Q & A with Issue 2 Cover Artist Jennifer Balkan

We are delighted to present the artist who has generously allowed us to use one of her paintings for the cover of upcoming Issue 2 of The Austin Review: Jennifer Balkan.

Pictured above is the cover, including back (at left), spine (middle), and front (at right). Jennifer's oil painting, entitled "Birds," forms the front cover, and sections of its background have been reproduced and stitched to form the back.

Jennifer is a long-time Austin resident and regularly participates in the popular East Austin Studio Tour. Her unique, beautiful portfolio can be viewed at her website here, along with her biography and information about art classes she leads from her studio. We are grateful for her generosity and proud to work with her.

Q&A

The Austin Review: When and how did you become interested in painting?

Jennifer Balkan: I have drawn all my life and poked around in my grandmother's oil paints as a child but didn't truly become turned on to paint until 2001. I had treated myself to a trip to Europe upon finishing my PhD in sociology. Upon seeing tons of master paintings, which I had seen only in books, I felt a compelling urge to learn how to paint.

TAR: How would you describe your artistic style or point of view?

JB: I consider myself to be an expressive representational painter; that is, I paint recognizable things with loose, thick, colorful strokes. I am always striving for abstraction in that I choose to break up the form into its constituent shapes and allow them to tell the visual story.  

TAR:  Who are some of your favorite contemporary artists, or artists who have influenced you the most?

JB: Lucian Freud, Wayne Thiebaud, Jenny Saville, Ann Gale, Oskar Kokochka, and Chuck Close

TAR: If you couldn't paint for a living, what would you be doing?

JB: I think I would be a neuroscience researcher. My undergraduate degree was in behavioral neuroscience, and I continue to be smitten by understanding how our brain determines our behavior.  

TAR: What is it like being an artist in Austin? Has it changed in the last few years?

JB: Being an artist in Austin is quite lovely. I'm surrounded by so many creative people. Austin has a strong visual arts community. I wish only that we had major museums like in Houston or Fort Worth. I would love to be able to take a lunch break and go see how John Singer Sargent solved a problem. The community has gotten bigger over the years and more attention is being paid to the visual arts by the city.  

TAR: Who are your favorite authors?

JB: I don't know if I have favorite authors, but I certainly have favorite books. Here are five that I can think of:
    1.  The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present by Eric Kandel
    2.  Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
    3.  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
    4.  A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
    5.  The Art Spirit by Robert Henri