Saturday, August 30, 2008
Interview with artist Duane Kirby Jensen
Interview by Didi Menendez

What drew you to become an artist?

I have always been an artist—someone with the need to create. Other things over the years have tired to lure and seduce me, but in the end it is all about painting and writing. I am either painting something tangible or I am paint images within the readers mind.

It also helped to grow up in an artistic family. My grandmother painted as did my great aunt. My great uncle was a master carver and scratch board artist. My mother is a photographer/painter/instillationist/multi-meadeist. Creativity is in my blood.

What is your inspiration?

Truth. Truth of the moment. Truth of feeling. I want to capture an individuals moment the way a filmmaker would. I think of my paintings as cinematic stills. With each brush stroke, I am creating one frame of a biographical film. Within my mind I create a whole back-story about my subject that gives richness to their life that I try to evoke in each painting. I want people to view the subjects, as if they were eaves dropping on a moment of inner dialogue. My primary tool is body language. I love the angles of people’s bodies, the sharp lines of noses, necks, jaw line and the flow of hair as it cascades. It reveals everything about a character. As I paint, I think in terms of film. The core of the image I am painting is what the camera lens sees. I then tilt the lens to whatever angle will enhance the particular mood I am trying to capture.

Is there one recurring theme in your work?

"The Beauty of Loss and Longing." I am the voyeur who captures people’s inner moments, those quiet times when they do not believe that anyone is watching. I strip away the mask to see their inner soul. I want to touch each of the emotions which reside there. To feel the turmoil, understand the agony, loose myself within the isolation, become excited as my flesh burns from desire, have my eyes filled with tears from the sensation of sheer joy, or fall to my knees under the weight of heart break. I look inside the true mind where sexuality is allowed to run wild, unchained by puritan morals and social repression. Then, I step back and see how it emerges through the filters of societal guilt. I relish lush color that can cohabit with the darkness within a subject. An intimate dance between bright light, and deep darkness, which creates a sense of perspective that, may tilt out of time and space.

Even when I paint groups of people, each subject possesses a sense of isolation. In my pursuit of isolation and the individuals interaction with it, I feel a kinship with my favorite artist, Edward Hopper.

I rarely paint happiness, because ‘happy’ just is. In pursuing loss, which includes the desire to have what one has never possessed, real individual emotions can be tasted. The viewer can tap into their own sense-memory and relive those times that bring an ache into their physical being���thus adding a further dimension to a painting.

What is your preferred medium?

Ink. More precisely FW Acrylic Artists’ Ink. I like how they flow off my brush. I am in sync with ink, as if we were dance partners.

Earlier this year, while painting four large canvas, I did take a break from inks. For those paintings I used Golden Acrylics. They have a lush and cream texture that create a different tactile experience. The difference between inks and other pigments is best described by another dance metaphor. My dance with inks is kin to dancing with Martha Graham. With acrylics and other mediums, a waltz.

Do you have any art available in shows/galleries at this time?

Not at this time. My art does not have a Northwest flavor that makes gallery owns leap up and say "Let me give you a show."

The advantage of the internet is that it allows artists who are locked out, or in the very long gallery lines to get their work into public view. In the past few years I have had a good many sales. All arising from people who viewed my work on my myspace site (

Is there a contemporary artist that knocks your socks off?

There are a number of artists whose work I am always eager to see: Lois Silver (Seattle, WA), Maria De Compos (France), and Luna Hal (Italy). There work never fails to captivate me.

What is your next painting going to be?

Each time I sit down before a pad of watercolor paper or canvas, a thousand possible ideas slip through my mind. Each one screaming to be next.

Since June I have been exploring two different lines of thought. The "What if" and "Unbound" series. During the previous three years, I would characterize my paintings as tight—tight in the way that helped capture the tension of a person looking inward. The subjects were also geometrically tight, each subjects that I sketched was spot on.

I began the ‘Unbound Series’ after I had been ill for three weeks, unable to paint. I needed to let loose with broad strokes—hence the used of unbound in the title. Each starts as a charcoal drawing, a medium I had not used in twenty years. I felt invigorated by the use of a dozen or so strong lines. Then I added inks, watched how they interacted with the charcoal. These paintings are looser stylistically and emotionally. They also use a larger brush as opposed to the 1/8th angled brush I used on most of my older paintings.

The "What If..." series is my environmentalist statement. These painting look at the world as the water fades away or when it has finally disappeared. All that is left is emptiness. These paintings have little to no sketching—just a free flow of pigments covering the landscape.

There is also the possibility of a new project stealing time from the others. I have been planing on tearing up one of my paintings into small pieces then incorporating them into a new painting with a collage element. Ideas for this project have been percolating for months. Its birth could happen tomorrow or a dozen weeks from now. With each day that passes, the broader the project might become.

What is your secret weapon?

Fearlessness. I am not hemmed in by cultural or religious restraints. I trust my brush to speak the language of my imagination.

Duane Kirby Jensen lives in Everett Washington. He has a degree in Political Science. In the 1990’s he published Everett Independent Voice and Mill Town Poetry Magazine, owned and operated a art gallery and coordinated the Milltown Poets Open-mic. In 2000’s he has focused on painting and poetry. His work can be viewed on his web page:


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