Talk Crafty to Me – An inside look into Arrowmont instructors’ connection to craft, Gatlinburg and studio practice.
Artists-in-Residence Grant Benoit and Maia Leppo interview Jered Sprecher – painter and associate professor at University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee. Jered taught “Watercolor and Collage in the 21st Century” July 10-16, 2016 at Arrowmont.
What is something you learned about yourself or your practice at Arrowmont?
This my third time teaching at Arrowmont. I taught two water colors classes here before and this is the first time I am teaching water color and collage. What’s really nice about teaching in this setting is that students are focused on pulling as much information as possible out of the instructor and peers. People are ready to get to work and ask lots of questions. It gives you a chance to get into the nitty-gritty of the medium you are working in. For example, students were able to learn how watercolor paint is made, how to manipulate the material, and question traditional ideas of what watercolor is.
What was your first ah-ha piece of work that you made?
There is probably a lot of them. When I was in college, I was making all sorts of different paintings, figurative drawings, and collages.
My mom asked me to make a painting of a flower and I told her, “I don’t do that, Mom, I’m a serious artist.” But eventually I gave in and she still has it. But this process opened up to me different motifs and ideas. And more importantly not to dismiss certain ideas or content. It forced me to think about what is a flower and what space do they inhabit in our lives. Forcing myself to do something I didn’t want to was a real gift to me to ruminate on the possibilities that a flower holds.
Tell us about your studio space.
I have two studio spaces. My garage studio allows me to work after the kids go to bed or early in the morning. I also have a studio at UT. It is a larger space, so I can work on larger paintings there.
What is your favorite part of these spaces?
I like being to walk into the house and get a cup of coffee and check in on Christine and the boys and see what they are up to. But the one at UT has a window that overlooks the Smoky Mountains, so I can think about Arrowmont.
What are you reading currently?
A biography of Giorgio Morandi, Marilyn Robinson’s book The Death of Adam. Also The Chronicles of Narnia, The Horse and His Boy, with my sons.
Best piece of advice you have gotten?
Last night, we were discussing Sister Corita Kent’s 10 Rules for Students, Teachers, and Life. People have these ideas of what they are as an artist. Thinking back to my high school art teacher, Mrs. Bolton, she always stressed to have as many tools as you can in your tool box. Even now if it’s something on your laptop, like Photoshop or Garage Band, or even hand arts, like book binding or hand building, you can always take one skill and use it in another area.
How do you want someone to feel while looking at your work?
I really like the space where you might say something is happy/ sad, so beautiful its achingly beautiful, or hauntingly beautiful. I think when someone looks at my work I want them to not have that sense of confused emotion, but that richness of mixed emotions. You may have a sad moment, but it can help you realize the love of people in your life. There is a lot of space where these interact.
When we spoke with Bob Ebendorf last week, he mentioned how important balance was in his life. How do you find a balance with teaching, have a family, and studio practice?
As artist, there are myths out there. There are lots of different ways to exist as an artist. Just if I am able to set aside time and schedule it on the calendar. Or be like ‘oh I can relax and play with kids, or its time to work and go to studio.’ If that stuff is on the calendar, then things don’t need to bleed over. Take a break from each of those things, and switch from one to another, it makes things rich. It allows you to think about things and solve them.
What special talent would you choose if you could magically gain one?
I wish I could dunk a basketball. I have dreams of that.
What are you currently listening to in your studio and why?
I like audio books. The music I find myself listening to, I really love this pianist composer, Nils Frahm. I also love the composer John Luther Adams, I played Become Ocean for my class.
Any shows or exhibitions coming up?
I have a solo show “Outside In” at the Knoxville Museum of Art that opens January 27, 2017 and is up until April 16, 2017.
For more information about Jered and his work, visit: www.jeredsprecher.com or follow him on Instagram @JeredSprecher