Jennifer Steele : Life in Wine Country

Renowned artist Jennifer Steele chats with us ahead of her 2021 Tour Launch and sheds light on her journey, her artistic process and the work she will be exhibiting this year.

Jennifer Steele is a Canadian artist who has exhibited her works at several galleries in both RL and SL. Having been an artist almost all her life, she has studied art all over the world, from the California coast to various locations in Europe. Initially, she was a realist painter, but after years of honing her own style, she realized that capturing the emotion of the scene, or the experience of it, was a much more satisfying journey. She paints in both oil and acrylic, but prefers to combine the two, oil over acrylic.

Apart from being an artist of great prestige and reputation, she is also a partner in several successful stores in Second Life including Chef’s House and Green Society.

Jennifer will be launching her 2021 Tour on Thursday, April 1st with an amazing party at the Dragons Nightfall Gallery, Heart of Dragons. She will be showcasing the entire collection of her work which will be on tour this year. “Life in Wine Country” is the theme Jennifer has chosen for her tour this year. 50% of proceeds from all art sales at her tour launch will be going towards charity as part of Relay for Life, the flagship event of the American Cancer Society.

The tour will be housed at Heart of Dragons for the entire month of April. If you wish to check out the touring work before hosting it in your gallery, this is a great opportunity to do just that.

The Launch of Jennifer Steele’s 2021 Tour will be at Dragons Nightfall Gallery, Heart of Dragons

Even though I wanted to talk to Jennifer before her launch on Thursday, I messaged her with some hesitation as I thought she would most certainly be busy getting things ready. But she managed to take the time out and was most delighted to talk to me. We ended up having a really nice chat about art, her journey and many more things.

You have chosen a very interesting theme – “Life in Wine Country” – for this year’s tour. What prompted you to make this choice?

I live in the most beautiful part of Ontario – the Niagara region. When people think of Niagara, they exclusively think about the Horseshoe Falls and all the other tourist attractions. But Niagara is also Ontario’s Wine Country. So, in this particular tour, I decided to focus on my hiking journeys, a bit about the wineries and a few key elements of what it means to live in Niagara. I have returned to mostly expressionist work and away from the hard abstracts I toured last year.

Having exhibited your works in both RL and SL, can you tell us how your experience as an artist is different in both spaces?

Well, let’s see. In RL, I have to do very little with the sales end of the work and almost zero to do with the marketing, invitations, arranging entertainment and organization other than choosing how to display my work. It’s more about just being present and available to the patrons. The stress of the rest of it is what art agents and gallery reps get paid for. In RL, my work hangs in galleries, but the work I tour with is a weekend event, unlike SL where it is up for an entire month.

What advantage do you think SL offers as compared to RL when you are exhibiting your work?

One major downside in RL is that when I sell a piece, it goes with the buyer and I rarely, if ever, get to see it again. In SL, I am able to sell prints of my work to whoever wants one. This way the work is seen by a larger number of people and travels more.

A sneak peek into Jennifer Steele’s 2021 Tour Launch Party, which will feature live music by accomplished singers Amberle Janniah and Mavenn

What challenges did you face when you first started exhibiting in SL?

I think one of the biggest challenges I faced was with marketing. In RL we artists are pretty bad at it and in SL, our success counts on being able to do it. There are no art agents in SL and I really wish there were! It would make my work load easier. Without agents, contacting gallery owners, building relationships with them, marketing, managing bloggers, scheduling exhibitions – it all falls on me. Sometimes I even have to do decorate the exhibition space to suit the theme.

How did you get past this hurdle to where you are today?

For me, being a part of SLEA and the Burn2 experience has been life-changing. It brought a wonderful friend into my life – Lee Olsen, who is also the owner and curator for Lundy Art gallery and Museum. Lee put my work out there and in front of the right people by making me a permanent artist in residence. I can never thank him enough. The Burn2 experience also brought Saffia Widdershins into my life who gave me my first exposure on Designing Worlds in 2015 by showing my work from Burn2 Carnival. I think, if you remain professional and keep your goals in front of you, it all starts to come together.

I notice that you have many landscapes as a part of your tour this year. What is your artistic process like while painting something like that?

My favorite way to paint is probably out in the middle of nature with my French travel easel up and accompanied by my little picnic basket, consisting of wine and cheese and some other assorted goodies. I usually prefer to stay in the moment until at least a draft painting is done. Then I bring that work back to the studio with me and I’ll hang it for months sometimes to decide if I need to redo it, if I need to add more, or it’s fine as it is.

Which work in your 2021 tour are you most proud of? And which of them was the most challenging one for you?

Oh Frank, that’s like asking me to pick my favorite child! Definitely, in this show, I’m really excited with the way “Niagara River” turned out. The one that gave me the most grief was “Frozen Niagara” – it took me five attempts to get that painting the way I wanted it over the course of year and I still look at it, tempted to redo it one more time.

Niagara River” and “Frozen Niagara” at Jennifer Steele’s 2021 Tour Launch

What effect has the Covid-19 pandemic had on your art or the artistic process you follow?

I really miss the collaboration meetings with my fellow Niagara Artists. We do meet on Skype and Zoom now and then but it’s just not the same! It’s almost like we collectively went into our shells and forgot how much we inspire each other. Many trails and the areas I get good inspiration from got shut down, and I had to learn to paint more from photos than my own draft paintings. So, yes, the work has slowed down a bit as we all get adjusted to the new norms. It’s also really hard to be affected by all of it and not let it translate to making your work dark.

How many works of art do you generally manage to do every year?

The ability to create mainly depends on motivation, inspiration, the time I have, finances and in these days, the ability to get supplies. I think, if you consider all of it – paintings, sketches, napkins, tattoos, murals and sculptures – I would say probably 30 to 40 works in a year. But, as I said, it depends. Back in 2015, I made 83 works in a single year. It just flowed out of me!

You are also, I would say, a very generous artist. In fact, we met for the first time at an event for charity where you were auctioning one of your works. I hear that even from your tour launch, 50% of proceeds from all art sales will be going to the American Cancer Society?

That’s right. I think, deep down, we all hope that our art changes lives of others for the better; that in some way our work touches people; that our message is getting through. I think by auctioning my work, I get a greater sense of making a difference. It’s an incredible feeling knowing that a person loved your art so much that they bid generously and that the donation is going to benefit so many people. I will never refuse a legitimate charity. I’ve participated in Rock Your Rack, One Billion Rising, Relay for life, Toys for Tots, and Feed a Smile – and that’s just in the past five months!

Every journey has its ups and downs and being an artist in both worlds, I’m sure you have had your fair share. How have you managed to keep a positive attitude during tough times?

I have one motto – “Own Your Journey”. Stop being a victim, stop waiting on others to make you a success, stop relying on others for your happiness or any validation of what you do. You only have one life – OWN IT! Keep moving forward, snicker at those who gossip or try to put you down. Believe in yourself and own your dreams so hard and true that nobody can take them away from you.

And surround yourself with good people! I can’t tell you how much it means to me that Mavenn and Seli Blackmore are going to be singing at the launch of my tour this year. These two women inspire me daily and I’m very proud to call them friends.

Be there at 1 pm SLT on Thursday, April 1st at Dragons Nightfall Gallery, Heart of Dragons for Jennifer Steele’s 2021 Tour Launch Party featuring Live Music by Amberle Janniah and Mavenn!

Jennifer’s art will be on display at the Heart of Dragons from April 1st to April 30th. Click HERE to visit her 2021 Tour inworld.