Jennifer Urquhart is a naturally handy person who gets great satisfaction from building and creating. She knows her way around power tools and she’s done everything from interior home repairs, to painting entire homes (inside and out), to making her own light fixtures and furniture. She’s a regular Girl Friday.
She works with reclaimed wood - the scraps most people throw away. She’ll use the leftover teak or cedar from your new deck. She’ll snatch up the plywood from your treehouse project. 2x4s from an old fence - she’ll take them! As you can imagine, the ReBuilding Center is her favorite place to hang out.
Jennifer has a keen eye for lines and structure and her art is not only an extension of her handiness but also her minimalist sensibilities. When you see Jen’s work in person it’s a very visceral experience. Whether it’s a painting or sculpture, you want to touch them, to feel the weight, to study the grooves. It’s tactile and gripping and it's amazing how she sees the beauty in things that most people overlook. What appears in the real world to be a creepy, dilapidated warehouse is transformed by Jen into a serene painting of simple structures in muted tones with sweeping landscapes. It’s like she’s eliminating the chaos and pain from everyday life to reveal the simple under-pinnings we tend to take for granted.
Her process often begins with photographic inspiration. Sometimes pictures she has taken herself, other times magazine clippings, color swatches she’s loving in the moment, objects in nature, or work by other artists.
She then selects an interesting piece of plywood that will capture the essence she wants to convey through the natural grain and she cuts the piece to the proper size. Sometimes the size is dictated by a client (commissioned pieces) and other times by Jen’s imagination. Either way, she gets to use a bunch of power tools and a big saw.
She sketches her design directly onto the wood.
For paint, she uses interior acrylic house paint or hobby paints which she waters down to the right tone for the piece.
She sands the entire surface after the first coat of paint, then applies another coat. Then she sands again. Depending upon the saturation level she wants to see, she may continue that technique over the entire piece or just the areas she wants more subdued.
Once the painting and sanding cycle is completed, the final step is carving the areas she wants to highlight on the painting. In this case it was where the pasture meets the sky.
That final carved element gets a special sanding treatment using a small piece of sandpaper that she works into the grooves she’s just carved. Once that is smoothed out, guess what she does? SHE SANDS THE WHOLE THING AGAIN!
So it’s done now, right? Wood selected, sketch done, painting done, sanding done, carving done. Check, check, check, check, check. Nope, not done. Because she also makes a custom frame for every piece.
Now it’s done.
Jen has a lot of work in development and she hopes to do more furniture and lighting in the future. Her idea walls in her studio are overflowing with concepts and plans.
I met Jen about 8 years ago when our boys were in kindergarten and watching her blossom into this incredible artist has been so inspiring. Jen’s work is becoming more widely recognized and she was recently featured prominently in Emily Henderson’s Portland Project. She shows her work all around Portland and you might see her at First Thursday. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram to keep apprised of upcoming shows and check out her website for ordering options. She will be showing at West Elm's Collaborations event in the Pearl on October 27, 2018 with some of her newest work.