Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Exploring Color, Line & Texture with Alena Hennessy...

Wow! When I first saw the work of Alena Hennessy, it put an immediate smile on my face that could not be wiped away. The visual flood of colors, shapes, texures and composition just draw you right into her creations. And we are so pleased to have her teaching at our Portland Art & Soul Event this year. To inspire you, here's a little bit about Alena's process, in her own words...

Recently, I have been reflecting a bit on my own process of creating, since I spend a considerable amount of time teaching it to students. I have been contemplating why I choose the colors I choose, the textures, or draw lines the way I do.  Because my process is so intuitive, its challenging for me to describe why I paint the way that I paint. I know that I love pink and blue. I also know that I love paintings that are lighter in hue, but I also think contrast is important. Texture and layers turn me on, and lately I am all about layering India ink, then acrylic, then taking watercolor pencil and drawing directly into the acrylic (it leaves an indentation and the pigment gets expressed because the acrylic paint is wet). I then finish off the painting by cutting out organic shapes found in nature from decorative collage papers (I cut the shapes free-handed). I often will go back in and layer the inks, paints, and add any more papers that the painting is ‘calling’ for.


One of my new obsessions is finding delicate and exquisite papers to incorporate into my work. I started buying Origami paper and I love it! So soft and detailed.

The textured lines in this piece were created by dragging a very sharp pencil into acrylic paint. The layer of India ink below then shows through when I scrape that paint away with a sharp point. I like the contrast and texture it creates.

After many layers of ink, acrylic, and paper, this painting now feels complete. I know a painting is finished when it ‘clicks’ for me. Until I feel that inside, I need to keep working, no matter how frustrated I can get or uncertain how to continue. Eventually it will open up for me and the internal ‘click’ or knowing that its done will happen.

So why do we love what we love? For me, its comes down to feeling. I feel colors, lines, movements. I know a beautiful sunset turns me on (which has lots of blue, orange, and pink), but I also know I just love the way bright vibrant colors look on a wood panel. I like them to feel fresh. I also admire how other artist’s create and how different we are all with our aesthetic choices. Its important to experiment and to be true to you, as well as to stay open to what you may be overlooking or resist. 

Creative expression, in its many forms, is a constant evolution or expression of the soul. That’s why I know I will never grow tired of it. I imagine (and hope) that I will be an old woman sitting on a porch, drinking my sweet iced tea and still making time to paint. In fact, I have no doubt about that. What a comforting thought to have such a long relationship with something that is uniquely yours.

Thanks for letting me share, and I hope to see you in Portland.


Wow, Alena! So very interesting to 'see' how you 'think' about your work. Something I know is very hard to communicate for artists, but you have explained it so clearly for our readers, and with such gorgeous examples. If you would like to join Alena in one of her outstandingly creative classes, here's what she'll be teaching at our Portland Art & Soul event which takes place April 7-14, 2014.

Alena Hennessy
Portland Art & Soul 2014

Monday, April 7

Tuesday, April 8

Wednesday, April 9

For more information on Art & Soul, or to register for classes, visit us at

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