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September Featured Artist: Jeni Lee

Dreamy landscapes with a wash of rain (yep, actual rain) – possibly the most PNW thing ever.

Portland artist Jeni Lee's ethereal pieces are reminiscent of a rainy day on your favorite rocky beach, gazing out toward where the Sound meets any one of our local islands, peninsulas or mountain ranges. We love our sunshine but there's something about a good rain that feels like home.

Meet Jeni, chat about her influences and learn more about her process during the next West Seattle Art Walk on Thursday September 12th from 5-8p.

Jeni Lee

How would you describe what you make?

I create atmospheric abstract paintings that reflect nature and mood, evoking emotion through color and light. My work often suggests a sense of place, a season, or a memory, through dreamlike washes of color and thin rich layers of paint and glazes.

What drew you to this medium and style of work?

I began as an oil painter, attracted to the glazing techniques of the old masters. But I needed to layer and work the surface sooner than the oils allowed. Discovering the versatility of the fluid acrylics enhanced my direction as a painter. I could still use my glazing and layering techniques but in new interesting ways. Water also has become a huge influence in the work, allowing me to carve out marks and shapes in the paint as I layer. 

Jeni Lee Rain Painting

Can you tell us about your favorite piece in the current collection? 

The stunning 18x36 Sunset Valley piece was the first in this Valleyscape series. The PNW has formed me as a painter and this piece fully celebrates the beauty and drama found in the skies here.

If you could collaborate with anyone (living or not), who would it be and why?

That’s a difficult one to answer. I do of course resonate with Georgia O’Keeffe’s work – she had a curious eye and painted that vision in a really modern and unique way, challenging and stimulating the viewer. I can appreciate that. However, collaborating with large format environmental artists like Christo and Jeanne Claude could be a very challenging project. How would the paintings translate draped or painted huge over a large building or along the paths of overpasses? How would that alter perception in our ‘urban once was romanticized land’ scape?

Jeni LEe

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Andy Warhol’s quote: “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”  This often powerfully applies personally and artistically.

Also, as a painter:

I had a professor in school who always had us breaking the rules, pushing the limits of painting to send the process in new direction – such as glazing the whole thing black or pouring solvent on it when wet. That approach of Let’s See What Happens If really hooked me as a painter. I’m always trying finding that fresh attitude in my work, to challenge myself, while still staying true to my own expression, like taking the paintings out into the rain.

Can you describe your favorite part of the process in your work?

Same as above – taking that fresh approach to keep making interesting work.

Jeni Lee

When you are in the studio, what are you listening to?

When I begin a series of paintings. I generally listen to louder layered music, like electronica or trip hop, (especially a lot of Seattle’s KEXP!) to give my process momentum and rhythm. As the paintings find their path, the music calms, moving into more meditative music, such as classical or nature sounds, to slow me down and allow the painting to find its true voice.


What is your most treasured handmade possession?

It would be the dining table I had made after my dad had passed. I asked the talented woodworker who builds my painting panels to design a table that resembles a “butcher block” in honor of my dad who was a french chef. Growing up we always had this tall, resilient beast of a butcher clock in the kitchen – kind of like him. The table is built from some reclaimed wood beams from an historic Portland tavern that was demolished. For me the table represents embracing what was, as well as always having the space for inviting and creating the new.

Jeni Lee


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