Artist Q&A – Norman Jensen


Norman Jensen



Q: How would you describe the kind of art that you do?

A: I would say that it combines realistic elements from animal life and landscape and then I put them together in ways that they don’t normally go together, which is basically a surrealistic technique. You put one thing next to another, but they have nothing do with each other, like a pair of scissors and a rhinoceros head. I am strongly influenced by really ancient paintings and French cave art. I very often will find something in a picture that I had no plan to do, but because of the way the brush strokes work it suggests something to me. Then it just gradually builds until there’s enough.


Q: Where did your passion for art come from?

A: When you’re small, you do your drawings in school and at home, and you get praise for it — “That’s good Norman! That’s really nice!” You don’t really understand the depths that making paintings can go to, yet. You just do it because you’re good at it. You’re sort of like a big fish in a small pond in kindergarten, first grade and even elementary school. Later if you’re pretty good at it, you keep on doing it. Actually, I was a biology major in school, but I just couldn’t deal with chemistry. So I went back to school one day to see the chairman of the art department, and I told him I wanted be an art major.


Q: How does the community of Gainesville contribute to your role as an artist?

A: There are other artists here and that’s important. They’re like souls, you know, they are people interested in the same kinds of things. Because of that, they are easy to talk to and easy to be with. They show interest in your work and you show interest in theirs. Things come together a little more easily than if you were in a little town with no other artist at all.


Q: How do you feel when you’re engaging in your art? What is going through your head?

A: I think the major thing is the excitement of exploration and new things being revealed as you work. The hardest part of a painting is when the canvas is blank, with nothing there. You have to start something, do something. Sometimes I just cover the whole thing with paint, and it begins to speak — the brush strokes begin to stand out and do things on their own.


Q: Is there a specific piece that means more to you than others?

A: Things mean a lot to you for different reasons. Sometimes it’s just the way the color harmonies have worked and the way the piece falls together. It’s just full of nice, happy accidents. Sometimes you get a lot of attention for a particular thing, and a lot of different people will say they admire it. Some work I just wouldn’t sell anymore. I keep them. Even now when I look at some of those, I say boy, that’s really good.