In an early short story the American author John Updike writes: "The task of art is to give the mundane its beautiful due." Not long ago I returned for a time to the Mediterranean of my youth and found in southern France one of the most quietly beautiful little towns in the world. I hope to have given its lovely unpretentious forms the treatment they deserve. While I was there I painted under the name Tadorne.

I've shown my work in the US and in France, and have published botanical and other illustrations in books and magazines.

I started drawing when still a toddler and took up painting a few years later. I followed my mother out into the field because, whereas my dad used watercolour, she painted in oils and that's what I wanted to do. Fifteen years ago I began working in clay and plaster, and more recently I've been experimenting with abstract forms in mixed media as well as in oils. My technique is primarily large-brush and deliberately fast. I gather my impressions slowly, through days of pencil or ink drawings. By the time I get to the point of working in oils I have a good idea of the subject. When painting landscapes I almost always paint outdoors.

As for what my work is _about_, well, it's not deliberately about anything. I believe art offers us a refuge from language, a way of expressing ourselves that is expressly non-verbal. Sure, there's a place for manifesto posters and musical description and anti-fascist dance, but we should remember there's also art as an alternative to signalling and semaphore: art as no-message. And I believe that's where art starts. More than tool using and language, the tendency to make art for its own sake is -- surely? -- what makes us different from our animal relatives: from the time in early childhood when we paint on the walls with our own excrement we are creatures that want to make a mark, to make a cool and interesting mark! to put out in front of others what is apparently useless to any of us. In that sense every human being is an artist. School, society in general, "growing up" knocks it out of most of us, but I'm persuaded that making art makes us human. And if that's true, then we should all be doing more of it.



 

© 2002-2010 Joanna Sheldon
js (at) joannasheldon.com