Artist evolves — from Howdy Doody to Mark Rothko

Toronto-Beaches resident Jeanne Isley is an artist whose work has recently been on display at  the Papermill Gallery at the Todmorden Mills Heritage Museum and Arts Centre. Last month, she participated in an exhibit featuring six artists who each submitted 17 pieces of their work to the gallery on Pottery Road.

Isley is a self-taught artist. From a young age, she remembers loving art because of the Howdy Doody show, an early children’s program on NBC Television. She would follow along with her own drawing tools as they produced art on-screen. But it wasn’t until later, in her 30s, that she pursued art at York University.

“You feel the need to do it because you want to do it,” Isley said. “For me it wasn’t a question of going to school for it, it was something I was already doing.”

Her style keeps evolving, from drawing to Japanese prints. She also lived in Scotland for a time, painting and sketching the incredible landscapes. Currently, she primarily sticks to oil paints, and leans away from literal representations.

“Where I’m at now is that I don’t want to paint things that are literal,” Isley said. “I think my heart has evolved past wanting to represent what I see with the eye and what I want to represent now is… inner reflection and meditation.”

She prefers the way she paints now, and she says that the catalyst for that was when she saw the abstract expressionist Mark Rothko’s exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

“He went where I wanted to go,” Isley said. “He was painting beyond the veil…. That’s what I’m interested in doing now.”

Isley calls her collections and what she does “States of Paint.” She says it’s a way of describing her art as a state of consciousness, imagination and a reflection of the work she currently produces. In the future, she wants to work in larger formats and may even open her own exhibit.

“This is the only time in my artistic life that I like my own work,” Isley said. “It’s truer to my nature.”