Jennifer Worsley’s home, nestled among plant life and crawling ivy, is a reflection of the landscape artist’s love for nature. Her art hangs in the front room, which then opens to her studio space and the adjoining kitchen. Rocks, dried flowers, plants, and even a dried puffer fish fill the house.
Worsley was raised in Sandy, Utah, and growing up had the opportunity to take art classes at Salt Lake City’s Visual Art Institute. She enjoyed being able to learn and create art in this setting. In high school, Worsley says she had two very different teachers: one let students explore different mediums unrestrained while the other taught by the rules, approaching art in an almost formulaic way. These teachers created a good balance in piquing Worsley’s interest in learning more about art. All these influences together, along with a trip to Europe, where she was able to see the Sistine Chapel and other great works of art, aided in Worsley’s decision to pursue art. After high school, she moved to the east coast to study at Boston University.
During her BFA, Worsley received a solid arts education, with the exception of the medium she was most drawn to. “I never did pastels in school,” she says. “It’s really not considered very serious, but I love it.” Her love of landscapes drew her to the medium. “Pastel is so immediate you don’t have to mix anything you just have everything right there, it’s great for going outside and perfect for capturing a moment.”
Worsley says she was never very excited about working with pastels in her studio, so she would have to wait for the right weather to create. So, about 15 years ago she turned to woodblock printing to allow her to do something in her studio that was still inspiring to her. “It’s got such a complicated and interesting process, it’s like getting to do sculpture too.” The method of woodblock printmaking Worsley uses is a Japanese style called, Moku Hanga. Using this method of printmaking means that once Worsley has finished one of her works it cannot be reprinted again. Because of this, Worsley will print anywhere between 15 and 30 prints as she goes through the many layers. Working in layers, starting with the lightest colors in the composition, the woodblock is slowly carved away until all the desired layers of color and composition have been printed onto the page. Once a layer has been carved out the ink, in the desired color, is brushed onto the woodblock. The block is then placed into a notch along with the paper, to make sure the image is lined up the correct way. Then using a baren, a circular Japanese rubbing tool with ridges or bumps, the paper is pressed into the woodblock to get an even layer of the ink. This process is then repeated by carving into the same block of wood for a different color and layer, often this process will be repeated about 15 or more times. This process mirrors moments in nature that cannot be repeated. Every sunset, cloud, and sky is different and changes constantly from day to day. Just as nature does not repeat itself, Worsley’s works cannot be reprinted. Using this technique she captures a single moment that cannot be altered or printed again at a later date.
Using both pastel and woodblock as mediums has created a nice flow in Worsley’s art practice. “They are very opposite each other. With pastels, the last thing I would put on would be the lightest color and there is only one final work, but with the woodblock, I have a bunch and add the lightest color first. They play off of each other. I go back and pick pastels to do for woodcuts — it allows me the opportunity to think more about my works.” While the pastels have a more immediate final product the prints can take a few months to complete, and often “you don’t know exactly what is going to happen in the end” when it comes to the prints.
Worsley has always been drawn to the landscape. Boston University sat next to the Charles River and the art building had large windows that looked down on the meandering river and the bridges that crossed over it. “I didn’t really like doing still lifes and models were fine but models were just lying around. Landscape just always has more kind of meaning and all the changing the light was really interesting. I also love color and when you’re in a room there just isn’t as much color as what you get outside.” While Worsley liked the East Coast she loved the landscape in Utah, so she moved back in 1999. “When I moved back to Utah I just wanted to capture the weather, you know, the way the clouds form over the mountains and the sunsets.”
Worsley finds herself particularly inspired by the landscape of Salt Lake Valley. She often visits Emigration Canyon, where she enjoys the view south, of layered mountain peaks and the wide-open valley below. The mountain ranges have become so familiar to Worsley that they have come to play an important role in her life as a symbol of home. Currently, she finds herself visiting Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons, places where she has sought inspiration for almost 20 years and enjoys seeing how the landscape changes year to year. “In the spring there will be rushing spring runoff that will kind of calm down, and by July it’s really dusty and hazy and hard to see. But by September it’s really beautiful, the water and the air clears and the leaves start changing. It changes, but it’s familiar.” The landscape around Worsley has become home to her, a feeling that can be sensed in her works.
Worsley hopes that her landscapes will excite those who see them. “I want my landscapes to speak to someone the same way they speak to me. I would never choose a random scene to draw. If I don’t find something interesting, something that inspires me, then I won’t do anything.” Worsley wants her works to be more about a feeling than a reproduction of the landscapes that surround us. She is a talented and dedicated artist who creates in every aspect of her practice, from mixing her own pastels to cutting the glass and making the frames she sells her works in. Her works are beautiful and filled with emotion. The mediums she uses are unique and provide the viewer with an opportunity to view the landscape of the Salt Lake valley through new eyes. Her home, love of nature, and art practice combined and flow together to reveal a truly dedicated soul to her art practice.