Jean Mason original oil paintings
I am inspired by ideas, emotions, and stories. There are notes and scraps of paper pasted all over my studio, paintings in the simmering stage, before any brush stroke has appeared. Once the painting is created, those thoughts and moods become a time stamp, forever trapped, marking the moment for eternity.
My great-grandmother's wooden palette and a few of her paintings hang in my studio. I never knew her, yet I am able to connect with her through the art she left in this world. I love the idea of creating something that transcends time. It's a cool possibility to have a dialog with somebody in the future.
I find it fascinating how our lives are shaped by our experiences. My influences are vast - people and places changed frequently. I grew up “everywhere” - embracing the nomadic lifestyle of my Dad's military career. I was born in Musashi-Machi, Honshu Japan. In the village, my parents met a young woman named Chioko who wanted to learn English. She worked as our "house girl" in order to have daily interaction with Americans. Our lullabies, nursery rhymes and cartoon quotes were all in Japanese. For my grandparents, it was too soon after WWII for their grandchildren to speak mixed Japanese-English. My grandmother told me to never admit I was born in Japan as people would judge me harshly. My parents saw that as ridiculous - ancient history. As society changes, many ideas don't make sense to the next generation.
Though home was not connected to a place, my childhood was magical. On average, we moved every 1-3 years. Our lives consisted of exploring every new location with immediacy and passion. No matter where we lived, the local culture and history came alive through hands-on experience. Ultimately life is about connecting with people; their stories, cuisine, music and art. Painting and sketching have always been my way to capture the essence of life’s experiences.
My Mom was an oil painter, showing work at galleries in New Mexico and Colorado. As a child, I remember loving the smell of linseed oil and listening to artists critique the work. I was allowed to paint with oils when I was 10 and sold my first painting in a public show when I was 12. My dad was an engineer, he taught me how to calculate square footage for stage backdrops so I could order paint, and how to use power tools so I could stretch huge canvases.
Southern musical influences became important to me as a teenager when I marched in a traveling drum & bugle corps. After high school, I gravitated toward theatre design and landed a job painting large-scale backdrops in Albuquerque. I graduated from University of Kansas with degrees in Art Education and Studio Art (Textile Design & Painting).
Music and theater friends have always been my biggest influences; there's always an instant bond. Thus the musical subject matter and the bold, large scale. I'm fascinated by who/what influences us - our families, the people we meet and the places we live. My latest passion is a dialog between science and art. I'm intrigued with the idea of self identification and how society is going to address the blending of nature versus nurture when it can be quantified by DNA testing.
Over the years, I have worked as a kindergarten teacher, a graphic designer and a technical illustrator, plus raised 3 amazing children. I also teach creativity seminars, painting workshops, and lead art museum tours. In recent years, we moved around to care for aging parents, then followed our children/grandchildren to new locations. I have become a minimalist in my studio practices, really honing down what is absolutely necessary to create. My studio has been a warehouse, a balcony, and a boat. Sometimes I use oil paint and a french easel, sometimes watercolor in a tiny Altoids tin. In 2017 we settled in Austin Texas. With a dedicated studio. it's back to 4 inch brushes and large canvases.
Below is a 1975 photo of me painting the Pacific coast. We moved to the midwest, where nobody connected with ocean paintings. New influences, new inspiration, right? "Bloom where you are planted" was our family mantra.