Capturing Fall Colors

Inspired by the beautiful fall colors and unseasonably warm weather, I made an effort to paint outside a few times this year. On my third outing I convinced Darrell Roberts, a fellow Cornelia Artist, to join me and we both set-up under the CTA’s brown line for a sunny afternoon of plein air day of painting:

Primed for en plein air

I’ve got 8 smallish canvases all gessoed up, and I’m ready to do some en plein air painting for the first time years. (Sad to admit) The weather in Chicago is absolutely perfect right now and I need to take advantage. I’m thinking about heading down to Millennium park, maybe paint the Bean?!


Artist Statement, circa 2011- long version

Jonathan Cernak – Artist Statement

The power of illumination fascinates me. Conveying that energy through color, line, shape and form inspires my art.  My paintings focus on the mystical quality of light and how it transforms the interpretation of the canvas or plays tricks on the eye of the beholder – or both. While I investigate a range of materials, processes, and styles, my diverse subject matter is unified by the common theme of light captured with color. My aim is to collapse the distance between artist and viewer.

The variety in my portfolio stems from an inquisitive and curious mind’s eye. Painting is my passion, yet I also love examining artistic ideas through various means of contemporary technology. Working across disciplines stimulates my brain and liberates my artistic vision. I relish the freedom to paint representational one day, abstract the next, or digitally manipulate pixels in between.

My figurative paintings are concerned with human experience, delving into psychological narratives rather than an explicit political commentary. I envision unique ways to capture humanity on canvas based on observations from my immediate surroundings and encounters. This work presents an array of external experiences, ranging from comfortable intimacy to uncomfortable closeness to banal, yet basic beauty. The viewer identifies with, or is alienated by, these direct expressions of human emotions. In so doing, the viewer engages the painting and applies diverse and divergent perspectives on life and living.

The premise for the Hot Night series of paintings originated from nude self-portraits using long exposure and dramatic lighting. Notions of intimacy and euphoria are juxtaposed with voyeuristic and erotic overtones.  The impact and perception of nudity strikes me as an individualized effect on the observer.  By altering an image’s representation, the perspective of the observer consequently changes as well.  As an exploration into how visual distortion alters the original context of an image, I disproportionately stretched images from the Hot Night series and created anamorphic paintings in the process.  I realized the elongated canvas created a profound psychological impact on me – both personally and artistically.  Aesthetically, the absence of a normal spatial language invites perspective shifts by viewing the paintings from different angles.

While my figures are starting to twist the rules of naturalistic representation, my abstractions are distorting spatial and visual coherence. This work presents an array of internal experiences projected onto external, physical surfaces. Approaching a blank canvas without a preconceived narrative, I explore my subconscious by experimenting with materials, texture, and above all, color. The compositions sometimes evolve into surrealistic landscapes with natural or architectural forms, or conversely, lack an atmospheric structure. Fresh concepts spawn from this spontaneous process. Increasingly, I have fine-tuned and slowed my abstract methods, discovering new avenues of expression as a result.

Mapping out a cohesive finished work, I systematically prepare a canvas before starting the actual painting. For instance, in the Isolated Echos series of paintings, applying a smooth and patterned ground of phosphorescent paint over black creates a complex, almost smoky, matte surface. Building layers of color and lines on this surface, the glossiness of the oil paint contrasts sharply with the dry, grayish ground, infusing the composition with a fluctuating and suspended quality. When light disappears, the yellowish-green glow from the phosphorescent paint cuts the darkness and alters the visual and spatial perception.

The chromatic vibrancy in my work is emotive. Vivid interplay between light and color transfers energy from myself to my art, and ultimately the observer. The ability to transform the perceptions of viewers remains a key component of my artistic ambition.

Thanksgiving in the Bay

My brother has been trying to get me out to the Bay Area for Thanksgiving for years. He usually celebrates with some family friends of ours, but my ‘chef’ duties usually keep me close to home to cook for mom/dad, aunt/uncle & cousins. Fortunately, this year I was able to shed that duty and visit my brother, sister-in-law, and newborn niece Ava! Honestly, this was the first Thanksgiving in probably 10 years that I was not in charge of cooking the feast…and it was SO relaxing to just kick back, make a single dish (or two (note to self: blog about the Dungeness crab cakes we made)), watch some football, and not worry about drying out the turkey. We also did a brilliant thing by inviting a homeless man in for dinner…yet that’s another story.

Hands down, the most exciting thing about this trip was not the sunny 60+ degree weather, delicious food, or wine tasting in Sonoma…it was meeting my niece Ava for the first time. I definitely had a few restless nights in my brother’s apartment when she woke up screaming, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. It certainly put a fresh perspective on my life, and I plan on being the best uncle ever! I noticed physical changes in her face from the time I arrived until the night I left. She also started to recognize me more towards the end of my trip because I could make her smile or laugh on queue!