Welcome to Profile of the Week! We are delighted to present Jayne Somogy from Conyers, GA, USA.

Jayne creates portraits, fashion drawings, interiors and more.  To see more of Jayne's artwork, visit her gallery: http://community.art-is-fun.com/photo/photo/listForContributor?scre...

When you view her portfolio, be sure to click on the images to view them larger!

Please join us for this interview with Jayne:

How would you describe your art?

This is probably the most difficult question on this interview. I am still finding my way as an artist, and my style and my media and the way I use them are constantly developing, as is my choice of subject matter. What I did 6 months ago would be described completely differently from what I am doing today—and different yet again from what I will no doubt do 6 months hence. I wish I could be described as a whimsical artist and/or a “naïve” or “folk” artist, but I believe I am too literal and detail-oriented a person to be good at those styles, although I do have a few pieces that fit more or less into those categories. Since I have had a lifetime love affair with the “exotic” (people, places, objects, music), my subject matter often reflects that. I feel compelled to preserve for posterity the indigenous peoples of the world that are quickly dying out; people, often anonymous, who represent their time in history; people that the average person may never come in contact with who are “unusual” in some sense, but by portraying them artistically from a sensitive soul-space I can hopefully communicate their humanity, give them the dignity that life did not give them, and illustrate that we are all one.

How long have you been an artist and how did you become an artist?

I have always been an artist; I am not yet an artist. And these are the two warring themes of my life—the ego versus the lack of confidence, a person who is a “realistic optimist” or a “cautiously optimistic pessimist.”

Anyway, I started drawing “heads” when I was about 6 or 7. When I was 9, I had a book of Elizabeth Taylor paper dolls and I eventually got tired of the paper clothes that came with it. I took the cardboard doll, drew around her to make a figure outline, and started designing my own clothes for her. And an artist was born. I also started sewing around the same age, and in my early teens discovered dance and acting. In high school I took art as an elective every single semester, and took many art classes in college (where I got a degree in theater). When you put that all together, you get “costume designer”! In my classes I learned a lot about the elements of good design, doing perspective drawings, drawing the human body (I even earned money posing for figure-drawing classes, which was, in essence, a class I “took” and got paid for!), but somehow missed out on painting theory & practice, although I did get a lot of color theory and was told by a costume design mentor that I had a wonderful sense of color—which I have always believed and was perhaps a “self-fulfilling prophecy” (what you believe is what manifests). I spent my teens and twenties acting, singing and dancing, and designing costumes (but not “professionally” i.e., I didn’t get paid for most of it).

I spent my thirties raising a child and basically did not perform or do art. In my early forties, I decided to go to FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) in Los Angeles, where I lived. I graduated summa cum laude (straight A’s) with a degree in fashion design, while working full-time at night as a word processor in a law firm, while being a single mother of a pre-pubescent boy. I’d say that was my greatest achievement in my life, thus far. I worked full-time for a year in the fashion industry after graduating, still keeping my full-time night job, but I decided this was just too much and not healthy for my son, so I quit the low-paying fashion job. I did nothing in the arts until in my early fifties when I discovered belly dance, and became a professional (but part-time) belly dancer who designed and made all her own costumes. I eventually started making costumes for others and enjoyed some small success, but after moving to Georgia in 2008 and retiring from “full-time work,” I also eventually found the process of making the costumes too tedious and not financially rewarding (although I love the design part of the process), and I was now too “old” to be hired for dance gigs especially in this more rural area, so in May of 2014 I decided to turn to creating art. (Almost all of the art in my TAC gallery has been created since May of this year.) Also, at this time I discovered that a girl from my small high school class—the “perfect” girl who was queen of everything—was now an artist (in addition to being a clinical psychologist!) with her work available on a juried website. Couldn’t let her best me yet again, so I started drawing, in earnest!

I trace this long, seemingly unrelated personal history to show that being an artist is a long journey (60+ years in my case), that many events lead there, and that there may well be long periods in your life when you do not draw or paint, but that all your life events, as well as other creative endeavors along the way, all serve to form the artist that you become. I must add, however, that in my mind I equate artistic “success” with selling my work, and/or to being accepted by a juried art website, neither of which I have been able to accomplish as of this writing although diligently trying.

What is your favorite medium and why?

So far, this seems to change every few months! I like to be able to blend and shade my work, and I am also looking for some type of style, some combination of media or unusual way of using it, that is “different” and “unique” so that my art will stand out. At first I was working mostly with art markers, which I don’t use in the normal way; instead, I start out with a light color and keep adding more color/more layers to the parts I want to be darker or brighter. I work in this way because I’m too scared to start out with a bright or dark color on my picture, fearing I’ll ruin it! Thus, those pictures have a kind of “painterly” quality, with a build-up of color and shadowing, but I think they don’t have the richness, boldness or sharp contrast (lights and darks) I’m looking for. I also tried colored pencils and I like them, but they’re somewhat difficult to blend out or soften where I want less color, and I haven’t found a trouble-free sharpener for them, which is crucial. More recently, I’ve been using a combination of charcoal and pastels, so that I can blend and shadow to my heart’s content, with the charcoal giving the depth of blackness I like, and my pictures have more contrast. And I use my handy-dandy white gel pen for highlights and mistake-correction. But truthfully, I use a combination of all these, including some acrylics, to utilize each for their best assets as needed.

But I’m still searching and experimenting, and haven’t found that one “thing” (style? color? medium? subject matter?) that makes someone stop suddenly and pick my work out of line-up of art where all the work is skillful and professional.

Pick one work of art from your Art Colony portfolio and tell us the story behind it. Why does this piece have meaning to you? What steps did you take to create the piece?

Since I often work from photographs I find on Pinterest or elsewhere online, I don’t always know the “back story” of a photo. But there are two recent works that have more traceable histories for me. My piece entitled “Pinhead Friends” (shown above) is very unusual. It portrays two persons (from approx. 1930’s) who are “microcephalic”; they were often referred to as “pinheads” in that era. This is a medical condition where the head and brain do not develop in relation to the rest of the body and remain much smaller. Years ago, these people were often in sideshows as “freaks”—the men were often even dressed as women (possibly because of incontinence) and they are often developmentally challenged. But remember, even though they were, to outsiders, “freaks,” they had a “family” in the circus or sideshow and a purpose in life that they wouldn’t have had on the “outside.” I hope I have portrayed these two individuals with sensitivity, love, and dignity.

The second recent work is entitled “The Face of ‘Love’—A Battered Woman” (shown right). It could even be said that this isn’t an artpiece at all. I was watching a documentary on TV about battered women, saw this photo showing one woman’s injuries, and decided it was a story that needed to be told in art as well as on film. As I sometimes do, I paused the TV, got out my camera and took a picture, which I used to create the painting (which is charcoal and pastels on canvas, as is “Pinhead Friends”). I am FREAKED OUT BY and ADAMANTLY AGAINST violence in our society, especially spousal, animal, and child abuse, and felt compelled to tell this woman’s story in a drawing.

Technicalities: Sometimes I draw on drawing paper and then transfer it, after many erasures, to Bristol board by tracing it. My desk has a glass top and I have a light under the glass top to make a “light board” so I can trace--I bought the desk with this in mind. Working on canvas, obviously I have to draw directly onto the canvas; I draw very lightly until it’s perfect (you can erase on canvas with a kneaded eraser), then I blot with the eraser to pick up the graphite and make the lines even lighter, and start applying color with my pastel pencils. I work the pastels into the canvas with blending sticks to make the color very smooth and even. I do the same with my charcoal pencils to add shadows, blending as I go. I even have one “tool” that is meant for doing make-up—it has a sponge tip that is bullet-shaped and works perfectly for blending, even better than the paper blending sticks. Helpful tip: each stick is reserved for a given color and I write the name of the color I use it for right on the stick. That way, I don’t muddy up my colors. I will sometimes add ink lines to delineate certain outlines at the end, and put in bright highlights with my white gel pen.

My adult son wonders why I choose such “weird” subject matter as these two drawings and thinks I should choose more iconic subjects that would sell, but it’s who I am. Even if they never sell.

Tell us about one medium, technique or style that you would like to try working with (that you have not tried before) and why you would like to try this.

I believe I’ve tried every medium, including oil. Back in the late ‘90s I took a one-time 3-hour class on oil painting and produced the work I call “Blue Vase”—no problem! But it’s smelly, expensive, and requires space I don’t have in a small apartment where my “studio” consists of a 3’x2’ desk and a 4-drawer supply chest in a corner of my living room, so I shall not be painting in oils!

I’m continually trying to draw/paint in styles I find intriguing, and while I could “duplicate” them—not a good thing—I have never been able to “bend” them into something that is “me” combined with “them”! However, apparently I “draw” rather than “paint.” I consider my works “paintings” because they’re in color but technically they are considered “drawings” because they’re not . . . well . . . painted. So I really must try “painting” which will be acrylics. However, I don’t feel like I can “blend and shadow” like I can with my other media, but apparently art critics and collectors don’t take “drawings” as seriously as they do “paintings.”

I need to try drawing things that come out of my imagination (what there is of it), instead of drawing from photos. But when I put pencil to paper to do that, nothing comes out! (Or it looks like a kindergartner’s drawing.) So, there is much work to be done here!

And then, there’s “abstracts.” Here’s a little story, one that caused me a lot of consternation. A girl I work with likes to paint but, by her own admission, she can’t draw, so she paints abstracts. She was loading her pictures into her car trunk, someone drove by, stopped and bought one of her abstracts for $250 cash, right on the spot! She showed me a photo of it—two overlapping rectangles, in two colors. Period. $250. So far, I haven’t been able to get 250 CENTS for one of my pieces! I guess I need to start painting abstracts, yes?

How do you make time for art?

The question is not how do I make time for art, but how do I make time for everything else? Cooking—which I hate, eating—which I love, shopping, cleaning—love neatness, not that big on spotlessness—etc., etc. Since I am “semi-retired” (retired, but need to work part-time to pay all the bills) and I am single and live alone, my time is pretty much my own, and I choose to do art. All the time. Which makes me a very lucky individual.

If you could imagine the “perfect art day” for yourself, what would it be like?

It would be like today, like yesterday, like tomorrow (if I’m still here tomorrow!). Because my time is my own, other than the 20-or-so hours a week I’m working at my (hated) job at Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Store, I usually spend it drawing, or researching, or commenting on TAC, or day-dreaming about my next drawing. I watch my favorite TV shows (I have a LOT of them) while I draw, and take breaks to eat (too much!) and cuddle with my Chihuahua China or my kitty named Kitty, or my 7-year-old grandson when he’s visiting, but it’s almost always back to that little glass-topped fuchsia metal desk and whatever’s waiting there for me to finish! And then on to the next one...

If you could spend 24 hours with one artist, living or historical, who would you want to spend the day with and why? What would the two of you do?

Historical — Vincent Van Gogh. I feel and know his pain, of wanting to succeed, and no one paying any attention! (Not that I can actually compare my work to his, though!) Wouldn’t it be nice, although ironic in the extreme, for him to see how his work is received now?! And no, I don’t plan on losing any ears in the foreseeable future!

Living — I have 5 new favorite artists, all of whom I randomly discovered online—there are HUNDREDS more I have yet to discover, or have seen but haven’t taken official note of. But here are the five, each with a wonderful original style, and wildly divergent: Lyonel Thouvenot, of Paris; Patricia Derks (Netherlands); Roberto Pazos (Belgium); Elena Samborskaya (Russia); and Erika Somogyi (New York). Erika shares my last name (the correct Hungarian spelling, and the way I sign my art), but is apparently not related to me. Each of these five has a unique, wonderful, wildly colorful style that I greatly admire. I would just love to talk to them, find out how their art developed, how long it took, etc., and get to know them as fellow human beings. And need I mention how great it would be to meet, in person, all of the wonderful friends I’ve made here on TAC?

Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring artists?

Several things come to mind, probably unrelated and in no particular order, but here they are:

First, name your pictures! One of my “pet peeves” on this site is seeing people’s work with a title like “D_6349_fgtjemn_39jgh9o_gfelk”—to me, this indicates you don’t think enough of your work to give it a title, not to mention how difficult it is to reference someone’s picture when you want to comment on it. Be proud enough of your work—whatever stage you’re at—to title it. Everything in life is worth a name.

Second, try everything! Mediums, styles, subject matter, sizes, papers, etc. You never know what’s going to work well for you and you may be pleasantly surprised. And if something doesn’t work well for you the first time, give it a few months and try again. Hopefully, we grow and change.

Third, research! For me, that means Google is my closest friend. I discover artists, I discover styles, I find out what a hippopotamus looks like so I can draw it, I see wonderful photos of exotic people I could never see in real life without traveling far away, etc. This is especially true if you’re not the most imaginative person (like myself). One can create in a vacuum if one must, but having lots of input is much better.

Fourth, find artist friends to hang out with, either in reality or virtually. People who are not consciously working at becoming artists do not understand the process and the angst, and you need “back-up.” Nurture your TAC friendships, and seek out other artists in your geographic area (like art guilds, etc.).

Fifth, the most difficult, try to put negative criticism in its proper place: listen, evaluate its accuracy, make adjustments if appropriate—and then go your own, unique way. Remember, one person’s opinion is just that, an opinion, not the gospel truth. (Note to self: Re-read #5 every day!)

And sixth, don’t give up! Very few people are really good at something right from the get-go. It took me several years to become a good belly dancer; it will undoubtedly take that or more for me to become a good artist. And a lot longer to become a great one. (Note to self #2: Re-read #6 twice a day!)

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Replies to This Discussion

Thank you, Sharon, for your very nice comments!  The process of writing the interview did make me dig deep to express things that I didn't even know I felt!

Sharon Daugherty said:

Jayne, the emotion and passion in your work is overwhelming. I can see the connection you have with every piece you do - there is no casual work here. It means something to you and I am honored that you share it with us. I also really respect and relate to the way you explained the intersection between being an artist and yet not having the confidence to call yourself one - what a powerful statement that I truly believe every artist experiences during the process. Congratulations on your POTW, richly deserved. I can't wait to see more of your work!

Yeah Jayne, your responses were all well thought out and showed deep emotions...I could tell you were speaking from your heart and experience...and yes, I subscribe to JoAnn's and get their emails, promos, etc ...and yes, we have only 3 craft stores and they have very limited supplies and are quite pricey...Ugh!
Jayne Somogy said:

Yeah, Nelson, my friend Willow Chang (the belly dancer) constantly bemoans the fact that there are no Jo-Ann's or other craft/fabric stores to speak of on the island--she makes gorgeous costumes and grabs every opportunity when she travels to buy supplies.  I'd like to work there about 1 day a week--just so I could keep my 20% discount!  So glad you enjoyed the interview--I really enjoyed the process of thinking through the questions and coming up with the answers!  Oh, and you DO know that you can order from Jo-Ann's online, right?

Nelson Failing said:

OMG Jayne!!!!...CONGRATS for being Profile of the Week....I almost missed this!...your story, background, thoughts, advice were all incredible...it was a pleasure reading your interview from start to finish...I also love all your featured artworks too...they really show the diversity in your art style and subjects...enjoy the limelight gurl!!!!!...ALOHA!!!

Oh and btw, lucky you...JoAnn's?...hello!...I would be thrilled working there and being able to get my hands on their merchandise...well maybe not working there but getting my hands on their merchandise....lol...

What an amazing creative gift you have been blessed with.  I particularly appreciate the Native American paintings as my great grandmother, 7 generations back, was Iroquois and we have a picture of her.  How wonderful to have your ideas flow across the page and be able to share your amazing work with others.  Thank you.

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