A Passion to Create - An Interview with Ryan Jensen
A Passion to Create
Art has surrounded Ryan Jensen from birth. His mother, a graphic designer, worked from her home studio producing magazine covers for software and other companies in Silicon Valley. His father, David Jensen, was a well known California oil painter. Ryan can remember being driven to school by his father who, with paint covered hands, would point out interesting perspectives to his young son. Although Ryan wasn't particularly interested in painting at that time, it is obvious that the lessons of his father were becoming embedded and would resurface when he picked up paint brushes full time as an adult. The one constant throughout his childhood, however, was his pencil. "I was always sketching, all the time. I couldn't help it. There were drawings all over my homework and everything else."
After leaving school, Jensen joined the United States Marine Corps for eight years, doing three combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. Even in these unlikely circumstances, art was a part of his life. "I found I was being summoned to do art projects—signs for our patrol base as memorials for fallen marines, tattoo designs for other soldiers. I took time to sketch people, too."
"My dad taught me a lot about dealing with a paint brush and dealing with paint—how to hold a brush, how not to mess around, not fiddle. You have one chance. You're going to mess it up, but look at what you've done. If the paint drips, don't mess with it. I've caught myself doubting myself, but if I remember to look at things as shapes—how much does that look like a circle, square, etc.—to draw that shape and not what the object is anymore, all of a sudden that object becomes what I'm painting. If you step back from your work often, evaluate what you've done, put some dark in the background, set up your contrasts, all of a sudden, you can paint a boat!"
Jensen carries a small sketchbook with him to do compositional thumbnails, but prefers to just dive in head first to his canvas. "It gets my blood pumping to jump into it." He pushes himself working on very large canvases, many 60 x 40", attempting to complete them in about three hours, all en plein air. "I separate myself as much as I can from my work—focus on what I'm looking at. Whatever happens, I don't erase or wipe it off. I just try to have the courage to leave it alone and focus on what I'm looking at."
Jensen's year of painting every day has expanded now into year two and appears to be just the beginning of his art journey. He is fortunate to live nearby to master artist, Jim McVicker, who has become a frequent painting partner and mentor. "I had seen Jim's paintings on the internet and noticed he was from the area. I emailed him and one thing led to another. We began painting together once a week, then three times a week. We're now good friends. He took that spot that my dad had in helping me see what was wrong with the painting. We need someone to push us. We need that edge."
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