Alexandria artist Jennifer Allevato believes art is meant to be shared with others. Just like her-self, her work tends to have an inherent soft-ness and warmth to it. With each brushstroke, Jennifer strives to create pieces that inspire a quiet moment in a loud and busy world. In a way, every painting is a journal entry, she says – a hope, a memory, a portrait – just in different form. With nearly two decades of experience, her work favors fl orals and focuses on color and line over realism. Jennifer’s art and design work has been shown in both the U.S. and abroad. It has been sold through Anthropologie and was featured on the set of Home & Family on the Hallmark Channel for three seasons. We sat down with Jennifer to learn more about her artistic journey.
How do you describe your work?
I create colorful post-impressionist inspired paintings that have a focus on color, line, and texture over realism. I love being able to see the layers and process of creation within my work.
What is the creative process behind your work?
I tend to work in collections or series of work, which means creating a body of work, usually 10 – 30 pieces at a time, all similar in subject matter and style. Starting from a photograph as a base, the composition and colors are developed over time as the mark-making happens. I really let the process and gradual layering of color dictate where the piece goes, which is why I love being able to see my process within the finished work.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find inspiration in so many places: nature, interior design, fashion and fabrics, and even walking through shops and seeing pretty displays or interesting textures.
Do you have a favorite painter/artist who has inspired your work?
Hands down, the post-impressionists like Matisse and Bonnard, but I feel especially drawn to Van Gogh. We share a birth date, so I feel a deep connection to him and his work, and I am so intrigued by the way he saw the world and was able to capture it on a canvas.
How has your art changed over the years?
My work definitely continues to evolve and change as I experience life and grow as a person and an artist. As my inspirations change, you’ll see that influence my work as I (hopefully) continue to be better at my craft and discover new mediums, tools, and ways of working.
What piece of your work embodies your true style and reflects your artistic tendencies?
I find the biggest breakthroughs and moments of clarity while working on my large mixed media pieces. Working large isn’t always practical, but it feels so freeing! Having a background in theatre and costume design, I often layer commercial clothing pattern paper in my paintings; it’s like putting a bit of my own history in each piece, and the textures created are always a fun surprise. There’s so much in art that we can’t actually control, from the way paint dries and reacts with other elements on the canvas to the way our work is perceived by our audience. I’m always discovering something new about myself that comes across on the canvas.
Was there a particular moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?
After working in theatre professionally, I really missed being able to express myself through my own work and started creating small mixed media and watercolor pieces on the side just for fun. I eventually worked up the nerve to start selling my work, and after just a few months I knew that my true passion was in painting. There’s no direct path to a career in art like there is in other professions and college majors, so I always felt as if I had to manage the conflict between my passions with the realities of life. Eventually I found a way to reconcile the two.
If you were not an artist, what might have you become?I really don’t think I had any choice but to become an artist. Every time I tried to veer my path away from art, I found myself coming back. I’ve worked in law fi rms, in retail management, in restaurants and bookshops, in libraries, and in theatre and design. It was just meant to be.
What advice would you give to a young artist hoping to make a career out of being an artist?
Take business classes! I always say this, but it took me years to fully grasp that selling my art meant that I was a small business owner. You can’t actually have a career in art if you don’t know how to sell your art and run a business.
What is your greatest pleasure in life?
Is it weird if I say coffee?
Where were you born and raised? Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I grew up in central Ohio and my family moved to Charleston, West Virginia when I was in high school. I attended West Virginia Wesleyan College for undergrad and received a degree in Studio Art with a minor in Psychology (and briefl y considered a career in Art Therapy). I ended up going to grad school at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem and got my Master of Fine Arts in Costume Design, thinking it would have a more stable career path than fi ne art. I moved to Alexandria right after graduation; I have always loved the DC area ever since I was a kid, and it was my dream to live here. I love the change of seasons, the mild-ish winters, the history, and the mix of culture and nature.
What are a few of your favorite spots in Alexandria?
The Torpedo Factory, of course, and just being along the waterfront is always kind of exciting. I grew up in a very land-locked area, so it’s still a novelty to me to be able to see boats passing by, and when I need to feel refreshed, I love driving along and walking along the Mount Vernon Trail. My husband and I really enjoy Captain Gregory’s for special drinks, Momo for sushi, and Del Ray Café for brunch.
For more information, visit JenniferAllevato.com.