Regulars to the SKB workshop in Dubois witnessed a transformation in artist Pat Jeffers over the past few years. She was a successful textile artist, known for her baskets and wall hangings, but painting stole her heart. In 2011 she officially “retired” from textile art and focused on painting in oil. The medium had an impact on the Colorado artist, but Pat Jeffers is still Pat Jeffers, as the echoes of her woven work in her paintings prove.
“When you first learn to paint, you get the same kind of input that all developing painters hear: Accuracy in rendering, big shapes, and so forth,” she says. “But when I realized that I was actually carrying forward the basketweaving into my painting, it was an a-ha moment. It let me move forward more quickly.”
Many of Jeffers’s paintings seem to fall into two categories, those with stylized, elongated shapes, and those dominated by patches of color. She doesn’t see the two directions as terribly different or at odds, pointing out that both approaches were also present in her textile work. “They both relate pretty equally to my weaving,” says Jeffers. “They look different but they are similar in an expressive sense.”
She first used patches of color in the piece “Dreaming, Possum Spins Her Wisdom.” The piece was done in a class that touched on shamanistic ideas, and Jeffers decided that her spirit animal was an opossum. “So it occurred to me to have a ‘possum rolled up in a ball, and all this stuff spinning off of it,” she explains. “Now every time I look at the painting I really like it. I don’t want to use those little patches of color all the time–it’s challenging and a bit tedious, working with the colors to find some that are analogous–but I like doing it occasionally.”
Jeffers explained her process for these patchwork pieces: The individual shapes of the colors is primarily intuitive. I plan out a loose value sketch–a notan, really–of dark dark shapes and light light shapes. I see if I like the balance of dark and light, and if I do, I then mix 3 to 5 shades in dark values and the same in light values. I then mix a few mid-value shapes. I am also considering warm and cool along the way. Then, I use very abrupt brush strokes–I load the brush, and put the color down, maybe moving it so the next stroke is diagonal or vertical.”
In “Dreaming, Possum Spins Her Wisdom,” the chosen colors roughly suggested representational elements. “All the dark greens and blues that were at the bottom around the spinning ball represented the Earth,” says Jeffers. “The blues in the upper 2/3 of painting were loosely relating to the sky. All the other colors–like the greens–were the wisdom that was coming off that the spirit guide. The animal is sharing with the person that the animal is interacting with. That darker band of blue in the middle of the painting was, in a very loose sense, land, mountains.”
Jeffers isn’t finished transforming herself. “I think that ultimately I will be going more abstract and dreamlike,” she explains. “I just taught a workshop on artistic vision, voice, and style. I had to think about all this stuff as I prepared for the workshop, and I think that when people begin as a representational artist that remains a very strong pull. The outside influences can nudge you, in my case they can make me almost think that I can’t get away with completely abstract art. But I’m getting bolder, and I’m going to do it.” Ω