Painting from a light-filled studio in the Waitakere ranges outside of Auckland, Jen Sievers is a New Zealand artist on a self-described mission to ‘paint joy.’ “I infuse my work with the joy I feel while I paint it and aim to make that viscerally experienced by the people who hang my work in their homes. If you’re not smiling when you’re looking at them, they’re not doing their job,” says Jen.
After growing up in South Africa, Jen had a stint doing a fine art degree before attending a specialist school for advertising and design where she completed a three-year degree. This led to a 15-year career as a graphic designer and art director which formed the basis for her eventual art practice. “I honestly believe that my work as a designer was my best training – it taught me colour and composition, and I learned about the creative process,” she says.
Jen works with acrylics on canvas, thinning them out to create vibrant watercolours, and applying more impasto style layers on top. Her eye-catching style is largely abstract, and is often executed on large canvasses.
But it was after becoming a mother that Jen was eventually lured back to the easel and brush. While her toddler was napping, she grabbed a paintbrush, her child’s craft paints and a piece of ply from the garage. “By the end of that two-hour session, I knew I’d found my purpose was to paint,” says Jen who also explains that a breast cancer diagnosis in 2019 really cemented her decision to give up a full-time graphic design career for a painting one.
“Luckily, it was curable with minor surgery and radiotherapy, but my diagnosis offered me an unexpected gift. It gave me perspective and ‘permission’ to finally quit my day job to become a full-time artist,” says Jen who threw herself into the practice spending evenings and weekends experimenting with colour and painting everything from abstracts to portraits, landscapes and anything else she could imagine.
And while Jen has made a name for herself in New Zealand, her career has taken off in Australia since becoming a Greenhouse Interiors stablemate in 2018 – her use of colour making her a perfect fit for the brand. “My colours are contemporary and playful, and often have a peaceful, calming feel to them. I love using bold sweeping lines and plenty of textures and layers,” says Jen who has branched out recently and released a series of works of house plants.
“I’m surrounded by native bush in my home studio, and the studio itself is filled with house plants. I love thinking of each of them as having their own personality and distinct vibe, so I captured this idea in my work. The result is a fresh, colourful ode to the humble house plant all wrapped up in my signature feeling – joy.”
Photography: Samantha Donaldson