(Rocks and Rhythm, oil, 16×20)
Award-winning oil painter and pastel artist Barbara Jaenicke was born and raised in New Jersey and lived in Atlanta, Georgia for many years until she could no longer ignore the calling for her preferred subject matter, snow and mountains, which prompted her family’s move to Bend in 2015. Since that pivotal move where she located her muse, Jaenicke has blossomed artistically, amassing impressive accolades such as the following: Silver Award in the 2021 International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) — Master Circle Division Juried Exhibition, Silver Medal in the 2019 Oil Painters of America (OPA) Western Regional Juried Exhibition, Second Place in the 2018 American Impressionist Society (AIS) National Juried Show, Plein Air Magazine’s Plein Air Salon competition wins in 2021 (Best Western), 2017 (Best Water) and 2014 (Second Place) and the People’s Choice award in the 2014 AIS Juried Exhibition. Barbara has also been featured in numerous art publications including Pastel Journal, Plein Air Magazine, Fine Art Connoisseur, Artists Magazine and Southwest Art, and has served as a contributing writer for some of these publications.
Throughout Barbara’s childhood, her grandmother’s beautiful paintings adorned her family’s home, but it wasn’t until her teen years that she felt inspired to pursue art. In 1986, Jaenicke received a bachelor of arts degree from The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State College), majoring in art with an emphasis in advertising and design. Initially playing it safe, she began her career as an art director and later continued in corporate marketing communications. After many years in both of those careers, however, Barbara ditched the corporate world and the secure income it provided in order to pursue her fine art career, a gamble that would, with time, pay off handsomely.
Since 2002 Jaenicke has worked purposefully and tirelessly to depict light-filled landscapes in an impressionist style, a devoted project that has led to signature memberships in Oil Painters of America (OPA) and American Impressionist Society (AIS) and earned her the distinctions of Master Pastelist in the Pastel Society of America (PSA) and Eminent Pastelist in the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS). Barbara is also a popular workshop instructor throughout the United States, teaching from coast to coast each year.
In the following interview, Jaenicke describes the prominent influences that have shaped her stunning art.
ME: Can you describe your initial artistic inspiration?
BARBARA: I suppose like many artists when they first begin their painting journey, I was initially fascinated by the idea of creating a drawing or painting that looked very real, or dare I say, photorealistic. But as I continued on my path, which now focuses mostly on landscapes, I found that I was even more enamored by artists who could create genuine effects of the landscape, without rendering very much of it.
ME: This sounds like something of a minimalist approach. Is that the case?
BARBARA: It’s not so much a minimalist approach in the look that’s achieved, but in the rendering. I discovered that the real skill was in the editing, and that the ability to edit well but still capture a very real sense of light and mood, and affect the viewer’s senses, is what I have found to be the ultimate skill as a landscape painter. It’s this particular skill that I’ve appreciated in other artists’ work, and that I’ve always strived to achieve and will always continue to pursue.
ME: Can you talk about some of these artists and the particular ways they have influenced your work?
BARBARA: My favorite painting heroes are those who can say more with less, such as Clyde Aspevig and Edward Harrison Compton (1881-1960). When I observe the work of such artists from a distance, the paintings appear to capture authentic nuances of the landscape. However, when I view the work up close, it’s apparent that details are minimal and only reserved for select areas, and that many sections of the landscape are merely implied. The artist has made each stroke of paint speak volumes, and there’s no extraneous mark on the painting that isn’t pulling its weight.
I’ve followed Clyde Aspevig’s career for many years. When I first saw his work in person, I was amazed at how he could pull me into the painting in a way that I could hear the waterfalls flowing, feel the wind and sunlight, and know what the ground would sound like beneath my footsteps, and he’s able to do this with such skillful economy of brush strokes. Although I’ve never had the good fortune to see any of Edward Compton’s work in person, I’ve often studied images of his work, which has the same masterful editing quality and also captures light brilliantly.
ME: Your enchantment with these artists is palpable. Can you delve into greater detail regarding the depth of feeling you perceive in their work and how that affects your artistic production?
BARBARA: With respect to those “effects” of the landscape that I mentioned, I’ve always been especially captivated by paintings that capture light so authentically that viewers can immediately place themselves in the landscape and feel the light on their face. That’s what I strive to do with my own work. Many non-artists tend to compliment a representational painter by telling the artist that the work looks like a photograph, not realizing that photorealism isn’t necessarily the goal for a painterly-style impressionist like myself. One of my most valued compliments was once expressed to me by a non-artist who has spent lots of time outdoors and knows the landscape well. He told me that a particular painting of mine appeared as if there was actually light illuminating from inside the painting where light was depicted in the landscape imagery. Yup…that’s what I’m shooting for! And when I can do it just with paint, I’ve accomplished an important objective for that painting.
ME: Most certainly, and a fine compliment indeed!
Although I’m not personally familiar with Aspevig and Compton, I do detect resonances of Claude Monet in your art, and somehow I’m guessing that you’ve heard this before. Is Monet, in fact, one of your influences?
BARBARA: Claude Monet is indeed a favorite of many artists, including myself… and for good reason! My fascination with his work is all about the light. He could capture dazzling impressions of light with just a few energetic, gestural strokes of paint. His painting, The Magpie, portrays a snow scene in a dramatic expression that calls to me; you feel the sense of light before you really identify with any of the actual subject matter in the painting. The same is true for his many depictions of the Rouen Cathedral that he painted at various times of the day and year. Those paintings are about the light on the cathedral, not necessarily the cathedral itself.
ME: Can you take us through one of your own paintings with respect to the admired elements you’ve described above?
BARBARA: Sure. In Creekside Reverie (oil, 24”x30”), for example, my goal was to feature the brilliant light and shadow on the snow by first grabbing the viewer with the strong light on the rocks, and then pulling the eye back into the distance with the patterns of light and shadow and the grass shapes. By reducing shape sizes and contrast in the distant areas, I purposely created more depth in the landscape than actually existed, in order to draw the viewer’s eye deeper into the scene. As with all of my paintings, the composition was begun with a very edited design of shapes that I gradually defined only as needed throughout the painting process. The subject of the painting is actually a very ordinary spot in my neighborhood here in Bend, but the painting isn’t about the subject matter itself, but rather the light and shadow effects occurring on the subject.
ME: Brilliant! It sounds as if you take substantial liberties in constructing your images according to your vision. Do you paint these scenes “en plein air” (outdoors) or in the studio, and do you create studies for the more finished pieces? I’m particularly curious about the winter scenes since I know from personal experience that one can get quite cold standing in the snow painting for multiple hours.
BARBARA: Considering that I moved to this part of the country six years ago for the snow and mountains, it’s not surprising to know that I paint a lot of snow scenes throughout Central Oregon. (The view featured in Symphony of Color on the High Desert is from the Shevlin Commons trail above Shevlin Park.) In winter months, I frequently paint quick studies outside, where I can collect the visual information for the light and shadow effects of the area, and then take my time developing larger compositions in the studio from photo reference. In this piece, lots of editing was involved with the majority of the grasses and vegetation to develop the overall design, and much of the subject matter was merely implied (evident more clearly when viewed up close in person) so that I could direct the viewer’s eye with limited details placed selectively.
I’ve also painted the Deschutes River on location many times, and had painted a small, quick study for Rocks and Rhythm just before painting a 16”x20” version in the studio. (This particular spot is from First Street Rapids Park.) By studying it first from life, I was able to understand the brilliant effects of the light on the rocks and water that I wanted to feature in the painting, rather than merely trying to visually copy the details of the subject matter that a camera provides. Another important goal for this piece was to edit the composition to especially feature those light effects without rendering more detail than necessary.
ME: Thanks for sharing this incredibly instructive information about your process. It really helps us to understand the extensive thinking that goes into your stunning works of art. Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share as we conclude this interview?
BARBARA: My pleasure! I’ll close by saying that besides those aspirations that I admire in my favorite “go-to” artists (those mentioned here and many others!), I strive to capture the landscape with poetic, lyrical aspects of the imagery at that moment in time. I’m not interested in simply recording painted snapshots of the landscape. In each painting, I invite the viewer to share in the emotional perception with which the work was created.
ME: And share we do! Thanks again, Barbara.
Barbara Jaenicke is represented in Bend at Mockingbird Gallery and also exhibits her work in other galleries and national juried shows throughout the country. She also teaches workshops nationwide and offers an array of instructional materials. Please visit her website at barbarajaenicke.com for more information.