soul and purpose

"Through my paintings I hope to communicate a personal enthusiasm and respect for the natural world, thus encourage in others an active stewardship of same." -- JEANNE ILLENYE

still life oil painting teacup haviland schleiger 4521 limoges blue violets mourning dove lilacs needle thread blue truman david mccullough black coffee

Mother's Favorite Things
10x8 inches / oil on panel
For this commissioned painting, my client had a very specific request to create a composition with a Mourning Dove perched on the edge of her mother's favorite teacup as well as several other favorite things.  This delicate teacup inherited from her grandmother is the last surviving piece from a treasured set of Haviland Schleiger 4521 from Limoges, France with blue violets and gilded edges (there are several versions).  It must be filled to the brim with black coffee and accompanied by a dark chocolate Russell Stover candy with the little swirl on top, her favorite book "Truman" by David McCullough, lilacs and a needle and thread to recall how she sewed all her daughter's and granddaughter's clothing.  This is a truly sentimental tribute from daughter to mother.
 capturing nature's transient beauty


August is Artist Appreciation Month - 16 Contemporary Realist Artists Who Inspired Me Most

In Celebration of Artist Appreciation Month by JEANNE ILLENYE Copyright © 2015

Recently, I was asked to write an article in celebration of Artist Appreciation Month, acknowledging some of the countless contemporary artists whose work has been personally inspirational.  As a preface, you may of course read about my initial inspiration in my Biography on my website which enumerates several 17th and 18th century Dutch masters as well as 19th century American masters whose work provided me with not only foundational resources but also a deeply connective comprehension of the natural world as interpreted and honored through fine art.  With intimate study and practiced experimentation I have learned to adopt these foundational elements in every painting I create -- firstly, by admiration, then assimilation and ultimately freedom to express my own vision on a two dimensional plane through the medium of oil paint.  

With the onset of the internet, my lifelong pursuit of creating elaborate still lifes that pay homage to these masters whose works have left a permanent imprint on the human population, I began to explore the realist paintings of contemporary artists and became equally enthralled.  Although quite contrasting to the paintings I admired from prior generations, I found myself wishing I could instill some of those crystal clear qualities of realism as well as a lighter palette into my work.  It began quite timidly with lightening my dark backgrounds to gradations of taupe which ultimately resulted in several daring, stark white backgrounds, thus finally drawing me full circle on the color wheel and out of the dark ages!  Further, I began cropping my subjects to accentuate tension in my compositions and followed with a more persistent technical effort toward realism.  It brings to mind the quotation by Michelangelo, "Trifles make perfection, but perfection itself is no trifle."

To highlight some of the countless contemporary artists whose clarity of subject, powerful compositions, and delicacy of detail have been most influential these past few years while transitioning from classical to contemporary still lifes, I'll share a brief overview of their impact on me per the following.  Kindly note that I'm restraining my list quite intensely but may periodically highlight a favorite artist in the future as their effects on me are profound and therefore deserving of acknowledgement.  Although this list pertains to still life artists, my admiration far exceeds this genre as my heart soars with the subjects of our pets, wildlife and select landscapes. 

FRANK ARCURI - A classical master, Frank Arcuri is one of my all time favorite contemporary artists.  His intense color is clear, strong and refreshing, particularly the blue/purple hues such as a beribboned floral swag or plums.  A single stem of an Amaryllis standing erect in a contoured glass jar is provoking as it borders on contemporary still life.  

KEN MARLOW - An earlier influece, Ken Marlow's succinct fruit compositions introduced me to lighter backgrounds and subjects propped up on a box or other similar antique silhouetted for a more dimensional quality.  His florals are equally exquisite, although we seldom see his older work which is based on the Dutch masters.

JOHN STUART INGLE - When I first encountered John Stuart Ingle's large watercolors, I was enamored with the fact that he showed the entire piece of furniture that his still life arrangement was sitting upon, thus including the furniture as part of the subject which was a rather new concept.  These still lifes then became more like interior paintings.  His woodgraining is phenomenal as I recall images of unwrapped chocolate candies sitting upon an oak desk.

RAYMOND BOOTH -  His captivating paintings of flora and fauna that reside on the forest floor are utterly delightful.  His entire concept of viewing woodlands from the perspective of a rabbit or squirrel is simply divine and encourages one to tread softly and respect nature.

SOON WARREN - Soon Warren's watercolors are beguiling, both her paintings of swirling waters in dazzling shades of turquoise to purple as well as her nearly liquid glassware and cut crystal bowls containing irises and peonies.  The clarity of her work and sheer beauty of her subjects is delightful.

ALEXI ANTONOV - His paintings would be considered classical in style although often will contain a single rose on a ledge or floating.   His unique use of blue-green foliage and backgrounds makes his work quite identifiable.  I love the classical influence in his work and clarity of detail in his roses.
NANCY DEPEW - Initially her exquisite floral still lifes captured my attention, particularly the irises on frayed satin cloth.  However, I later discovered her talent was broader.  It isn't often that landscapes capture my attention, but Nancy Depew's heavenly glints of light filtered through lush, mossy woodlands beckon one to visualize stepping over logs along the brook to look upward at the towering trees above.  So often still life artists aren't the best landscape artists, but Nancy proves to the contrary.

JOSE ESCOFET - Jose Escofet's older compositions of fruit and flowers are reminiscent of the Dutch masters, which of course are my initial inspiration as a whole.

TATYANA KLEVENSKIY - After I'd painted my "Shades of White" I discovered Tatyana Klevenskiy's paintings which feature predominantly white blossoms in simple compositions of the uttmost clarity and detail beyond anything I've seen thus far.  I felt an immediate connection to her intrigue of white and was in awe of her peonies in particular.  Painted larger than life with a shimmering beauty, one can almost see the moisture within the petals.  She has also featured yellow pears, one of my favorite fruits to paint, with the same dedication to detail.  Her work is impressed upon my mind as I recall that single white peony! 
VADIM KLEVENSKIY - Vadim Klevenskiy, Tatyana's husband, has also created equally exquisite paintings of white blossoms.  Yet I'm almost more enamored with his seascapes which are actually close up views of water that remarkably feel liquid with constant motion although merely paint on a stagnant canvas, which one easily forgets while getting lost in the depths and rhythms of the water.

JEFFREY LARSON - Jeffrey Larson's subjects of fruit, dandelions, and occasionally a vintage tricycle or croquet set are typically propped up on a painted table ledge with light creamy backgrounds which I utterly adore as they often create a more monochromatic painting overall.  There's just something about that mood I love.

AARON BRENT HARKER - Aaron Brent Harker's surprising and whimsical mix of wildlife stands poised in a disheveled arrangement of objects in his studio.  This unlikely combination of subjects always brings a smile to my face as I paint both still lifes and pet portraits, so his work satisfies both of my favorite interests.

SYDNEY BELLA SMITH - His solid black backgrounds and low tablelines provide a clean, contemporary foil for single, isolated subjects such a small glass jar containing a single iris or magnolia bloom.  The simplicity of composition and severity of the background with low center of gravity is what attracts me.  Further, his series featuring spools of thread are like rainbows of pure, intense color which are so extremely appealing to an artist's eye, like raw spots of color on a palette -- in fact, he must have thought that too, as one painting shows spools of thread actually laying on a palette.

OLEG TURCHIN - Oleg Turchin's close up views of flowers in their garden habitat are intensely detailed and profoundly beautiful, featuring one blossom per composition, painted to supreme perfection.

LARRY PRESTON - Pardoning the pun, I think Larry Preston tips his hat to classical still lifes with his fruit and florals yet also protrays more contemporary subjects such as stacked or oozing jelly doughnuts in the same classical manner which I find so enticing.  Some of my favorites of his are marigolds in a jar and broken fragments of blue and white porcelain.

YINGZHAO LIU - If I were to select a favorite contemporary artist, it might be Yingzhao Liu for his beautifully balanced compositions often featuring lace which intrigues me as much as his glistening fruit and velvety petals of billowy blossoms.  His use of lace and various tablecloths gives me confidence that objects typically associated with more feminine wares is still welcome in contemporary fine art.  His subjects are nearly luminous with a flooding of overhead light creating truly sensational still lifes on every level.

JEANNE ILLENYE Copyright © 2015

summer pink oriental lily with hydrangeas still life oil painting little gems series realism

Pink Oriental Lily with Green Hydrangeas
4x4 inches / oil on panel
Always a favorite combination in my garden are these intensely fragrant pink Oriental Lilies poking through the huge heads of late summer Annabelle Hydrangeas.

old world style classical oranges still life oil painting cherries strawberries fruit on rustic table ledge

Oranges on Rustic Ledge
20x24 inches / oil on canvas
Once again harkening back to an old world classical style oil painting, featured here are luscious oranges that appear to have burst forth in an artistic arrangement with other fruit on a rustic ledge.  All are accentuated by reflective puddles of dripping juice.

Pears on Rustic Ledge
20x24 inches / oil on canvas
A companion to the oranges above, this beautifully voluptuous painting of pears is  casually arranged on a rustic ledge with grapes, cherries and strawberries which are all accentuated by the tiniest white blossoms and reflective puddles and droplets.

custom oil painting classical fruit flowers floral bluebirds sevres tureen silver shell game plates 30x40

capturing nature's transient beauty
Bountiful Table
30x40 inches / oil on canvas
 Commissioning a painting is always exciting and quite personal for both my clients and myself.  Here my client provided me with a few requests along with several photos of her Victorian dining room currently undergoing renovation with elaborately gilded teal wainscoting, deep red oriental rug a touch of rose pink damask, along with wishes for an abundant, classical composition which should include birds, red fruit, pink English roses, hydrangeas, peonies, hollyhocks and her very favorite blue morning glories.  The general composition came to me almost immediately which I laid out in draft form but had to set aside to fulfill prior commissions from an especially hectic schedule.  Once I was able to devote my full attention to this piece it moved along relatively quickly considering its size, as my enthusiasm spurred me forward to complete this delightfully exuberant oil painting!

extra large commissioned classical still life oil painting in progress fruit flowers porcelain birds silver crystal 30x40 in.

extra large commissioned classical still life oil painting fruit flowers porcelain birds silver crystal 30x40 in. 
What's in this painting:
strawberries & runner vines
bird's nest with feathers & moss
morning glories
wine decanter
English roses & buds
Oriental poppy
apricot tea rose
peony with bud
bluebird in flight
bluebird eating berry
green velvet fringed cloth
silver shell
Gorham Buttercup sterling silver knife
Sevres soup tureen w/ cover
2 JKW Josef Kuba game plates
moon & stars pedestal cake stand
dewdrops & bees to be added last
…I think I mentioned everything!! ;o)

Large Fruit and Floral Still Life with Sevres Tureen and Birds 30x40 In Progress

capturing nature's transient beauty 
Large Fruit and Floral Still Life with Sevres Tureen and Birds
30x40 inches / oil on canvas

purple and white pansies in jar with crocheted lace oil painting little gems

 capturing nature's transient beauty 
Pansies and Crocheted Lace
5x5 inches / oil on panel
I recall as a child, accompanying my mother to the plant nursery where she told me to search for the pansies that had "faces".  So even today I still refer to Pansies as the smiling faces of Spring.  They are a personal favorite to paint not only for this reason, but also for the wonderfully translucent qualities as the light shines through the petals such as shown on the flower on the left.  Note how that deep, rich purple fades on the backside where the creases of the petals shine through.

vintage baseball torn laces MLB artist

Vintage Baseball
5x5 inches / oil on panel
Well used, this baseball reveals countless happy days when kids of every age tossed the neighborhood ball and ran the bases marked by a tree, lamp post, or even a sweatshirt tossed in a heap in the middle of the street as second base!

spring's promise oil painting little gems nest feathers blue eggs oak leaves

Spring's Promise
5x7 inches / oil on panel
Oak leaves, delicate fresh moss and a few stray feathers compose this charming little nest full of Spring's promise!

spring asparagus still life contemporary realism oil painting

Bundle of Asparagus
Oil on Panel 5 x 7 inches
Here I finally satisfied a long standing urge to create this painting — ever since my first exposure to the subject as art via a painting of white asparagus by Adriaen Coorte in 1696 and then again with a painting of asparagus on a bed of chives by Edouard Manet in 1880. The simple, pure beauty of a tied bundle of asparagus signifies the earthy freshness of spring. The warm tonal greens are particularly attractive with various shades of blue, mauve and lavender — an irresistible palette. This painting marks my full immersion into contemporary realism having previously worked exclusively in the style of classical realism.

My CFAI Magazine Feature Article on Bud Selig's Retirement Gift from MLB Baseball Oil Painting Still Life Contemporary Realism "Where Art Lives" pages 84-87

click to read article pages 1 & 2 of 4
Feature Article in CFAI's "Where Art Lives" Magazine Pages 84-87
"Well Played" by JEANNE ILLENYE
With the baseball season currently in full swing, I thought it apropos to share with you a particularly fun painting from a very special client, the Major League Baseball Commission.  It was such an honor when I was the artist chosen to create a corporate retirement gift for long time great, Allan H. "Bud" Selig, MLB Commissioner for 22 years. 
I could barely contain my excitement, even though I'd only ever been to a Major League Baseball game a couple of times in New York City at the old Shea Stadium with my husband, a diehard Mets fan, as well as seeing a game at the old park in Cooperstown, New York when I was just a child.  I recalled that it wasn't the first time in recent years that I'd been approached by a corporation regarding my baseball paintings.  Previously, the publisher of famed American journalist and novelist Jim Lehrer included one of my paintings in the cover design of Jim Lehrer's novel, "Oh, Johnny".
So the plan was set, contract executed, then the arrival of two official baseballs with Bud Selig's signature.  One was in a classic display cube for posterity and the other which was even more thrilling to me, was well worn from the game.  Imagine, I held in my hand an official baseball that was actually in play...flown across home plate at speeds of 95 mph, cracked against the powerful swing of a bat, and sunk deep into a glove at first base!  Oh, I could almost hear the roaring cheers...and yet there it was before me in my studio, silently resting on my lap in the gentle grasp of one hand, paintbrush in the other.
In this quietude I studied my it felt, the pattern of the stitching, the logos and fonts printed on it, and I thought about the artist who designed the fabulous MLB logo, the hands that stitched that vibrant red thread through softly puckered leather and the unique design of the ball itself.  I began the process of merging the two baseballs together in my mind's eye, utilizing the logos and signature from one and the aged appearance from the other along with the dramatic lighting from a previous painting, which was my client's request.  The main challenge was the fact that since the ball needed to be lifesize at less than three inches, it meant extremely tiny details with logos, laces and Bud Selig's signature.  You’ll see in the image of me holding the ball alongside the framed painting how I deliberately aged the ball.  The title came to me immediately as I painted, which so often is the case.  "Well Played" seemed especially suitable to celebrate Bud Selig's career and immense dedication to this time honored sport as he embarked upon a new chapter.  It would be a treasured retirement gift from the Major League Baseball Commission in recognition of his historic leadership.
After my experience, this classical floral painter has now committed to getting back in the game of painting baseballs again!  As we all look forward to Spring, which for most of us means flowers and birdsong, I will also be joining the ranks of dedicated fans by celebrating the game.  To view more of my baseball paintings and read my personal recollections visit and keep an eye out for future paintings of nostalgic, time worn baseballs commemorating this beloved sport for all to enjoy! 

custom ruffled tiered sequins wedding dress still life oil painting mother to daughter gift

The Wedding Dress
20x16 inches / oil on canvas
This commissioned painting of a gorgeous wedding dress will be a very special gift from mother to daughter on her wedding day.  It was delightful to paint these billowy layers like feathers on a swan.

still life oil painting white chiffon dress blue ribbon yellow peony sash

White Dress with Peony
10x8 inches oil on panel
Something completely different for me, a white chiffon dress with the softest hint of baby blue in the satin sash, all accentuated with a butter yellow and white peony.  The crisp black and white theme is refreshing and presents this gossamer dress with an ethereal quality.  If you have a wedding gown, christening dress, baby bonnet that or perhaps a special pair of lace gloves you would like interpreted as a custom oil painting, I'd be delighted to create a gorgeous memento especially for you!  email

Botanical still life realism contemporary Feathers and Blue Robin's Egg

Wild Turkey Feathers & Robin's Egg
6x6 inches / oil on panel
Reminiscent of classical botanicals, this arrangement of what I believe are two beautiful Turkey feathers and a Robin’s egg, make for a striking composition. The creamy white feather with tints of gold is silky and the brown feather is downy soft. Surprisingly, we didn’t see the usual flocks of turkeys this past season. We do always enjoy their antics as they strut and cluck up the driveway and move in waves all around the property sampling my garden and cleaning up under the bird feeders. Perhaps they’ll grace us with their presence next year....

Pale Yellow Rose in Glass Jar contemporary realism oil painting still life

Pale Yellow Rose in Glass Jar
4x4 inches / oil on panel
Light earth tones create a muted color scheme which echoes the softness of the roses.

white phaleanopsis orchid blue and white oriental bowl moss elegant classical contemporary still life oil painting

White Phalaenopsis Orchid
10x8 inches / oil on canvas
Larger than I've painted this subject in the past, a white Phalaenopsis Orchid is stately and elegant in a rich, classical setting with a moss filled blue and white Oriental bowl.  As always, a nod to Nature's transience is evident in one bruised leaf.  

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I was published in Visual Language Magazine


Blessed are those who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing.

names of colors A-Z