Interview with Jean Pederson

by Paint Tube 4 Minutes

Interview with Jean Pederson

Artist Jean Pederson ("Mixed Media Portraits: Beyond Realism" and "Mixed Media: People") has been painting for over twenty years, balancing her strong teaching abilities, and writing with her continuing aspiration to convey her ideas in visual form. Jean's traditional practice includes referential imagery of people, still life, landscape and abstraction. The layering of a variety of media offers Jean an assortment of possibilities within her work; quality of edge, line and texture all play a role within her imagery. Although Pederson is well known for her mastery of watercolors, mixed media has become an important venue for her creative expression.


What is it that mixed media gives you as an artist? (What does it allow you to explore?)

There is a great deal of flexibility attached to mix media. The use of transparent and opaque paint as well as collage allow layers of paint and mark making to show through with different emphasis. Mixed media allows for changes in painting direction, reducing any fear of mistakes.


What’s the biggest challenge you see your students facing with mixed media? What advice do you give them?

It is important to understand viscosity- thick and thin and opaque – the ability to see through layers or obscure layers.

Also it is important to consider how new mediums will integrate with subsequent layers. Think about using similar values and colors when you add a new medium.


Walk us through your process? What do you need to have figured out at each stage?

Using mixed media is very much like weaving. Because of the flexibility of layering, transparent layers enhance the color and surface quality. Choosing pigments for transparent and opaque quality provide endless flexibility to cover up emphasize or obscure.

Mixed media allows you to evaluate where you’re at in each layer of your process. It is very difficult to say that every painting will have the same stages of development because each painting will have its own voice and it’s on problems to solve.


What do you figure out beforehand and what do you respond to in the painting itself? Why?

It is very helpful to consider your composition prior to starting application of paint. Establishing a value pattern is very helpful in a thumbnail sketch. Any preparatory planning is a catalyst for moving forward and certainly is not written in stone. I let the painting have its own voice and I try to evaluate what’s best to communicate my ideas to the viewer.


How do you approach color in your work? Do you go in with a plan or do those decisions happen while painting? Why?

Color is very important in helping to communicate my intentions. For example if I choose to use Reds oranges yellows within the painting it might communicate great emotion anger or passion. If I choose Gray’s blues Celedón greens I will communicate a calm meditative image to the viewer.
When I teach, it is very very helpful to encourage students to make a couple of thumbnail sketches of their composition that provide different colour choices. Once you see the thumbnails you will like one of the colour combinations better than the other and that will help you to get started with painting your full scale image.

How do you use design in your work? Are there any design elements or principles you especially like playing with?

Design is one of the basics that we are taught early on in our career. Instructors teach us about value, color, size, shape, texture, line and edge for example. Often what is missed is how to communicate your ideas clearly by using these elements and principles of design in a manner that encourages the viewer to experience a visual dialogue with the image. The elements of design can compete with each other and result in your ideas becoming confusing.

I often tell my students to consider who they are and what they want to say. Today your story is… And you want to communicate these ideas through the elements of design of…



How important is drawing? What does being able to draw give you as an artist?

What is your intention?

Drawing is a great skill to have and develop; drawing will be useful for many applications. Do you want to be expressive? Do you want to use stencils ? Will you collage found objects to a surface?

A strong concept and a good design can take your artwork a long way without drawing skills. You may be a skill based artist who wants to render referential images to communicate your ideas; drawing skill is necessary for the reference based artist.

Gels and mediums. It’s a lot to learn. What’s the biggest confusion you see in your students with the mediums and gels? Where should a student start?

1. Gels are usually transparent, clear. They are available in many viscosities.
2. Pastes are generally opaque. They are available in many viscosities.
3. Thick viscosity does not mean the product is opaque, these qualities are separate.
4. Mediums are runny.
5. All of the above are available in either Matt, satin or gloss finish.

In mixed media, you could layer forever. How do you know when you’re finished with a piece? What does the piece need to have to call it done?

Observing and evaluating is as important as the physical act of painting. Observe and reflect on how well the image conveys your intentions. Does any element feel out of place? Are any elements fighting with each other?


When you’re finished with a painting, how do you assess it? What questions do you ask yourself?

1. Does it communicate my intentions?
2. Does it feel balances?
3. Is there interesting rhythm and movement with the image?
4. Does my paint illicit an emotional response, does it have a soul?