Spotlight: Jill Sykes
"We as artists create objects that nourish and enrich existence, and as such what we do, consciously or not, has profound effect. The images I create are about life and the sheltering aspects of Nature - I focus on botanical forms & the abstracted spaces I find between individual branches and leaves. These paintings are sophisticated in terms of color and form, and yet remain incredibly soothing and serene to look at. My hope is that these works not only make us more aware of our everyday environment, but offer visual comfort and calm."
Jill Sykes is a painter born and raised in Los Angeles. Jill has worked as a graphic designer and illustrator in the fields of Film and Business Advertising, Animation and Educational Media, where she created countless corporate logos and artist catalogs. Always a painter, in the late 1990's she enrolled at the Santa Monica School of Design, Art and Architecture; this led to her current work in oils and printmaking. Experience more of Jill's work on Instagram.
A Q&A with Jill about the Viva LA Experience
How has living in LA influenced your artistic style and the way in which you express yourself? Has LA influenced your choice of materials, media or message?
I grew up in Los Angeles - specifically the West San Fernando Valley. I am a 3rd generation native - my two sons are 4th. Both of my parents worked in the film industry & my exposure to music & art & literature & film was tremendous. I was always encouraged to be creative, unlike many of my art school compatriots who had to fight their families to pursue a career in the arts; still an issue with many young people today. I was so fortunate. & although I was unaware of it at the time, growing up & living in canyons surrounded by trees most of my life has been a huge influence on how I tend to see things & what gives me comfort. I have always been visually drawn to the shapes & shadows of plant life - I can go back to the paintings & illustrations I created back in high school & college & that specific thread is continuous - it just took a moment for me to "see" it.
Nature is very important to me, & while I am fortunate to live in the hills among a lot of greenery, my studio has been in DTLA for over 25 years & the contrast can be severe. I have come to see that my imagery is subconsciously focused on creating a sense of nurturing calm - a safe & serene place.
What aspects of living in LA do you most appreciate? Which do you find most challenging?
The multiple cultures in this city are truly profound - we are rich indeed to have so much variety of influence in food, art, music, language & lifestyle. But there is a tremendous disparity - while I grew up very protected in the Valley, my children grew up in Hollywood & came to my studio with me daily after school. They were exposed to far more diverse & interesting people & lifestyles & art & architecture & situations & a sense of just being. So many options! I truly believe their lives are all the richer for it.
As for the challenges - beyond far too much freeway driving - I go back to the wealth disparity. Seeing the ever-increasing tents popping up these past several years, 2020 in particular, is a continual heartbreak. There is an overwhelming sense of helplessness in the face of so much need, & just about everyone I know is struggling on one level or another.
How does LA inspire you to express yourself?
I went to art school in San Francisco - it was a beautiful, shiny concrete city & I loved every minute, but when I came back to Los Angeles (I moved to Hollywood & have lived there ever since) I was continually astounded by all the greenery I saw everywhere. It was Spring. Flowers & trees & grass were everywhere & the colors were glorious - I was stunned by the beauty every day.
How has your art helped you grow as a person?
Art is a very contemplative practice, & I truly believe all art is essentially "autobiographical." You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their artwork regardless of genre. It's a continual "deep dive," & my intention is always to learn from whatever I'm working on, & then stretch it again a bit more with the next piece, & then the next...it's all about growth.
How do you think art can be used to bring people in LA together?
A great example is the Randy Newman song "I Love LA" - the unofficial song of our city, played at ball games & 4th of July & on any & all promotional pieces about Los Angeles since it was written in 1983; "New York, New York" works equally well if not better for NYC. These songs have become proud & joyful rallying cries for both cities. Likewise, the wonderful murals that were painted all over Los Angeles during the 1984 Olympic Games, as well as the dozens & dozens of collateral art events: art, music, dance, performance - that were put on all that year. I went to several. They celebrated the people & games & the city & I well remember how everyone felt so proud of these beautiful artworks glorifying our city to the entire world. The Viva LA Pershing Square project utilizing that fabulous logo on each painting does the same - the imagery becomes iconic, & seeing the city government promoting this sort of creativity for the public - vitally important during these hard, COVID days - helps bring pride & joy to the people who live here.
What advice would you give kids growing up today who love creativity but may not be exposed to art?
I heard a wonderful interview the other day with a musician named Howard Johnson who recently passed away - it was from a while ago. He spoke about growing up in the mid-west in the early 1950's with almost no access to records & radio & concerts, etc., very unlike how I grew up here in L.A. He loved music & wanted to play - he hunted down whatever sounds he could & asked questions & learned. He became a brilliant tuba soloist - a highly unlikely career - he played jazz, blues, soul, rock & roll. He did it all, playing on many different instruments. Sadly, schools no longer have the budget for arts programs like when I was young - I was so fortunate - but libraries & museums do, & there are hundreds of programs specifically aimed at youth to help educate & nurture everyone in the arts, whatever the art. If you want it badly enough you will find a way - but it's work. So do the work. You will thank yourself.
If you could have one big wish come true for Los Angeles of the future, what would it be?
Shelter - in just about every conceivable way.