PHOTO: Tasha Tolliver via Palette Home
SEA SWEPT | STEPHIE JONES
Nothing makes us feel more like sea and summer than the return of Stephie Jones’ signature oysters and water scenes to our gallery walls! We are excited to share this stunning series with you July 15 – August 15. Stephie creates large, colorful paintings that are sure to remind you of your favorite oyster bar or fest on the water, the taste of salt and hot sauce, blue skies and sunsets with friends.
GETTING TO KNOW STEPHIE . . .
PH: As an artist, how do you describe the meaning of your art?
SJ: My current work is all about evoking a nostalgic mood and a happy peaceful feeling—I love it when viewers connect with the subject matter in a way that brings up good memories for them. For me, that feeling is late summer nights slurping oysters on the beach. No schedule. No place to rush off to. Watching my kids run around and yell while the wind lifts my hair off my neck.
The first time I saw the ocean I was eight and greeted by an endless stream of shells. All free, all for me, no limited supply. I was inspired and elated. I’d comb through them and lose time. So much variety and activity without limits. With my own paintings now I as a viewer get lost in the smoothness, I explore the odd shapes. It invites my mind to wander and then come back again.
PH: Which artists have influenced you the most?
SJ: Right now I find myself more recently marinating in work by Matisse, Monet, Klimt and Van Gogh. How boring and expected, right? Maybe that influence will show more in my work one day. I often sit down to paint and allow my hands and head to go on their own journey, I never know what I’ll end up with. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but more often I’m pleased. I also love DaVinci’s line drawings. Another odd influence who I’ve always loved are the illustrations of Alvin Schwartz.
PH: What do you enjoy most about creating?
SJ: Creating is a meditation, it feels so good to lose yourself as you work. Somedays it’s effortless and rewarding, and other days the work sputters out with difficulty and leaves you feeling unsatisfied as you work out small failures. I love the high of the effortless days and the challenge of the unrewarding days. I always say you can’t fully appreciate summer without a winter, and allowing “stink” days helps me to appreciate “flow” days even more.
PH: What do you wish your brain was better at doing?
SJ: Sorting and prioritizing details. I recently learned I have something called time-space synesthesia.
I’ve always been able to “see” time as a loop around my body. I see the whole calendar year that way. I thought everyone did this, and just found out randomly this year that most people do not seem time that way after reading a book where the author cited they had this form of synesthesia. I also saw color for days of the week when I was a kid (Mondays are white and Wednesdays are red, green and black plaid, in case you’re interested).
As a side effect I can recall birthdays of people I no longer see regularly (1998 high school boyfriend: August 3rd) because I can see it on the loop. Once a birthday is “on the loop” it doesn’t usually come off.
Another aspect of this synesthesia is that an average person recalls 39 details from a memory and time-space synesthetes recall 123. So I tell LONG stories because all details seems equally important to me.
My friends joke that if I was an eye witness to a crime the officers would be very irritated by the time they were done with my three hour interview.
PH: What stereotype do you totally live up to?
SJ: Woman driver. I can’t tell how fast cars are coming when I need to cross traffic. My apologies to anyone who has ever sat behind my car waiting for me to make a left. Bring a book next time.
PH: What is the best way to start your day?
SJ: Lately, a few days a week I like to start my day with a workout at home, and then I use my cool down time to meditate. I’m surprised to find I am enjoying both.
PH: What favorite song do you have completely memorized?
SJ: Despite my loving music, I have almost no ability to sing a song from start to finish. I’m infamous for being unable to properly hear lyrics. I really love the melody, that’s where I feel the power, I don’t really care as much about the words. Don’t ask me for an album title or song name, I won’t know it. Anything from the 60s and 70s floats my boat. And Claude Debussy makes me cry, in a good way.
PH: What do you consider to be your best “find”?
SJ: My husband. I saw him twirling a pen around his hand in a study hall and that was all it took. I saw him, I wanted him, I made him mine.
PH: What is one of your favorite smells?
SJ: Gardenia from my garden (all artists have gardens, right? and cats? and too many books?)
PH: Which of your scars has the best story behind it?
SJ: I nearly died of hemorrhage when I gave birth to my daughter and after several days in ICU and another week recovering in the hospital, I decided I’d pursue a career in art instead of being “sensible.” I went through a number of surgeries that week and one revision surgery later. Those scars are long and short, and they remind me that life can be long or short, you don’t have a guarantee of tomorrow. And a trauma today doesn’t guarantee you won’t face another tomorrow. Go for what makes you happy.
PH: We also loved the longer version of this story on Stephie’s site:
PH: What book or author has impacted you the most?
SJ: I’m influenced by a lot writers, but as an artist I’m most influenced by the feelings I get when I’m reading. I love nostalgic chills. Every September you’ll find my nose hidden in “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” by Ray Bradbury. It’s like clockwork.
PH: What do you regret not starting when you were younger?
SJ: Becoming an artist. I was playing it safe and listening to (what seemed like) “sound” advice from people who cared about me, but who had never taken much risk to pursue their dreams either. Anything worth having comes with some risk. I also learned to take advice from people who had already done what I wanted to to do.
PH: What challenging things are you working on lately?
SJ: Resting. As a mom and business owner I find I think it’s not okay to rest, that it’s lazy. Maybe it’s our current culture? I know that it’s not lazy, but I’m working on believing it so I am intentionally resting and making efforts to recharge without judging myself.
PH: What is something you like to do the old fashioned way?
SJ: I love to cook and I tend to make food that way, from scratch. Taking hours to let a sauce simmer produces true magic. I make a mean pasta alla vecchia bettola.
PH: When do you feel truly “alive”?
SJ: When I’m laughing with my family or friends, and when I’m painting, of course.
PH: Thank you Stephie, we are honored to share your work and get to know what has inspired you so far!
PHOTO; Tasha Tolliver Via Palette Home
EDUCATION: I earned my degree from James Madison University in the rolling hills of Harrisonburg, Va.
INSPIRATION: I pull inspiration from nature and the world around me, from light dancing off of trees and grass as I drive in the country to the way clouds gather over the ocean at sunset.
LIFE: I am happiest sipping a coffee in my studio while listening to jazz and creating. I occasionally take breaks from painting to chase around my children, husband, cats and dog.