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Artist Interview: Jhina Alvarado

I want to introduce you to Jhina Alvarado because I think you’ll be inspired by her. She has found a way to breathe new life into old memories all while navigating and succeeding in the art world. I met Jhina last year at the 5th International Encaustic Conference at a lecture she gave about “Taking the Leap.” At the time she had only been pursuing art full-time for a year and she was experiencing great success. I followed up with her for this interview a year later and she’s still charging ahead. She just made San Francisco’s Top 20 Artists list for 2012 and has her work in 8 galleries nationwide.

The artwork I’ve included with Jhina’s interview is from her series, “Forgotten Memories.” Here is her statement about the work:

In my series, titled “Forgotten Memories”, I use oil paints to depict the untold stories from long forgotten photographs. I paint these images on wood panels using a considerable amount of white space with the images cropped out of their environment, creating a sense of unbalance and emphasizing the need to focus on the individual’s memory, rather than the whole picture. I blend the white areas from the images with the negative spaces of the panel to create tension and abstraction of each delineated line. Since many memories are shared, the identity of the person within each memory is inconsequential. The eyes are blocked out so that the viewer can take part of each memory as if it were their own. The painting is then covered in encaustic wax to add an antique photo look and dream-like feel to each piece. Because many memories are unclear and somewhat “fuzzy”, the wax also obscures the images as if the viewer, themselves, were trying to recall a past event, yet could not remember all of the details.


Jhina Alvarado, "Every Dream is a Wish” 24” x 24”, 2011

“Every Dream is a Wish”
24” x 24”,2011
encaustic and oil on panel

Have you always made art? Do you remember when or where you first found the artist in yourself?
My first memory of “being an artist” was in kindergarten. We were supposed to make our favorite dinosaurs out of clay and I had made a stegosaurus. My teacher was so impressed with my sculpture that he had my parents come in to see it. It was the first time anyone had ever told me that I had talent. After that I was always known as the girl who could draw but I was never a doodler or made art on my own. If someone asked me to draw something, I did. I knew I had some artistic talent but really didn’t have much drive to really make any art until I was in my early twenties. At that time I was dating a guy, who, for some reason, I decided to tell him I was an artist. He was impressed and wanted to see some of my work. Since I really wasn’t doing much with art at the time, I didn’t have anything to show him, but I liked the guy so for the next couple of days I painted like a mad woman, getting together a body of work. I guess once I started, it was hard to stop.

Jhina Alvarado, “Smile for the Camera” 10” x 10”, 2011 encaustic and oil on panel

“Smile for the Camera”
10” x 10”, 2011
encaustic and oil on panel

In the “Forgotten Memory” series you use old photographs as inspiration. How did this come about?
A friend of mine had bought a grocery bag of old photographs at a flea market for $5 and had given it to me for inspiration, hoping that I would make some art out of them. They pretty much sat in my closet for years. Then one day I decided I was bored with what I was painting (my Nature series at the time). I pulled out the bag of photos and decided to paint the people in these photos since 1.) I had never painted people before and thought it would be a good challenge, and 2.) it made me sad to think that these people’s memories were sold as if they didn’t matter anymore. They were such great photos, I wanted to bring them back to life.

Jhina Alvarado, "Tide Pool ” 24” x 30”, 2011 encaustic and oil on panel

“Tide Pool ”
24” x 30”, 2011
encaustic and oil on panel

In your “Forgotten Memory” paintings, do you paint the subjects eyes or simply paint the black bar?
Every person I paint has their eyes painted underneath the black bars. In fact, the eyes are my favorite part and the first thing that I paint. People often ask why I cover the eyes if they are my favorite part to paint, but it’s a good way for me not rely on the eyes in order to convey a feeling. The viewer should be able to read what is going on through the rest of the features and body language, even without something as important as the eyes.

You use encaustic to successfully give your paintings an antique look. How did you discover encaustic?
I took a long break from painting and needed something new to inspire me. I randomly decided to take an encaustic class through the local community college with Hylla Evans, not really knowing anything about encaustics. After the first day of class, Hylla came up to me and told me she could tell she was going to like everything I made. She thought I had a natural talent for encaustics and really encouraged me to continue working with it and enter my work in shows.

Jhina Alvarado, “And the Winner is...” 36” x 36”, 2012 encaustic and oil on panel

“And the Winner is…”
36” x 36”, 2012
encaustic and oil on panel

Are their any particular influences for your work (other artists, music, literature, etc)?
The artists that I like and get inspiration from looks nothing like what I do. In fact, most of my favorite artists, like Squeek Carnwath, are more “looser” and expressive than myself. I used to try and paint that way, but it never really felt natural I guess. I do love to look at it though. I always feel inspired to get in my studio and paint whenever I see work I love.

Jhina Alvarado, "JoJo the Wonder Dog” 30” x 30”, 2012 encaustic and oil on panel

JoJo the Wonder Dog”
30” x 30”, 2012
encaustic and oil on panel

What are you thinking about now? (What’s next?)
I am currently trying to work on a new series that will be a spin-off of the “Forgotten Memories” series. It’s really hard to try something new when you’re known for a specific style. This new body of work has a lot of the elements of my current work, but I am hoping to take to the next level. Like I said, it hasn’t been easy so it will be interesting to see what I come up with. I am hoping to have some pieces ready for my solo show at Arthaus Gallery in October. My husband and I have also just bought a house in San Francisco where I will have a home studio that is at least three times the size of my current studio. Designing a new, functional studio space will be fun. I’ll also be able to work larger since I’ll have a ton more space.

Jhina Alvarado Website
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