Artistic Excellence | Jennifer McChristian

By Bonnie Gangelhoff

Lahaina Leisure, oil, 14 x 18.

What inspired your winning entry? While in Hawaii for the Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational this past February, I was strolling down Front Street in Lahaina on a balmy afternoon with my husband, Ben, when I came across an alley peppered with small kiosks selling trinkets and souvenirs. I was drawn to the vivid colors and strong, bold shapes of the bright umbrellas defined against the dark, shaded area in the background. This dynamic contrast of light and shade created a sense of mystery, intrigue, and whimsy. I was also captivated by the playful interaction of warm and cool colors in the overall scenery.

Do you come from an artistic background? Absolutely. My mother was an artist with plans to attend École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, but she opted to raise a family instead. My father dabbled in photography and played the saxophone. I have a long line of relatives on both sides of my family who worked either in music or the visual arts. My parents constantly encouraged my artistic endeavors, and my Christmas and birthday gifts were typically watercolor sets, crayons, colored pencils, and sketchbooks.

Where did you study art? At the age of 18, I moved from Montreal, Canada, to Los Angeles, CA. I then embarked on a four-year illustration and design program at Otis College of Art and Design and received my bachelor of fine arts degree in 1991. Upon graduation, I worked for various animation studios and also enrolled in refresher courses, including painting workshops taught by Robert Blue, Steve Huston, and Karl Dempwolf.

What is your favorite subject matter and why? I enjoy painting urban subject matter, including antiquated structures, enchanting alleyways, inviting pathways, and anything rustic and ancient. The little nooks and crannies of everyday life captivate me. I enjoy translating the mundane into a visual feast by using bold, dynamic shapes, dazzling color, and interesting compositions. A gritty urban scene or a condemned bridge can be just as beautiful and intriguing as a majestic pasture or a stunning sunset.

What is the most meaningful recognition you have received for your artwork? While in elementary school, I entered an art contest that required me to design a placemat for Pope John Paul II’s ceremonial dinner, which was to take place during his visit to St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. I was thrilled and honored that my placemat won. As to what he ate on that placemat, that still remains a mystery.

Representation: Abend Gallery, Denver, CO; InSight Gallery, Fredericksburg, TX; Segil Fine Art Source, Monrovia, CA; Silvana Gallery, Glendale, CA; Waterhouse Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA;

Featured in December 2011.