Mixed media, collage and acrylic with a preference for people and characters as subjects
A touch of whimsy, a measure of pathos, some abstraction, and tongue in cheek humor. All these characterize Lynette Hensley’s artworks.
AS: Did you grow up in an artistic family?
LH: Art was highly valued and encouraged at my home. My dad was an engineering designer, very technically creative, and man could he draw. I also remember taking family trips to LA to see touring Broadway shows and the art museum. There, though I don’t remember the exhibits at all, I do remember being intrigued by the Calder sculpture outside the building. Art and music were both encouraged and practiced, and I still do both.
AS: Where have you lived throughout your life? How has that shaped your art?
LH: I’m grateful to have lived in So California, Princeton NJ, Pittsburgh PA, Richmond VA, Atlanta GA, and greater Seattle WA. All of these locations are multi-faceted cultural centers, with strong theater and art museums. I’ve also had the opportunity to plug into some great workshops with local artists and have collaborated with and been mentored by a small number of doubtless talented designers through the years. I feel like this has contributed to the eclectic nature of my work, and moving around so much makes me focus on what I take with me always, the memories and stories, and people that stick in my head.
AS: Who are some artists that you admire and why? What is it, specifically, about their work that draws you to it?
LH: Anne Bagby, Jonathan Talbot, Jaqui Beck, for a few. Anne, it’s the layers and textures and how she manages the chaos into the order. She also really likes characters and faces, and can express who they are with their faces and surrounding patterns, always focusing on the face. Jonathan Talbot, I love how he does art and he also teaches. I’ve taken a workshop with him, and really appreciated his insertion of artistic philosophy along with the technique teachings. Plus his collages are wonderful. Jaqui Beck — her art dances with playfulness. These artists all dance on the canvas.
AS: When is the first time you realized you were an artist?
LH: I rediscover this again and again. I’ve come to understand that creativity comes out one way or another, and for me it’s both music and art.
The first time thinking that I was an artist was probably in Jr. Hi, when I worked on the creative writing end-of-year publication and provided a lot of the art for it. I began to see that I could draw someone’s face and get a likeness, which was not disappointing at all.
AS: How do you balance your art with other obligations – mate, children, job?
LH: I just power through and keep a really detailed calendar. I have a great mate who is fabulous and supportive, which makes a HUGE difference in what I can get done. I have a flexible job and boss for the other hours of my work day, and my kids are all grown and on their own. (Note the rhyme…)
Your artistic direction:
AS: Describe your most recent artwork.
LH: I’m working up a series of 6 paintings based on some turn-of-the-century (1900) vintage photos of people in various snapshot poses, using hand cut stamps and hand stamped papers to “paint” areas of the image. I’m trying to focus on the figure in the environment, but keeping an abstract sense about it, and not being literal at all in either the subject or the environment. It’s interesting to see the difference between the starter photo and the end product.
AS: What are some ideas you have brewing for your next works?
LH: I’m excited about the next bunch of assemblage sculptures I’ve got ready to work on. I’ve found a wealth of interesting old farm tools, worn wood and brass pieces full of character that will lend their own age and history to my “actors.” I’m ready to craft the drama, the comedy, the acrobatics that these old pieces will be part of.
AS: Why are you drawn to the media that you use?
LH: Mixed media is such a vague term, but being open to using everything gives me so many options to communicate. It’s like being free to speak in many languages at once, or dialects or language modes, if that’s more understandable. I’ve been painting more lately, with no collage elements, and that’s being fun too. I like acrylic for its quick drying properties, that it can be used thick like oils and thin like watercolors, in washes that I can lay over areas that may need to be adjusted.
AS: I’ve noticed that people appear often in your work. What attracts you to them?
LH: I love people, and find them infinitely fascinating. I love to explore motivations, and the intersection of words and character. I spent many years as a theater costume designer, so the play is the thing. The language of the play tells us a framework, and the characters inhabit that environment. I take liberties with the environment, sometimes working quite flat rather than with the depth of a stage, more like the renderings I did as a costume designer, sometimes with words to light up the details and nuances about the person.
AS: Tell me about the classes that you teach and your interaction with students.
LH: Though I’m not currently offering any classes, I love teaching, showing new ways, and the look in the students eyes when they discover something new. I ALSO love taking workshops and being the student with that same look in my own eye. I teach with a mindset that I am also a student, and while I may have more experience than a student with the one thing I’m teaching, students know many things that I do not, and I’m always looking for the next AHA moment myself. I approach teaching with a guiding spirit, not necessarily as expert. I have taught color workshops, composition workshops, and mixed media classes.
AS: What aspect of making art excites you the most right now?
LH: At the moment, it’s technique. I’m learning so much by just making things. Brushwork improvements, putting colors together more confidently, experimenting with shapes and composition, all these are basics revisited, circling back around to my art foundation in college, but with new skills built up over time. I’m putting in my 10,000 hours to mastery.
AS: How do you know when a work is finished?
LH: It may seem strange, but I listen to it. I get to the point where if I refine it more, it’s too dressed up, too fussy. I used to design clothes, and you can correlate it to putting too much trim on a blouse to try to make a thin person look filled out. It usually doesn’t help! I do often stop before I’m finished, and look at it for a time. If I can really find something to fix, I do that. Otherwise, I sign it, seal and varnish and put the hanger on.
AS: Tell me about a time when you had a Eureka moment — what did you discover? What does that say about you? Was it personal discovery or was it about a working method or…?
LH: I found my own voice when I was working on my first large scale painting. I went back to my roots and what I learned while working as a costume designer. Though I wasn’t working in theater at the time when I was painting that large piece, that is my background, it’s unique, and is also a useful framework. To be truthful, I don’t really care about the clothes, I care about the story, the character, the literature. So with every choice I make I try to keep the story and the person in mind, and I will edit out things I like very much if they don’t communicate clearly.
AS: What music do you play, if any, while making art?
LH: Music is a very important part of making art for me. It sets the stage, helps to clear the noise in my head from the admin part of my work day and shifts my focus to creative/maker time. I play music– as in I am a musician, so I listen to the kind of music I play, which is currently categorized as Americana. I also love classical music. Mozart is always inspiring. I like to keep it light and play music with no words, no angst, or alternatively music I know very well and I can sing along without too much distraction.
AS: What is it like to be an artist in your community Seattle/Edmonds?
LH: I live in Seattle, and hang out in both Seattle and Edmonds. On the one hand, the Seattle scene tends to be a little more edgy. Edmonds artists tend toward being influenced by their beautiful surroundings, seascapes, portraits in pastels — lovely. And then there’s me, I guess I’m somewhere in between. There are a few others in both communities who are also mixed media folks, and trying to say something with that. I just like being in the mix.
Wishes and Wants:
AS: When someone is viewing your work for the first time, what do you hope they’ll see in it? Or, what do you want them to say about your work?
LH: I hope they see the character of the subject, and some of my character and humor and some of their own as well. I hope they love the colors and shapes, and that it communicates whatever I’m trying to say. I hope they say they love it, that it reminds them of someone, that it helps them feel a feeling or think a good thought.
AS: If you could take a fantasy artist vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be? Your goal would be to soak in art history or to make your own art. Where would you go?
LH: Probably all over Italy. Maybe Athens Greece. Can I get there without sitting in a cramped airplane? So first class, or maybe by boat. The getting there and back would be a wonderful span of time to work on new work. Oohh..how about an archeological dig? Backstage at the ballet? Rehearsals at a Shakespeare festival….
AS: How do you get the word out about your work?
LH: Facebook, Mailchimp, postcards, flyers, talk talk talk, and my husband is a maven for my art. I love it when someone says, “Oh, I know your work.” Sometimes it’s my little black/white Flying Redhead logo photo that they recognize.
AS: Do you prefer to work with others around or by yourself? Why? What does that look like?
LH: Currently I like to work alone. It’s my big chance for focusing down and stepping away from the big detailed to do list that is the rest of my life. I spend so much time around other people in other activities that I don’t currently need to do that when I’m making art. I’ll turn up the music, maybe light a candle to change the atmosphere, sit for a minute fiddling with paints and brushes, and then dive in to the project. Hours later….
AS: Is your studio/workspace neat or not neat? — what does that say about you?
LH: It ebbs and flows. I would say it’s never neat. I love going through to clean because it’s like an archaeological dig, and I rediscover some lost bit of inspirational paper. And as I re-categorize papers or paints, they come back into my attention and cause inspiration once again.
AS: For an artist, what does it mean to “be human?”
LH: That’s the question of the day, and the answer is messy. To be human is to discover our motivations for our actions, and to accept and forgive our shortcomings and also accept our heroic capabilities. I want my life to be a continuous discovery of the answer to this question. I suppose that the messes that I make in the art room, in moments of anger or being *slightly* under the influence of wine, and even spilling leftovers in front of my refrigerator are all part of the answer. It’s lazy moments when I could be making art, imperfections in communicating with my well loved spouse, not calling my mother when I could and she’d really appreciate it. It’s also quietly helping someone with a fussy kid at a grocery store, telling someone you love their artwork, feeling harmony with a group of folks singing together at a memorial gathering. I could go on — it’s everything.