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Jen Dixon: Artist of the Month - December 2013

Every month, we highlight the work of a different artist or illustrator through the title banner of our monthly newsletter - Penorama. If you don't already receive Penorama, you can subscribe here.

The artist of the month for December is Jen Dixon, an American Brit based on the rugged North Cornwall coast.

Jen specialises in abstract art and the banner she has designed for us reflects this, which you can see below: Penorama Banner - Jen Dixon
Here's how it appeared in our newsletter:

Penorama Banner vol. 11
As it was our Christmas issue, Jen very kindly offered to give away her artwork! This one-of-a-kind abstract painting was done on A4 paper using Staedtler 308 Pigment Liners and acrylic paint. Jen mounted the painting, so all it needed was an A4 frame. To enter the competition, we asked you to leave a comment at the end of this post highlighting the pens and pencils you love to use when doodling, drawing, or outlining a painting. We randomly selected a winner from all the entries, and Paul is now the owner of this unique piece of artwork. 

Cult Pens: Tell us a bit more about yourself.
I am an abstract and figurative painter, illustrator, writer, and life drawing teacher. Most of my village know me by the knots in my hair and the paint-splattered jeans I wear. I love yoga, Mexican food, and am an American Brit living on the rugged North Cornwall coast.

Cult Pens: How would you describe your work?
My work is tremendously varied; I paint in acrylics, oils, gouache, inks, and I draw with anything that will make a mark. I have more ideas than I can ever hope to put onto paper or canvas, but that doesn’t stop me trying. Most of my work is abstract and happens on the easel without planning, but many are emotion or situation-based.

Cult Pens: What got you into drawing/illustration?
I’ve done it since I could hold a crayon. My cousin and I used to make picture books when we were young; we were inspired by the ones we read ourselves. My mother encouraged me from the start with a wall painted with blackboard paint.

Cult Pens: If you weren't a illustrator, what was the back-up plan?
I was educated as an industrial designer, so I’ve dabbled in everything from product design and prototyping to special effects for film. From that I learned and continue to use many design principles. I might have ended up a yoga instructor, but being an artist is the one constant that has stuck with me all my life.

Cult Pens: What are your favourite subjects/topics to draw?
Abstracts, animals, adult humans. I’m not much for creating landscapes or still life works.

Cult Pens: Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from?
I have a very active and often difficult brain. In recent years I’ve made peace with it more and my work has gone from strength to strength. I’m learning not to over-think, just do. Over-thinking is my Kryptonite.

Cult Pens: What are you currently working on?
Currently on the desk is a children’s book I’m illustrating, I’m writing a book on drawing principles, and I’ve got several easels with abstract oil paintings in various stages of completion.

Cult Pens: How long does it normally take to complete a project?
Jen: Depending on where I am in my mood, I am regularly bouncing between up to a dozen paintings simultaneously as well as a few illustrations. I do a lot of paint-dominant, mixed media work, and so often things come out of my ‘wet studio’ where the painting happens and end up being finished with pens, ink, or pastels on the drawing desk in my ‘dry studio’. It can take hours, months, or anything in between to finish a work- each project naturally has its own stop point.

Cult Pens: What are your top 5 Pens?
Jen: My favourite capped pens are the Staedtler 308 Pigment Liners. Such good line quality and although I still use a lot of Mitsubishi Uni PIN fine line pens, I find myself reaching for the Staedtlers more and more. I also love dip ink pens; there’s a lovely tactile involvement with them. My current favourite is from Kuretake (Cartoonist Manga range), and I’d love to see Cult Pens stock them. As far as pencils go, I’m a sucker for pretty much the whole Lyra range, and Stabilo make these amazing chinagraph-like pencils that are great with my mixed media work. Oh! And I can’t leave out the amazing Woody. I was given an e+m clutch pencil - the Workbox ash - and it’s so beautiful; a great sketch pencil. Another clutch I use a lot is the Cretacolor. I have an Ecologic wooden leadholder and it is a perfect fit and weight in my hand.

Cult Pens: What pen or pencil couldn't you live without?
Jen: I simply couldn’t narrow that down. I’d adapt, because the important thing is the creating and the message, not the tools.

Cult Pens: Black & white or full colour?
Jen: Colour, mostly, but I love doing simple pen and ink illustrations. The lack of chaos between black and white is a great change. Even if the drawing is complicated, dealing with only black ink can feel very restful.

Cult Pens: Do you know when a work is finished or are you constantly tweaking?
Jen: In recent years, I've learned to come to what I call "a place of peace" in a work. There are pieces I love, but there are also those where I just need to find contentment and move on. Many of my paintings and drawings have a period of self-perceived awfulness where I think they're unsalvageable, but I've taught myself to push through and it usually works out for the best. I also have a pile of work set aside that is back-burnered; I call it something you probably can't say publicly. Even those get salvaged when the time is right, and that place of peace reached.

Cult Pens: What work are you most proud of?
Jen: I have several works that still surprise me that I created them; the vision just worked and I surpassed my own expectations. One of my paintings - "The Weight of It" - fits that for me. I painted it while struggling with my bipolar depression and the combo of concept and mood nailed it. The "Red Squirrel" drawing is a funny one; I can sometimes get overly stiff with my line work and so I frequently challenge myself to draw in a way that makes me uncomfortable to loosen up. The squirrel was drawn completely left-handed, which is my non-dominant hand. I recommend this technique of using a different hand or tool to anyone struggling with a rut or lifeless drawings. The Weight of It - Oil on 36Red Squirrel - Pastel on 420 x 29mm heavy paper - Jen Dixon  

Cult Pens: What tips do you have for aspiring artists/illustrators?
Jen: You need to challenge yourself constantly. Never stop exploring the possibilities of a subject. Draw the same thing in as many styles as you can no matter how painful you might find it, and I promise you'll be a better artist for it. Also, pencils don't come with instruction manuals, so exploit them in every way you can. Same with pens, pastels, and everything else that makes a mark. Be unafraid.

For more of Jen's work, visit her website. Same Mould, Similar Results - Diptych -Pencil, charcoal, acrylic and gouache on A3 Bristol paper - Jen Dixon
Jen Dixon

If you'd like to have your artwork featured in our newsletter, drop a note to marketing@cultpens.com with a link to some examples of your work.

25 November 2013


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