Since the age of 13 when her father gifted her a paint box, Jean Arena has had a love for painting. After a successful career in advertising, in which she developed a masterful understanding of storytelling, she poured newfound attention and passion into her first love—attending the Art Students League and painting full-time in her Remsenburg studio. Here, she discusses her art on the cover of the July 30, 2021, issue of Dan’s Papers, her August exhibitions and more.
What is the name of this piece, and what is the story behind it?
The name of this piece is “1940 A Perfect Day at the Beach.” In the past few years I have been noticing a number of old trucks on farms and older cars that have been restored. A year or so ago I painted a winter scene of a farm with an old truck on it. It got a good reaction in a show, and then it was purchased by a young family. I enjoyed painting the truck and now I try to incorporate tractors, cars and trucks in my paintings.
This is what led to the painting with the large black 1940s car and family who are enjoying their perfect day. It is a picture that I think many people can relate to either in their past or present. Three generations—baby, parents and grandma under the blue sky and golden sun.
What does your typical art creation process look like, and did it differ at all with this piece?
My typical paintings usually start with a picture I have taken or one that a friend sends me. I try to make most of my paintings relevant to the area. Places people might like to see because they can put themselves in the scene, or so they can just look at beautiful sky with clouds of different colors or waves rolling onto sandy beaches.
What makes this artwork such an ideal fit for a Dan’s Papers cover?
The beach is one of those places almost everyone likes all year and especially in the summer so it is a good fit with Dan’s Papers in the Hamptons.
What are your favorite East End spots to visit in the summer, and do these locales appear in your work?
My favorite East End spots to visit beside the beach are the farms, the vineyards, nurseries with beautiful flowers and farmers market and the ferry from Sag Harbor to Shelter Island and then to Greenport. I like to paint people—running, swimming, biking and kids playing.
I am trying to incorporate people into my paintings more often. I have studied portrait painting at the Art Students League of NY for almost seven years. I worked many years in advertising with lots of people and then studied painting with classmates and instructors, so working alone took a while before I felt comfortable with my choices and style and also having my work in shows with others.
What do you find most rewarding about being an artist?
The most rewarding feelings I have about creating paintings is that people are enjoying my work whether they just get a good feeling when they look at them or a smile or get a laugh from them. Or of course if they like a painting so much that they want it to be with them in their home. I also get a great feeling when my grandchildren think I’m the best artist ever!
Where can your work be seen in the coming weeks, both online and up close?
To see more of Jean Arena’s work, visit jeanarenapaintings.com.