As I grew up, I was fervently desirous of becoming acquainted with Nature.”
“As a child, I was out in nature all the time.”
Quotes from two masterful artists for whom depicting various members of the animal kingdom became a lifelong vocation and avocation. The first was painter and ornithologist John James Audubon, the second, multiple media artist Jennifer Anderson of Monterey. Aside from their obvious talents, the two share an affinity for and love of nature in all its forms. And both were fortunate that they were encouraged in that endeavor from childhood.
“I was raised in the middle of the woods in Massachusetts,” Anderson says. “Nature has always been part of my life.”
The founders of the Environmental Defense Fund were close family friends. “We spent many, many weekends and holidays with them at their cabin in the woods of New Hampshire, out in nature,” she shares. “It was just what we did.”
With that background, it’s no surprise that when young Jennifer’s interests turned toward expressing herself through art, she would choose as her subjects those creatures she’d been so intimate with her entire life.
“When you’re an artist, you tend to draw what’s familiar and what you love,” she says. “And nature is what I’m familiar with and what I love.”
After earning her BFA from the University of Connecticut, Anderson says, “I identified as a printmaker. I did a little watercolor because I didn’t have the equipment needed for printmaking right away, and I also worked as a graphic designer.”
She and her husband Tom had three children, so she was a busy full-time mother.
“In that situation, your path kind of goes all over the place until you find yourself with enough time to really create and immerse yourself in creating,” she says.
After living in Vermont for a time, the family decamped for Monterey where Tom took a liaison position for the Army Corps of Engineers at the Naval Postgraduate School.
“We decided to give the Peninsula a try for a year,” Anderson laughs. “That was 13 years ago.” Obviously, the area suited them. Their kids were teenagers then and this area offered much more for them than did rural Vermont. “And it offered me a completely different art scene,” Anderson says.
Although still a printmaker at heart, Anderson was recently inspired to explore new territory.
“For years, I worked a lot in black-and-white—it’s such a powerful graphic medium—but I felt that I had lost my sense of color,” she says. “So, I decided to dive back in and started doing watercolors again.”
After spending a couple of years doing watercolors and prints side by side, Anderson says, “This year, I chose to try my hand at oils.” A recent show at the Carmel Art Association displayed a full range of Anderson’s work, and spotlighted her ability to bring animals to three-dimensional life on paper and canvas—and also served as a debut for her oil works.
“I keep sketchbooks and journals as part of my daily art practice,” Ander-son says. “I have piles of them. When I did the Art Association show, I knew that I wanted to do something with those. They’re full of daily recordings, color exercises plus musings and poetry. I started sharing them and people were encouraging, saying, ‘You should do
something with those.'”
That “something” turned into a book, “Natural Inclinations: Pages from and Artist’s Journal,” published in 2020. “All the imagery at the show was created from those sketches,” Anderson says.
All of her children have finished college—and all three are artists, incidentally: Ben holds a masters in fine art, musician Maddie is in a doctorate program in piano performance and Iain is a fine art photographer. Now, Anderson finds she has a little more time to devote to her own pursuits.
“I’m doing a lot of writing,” she says. “Journaling is now a near-daily practice. I haven’t stopped oil painting because I really love it. I have a million oil paintings I want to do.”
The different disciplines she engages in have a way of feeding each other. “All my titles come from the thoughts and ideas I write in my journal,” Anderson says. “Phrases become their own body of work, and that spurs ideas for visual work. And vice versa.”
Anderson’s work can be viewed at the Carmel Art Association on Dolores between 5th and 6th. Her new book is also available there and at carmelart.org/artist/jennifer-anderson. You can also view her work on Instagram, @ravenpress_art.