Emerging Artists | Jennifer Welty

The eyes are the prize

Jennifer Welty, Kate Smith, oil, 44 x 44.

Jennifer Welty, Kate Smith, oil, 44 x 44.

This story was featured in the March 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art March 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!

For California-based figurative artist Jennifer Welty, creating great portraits is all about the eyes. More than anything, she says, it is the expression in someone’s eyes, often so elusive and fleeting, that draws her in every time. “The expression in the eyes is the prize for which I strive, whether I am painting a human or an animal,” Welty says. “One can have a perfectly painted figure and background but fail to capture expression in the eye, and the painting, in my opinion, is of no value to me.”

Welty has received numerous awards from the Portrait Society of America, including an Award of Exceptional Merit in 2013. Last year she was also a finalist in the society’s “out of the box” members-only competition and a finalist in the commissioned portrait category.

With no formal instruction in painting, Welty says she taught herself by copying great masterworks and practiced by trying to capture the likenesses of her family and friends. When her children were young, she got up in the middle of the night to paint, leaving dishes in the sink and letting go of the need to maintain a perfect house. More recently Welty has studied with living masters such as Daniel Greene, C.W. Mundy, and Nancy Guzik to supplement her art education.

Welty describes her style of work as “romantic realism” as opposed to “strict realism.” She is fond of editing and interpreting elements in her paintings, choosing when to amplify the light or minimize a figure. Her goal is to inject hope and beauty into a painting without being insipid. “I am trying to convey the realness of my subjects but in an ennobling manner. I want my subjects to be real, ‘touchable,’ and possess a strength of character that is tangible, but I also want to lift my art above that which is base,” she says. “I want my viewers to sense the nobility and intelligence that exists within the soul of a man clothed in rags. I suppose I am trying to reveal a hint of the Creator’s image within all of us.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff

Featured in the March 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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