Jaycee Shanholtzer

Part 1: An Introduction to Self-Discovery

The art I created throughout my lifetime reflected on my constant change and documented my road to self-discovery, especially when figuring out my personal identity. The period before my arrival at Whitworth was a time when I felt consistently disassociated with what art I wanted to create. I was not fully cemented on what kind of artist I wanted to be, and often I felt almost unsure if I had the capabilities to create “good” art. Of course, now as a senior, I look back at my time here and see how unsure I was about myself in the beginning. This searching and recognition, understanding myself and my identity became a focus in my art. I wanted to create art on human identity, recognizing groups of people and presenting them to the world with normalcy. 

The first class I walked into at Whitworth was Rob Fifield’s Intro to Printmaking, and it was one of my first pushes into the art world. I immediately fell in love with the dry point method of printing, creating fine lines on plexiglass and being able to make multiple copies. It became a consistent medium I worked with, and it was one of the first mediums I became comfortable with. I have made a variety of prints with this method, presenting a variety of figures/subjects. 

Blossom, 2021, dry point on Stonehenge, 4×6 inches

I began focusing on developing my art style more, specifically working with illustration. I have always had a specific illustration style; I have considered it a more gestural/fluid style, but in the beginning it felt stiff. I wanted to take the time to further develop my style and build a stronger foundation. Dry point especially helped me work more with cross-hatching and create depth, I attribute this medium to my artistic development and how I got my current style. “Blossom,” was a point in my printmaking career that I began to feel comfortable with the medium.

Salome with the Head of Saint John the Baptist, 2021, dry point on Stonehenge, 4×6 inches

I became increasingly inspired by the Renaissance period and found myself drawn to the era’s characteristics. I decided to create a print to show my appreciation for the era. I recreated a painting of the beheading of John the Baptist, specifically inspired by Andrea Solario’s depiction. I wanted to present the scene in my own visual style and present the subject matter in a more contemporary way, ridding it of female idealism. Specifically, when it came to depicting Salome as docile, I made her to be more expressive in this recreation. I wanted her to have more of a reaction to the bloody scene, rather than maintaining this docile image. This print began a string of renaissance recreations, leading to my most accomplished print to date. My magnum opus, “The Lovers.” 

The Lovers, 2021, dry point on Stonehenge, 15×11 inches

During this time, I was inspired by Renaissance idealism and the depictions of bodies. This print was inspired by Rodin’s “The Kiss.” (While not a piece created in the Renaissance, its depiction of bodies felt reminiscent of Renaissance idealism.) I felt so drawn to its visceral depiction of love and affection, that the couple would die for each other. They were bound together, the rawest form of connection. I wanted to recreate it and take some creative liberties. To recreate this artwork with a same-sex couple rather than a straight couple was reflective of my own journey. Growing up and seeing the art world void of lgbtqia+ representation was difficult, especially as a young person trying to understand her own sexuality. With “The Lovers,” I wanted to present this couple in love, with normalcy. With appreciation of their love regardless of their sexual orientation. 

Part 2: Graphic Design & Typography – A medium of pure expression

Whitworth CAS concept, 2021, Procreate, 18×12 inches

When it came to figuring out what field I wanted to study, I had a challenging time determining what spoke to me. While I loved the fine arts and thought I could flourish in it, I never felt fully confident in making it my major. I eventually decided on Graphic design, which surprised many. With graphic design, I had confidence that I could flourish and further improved my skills in illustration and design. After getting admitted to the major, I began building my graphic design career. It felt very overwhelming at first, there was so much to the field and various levels of expertise to learn and put into practice. I wanted to bring something representative of my art style to the Graphic Design field. Specifically, a gestural/illustrative style, that could be incorporated through design. There was a period where I felt lost with graphic design, and it was only recently that I finally became confident about what I was creating. The journey to finally becoming comfortable within the field started with my experience with typography. 

Tell Me Something Deep, 2021, Procreate, 5×5 inches

Typography became a main interest in my art, especially with decorative and calligraphic typestyles. The work of Wes Wilson, Alton Kelley, Bonnie MacLean, and the psychedelic art movement in general became a main source of inspiration for typography. These fluid, gestural typestyles were hypnotic, the more you observed them the more alive they appeared. They communicated more than just the words, but an experience. When it came to finally developing my own typestyle, I started with something simple and bold, done entirely by hand. “Tell Me Something Deep,” was a recreation of a scene from “Diary of a Teenage Girl,” where the main character discusses her sexuality and attraction to women. I wanted to create this scene just for the quote. The way a simple sentence had such a profound impact, especially in the context of the main character and how she discovered herself. It stood out to me, both personally and artistically. The way personal expression, like sexuality and identity, can be seen through the art of language and communication. Typography, like most of my work, became another vessel for personal and creative expression. To express identity, emotion, and personal journey. To me this artwork cemented how typography could be used to express emotional depth. It made me realize how much potential it had, and how I could use it in my own gestural style. 

Kali Uchis, 2021, Procreate, 12×18 inches

Since this newfound appreciation, I continue to implement type into my work, creating my own typeface and using it as an art form. To communicate through art directly allows for profound levels of expression. Graphic design, despite being a constricting medium, has the most room for opportunity. To find something I enjoy in the field, while also allowing for my own personal expression was extremely gratifying. 

Part 3: Art and the Digital Medium

With the development of my graphic design career, I got to a period where I missed doing more illustrative focused work. I wanted to get back into painting, specifically watercolor and oil painting. It was during this time that I decided to get back into creating digital artworks/paintings. Digital art is the best of both worlds; being able to replicate the world of fine art in a digital medium allows for a vast and diverse variety of art (plus less strain on the wallet.) Personally, I already had some experience in the beginning of my art career. Getting back into it was difficult, especially with the further development of technology. There was so much to it and so many layers of accessibility. Thankfully, graphic design and digital art are not too distinctly different and rely on the same mechanics/processes and programs. One of the main programs I have used for digital art and graphic design is Procreate.

Mushroom Forest, 2021, Procreate, 12×18 inches
Sunday Morning, 2021, Procreate, 20×18 inches

Procreate allows for a variety of mediums, such as painting, inking, airbrushing, etc. There is a lot of accessibility through this program alone, and I have consistently used it for the last year. In the beginning stages of the program, I used a lot of the preset painting tools, specifically the gouache tool. It appears blended yet textural, I used it especially when it came to painting skin. It gave this impression of skin, and it subtly replicated the textures within it. I used this tool consistently and I still use it for sketching and coloring/shading. Digital art was fun to create, and I continued to implement my style in each artwork. 

Romeo and Julies, 2021, Procreate, 18×20 inches

“Romeo & Julius,” is one of my favorite digital paintings I have done so far. I felt inspired once again by Renaissance idealism, I wanted to create another work like my “The Lovers” print. I was inspired by Frank Dicksee’s depiction of “Romeo and Juliet.” Like Rodin’s “The Kiss,” there is this raw and visual depiction of love and affection between the two figures. They were connected and their dynamic was natural, comfortable, and emotional. Making this couple a gay couple, like with “The Lovers,” was done due to my desire for more representational artworks. Including more diversity by presenting more identities, in this case sexual identities. Part of my desire to recreate these old concepts is to present the idea that queer people have always existed throughout human history. It is meant to counteract the idea that lgbtqia+ identities are only recent and a product of this generation. They have been part of our history for centuries. Specifically, with this painting, I wanted there to be both a literal and metaphoric meaning. The clash of dark and light, with their kiss being placed central. The struggle of being openly affectionate as a same-sex couple, the joy of being open but also the fear of being seen. Not only did I want to recognize queer people, but also the societal difficulties that came with it. I was planning to continue this type of artwork, creating a series. I was even considering making this series the focus of my exhibit. In the beginning of 2022 however, I had a sudden change in my creative style. It all started around February, when I decided to start a new series for the Senior Exhibit, which I will tell you about in my final blog post next week. 

Part 4: Lyric Series and the Future

The Lyric Series as a concept that came to me in the beginning of the spring semester. I had a challenging time conceptualizing what I wanted to present for my exhibit, what truly embodied me as an artist. I was torn on what kind of art I wanted to present, it was between graphic design or illustration. It was then I had my “lightbulb” moment, what was a medium that incorporated both illustration and graphic design? Poster work, like the works of Wes Wilson and the psychedelic movement. I began thinking about what I wanted to present in the posters, the figures, the typography, and even color schemes or themes. I decided to create a test poster, which became the first poster in this series. 

Harvey, Lyric Series (1/25), 2022, Procreate, 12×18 inches

Harvey was purely experimental, compared to the rest of the series, it looks quite different. I decided to use lyrics from a song that I hold dear to my heart, the song “Harvey” by the band HersFor the visual style, I was once again inspired by Wes Wilson’s cell shading style along with crosshatching from my early print work. It was quite different from what I had done previously with digital art, instead of heavily blended elements it was much more illustrative. I will not forget the impact this work had on me, for it was the first time in a while I had felt fully confident in my work. I knew there was potential in this series, and it embodied not only my style, but also my artistic journey at Whitworth. I had started with dry point, the crosshatching. Then the graphic design/digital artwork, through both the typography and visual style. It felt truly representative of my art, and I was immediately inspired to create more of these posters. 

Honey Thighs (work in process), Lyric Series (24/25), 2022, Procreate, 12×18 inches
Honey Thighs (figure only), Lyric Series (24/25), 2022, Procreate, 12×18 inches
Honey Thighs, Lyric Series (24/25), 2022, Procreate, 12×18 inches

My process for making a poster usually started with choosing a song, I would listen to the song fully and reflect. Both through the lyrics and reflecting on how the song made me feel emotionally. A goal of mine through these posters was to tell a story, through the lyrics and design. I wanted to recreate the song’s sound through the posters, through color and line. For example, with my poster Honey Thighs, I really wanted to channel the wavy/fluid sound in the song, it felt bubbly. With the figure specifically, I wanted the eyes to stand out the most in the poster, since the lyrics I chose focused on the eyes. A lot of the design was meant to reflect on the song and lyrics, making it an illustrative representation of the song. The focus for this series was to not only present my visual style, but to represent the themes I have discussed throughout my art career. Identity, individuality, representation, etc. The Lyric Series presents individual figures, with lyrics that tell a story. I wanted each character or set of characters to have their own story to tell. Like with people, we all have our own individual journeys. We all have gotten to the current day, and we all have things that make us unique. I wanted the characters in the series to present that idea too. I find people to be such beautiful creatures on this earth, despite the issues of the current day. We all have things that make us ourselves, despite generalizations or stereotypes. This series is a love letter to the beauty of humans, what we create and how we express. As well as being a love letter to music, and how much it means to me. This series holds such an emotional significance to me, like in my first blog post I discussed how unsure I was of myself. I know myself now, and I know what art I want to create and put out in the world. 

Space Song (sketch), Lyric Series (23/25), 2022, Procreate, 12×18 inches
Space Song, Lyric Series (23/25), 2022, Procreate, 12×18 inches

My artistic journey at Whitworth was no doubt an emotional rollercoaster and looking back there are aspects where I wish I did more or risks I could have taken. But I would not have it any other way, for I am happy with the artist I am right now. I am content with myself, and I know that my future will be an eventful one. I have many people to thank. The Whitworth art community, specifically Leah Yand and Levi Wilson, have encouraged me since the beginning. The Whitworth art Faculty, who believed in me when I did not. Finally, I must thank my mom, Julie Shanholtzer, and my oldest sister Darcie. Without them and their continuous love and support throughout my life, I would not be where I am now. I appreciate you, the viewer, for reading my story. Keep being you. 

For commissions and purchasing prints, my email is shanhjay000@gmail.com

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