J.J. Renzel

 
 

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(email) 
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ARTIST'S STATEMENT

I’ve lived in San Jose my whole life and have loved making art since I was a child. I don’t have any formal training and am mostly self taught with some occasional mentoring. I’ve been described as prolific, and it’s true that I do work hard both at producing art and at evolving in style and medium.

I wasn’t active as an artist in my twenties and thirties. In these years, I was struggling with addiction issues, and then with trying to get my life back on track. I focused on getting healthy, graduating college, and making a career as a technical writer. 

At some point along the way, I took a workshop from an assemblage artist and got engaged in art. I began studying the work of assemblage artists, and I started making shadow boxes and sculptures whenever I had time. I started collecting weird things and would spend hours trying to see how they might fit together to make something beautiful and eerie. It wasn’t too long until I was showing my work, and now I sell it about as fast as I can make it.

I love assemblage and continue to enjoy creating shadow boxes, but I think that part of me always wanted to be a painter. 

I made several false starts with painting, but just didn’t know what or how I wanted to paint. I knew that I didn’t want to work in realism, but I wasn’t sure what I did want. I again studied the work of other artists, and found lots of interesting examples. I gravitated towards the work of outsider artists who seemed to create art from raw imagination. Within this corner of the art world, no rules applied and you could do whatever you wanted as long as it worked somehow. My turning point was when I took a workshop from an outsider artist named Jesse Reno. He taught me an approach that is very freeing  -- you start from the background, build up layers of interesting color and contrast, and then bring out the subject based on what you visualize there. You don’t start with the end in mind. 

This new approach really inspired me, and I’ve been using it off and on ever since. I love painting this way because the works come together part by chance and part by direction. The results are interesting in a way I don’t  think I could ever plan. Some of my best pieces come from turning the painting upside and completely changing the orientation and subject matter. My style continues to evolve, and I am starting to include elements that might be considered more towards illustration or street art. 

I want my art to engage and surprise viewers, and I think part of this includes pushing and surprising myself. I have breakthrough moments along with plenty of mistakes that require rework. I think this is what makes my artwork interesting and unique.