Our extraordinary friend, American author and figurative expressionism painter Penelope Przekop (Penny).
Lina: I cognize you are a writer as well, when did you become interested in creating figurative expressionism paintings?
Penelope: I was born wanting to write, to express my imagination and feelings that way. By my mid-twenties, I began writing novels. Fiction was my primary creative focus until 2008, when I decided to begin painting at age 41. I’d never painted before but had developed an urge to do so in the years leading up to that. I spent a lot of time on creative projects growing up that involved crayons and markers; I was interested in color versus drawing, but never considered myself an artist. I also took a lot of art history courses in college and considered changing my major to it because I loved it so much, but still never thought I could paint. I think it was something that frightened me because I wasn’t into drawing. Once I took the leap and began painting, I fell in love with it and realized that perhaps I’m more suited for painting than writing. I still love writing but am now more highly focused on painting. I love the visual aspects of it, and find that there is more freedom of expression involved, at least for me.
Lina: Do you remember your first interaction with the figurative expressionism?
Penelope: Yes, my first figurative piece was a small work that included three young girls. They reminded me of myself and the two girls I grew up with, who were sisters. When my creative mentor at the time saw it, he said that I was onto something. I wasn’t sure what he meant at the time but now realize that I was beginning to tap into my primary subject, women.
Lina: What and who inspires your paintings?
Penelope: My work is inspired by my own emotional complexity and that of women, in general. That complexity exists in men also. I just happen to primarily paint women because I am a woman and so that feels more natural for me. It’s really about the human spirit. Growing up in Louisiana in a conservative culture and moving to the Northeast in 1991 inspires a lot of themes in my work also. Also, my mother was an interior designer with quite a personality. Both aspects of her life inspire my work both emotionally and visually. Because I’ve spent so much time writing and love stories, it seems natural that my art should include elements of story and character.
Lina: Who are your main artistic influences?
Penelope: As far as the greats, I have been influenced by Frida Kahlo and Van Gogh in terms of their emotion and honesty. I’ve also been influenced by Dorothea Tanning, Kandinsky and Picasso. Past and current artists who push the envelope in unique, honest ways inspire me. I’m not impressed or inspired by artists who go for the shock factor, thinking that is honesty. That’s unoriginal to me; if that’s all they have to give, I find that sad. I’m attuned to learning from others but staying true to myself. Sometimes that takes courage because you look around and realize that what you’re doing or who you are may not fit the mold, may seem boring, or less chic than someone else’s work, but you keep going knowing that perhaps no one will care or notice the value that you may have to offer.
Fantasy scenario, March 2014
Fantasy Scenario.... print of my work pictured in private NYC residence featured in Architectural Digest, March 2014
Lina: The vibrancy of your paintings catches the eyes of anyone’s attention no matter what piece you create, is there a reason why you chose colors that stand out?
Penelope: Yes, vibrant color demonstrates vibrant emotion, and that’s what appeals to me. I don’t usually began a painting with a color scheme in mind. I just start and see where it takes me. I don’t worry about traditional color theory or any other theory about which colors “go” with which. I follow my gut and what appeals to me visually and emotionally. The longest I’ve ever stopped to think of what color to choose is about 60 seconds. If I use a color and it doesn’t feel right, I don’t panic, I just keep going. There are no mistakes in art. When I’m painting I build on each decision. I think the color in my work is a true reflection of how I see the world. For me, the life is in the color. I can’t help it.
Lina: What invigorates the figures in your paintings, are they from ideality thoughts or actual people you know?
Penelope: The figures in my paintings are often me from an emotional perspective rather than other people in my life. I often get ideas from fashion photography in terms of poses and expressions but my goal has never been to make the figure a replica of the one in my reference photo. Sometimes I see a photo that gives me an idea, and sometimes I have an idea and search for a photo that includes someone in a particular pose. Sometimes I can’t find what I want and I pose myself or take a photo of my teenage daughter in the pose I want. I hope that my figures are invigorated by an infusion of my own emotion and style into a realistic shape as well as the color and lines that I create.
Lina: If you can own one art piece, what would It be and by whom?
Penelope: I would absolutely want Dorothea Tanning’s piece, Birthday. I saw it at the Philadelphia Museum of Art soon after I began painting. A postcard of the piece is on my bulletin board. I love everything about it. I deeply identified with the image when I saw it and still do. It is also similar in some ways to the type of work that I’d like to achieve. It raises questions. It’s beautiful and haunting. It’s a blend of real and unreal that I love. It expresses loneliness, vulnerability, playfulness, beauty and decision making among other things. There is something very intellectual about it. And I love the balance in the lines, figures and shapes. It seems to tell a story that kicks my imagination and intellect into high gear. Someday I want to paint a piece like that!
Another beauty by Penelope Przekop "How Did We Get Here"
Lina's last words:
Penelope is a very fascinating and very unique woman that I had a pleasure to meet. As a huge fan of her art and writings, it was exciting to sit and pick her creative mind.
There is not one piece that I'm not a fan of from Penelope. When you look at a przekop piece it can put you in a trance of artistic heaven and give you an unusual insistent pull- you feel something thought provoking and meaningful is at stake. The different colors, different influences and all the different type of emotions that play its part. Life, in Penelope's paintings speak in every detail in her art. It takes on a vibrancy, a freshness and a unique proliferation of color.
Thank you, Penelope for taking part of Taylor & Co.'s spotlight! #SpeakArt #SpeakLoud
Thoughts from penny...
Penelope Przekop (Prez-cop) is a figurative expressionist American painter who spent the first half of her adult life writing fiction, and then began painting in 2008. She is the author of five books, including four novels. Her art often includes a strong sense of character and story. Her primary subject is the complexity of women.
Galleries in New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, California, Louisiana, Italy, and Central America have represented and shown her work. It has been acquired by two Italian museums.
Her work primarily involves a blend of acrylic, ink, and pastels. It's influenced by fashion photography and a childhood spent immersed in the high-end interior design industry. Her mother was a successful designer whose work was featured in publications such as Architectural Digest and Southern Living.
The emotional content of Penelope’s work is influenced by growing up in Louisiana before moving to the Northeast in 1991, and all of the cultural differences between the two.
To better understand some of the underlying themes that also emotionally influence her art, read her (almost) memoir, Please Love Me.
"Hidden & Adrift" by Penelope Przekop
One out of many favorite peieces by Penelope Przekop. This one is called
"I lead she follows" Beautiful colors and remarkable technic.
Lina: Are you trying to express any message through your paintings or tell a story, if so what would that be?
Penelope: I hope that my work tells the story of the human spirit navigating through the timespan in which I’ve lived, especially the story of those who don’t start out with a full and strong emotional toolkit. Let’s face it, although were all human, some of us are at an emotional disadvantage due to our upbringing, or due to how the world perceives us as individuals. I hope my work speaks to those types of people, expressing their struggle and their ability to overcome adversity, and see themselves as beautiful and powerful for all that they have experienced. I would like my work to also demonstrate that story to people who were lucky enough to get the toolkit so that they have increased compassion for others. To that end, my work tells my own emotional story, which is still ongoing. My work is highly personal to me. Sometimes I have a tough time talking about it. Sometimes, especially face to face, I beat around the bush regarding questions about its meaning. I’m aware of that and am working to be more open.
Lina: Let's talk about your intense piece “Nobody cares” this in my opinion sends out a magnitude of emotions, which I truly love… what were your thoughts when you were creating this piece?
Penelope: Well, first let me say that, sadly, I spent way too much of my young life feeling that nobody cared about me and wondering why. I wish I hadn’t felt that way, but I did. It has taken many years for me to fully understand why I felt that way; I didn’t have a full toolkit. The girls in the painting are beautiful and unique, yet they are lost in that emotion of wondering if anyone truly cares, and hating that they feel that way because everyone tells them that they shouldn’t care what people think. One has a hole in her chest and the other has what seems like a chain around her arm. I started painting these girls based on my experience, and then I somehow got into a funk about what I was doing (painting) and if anyone truly cared about that. So as I painted them, I was thinking about this universal feeling of wondering about our worth, and the worth of what we pour our time into. I want to make even depressing emotions seem visually beautiful because I have come to appreciate how all of those emotions in my life have ultimately made it beautiful. How all that I’ve experienced has made me who I am, and that I value my own unique story. It’s not always easy but through my creative work, I try to remind myself and others that imperfection, mistakes and anything else that doesn’t fit the mold is ultimately all part of the beauty of life. We all want and need so badly to be loved, and even in the end, when we do truly love ourselves, we still need love from others. Perhaps it is depressing to remind people of this struggle but I know that when I was that young girl with a hole in my chest and invisible chains wrapped around me, I needed someone to tell me that what I was feeling was okay, that there were reasons I felt that way and that life is filled with ups and downs, and that my life would be beautiful if I would have patience, be more willing to share my feelings with others, and accept myself.
Virtual representation of my painting, Old Man Take a Look at My Life, in Steve Wynn's apartment in NYC (photographed for AD). I wonder if Mr. Wynn might like it?
Another piece by Penelope Przekop "They Follow Me"
Lina: What are you working on presently?
Penelope: Last year I created a piece using Emma Stone's face as visual inspiration because I liked her expression. Doing so led me to the idea of taking a more proactive approach to incorporate recognizable faces into my figurative work, suspecting that it might add yet another dimension. So far in 2015, I’ve created work using the faces of Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and Kendall Jenner. I’m happy with how they turned out and plan to continue exploring this avenue to more specifically infuse current culture into my work, keeping all the past elements in place. I choose those three people only because I like the emotional aspects of their photographs. I’d like to blend figurative expressionism with pop art in a unique and meaningful way. That’s going to be my focus for 2015.
Lina: Can you give me your opinion where you feel art is today and where is it going?
Penelope: While I understand how it evolved, sometimes the politics of the traditional art world seem ridiculous to me, like some kind of strange oxymoron. When I began painting, one of the most refreshing elements of it was that anything is possible. Due to this, I believed that the people filling that space would be open-minded, flexible, and adventurous. I’ve been a little disappointed to learn that some things never change regardless of the industry. It seems to me that two art worlds exist. One that is rigid; exclusive, tough to crack, lots of MFAs, more collectors than artists (call them the Blue Team), and one that is more organic: anyone can join; price points are lower; and there are more artists than collectors; (call them the Red Team). I’ve got to believe there is a cross-section of Blue Team collectors and Red Team artists who would be a match made in heaven. I’d love to see this cross-section develop into a third explosive art world, one where folks with the means to seriously collect art are willing to leap away from that Blue Team, search out and collect top work from the Red Team (call them the Green Team). It seems to me that the biggest challenge is finding new and easy ways (that actually work) to get art in front of the people who are willing to look beyond the blue team barriers rather than red team artists spinning their wheels to somehow bust into that blue team. I think about this every day. I love painting a million times more than I love doing the billions of tasks that everyone is telling artists to do to be noticed, and a great deal of the people telling us to do that are just trying to make a buck. For now I’m going to keep focusing on becoming a great artist, and do what I can to share my work with others.