22 Jun All about Jen Craun’s artwork!
For our 2021-2022 Season, Les Délices commissioned Cleveland-based artist Jen Craun to design silkscreen monoprints that captured each of our Concert Series programs and the season’s overarching theme: Until Sky Above.
We spoke to Jen about her art, the allure of pandemic baking, and what she loves most about Cleveland. Read on to learn more about Jen and view Les Délices’ full 2021-22 season, accompanied by Jen’s beautiful artwork here.
Could you describe your artistic process and the medium you work in?
JC: In creating the imagery for this suite of prints, I first began with research and listening. I love making connections between the various strands of information that I gather when I am first beginning a body of work. This image ideation process is where the magic lives for me in creating work; the possibilities are endless! The process is also unsurprisingly similar to the consulting work that I do with arts organizations and coaching teaching artists where I help them translate their various art forms and processes into successful teaching strategies; it’s where the magic lives and I love the energy of making connections!
The suite of prints that I created for the LD commission are silkscreen monoprints. Using watercolor, I paint individual shapes of color in geometric patterns, and often tessellating or nesting forms, to create vibrant color compositions on open screens. I print these images using a clear screen printing base, and it pushes and pulls the color through the screen and onto the paper. The serendipitous blending of color is one of the aspects I love most about this process. Each painted screen yields one print, hence the mono in mono print! Sometimes I pull a second print, which is referred to as a ghost, as it often lightens and/or distorts the original image. Due to the nature of this print process, each print is a unique original.
What was the back-and-forth like as you designed these images for specific Les Délices concerts?
JC: The project started off with a great overview discussion of the season, and highlighted aspects of each show. From there, I created a few mock up proof prints for a handful of the shows extending the visual aesthetic of my Stretched series of prints. We had another virtual meeting and design discussion for the rest of the season. Debra provided a plethora of links for me to listen to various pieces that supported the individual shows. This listening trip proved immensely insightful for me in developing the rest of the suite. All of our meetings were virtual, and sometimes lengthy email exchanges — thanks, pandemic! I would have loved a working studio visit to better exchange ideas and understand the aspects of my process that are difficult to articulate, or understand without seeing firsthand. That said, I absolutely loved the positive energy and insights that both Laura and Debra brought to our discussions, and the translation process that I went through to create visual works to partner with the sounds and themes of the individual shows.
I noticed from your Instagram that you’re also a very talented baker (a passion you share with LD Artistic Director Debra Nagy) What draws you to baking?
JC: Baking is a rewarding act of balancing control and creativity. I love that there are rules and recipes that provide a scaffold for infinite combinations of ingredient and flavor. I’m crazy for celebrations, and am always on the lookout for a reason to bake and bring people together. I tend to be a bit of an over-doer, so I also love to partner extravagant baked goods with ordinary occasions. I find that baking is a great escape as well, and I confess that I definitely baked far too many fine quarantine cakes for my family as we coped with an incredibly isolating year. Best of all, baking provides a beautifully delicious treat — and the rule in our family has long been that leftover cakes and pies make the very best breakfast the following day.
Do you listen to music as you work? What’s on your playlist?
I think the easiest way to answer this question is that my studio work has several very different phases and aspects, and that I partner any sound to accompany those differences very specifically. In ideation, I absolutely need a quiet space to hear my thoughts. I am testing and experimenting, and I need to hear myself contemplate and think out the various solutions. One of the most alluring aspects of printmaking, to me, is the amount of time that it requires in acts of repetitive process. It’s this phase of work that I crave conversation. Most likely, that’s coming from NPR, or podcasts. I really enjoy how serendipitous snippets of conversation will connect to the work I am creating, or lead to new ideas for other work. It keeps me humming along on the often time-consuming and mildly tedious tasks. I love the rhythm of repetitive work, and the overlay of conversation that supports this work. When it comes to production time, where I’m full-body physically involved in printing the work, I tend to crank the loud and fast tunes that motivate movement and urgency.
Do you have a favorite of the images you created for LD? Which images came to you quickest?
JC: A mother loves all her children equally, right? I think if pressed, my favorites are the White Cat and the season image for Until Sky Above. A close three-way tie would include the Winds of Change piece, which was the quickest image to develop, and the first of the suite that I created. I’m just smitten with those manipulated French curves, and the murmuration of starlings made for such a song in that image. The color palette of the season piece, and the merging of the graphic language from the other prints in the suite really resonated with me—meta translation for the win! It was also the longest coming piece, so it was a high note to end on after having produced the other five prints. It felt like the happiest closure to the project, and such a hopeful send off for the season that will journey ahead into new waters.
We have a lot of Cleveland pride and are betting you do too – what’s your favorite part of being an artist in Cleveland?
I love that Cleveland is a small town and a big city. I feel like we have just enough of the midwestern vibe that we mostly know how to get along, and generally feel like there is enough to go around, which makes us pretty good at sharing. There is competition for sure, but I feel like there is also a lot of cheerleading, celebrating one another, and making space for others. I love how easy it is to connect to the arts and artists in Cleveland; for our size, we are fortunate to have so many incredible arts nonprofits, cooperatives, galleries, museums, and studio spaces.
Thank you, Jen! Empowering artists and performers active within the Cleveland cultural scene is a cornerstone of Les Délices’ mission. As our programs become more ambitious, we are thrilled to collaborate with artist-peers, from lighting designers to puppet builders, dancers, and visual artists like Jen Craun who so evocatively translate Les Délices’ programs into beautiful works of art.