Artist Interviews 2022
Jen La Vita
By Julia Siedenburg
Jen La Vita is a boston-born now local angelino ex-military badass of a woman. And a very talented artist on top of it. Influenced by scenes of nature and the day-to-day life around her, Jen captures colorful beautiful moments that put a smile on peoples faces.
I had the honor to get introduced to this great lady from a former Art Squat interviewee and I am so happy I got to interview and get to know her.
And now you can do too. So please enjoy, dear readers.
Your paintings show so much vibrance, and love and give the viewer a sense of ease and happiness. Is that the type of art that you enjoy and are drawn to?
Thank you for your kind words! I want people to feel joy, wonder, and inspiration when they see my art.
Art that connects with the natural world and evokes that wanderlust feeling is what moves me the most. I appreciate art that makes me something deep in my soul - that unexplainable ache. I am a big dreamer, a free spirit. I also appreciate work with interesting color play and textures, or technical skills that I admire.
How does creating art make you feel?
Creating art is a lifeline for me. It’s such an important outlet for my energy and ideas. I am always spinning with thoughts and to be able to be still and take the time to translate that onto something physical is a huge release and sense of accomplishment. I love sharing it as well. My art has enabled me to connect with so many lovely people over the years. It’s been an incredibly valuable and validating experience for me.
Some of your images are very realistic and some are more dreamy. On what criteria do you decide if the painting will be done with loose or clean lines? Do you decide based on mood? Or Maybe memory?
Wow, what a great question! Something that I think I’m not even conscious of most of the time. I usually visualize the painting before I start. I start with a general composition and color palette in mind. My approach is a mix of the subject matter and how I feel as I conceptualize and then begin to paint. If it’s something I’ve seen in real life, I draw from the essence of that place or experience. I can tell which pieces I did while I was full of emotions, they tend to be very loose but also deliberate. On a day I feel less certain and careful, I tend to get very detailed. Commissions from photographs are generally a bit tighter because I’m wanting to replicate something specific. When I paint water or skies, I generally like to be loose and let the paint flow and unfold on its own. I am a very intuitive painter so my mood is a factor in how I approach the work at that particular time.
Do you think that your experience in the military has influenced your style?
My military experience will always be a part of me and how I operate. During my service is when I first really started doing art for myself. At my first duty station, I had A LOT of free time, not many friends, and was often alone in my barracks, needing something to keep me occupied (and sane). I crafted up a storm in there. I took myself out to art museums and started one of my favorite paintings, “Whales’ Song” while alone over a holiday weekend. My military service was when I first started to turn to paint as a way of therapy and self-expression. It gave me an outlet to be “myself ” in occupation and lifestyle that is very rigid. I felt like through art, I was still fostering my creative, softer side. I also did one of my first murals in the Army, got some of my first painting commissions, and designed many, many event t-shirts.
Are your ideas for images influenced by the city you are currently in?
As a highly visual person, my surroundings constantly influence my art and ideas. It’s one of the reasons I love LA so much. There is so much natural beauty here from the ocean to the mountains to the desert. I also love the vibe of the city, so sunny and alive. My painting, “Magic Hour”, is an ode to LA. It celebrates the beauty of Southern California with contrasting city life.
When I travel, I take hundreds of photos. Photos of nature, buildings, structures, and non-conventional things, like the bark of a tree, the leaves on the ground, and a reflection on a puddle. I never know what is going to stick and what will transpire into art later.
Tell us a bit about your childhood and your upbringing.
I am very lucky and grateful to have had a loving and stable childhood. My parents are still married after 45 years and I am close with my older brother and his wife and kids. I grew up in a middle-class area of Peabody, MA (pronounced pee-biddy to the locals), which is on the North Shore of Boston. I played a lot of sports, was always making up games in the backyard, and swimming in the pool. I spent hours alone in my room, singing, dancing, and drawing. We took summer trips to Cape Cod, my uncle’s lake house in New Hampshire, and went to Florida a few times. I grew up doing a lot of chores. I feel like my childhood was very grounded and set me up for success later in life.
Which of your paintings is your favorite and why?
“Whales’ Song” is one of the only paintings of mine I display in our apartment so that’s saying a lot! I plan to keep in my family and hopefully pass it down through the generations. I genuinely love it and don’t see any fault with it (which is rare! haha). It also symbolizes a time that I made a decision to work at my craft for myself, which was the beginning of creating work habits in my career even now. April 2021 I was given the opportunity to recreate Whales’ Song as a mural on Venice Blvd. Translating my own painting into a 20x30ft mural was so much fun. I had to deconstruct my own work from 15 years ago and blow it up using spray paint for the first time instead of brush. That was another turning point time in my art career, all thanks to this painting.
You have created art alone at your Studio and in front of an audience at a live painting competition for Art Battle. What are some of the pros and cons of creating art in either environment and what do you prefer?
Painting alone in my studio is my most uninhibited form. I completely lose track of time and feel like I can explore ideas and techniques. I jump from project to project sometimes because I am buzzing so hard and can’t create it all fast enough. It can also be a struggle when my head isn’t into it and I’m lacking focus. I have a pretty comfy couch in my studio for those times :)
Live painting with an audience forces you to push through any hesitation because everyone is watching so you better do something cool! I would say my inner narrative while live painting can sometimes get doubtful unless I am really loving what I’m painting. It’s a very on-the-spot creation, so when it’s working, it’s great and when it’s not, well, it’s not. In general, I prefer to paint alone in my studio. Retreating into my own world is a way for me to recharge and to tap into my deepest creativity.
Since your work is very nature-focused. Are there any causes or topics that you are dedicated to and would like to raise awareness of?
I think we all can do better for the planet. Turning off lights, using less water, composting, replacing single-use plastics with more sustainable means. This one is actually quite easy once you get into it. I recommend starting with silicon food bags, beeswax wraps, and laundry detergent sheets. Part of why I paint nature is to showcase it’s beauty and hope that people appreciate it and connect with it enough to safeguard it in their own way.
What is next? Are any other art fairs coming up?
So many things! I’m always on the lookout for new mural opportunities. I just started teaching drawing and painting once a week and am also hosting my own monthly art workshop that anyone can take. I will be doing the Melrose Trading Post market for the first time this fall and I’m excited about that! I’ll continue working on my own art series, playing with spray paint, acrylic and gold leaf. I just resined my first painting and loved the effect, so maybe more of that soon! The holiday season is approaching soon, so I’ll have a few slots for custom commission works, too.