, panel or canvas. Panels and canvas are prepped with colored gesso. Many papers come pre-colored, though she’s been known to color a large sheet of watercolor paper, with watercolor.

Once on her easel, she roughs in a chalk sketch. Yes, chalk, and no that is not the same as oil pastel. Once that is in, she begins to block in large areas of color, generally working from the top down, or even just from the horizon down. Working that way helps to keep colors “clean” and reduces the risk of “mud” that can occur when complimentary colors (colors across from one another on the color wheel) get too acquainted.

Before going on she steps way back and takes a good long look. Any “mud” or other frustrating mistake is generally not fixable with oil pastel. “Oil pastel is rather unforgiving. If an area is too dark, it is tough to lift or lighten it.” (Jennifer) If that’s the case (We think this doesn’t happen very often anymore, thankfully) it’s toss it and start over. Ouch. If all looks good (great) the next step is to refine, clarifying buildings, roads, windows, trees etc. Technically speaking, oil pastel differs from its soft pastel counterpart radically. Soft pastel blends like a dream, oil pastel really doesn’t. Some blending can be executed by a skilled artist like Jennifer, but for the most part, colors sit next to or on top of, other colors, but not creating a third color. “Smooshing” the pigment together can have its risks, and namely that would be the “mud” we referred to earlier. If you’ve seen Jennifer’s work you know she doesn’t have a problem with that!

Here’s a newsflash….Jennifer is now playing with Oils, Oils not oil pastel. That means using brushes, which is quite a different experience if you’re accustomed to the straight application of color with your hands. There is another difference. Oil pastel is straight color, while oil paints require mixing of colors to make variations and even other colors. Jennifer commented, “It’s challenging to mix color on a palette and not really see what it will look like on the canvas.”

We don’t see that in the result. Her oils on canvas are as clean and crisp as the oil pastels, though seem to be a bit softer in their effect. Either way, Jennifer’s work is unmistakable….and growing in popularity across the country.

Jennifer’s work will hang in the lobby of the First National Bank of Angel Fire from February 1 through the month of April. Stop by and take a look. You can also find her work at Angel Fire ArtSpace Gallery in Angel Fire and at her home studio (plan ahead to catch her there!) Visit her website at for her show schedule.

The Featured Artist Program is a partnership of the First National Bank, the Moreno Valley Arts Council and the Sangre de Cristo Chronicle. If you are a visual artist and would like to be considered for this program, please contact the Moreno Valley Arts Council.

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