Art from above |

Art from above

by Jonni Hill

In the world of Minden artist, J. Renee Ekleberry, angels surround her every day, in her thoughts and in her art she shares her vision of the angels she feels around her.

“I was taking care of a good friend who had ovarian cancer,” Ekleberry said. “One day she looked at me and said, ‘You should be painting angels.’ This was kinda funny because she was a Buddhist.”

But Ekleberry started painting angels.

“As I start throwing paint on the paper they just seem to happen,” she said.

As Ekleberry’s unintentional angels appear to her on the paper, she said they give her the direction her work should follow.

In a progression of ideas, Ekleberry decided she wanted to write a book and use her angels as the illustrations. Each one would represent a word, 52 of them in all, one for each week of the year – a spirit guide, more or less, a workbook of self-discovery. She decided to title the book “Seeds,” a book to germinate the thoughts already there, to grow in the readers mind. She sat down and made a list of 52 words, like Creativity, Inspiration, Joy, Understanding, Relationships, Truth, Trust and Forgiveness. She then cut her list up and threw all the words into a container. Leaving her work to a higher source, as she finishes each illustration, she pulls a slip of paper from the container to see what her angel painting is going to represent.

“When I finished the first painting I pulled the first slip of paper out of the container,” she said. “The word was ‘forgiveness.’ That week two old friends, who I hadn’t heard from in a long time, called me and just wanted to talk about some of the stupid stuff we had done together. It was almost spooky,” she said.

Ekleberry is four years into her project with more than 30 illustrations completed. It has been a labor of love for her with most of the time spent on the illustrations, and now, she has almost a year into the writing that will accompany her works of art.

“Each chapter is titled with the word chosen, followed by the definition of that word,” she said.

“This will all be accompanied with a few words of inspiration from the author. The rest is left up to the reader to search inside themselves and find what thoughts the definitions bring to their own minds. This is not going to be a ‘tell you how to do it’ book…it will be ‘just something to plant the seed and let it grow’ kind of book.”

Ekleberry came to Carson Valley 4 1/2 years ago with a long list of credits to her career. She started out in graphic design, a talent her father encouraged by giving her paints to keep her out of his “magical electronic workshop while he invented wild things – radio-radar-remote controlled stuff,” the artist said.

“So I headed off in a totally different creative direction. My five sisters are still totally baffled by my art – I am as well – and want me to only paint ‘nice’ things. Ain’t gonna happen. Get over it, I did,” she said.

“I paint angels, saints and nudes,” Ekleberry said. “The nudes sell.

“I paint in watercolor and oils, create collages, hand-pull etchings, prints and monoprints on canvas and paper, sketch and draw in pencil, charcoal, pen and ink and computer. After many years of producing artworks, I am still searching for a style, but not too hard,” she said. “I simply learn what I can in aggressive, self-directed study, create art, sell it or give it away, organize individual and group/thematic art shows and encourage artists to create from the heart.”

A signature Ekleberry applies to a lot of her paintings is the gold leaf she incorporates into her work. She sizes selected areas of the paper and ‘floats gold leaf’ brushing it gently into position with a feather or soft brush.

A word of caution from Ekleberry, “Artists should brush the excess off outdoors unless you want a gold-speckled house like I have.”

Ekleberry started out designing ads for the Yellow Pages in Florida.

“The best one was in some little town where the funeral director/plumber was married to a hair stylist. That was a very challenging ad to produce,” she said.

Ekleberry spent 20 years managing graphics departments at Atari Computer, ASK Computers, Apple Computer and Computer Curriculum Corporation producing manuals and packaging. In 1990 she exited the “techno-silicon” highway to pursue fine art, writing and finding a new life, first in Placerville, Calif., where she opened an art studio she called Art Gallery 7 in nearby Diamond Springs. In 2001 she moved to Carson Valley to be close to her family, a new grandson and become very active in the Valley art community.

Ekleberry will be giving away a framed, signed giclee print of her watercolor and ink painting “Spirit of Mercy” at the end of December as a free raffle prize. Enter the drawing by visiting Minden Fast Frame Art Gallery anytime during December and ask for a free raffle ticket. Additional tickets are available for $1 and will benefit Carson Valley Children’s Center. For more information, call the gallery at 783-9490.