Jane Radstrom is an Austin figurative artist in the best of the classical tradition, but with a unique twist that’s all her own. Originally from Clearwater, Florida, Jane graduated from the acclaimed Ringling College of Art and Design with a BFA in Illustration. She will be one of the artists showing in New Texas Talent, an annual showing at Craighead Green Gallery in the Dallas Design District. The show runs August 10-31.
A+C: Congratulations, Jane, on having a piece of your work selected for the New Texas Talent Show!
JANE RADSTROM: I am excited about the show and the publicity! It’s been my goal to combine traditional realism with a contemporary aesthetic, so I am quite excited that this work is gaining attention.
A+C: I love figurative art and am very drawn to your piece. Is this subject typical of your oeuvre?
JR: The work that I’ve become known for is The Girl Series. I set out with some pretty specific goals for how I want to portray women, so I shoot my own reference photos. I don’t want overtly sexualized images. I tend to ask for every day actions – dressing and undressing, for instance. I want the poses to be natural and express the personality of the model. I don’t idealize or “improve” their bodies. I’m examining the line between beauty and objectification. Right from the beginning, I try to have a clear idea of what I want to achieve. For me, this is usually some key words – “playful, optimistic, yellowed.” I identify the key areas that will help me achieve those things – facial expression, hands, color palette – and I don’t spend much time on any other parts of the painting. I work the whole image, which means at any given time everything is more or less equally finished so I could stop and it would hold together. I take lots of breaks to get perspective. When it achieves the key words, and nothing else bothers me, I stop.
A+C: Talk a little about how and why you use simultaneity in your work rather than just a single straight image.
JR: Layering the poses lets me convey a more complex body language or expression. It shows that the model moves, thinks, and changes. I look for poses that say more together than either would alone. It started when I was having trouble deciding between two slight variations of a pose, so I got the idea to layer them. I had in mind the effect that you get with a camera if you take a really long exposure and the subject moves. The first few were just about the challenge of creating a special effect, but I quickly found that by layering two different expressions, I could show more nuanced personality in one image. That’s what I am exploring now.
A+C: Your use of pastels is interesting. Can you talk about using pastels versus paint? What can you get with pastels that makes you like working with them?
JR: JR: I work primarily with Nupastels thinned with Gamsol, which is an odorless paint thinner. Sometimes I do finishing touches with oil paint and wax medium. I started as an oil painter, and my approach is still based on painting. The great thing about pastels is that they are a very instantaneous medium – you just pick one up and start blending colors right on the paper, and there are no brushes to wash at the end. I use smooth paper, which is unusual for pastels. It limits the layering that I can do and forces me to be fresh and immediate.
A+C: You have an incredible CV – lots of scholarships, grants, shows, and guest artist appearances.
JR: I consider this a career, so I think it’s important to put in lots of time in the studio and I do work every day. I have a room at home that’s a dedicated studio. There are two large windows that fill the space with natural light and look out on a garden. It’s nice to be able to be “at work” in the studio, or close the door and be at home. When I’m working I usually listen to NPR and get “in the zone.” I do go out of my way to get out of the house every day: mornings at a coffee shop, and an afternoon break at the gym. But I sort of cringe when I say I’m an artist, because I think people picture young artists as broke baristas with a lot of dreams. People often seem surprised when they realize that I do this for a living.
A+C: I understand you also teach figure drawing. Is teaching a part of being an artist for you? Or is it simply a means to support your creating art?
JR: I really enjoy teaching. My students work hard and it is rewarding to see them improve. I have to be very sharp to give them meaningful critiques and feedback. Thinking this way helps me be critical about my own work.
A+C: Do you ever get artist block? How do you solve it?
JR: This can definitely be a problem. I am always trying to figure out the best ways to stay fresh and motivated. When I start to feel stagnant, I contact a new model, look to my inspiration folders, or take a trip to visit galleries and museums. If I am stuck on a particular piece I get out of the studio and do something else for a few hours.
A+C: Finally, have you tried other art forms?
JR: I did acting in school, but always considered it a hobby. I volunteered to make the cake for my friend’s wedding so I am practicing a lot of baking and cake decorating recently.