Friday, September 7, 2012

DPW Spotlight Interview: Jo MacKenzie

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. 

To enter to win Jo MacKenzie's painting, "Tiny Table 3," go to DailyPaintworks and click on the Spotlight Giveaway button in the top-left corner of the website.

From Jo's DPW Gallery page:
I want to learn as much as I can. If I am not learning, then the day doesn't feel complete. I live in a very rural area so this web site gives me a place to "play" with others. My goal is to keep it fun and take artistic risks.
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I first started painting when I saw an exhibit by Susan Abbott about 15 years ago. I wrote her a fan letter and it turned out that she lived only about four miles away. She was willing to meet with me and answer about 70 questions (I still have the list) and she showed me how to set up a watercolor palette and get started. There is no doubt about it, she "lit the fuse." I began painting full time about six years ago, after leaving a career as a Special Educator.

Tiny Table 3
(click here to see original image)

Enter to win by clicking the "Artist Spotlight and Giveaway" button!

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career? 

In a word… many. I have had Chronic Fatigue syndrome since the early 90's and a serious cancer that required treatment for a year. I am considered disabled, but I don't feel I am when I paint. I do practice what I call exquisite self care. That means taking care of myself at a high level, but that has also seriously limited my ability to be out in the "real world." I have to be careful not to do too much or I will pay the price.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with? Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away? Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

I jokingly say watercolor is my first love… I write its name in all my notebooks and kiss it behind the school yard fence. I really do love it like a girl in love for the first time. I just want to learn as much as I can. I don't know about layering or masking fluid or many technical things - I just work on dry paper, wet-into-wet most of the time.

Egg Shell Peony
(click here to see original image)

There's such a cheery, bright, I'm willing to try painting anything! exuberance that comes across in your work. How would you describe your approach to selecting compositions and the "feel" you're going for?

I was using the phrase "just do it"way before Nike picked it up. I have limited energy and time on this earth, so I make the most of every moment I have to work at getting better at the craft of painting. I'm happiest when I am challenged and don't think I can succeed. Just being able to try at something makes me feel more alive.

Air Pogo 2
(click here to see original image)

I have often said I love the feeling of almost getting to the to the top of a mountain or reaching a goal even more than reaching the goal itself. I think there is a metaphor for chronic illness in there somewhere, but I don't want to think about it.

What does procrastination look like for you? What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

I do not have the ability to procrastinate. I've had health issues off and on for more years than I can count and never know if I will lose the ability to do what I love, so I wake up ready to work everyday. I can feel the clock ticking, that is all the motivation I need. Besides when I am deep in the process of painting I do not notice physical discomforts for a period of time, so it is an oasis of sorts.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I'm a magpie. When I see others doing something and I'm sure I'll never be able to do it, that is enough to get me thinking, "Maybe you can... why don't you try... maybe if…?" and that won't stop until I start to tackle whatever I have seen someone else do so masterfully. But mostly, I'm fascinated with how color, shape and value can make a form suddenly appear as if by magic.

Main Street
(click here to see original image)

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

My motto "Never giving upping." I don't know if this sentence will make sense, but: I can't not paint. That would be like asking a dog not to wag its tail. Not possible.

I have noticed that I am working at a stronger pace since getting high speed internet a year ago and joining DPW. The feedback and friendships have made me work more and gain better skills.

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

Those darn neutrals. I am just starting to use them mindfully.

The other big one is "Ego." How not to let my heart rise or fall if I have a good painting day. I tell myself just showing up and participating is all I am responsible for. But I do sleep better when painting goes better.

Color Kitty Face
(click here to see original image)

When painting goes badly, I put my arms up in the surrender position, walk away from the easel and often mutter, "Jo Mackenzie: maker of chocolate chip cookies and petter of dogs," and then, after a while I feel better...

What makes you happiest about your art?

Being lucky enough to do it. I sometimes place the paper against my face or put a brush against my cheek and just feel those textures like a kiss. I told you.... it's puppy love.

Thanks, Jo!

© 2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine


  1. It just doesn't get any better than this! What a joy it was to read this and enjoy your wonderful paintings, Jo.

  2. A wonderful interview of an inspiring lady with loads of talent! Love your paintings, Jo.

  3. Thank you CJ, Fay and Linda, I was so thrilled to be asked. I probably should have talked more about the actual paint part of painting but the interview sounds like me and Jennifer Marine picked some paintings that happen to be my favorites.

  4. Jo, This honor could not go to a more deserving artist. I have admired your work since my first day on DPW and I even admire it more now knowing alittle about the "real" Jo. Thank you for sharing your rich talent and inspiring me to move forward! Marcia

  5. Dear Jo, congratulations for your watercolors!!!
    Congratulations on the way you face life.
    I know on me the effect of treatment of cancer and what changes in a person's life.
    Express themselves through color is a great joy and a great motivation: as you demonstrate, the energy of creativity is endless!Rita

  6. Dear Jo, you are such a brave person. I know how hard it is to keep going when you feel something isn't working or when you just don't know if you can physically face another blank piece of paper. I admire you and respect your work. You are a true artist! Jill

  7. I feel inspired reading about you and your art. Thanks for sharing, Jo!

  8. Beautiful art, beautiful person. You are awesome!

  9. Congratulations Jo!! You Rock. That is the story in the nut shell...keep on...keeping on!! Live each day to the fullest or as I like to say....paint each day to the fullest. So happy to see that you are using your gifts to the max. It is medicine to your soul and to all of us who view it. 10,000 blessing to you my friend.

  10. Jo's work is awesome. She is a very dedicated hard worker and a real inspiration!
    Keep your paints wet Jo!!

  11. Congratulations Jo ! I love the bright happy feeling of your work and loved reading your interview. You are so right we all need to make the most of our time here and brightening someones day with art work from the heart. Way to go !

  12. Jennifer - you did another great interview here. Very sensitive and inspiring.

    Congratulations, Jo, on overcoming adversity and making art your focus and strength. We have all benefited from your encouragement and bright and lovely paintings.

    Susan Abbot is a relative of a friend of mine here in Las Cruces... Jean Abbott. She introduced me to Susan's work a few years ago. She is a fabulous artist but I am happy to know she has a generous heart too. It is typical of you that you shared the help you received from her...70 questions no less.
    Sending you the warmest wishes for continued success and continuing good health.

  13. I have felt such a warm wave of good will from this interview experience. The depth of emotion I have felt from these comments and kind wishes has been like no other experience I can recall.
    A good friend once said to me (when I felt surprised and confused about something) "What do you do when you are given a gift?
    I thought it was a trick question but it wasn't ...she said
    OPEN It!
    And this has been a wonderful gift to open indeed.

  14. I especially love the painting of the cat.

  15. Great interview and great work...Cheers to the maker of chocolate chip cookies and the petter of dogs !!

  16. A great interview! Jo, I can feel your passion through these words and through your beautiful artworks. Very inspiring!

  17. Oh my gosh. What a wonderful interview. You are an inspiration. I love your sense of humor too.

  18. I am so glad that people have enjoyed this interview with Jo! I knew from Jo's enthusiastic comments on other artist's work that I'd be in for a treat as an interviewer, but was absolutely delighted (and personally inspired) to read about her approach to life and art. It was an honor to highlight her beautiful work. Thanks, Jo!

  19. It was a really fun week. So "right back atcha".

  20. Jo, I feel so inspired by reading your interview. I think you are very funny and a wonderful story teller, and it shows in your paintings. I'm glad we could get connected with each other through Daily Paintworks. Looking forward to seeing many more of your paintings here.

  21. Ah Naomi....I have nicknamed you may "hay bale " friend. Did you know that? I still dream of that painting of hay bales. It is stuck in my memory forever. I think it helps me breathe better.

  22. Jo, your work is fabulous and so is your lovely spirit!