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Jeni Bate: Touchable Art via Refractured Skyscape Watercolor


Last updated 8/22/2019 at 2:01pm

Michael Sadler

Don't let anyone tell you there is nothing new under the sun, or in the case of artist Jeni Bate, about the sky.

Using a 3-dimensional textured style that one expert said falls between a post-Picasso "third generation orphism" and some realism/abstract art form not yet part of the vernacular, Bate has come up with "refractured watercolor."

It is a style unique in the world of watercolor art, and she gains her skyscape inspirations from "the edge between night and day." That is, during two periods: The time between dawn and sunrise, and the time between sunset and dark. These are the times when cloud colors are varied in both spectrum and intensity.

Bate is a resident of the Salton Sea. Folks ask her, sometimes with a bit of a scowl, why on Earth she lives there?

"Because I can see the sky 30 miles in all directions," she responds, adding, "I've always been a sky painter."

She presented examples of her work at the Borrego Springs Library on Aug. 16, plus the history behind her "refractured" inspiration.

She was a painter from the age of three, but didn't invent refractured art until her late-30's, and only after making mistakes and "stealing" the name refractured from the vocabulary of quilters.

Starting off with the medium of tree bark, she eventually moved on, and that was to a completely different medium and style – refractured watercolor.

"The aim with my artwork is to create joy in a world of stress," Bate said.

"My emphasis is on the sky and the beauty that it can create at the edges of the day. Most people will enjoy a beautiful sunset, and those that rise early enough, a beautiful dawn. Whatever else is going on, we can all stop and look at the sunset for a few seconds, and think, 'Wow, that is beautiful'; it is innate in us to feel this way."

Bate first paints the scene on heavy bond paper, then virtually destroys the original piece by cutting out, using geometric templates, sections of the piece from the back.

The individual pieces are then laid out, numbered, and glued into place over all or parts of the original painting, but with overlap on the edges of each geometric piece.

The finished product is mounted and then sprayed with three coats of clear varnish, making the piece "touchable" by both kids and adults. The way the pieces fit together from the top of the sky down to Earth can be easily recognized as skyscape, however somewhat abstract, but the way it's broken up, or refractured, is a totally unique artistic experience.

"I paint the skies with peace and passion," says Bate, "because that's the way they paint me." And she also gives lessons.

For more on the refractured art of Jeni Bate, and her unique style, or how to contact her for lessons, go to her website at:

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