Jayne Somogy—who signs her work “Somogyi,” the ethnically-correct spelling of her Hungarian surname—grew up and attended college in the Midwest of the U.S. as a design/theatre major, then lived most of her life in Los Angeles, retiring in 2008 to Conyers, Georgia after working as an administrative assistant, legal secretary, word processor, proofreader, and graphic artist. Her love was always the arts, and free time was spent acting, singing, dancing, drawing, and designing, often on a semi-professional level. She also earned an additional degree (summa cum laude) in fashion design from FIDM/Los Angeles.
Jayne shares her single life with a Chihuahua and a cat in a very colorful, eclectic apartment where she enjoys re-arranging the furniture regularly. Her beloved son and grandson also live in the Atlanta area and she relies on them for “technical assistance” with all the necessary electronics of 21st century life.
Three years ago, at age 68, Jayne turned her creativity to art & works primarily in pastels, charcoal, ink, pencil, colored pencil, art markers, water colors and acrylics, with a fine attention to detail and an adventurous approach to color.
American Artist - Jayne Somogy
“To me, beauty and truth are everything, and they equal love which, metaphysically and spiritually speaking, is all there is. I strive for beauty, harmony and peace in every facet of my life and, by extension, in my art. I love beautifully curving lines and bright gorgeous colors in unusual combinations, and precise detail. I have the soul of a gypsy, traveling through time and space by way of books, television and the internet in order to inform myself about life, and the customs, history, environment and appearance of its fascinating, diverse inhabitants—past, present and future—so that I can present them to you, preserving indigenous cultures as they used to be or before they disappear. I have always been accepting of every type of human—regardless of gender or sexual identity, age, religion, ethnicity, color or race—as long as that human is kind and practices the Golden Rule—and I love drawing all of them! My style is whimsical and has been described as being “informed” which I consider a great compliment. I hope my sense of humor also comes through in my work because . . . well, because life is just . . . FUNNY!”
What initially drew you towards becoming an artist?
I have drawn for as long as I have memory so I never “became” an artist, I just got progressively better at it. At different times in my long life (71 years so far), my artistic nature has taken a number of different forms including, but not limited to, acting, fashion design, costume design, singing and dancing in musicals, go-go dancer, interior design, ballet, jazz & flamenco dance, professional belly dancer—oh, and drawing and painting.
How would you describe your own personal style?
I didn’t plan it, but apparently I have a whimsical style that also includes a lot of precise detail. Other than that, I find it very difficult to look at my work objectively enough to be able to categorize it.
"Ayano", Mixed Media on Bristol Board, 23cm x 30.5cm, 2014
What pushed you in that direction and how can you see your work evolving in the future?
I’m not sure one can “choose” to draw in a certain style but I do believe one’s style can and will develop and grow organically over time. If there is a way to push that process along, I hope someone will let me know how you do that!
What inspires you in your work, is there a driving factor that draws you to the easel?
Except for certain short “recovery and regenerative” periods, it is absolutely imperative to my life force for me to be actively engaged in some creative endeavor, although sometimes that creativity takes other forms, such as re-arranging or re-organizing my environment. If any significant amount of time goes by that I am not in creativity mode, I get very depressed—and that will certainly push me to my drawing board!
Are there particular individuals who have encouraged / inspired you along the way, friends, family, teachers, maybe even other artists?
I have never really had a mentor although I have had encouragement from artist friends and design teachers through the years.
When it comes to creating your work, do you have a preferred medium, certain types of brushes or tools you love to use?
I regularly use every drawing and painting medium except oils and in spite of the fact that I LOVE color—any color, all colors, lots of color—my favorite medium is charcoal (or pencil) and since I adore the process of blending and shading, my favorite tool is any sort of blending tool (i.e., the various implements that enable me to shade with charcoal, colored pencil, art markers, & pastels). I wish such tools existed for paint media!
"Belly Dancer with a Pearl Earring" Mixed Media on Canvas, 40.6cm x 50.8cm, 2015
When it comes to the subject matter of your work, what draws you to those themes?
The major portion of my work is figurative or portraiture and often of individuals far from me in time or space. This is because I find other cultures fascinating, especially the ones that still retain their identities and I want to commemorate them before they disappear. As a life-long student of costume history, I find the indomitable creativity and variety of the human spirit in the effort to clothe and decorate themselves to be an irresistible and never-ending source of inspiration. People—especially from a distance—with their individual differences, their foibles and their universal commonalities are innately and overwhelmingly interesting.
Could you describe the process behind your art? How do you get from concept to execution?
For me, the process is all about the initial drawing. Even when I am planning a large piece such as 24”x36” (61 cm x 91 cm), I start with a drawing of about 9” x 12”. With smaller pieces, I often use a light board (my glass-top desk with a light underneath it) to trace my perfected initial drawing onto my good paper. With the large pieces, I don’t do a very detailed drawing since I’m going to have to enlarge it to the large dimension anyway. Once I have a basic sketch, I will then draw on the canvas itself before I start painting and that drawing will usually be very detailed. I’m a perfectionist, so I want my drawing to be “perfect” before I begin with paint. I have taken many drawing and design classes over the years, but oddly enough have never had a painting class, so I have no idea if my painting process is kosher or not—it probably is not! For some of the smaller pieces I’ve done, the initial drawing has sometimes turned out to be better than the end product. Having studied many aspects of “design” over the years, I believe my work is always well-designed (in terms of placement on the page; the way the eye is led to travel across the page; having attractive “negative” spaces, etc.) and I concentrate a lot of effort to that aspect of my work. The choice of color palette is also of prime importance to me, and I will often experiment with various combinations until I’m happy before I ever start painting or adding color with pastels or colored pencil. Again, I have also had no training in the use of pastels or color pencil or ink, so I invent my own methods as I go along.
Could you describe your normal day as an artist? Have you set routines and rituals or is it more a case of when the moment is right you work?
I don’t have any set routine to my day. I am mostly retired, but I have a part-time retail job with a set schedule of Monday evenings and Friday mornings, purposely chosen so that I have the middle three days of the week and also Saturday and Sunday available for the creative process. If I could afford it, I’d have a cook and housekeeper to take care of those chores, and a tech/marketing person to do the computer and promotional work that must be done. Meanwhile and for the foreseeable future, much of that free time is taken up with those activities. When I’m actively involved in creating a new piece, often everything else falls by the wayside, to the point that I barely get around to brushing my teeth by late afternoon. I often wake up in the morning with a new creative idea or an answer to a creative problem—I guess I get them in my sleep or in my dreams and they’re there first thing as I wake up.
When you work, do you focus on one piece at a time until completion or are you working on multiple pieces at the same time?
I do have a few “unfinished” pieces (i.e., I didn’t like the way they were proceeding) that I may pick up and try something new on them that I just thought of, but mostly I work on one at a time.
"Pinhead Friends", Mixed Media on Canvas, 40.6cm x 50.8cm, 2014
Which of your artworks are you most proud of?
I am particularly proud of my “Famous Flirts” series because they are the largest and most ambitious pieces I’ve attempted and I really like the subject I chose for each one, as well as the way I executed each piece. (I usually work small because I live in an apartment and my “studio” consists of a small desk in the living room.) Three of the five of that series are mixed media, using jewelry, beads, rhinestones, paper collage, marabou feathers, fabric, etc., and they are really wonderful in person. I am also proud of “Pinhead Friends” because I feel I handled the delicate subject matter (developmentally disabled men with microcephaly) in a very sweet and sensitive and whimsical manner, and also “La Toilette,” “Erté-esque” and “Minimalist Madness” because I think they combine my fashion design expertise, whimsical sense of humor and my skill with detail to the best outcome. “La Toilette,” in particular, has been very popular and I’ve sold a number of postcards and prints of it and I think it may be my own personal favorite.
Is there a fellow artist alive today that you admire? If so, why?
Now this question is easy—I have so many I admire! At the risk of subverting potential buyers away from my own work, I submit for your consideration: (1) Albena Vatcheva, Bulgarian from France (my all-time favorite artist); (2) Ruchita Bahl of San Francisco; (3) Dulcie Dee (New York); (4) Parisian Lyonel Thouvenot; (5) Patricia Derks (Netherlands); (6) David Hinds (American); (7) Beba N (Romanian) . . . I could go on and on! Each of them has a level of creativity and unique definable style that I only dream of achieving one day!
If you could travel back in time, is there a particular artistic period / era that you would like to have been involved in?
Although I wouldn’t have wanted to live back then, the 1880/1890’s period that brought forth such wonderful & diverse artists as Gauguin, van Gogh, Klimt, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Picasso, and culminating with Erté.
What challenges do you feel the 21st century artist has to overcome?
Marketing, marketing, marketing! There are SO many artists out there, many of whom are very good, and they’re ALL on-line, so how do you get noticed? And especially for someone whose first telephone was a rotary-dial phone attached to a wall—that’s me!—dealing with today’s media does not come easily.
What advice would you give to a young aspiring artist currently studying art?
(1) Studying is fine—you need all the tools and ideas that are available—but DOING is more important than theoretical study, so practice, practice, practice! (2) A knowledge of history—not only art history but also the history of the world that puts the art into context—is imperative. You have to see where we’ve been to see where you’re going to go. (3) Be true to your authentic self. If people tell you to draw “this” way instead of “your” way because your way isn’t what is selling or what people want, I’m not sure you should take that advice. Not to say you shouldn’t always be trying to grow and improve, but that’s different than trying to change what is fundamentally YOU, to fit into the latest trend that’s selling.
Despite having developed your own distinctive style, is there another style of art that you are immediately drawn towards and admire? Why?
I am impressed by those things I cannot do well, therefore I am drawn to art that is spontaneous and improvisational and impressionistic, such as the work done by good water color artists.
We have all heard of the unfinished masterpiece, even Da Vinci laboured away at the Mona Lisa for years and years, have you works that are in a continual process of evolution? When working on an artwork do you find it hard to let go? Knowing when enough is enough?
I do have a few pieces that I have “abandoned” because I was unhappy with their progress and occasionally I take them out, look at them, and decide I still don’t know how to fix them, and sometimes I look at something long-finished and see a correction I’d like to make, but for the most part I know when I’m done with something and am usually reasonably satisfied.
"La Toilette", Mixed Media on Watercolour Paper, 28cm x 38cm, 2016
Many people see artists as storytellers or advocates for a cause; do you believe that it is an artist’s responsibility to shine a light on a particular subject / theme, or do you create purely for the sake of expressing your creative nature?
I both create to bring attention to issues I feel strongly about (such as the disappearing indigenous cultures of the world) and also just for the sake of creation and beauty. There are also some issues I would like to address (such as the current horrendous political situation in my country) but I don’t think I know how to make such a statement within the context of my art style & subject matter.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the time of this writing, I am in one of my “resting” periods. In other words, I am without sufficient inspiration or direction to be working on anything. This too shall pass.
Have you ever been part of an artistic group / movement? How did your work benefit from that experience?
I have a circle of “virtual” artist friends from on-line sites (whom I have never met in person) who provide encouragement. They are mostly “too nice” and do not provide me with the balanced, constructive critique that I think I could use. Other than that, no artistic group or movement.