This post is part of a larger series called When Art Meets Chickens, profiles of artists, crafters and writers who are inspired by chickens. I met up with Jen, a fellow Canadian, in an online chicken group and asked if she’d like to be part of this series. Since we live on opposite coasts with more than 6000 kms/3700 miles between us, I sent her some questions as starting points to talk about her history and practice.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Jen Yang, a full-time self-employed artist who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada. I also run a 2½ acre hobby farm and an art and craft gift shop.
What’s your background?
I’m originally from China and moved to Canada in 2009. I got a BFA degree from Nova Scotia College Art and Design University in 2016 and started to run my art business Jens Art NS after I graduated. I have worked on graphic design, mural painting, and art commissions for many years and have attended group and solo exhibition gallery shows in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
How has your practice changed over time?
In the beginning, I thought art is majestic. I always try to work on big topics, such as representative cityscape and conflict between chaos and peace. Since moving from the city to the valley because of the Covid shutdown, my lifestyle has changed. I started to focus on nature and fell in love with raising chickens. I enjoy my time with them and started to paint them. Art should be about the nature of life. Even daily life can still result in a meaningful painting.
What art do you most identify with?
My favorite material is acrylic. I also do charcoal drawing, watercolor, wood burning, digitals, and oil, mainly landscapes and animals. My painting is post-impressionism style that uses bright colors to represent the passions of life. I believe art has no limitations on materials. Every piece can always find its best way to represent.
What work do you most enjoying doing?
I like to paint my backyard chickens using acrylics. I raise many special chicken breeds. Their patterns and their interesting genes, the life cycle is the power of nature. I have to paint them.
Everyone understands art in different ways and sees it from different angles, therefore, it tells different stories. I also like to use colour to express what I see. It more clearly shows people nature’s beautiful creations.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
I got an order from a mother to paint a portrait of her daughter who had passed away a few years ago. She was moved to tears when she saw my painting and I suddenly realized how powerful art is.
What is your dream project?
To keep painting chickens, not an art commission, just my flock. Combining farming with art is the ideal project.
What Other Creative Endeavours Are You Involved With?
I’m working on a book about the importance of human consciousness, how to be yourself and how to live in this chaotic world without outside distractions. The knowledge we receive can’t measure a person’s spiritual world (not religion). The main focus of life should be independent thinking, curiosity, exploration, to know what you are doing and what you want to do so you won’t be controlled by any power or brainwashed by social media. You always have critical thinking. Human consciousness is the nature of human existence and anything else should serve this purpose, not lead it.
What is your earliest memory of chickens?
I raised chicks when I was 4 years old in China, which was the best memory of my childhood.
What poultry do you have now?
I moved to a small community (pop. 1500) in April 2020 and started my Jurassic Farm N.S. I collected 36 chicken breeds from all over Canada, built my own flocks, and sell purebred chicks and fertilized eggs. I also have peafowl, geese, ducks, and turkeys.
How have they influenced your work?
You must have full attention on something once you fall in love with it. Chickens bring energy to my paintings. They taught me about colour changes when I saw them in sunlight and helped me to understand an object before I paint it. Their fluffy butts give me the passion to keep working on my art. They let me find the true me.
It’s a lot of work being a farmer and an artist, but I really enjoy it. My gift shop will open this spring where I’ll sell my artwork, wood burning coasters, art prints, and cards, as well as some local and international crafter’s work. I’ll be offering farm tours and workshops on raising chickens and introduce my art, which will be a lot of fun.
Thanks to Jen for sharing her story and artwork, used with permission. You can check out more at her Etsy shop or Facebook page.
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