My DREAM is to someday have what I call a HeART FARM: a place to have weekend retreats and workshops with a huge barn and rooms for people to stay and cook and paint together.
Let’s make this dream come true! HAPPY PAINTING!
Each week as I introduce a lesson to my class, it amazes me to watch as each person begins their design and works out their colors and concept.
Most thrilling for me are the choices made even though some of the students are brand new to art classes and some have years of experience. There is a wide-eyed energy in the room when everyone is focused on their vision and for just a moment in our lives (me included when I get time to paint in the class) there is nothing but the here and now: paint, brush, and paper.
One thing I learned at the start of my gallery was to have paper and colored pencils for children with parents who want to shop. The minute a youngster enters the gallery I asked them if they would like to color or draw and in 34 years every child has said yes no matter how shy they are when they first walk in the door. It is almost instinctual and easy for a child to sit and come up with an idea.
Adults have a lifetime of editing, judging and muddling their childlike approach to art. I aim to bring them back to their innocence each week. I have a famous $1.00 jar and if you complain about your work or judge your art the class turns and says…."a $1.00 for the jar." It was something I learned as a child and my parents called it the “complaint department”. It takes time to develop a style and learn all the lessons in class and sometimes it feels overwhelming like the Ed Sullivan Plate Juggler. Yet even I know that it is not over until it is worked really hard and had time to dry.
Each class I teach allows me the opportunity to invent a new concept and develop my own skills. The painting by Andreas came from the Beyond Borders class last week and the two images I created were something I have never done and really loved developing.
My DREAM is to someday have what I call a HeART FARM: a place to have weekend retreats and workshops with a huge barn and rooms for people to stay and cook and paint together.
Let’s make this dream come true! HAPPY PAINTING!
When one thinks of "power couples" or “dynamic duos,” one usually thinks of corporate couples. Well, look and think again, and you will find Gary and Jessel Miller of the beautiful Napa Valley.
Gary is a man of the earth, a "Renaissance Man," as Robert Mondavi called him years ago after tromping through Gary's Giant Pumpkin Fields. Jessel is a renowned artist, author and, for the past thirty four years, owner of the Jessel Gallery. Both of these loving and devoted people hale from rural country life. Jessel is from Timmins, Ontario, Canada (birthplace of such notables as Shania Twain); Gary was raised on a farm outside Dayton, Ohio.
The roads they took to get to the Napa Valley is a story unto itself, another chapter in this book of life. They met six years after Jessel opened the doors of her gallery in 1990, when Jessel decided to buy a new vehicle. Low and behold, "she bought a van and got a man.” Gary was a recent transplant from a dealership in Concord, California, and happened to be working the floor when Jessel arrived. It was attraction at first sight, and love soon followed. Together they worked on enhancing the already lovely Jessel Gallery; Gary left the car business to support and renovate the gallery.
As he was leaving Jessel after their first date, he plucked something from a flower in her garden and said "plant them and watch them grow.” That was exactly what happened, but it was Gary, a fourth-generation farm boy, who transformed the exterior of the gallery. He also rebuilt the interior each time Jessel took over another space in her one hundred year old building. The gallery grew from 300 to 6500 square feet and became known as the largest, oldest, and most loved gallery in the Napa Valley.
As a result of the beauty he created in her garden, Gary started designing gardens for friends and family. His natural touch and instinctive eye became well known, and over the next ten years he designed and constructed amazing environments. His direction took an abrupt turn when Margrit Mondavi requested that he grow a giant pumpkin for her to display at the front door of her exquisite home. This chance request changed his whole life. Like everything he and Jessel "devote themselves to," he completely immersed himself in the understanding and growing giant pumpkins, and almost twenty years later, he became the west coast representative for the “Giant Pumpkin Commonwealth,” known as the “GPC.” His first pumpkin weighed about 500 pounds, and he now grows numerous giants weighing as much as 1985 pounds! He continued to supply Margrit with giant pumpkins until her passing in 2017. She loved and adored Gary; he felt the same way about her.
Like the beautiful pristine fields surrounding Gary’s farm, Jessel has created a gallery that feels more like a home, with her famous homemade gluten-free oatmeal cookies, which she serves daily, and her eight rooms filled with brilliant fine art, crafts, gifts, jewelry, clothing and so much more. Jessel, like Gary, devotes her time to rearranging the rooms, hosting shows and book signings. Every Sunday, she teaches an art class that participants say is a rare “life experience.” For three hours, beginners (or virgins as she calls them) and professional artists spend those hours not conscious of any thoughts of the past or future...they are totally caught up in the present moment...the “Zen Zone” as Jessel calls it. “I love when everyone is so focused on the paint, brush, and paper that I am allowed to bask in their floating state, and peace fills the room."
Jessel's classes have become so popular she it is often necessary to move out of the small classroom that holds fourteen people, and in to her largest gallery space that accommodates thirty artists. She recently began offering a Wednesday evening class to lighten the load. That class fills up as well, so she has simply accepted the enormity of the challenge of helping people touch “the inner place and peace” she has enjoyed since she discovered she was an artist at the age of four.
The Jessel Gallery devotes time to friends, family and the community by honoring individual artists with month long shows, annually holding the Open Studios show, and a two month Holiday Bazaar. She hosts book signings for authors young and not so young, holds talks with community notables, and is open seven days a week for visitors and locals to enjoy the sculpture garden or picnic on the deck.
Together for twenty-four years, Jessel and Gary Miller shine a light on this already gorgeous valley by introducing something unique in the world of "being successful.” They both do what they love and love what they do every single day, and they get to live in a magical place that they both call “Heaven on Earth.” Yes, life has challenges, but they have surrounded themselves with friends to whom they are devoted, friends who return that devotion. They also have their whole family living in the same town. “Blessed” is an understatement in their expression of how joy-filled life is for them. Magical, Mystical, and Enlightening is how they describe their world, and they embrace the time to touch each moment with love.
Everything around the county is in bloom and with all this beauty comes inspiration and color. I remember when I was first learning about the use of color I was challenged by my professor in college to stop being literal. “Grass in not always green” he said and it completely confused me since I thought I was seeing clearly and reproducing nature accurately. I WAS SO WRONG and he was right (as much as I hate to admit it because he was such an intolerant teacher only liking abstract art and I was a realist).
Now as I teach every Sunday, Joy, my student and friend, pointed out that I need to verbalize all the skills I do on “auto pilot.” I learned that I need to verbalize each thought and step I take as I put paint to paper:
Marilyn Mendelson is the first artist with a strong brilliant palette who loves shapes and creates complex designs and balance in her work. Click through the gallery to enlarge her pieces.
Madri Bienenfeld is another powerhouse painter not afraid to stretch and grow in unique ways. Her palette is softer than Marilyn's yet the impact is just as exciting.
I am thrilled with the progress of the students. They are my Spring Spirit and excitement on a weekly basis. By changing the classes to Sunday the door has opened to so many more students and I am joyful with all the positive response I get at our simply getting together and painting for 3 hours. I invite you to come and experience this Zen Zone. It’s like being in kindergarten all over again.
I plan to introduce you to my students each month. PLEASE ENJOY and join us in class! Get on the Email Blast and hear about all the happenings and classes at the gallery. If you wish to try the class email me .
I came home from a recent vacation to the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen. I took it as a sign I needed to take more holidays. I write books, including The Slow Down Book, and truly need to read my own writing!
The gallery is a 7 day a week job and rarely do I take a vacation. I was
blessed with 3 nights in a beautiful home in Bodega Bay last week and it has
truly affected my spirit.
When I opened the Jessel Gallery in 1984 I committed to "the Business of
Art". Before that time I was a Creative Artist keeping my own time and
embracing each day as a Free Spirit. Once I opened the doors to this space,
which at that time was only 300 sq. ft. (now 6500 sq.ft.) it became clear to
me that having a gallery and being a working artist are 2 completely
different focuses and now I had to find a way to keep the art flowing as
well as keep the doors open and cover my overhead.
Through Floods, Earthquakes, 9-11, the Recession, Earthquakes again and
finally Fires I had to keep reinventing the gallery to handle the changes.
At one time the Jessel Gallery supported 8 full time employees. After 9-11
the ceiling fell in and the floor fell out of the business of luxury items,
which art is considered. I have always said that because my price point is
from $10.00 to $10,000.00 we were able to survive the slow and low times
throughout our history.
Over the last few years the only time off I took were two 6 week periods in which I had my right and then left hip replaced...definitely NOT A VACATION. In fact, after the most recent hip replacement I came in and taught a private class after just 2 weeks of healing!
Now, because of this recent trip I have decided this is going to be my "once a month commitment to my well-being" and to my HeART . Refreshing, renewing, relaxing and rejuvenating are my new Mantra and will certainly infuse my paintings with brilliant light. My lesson will hopefully inspire you to take time to touch each moment with love!
Until next time,
So much has happened over the past year and it continues to change the face of the planet. Like a work of art, time, tenderness and turmoil touch each of us daily and it is how we respond to the world around us that is the deciding factor in the creation our personal Canvas of Life.
This month I am working on a project that I describe as a WOW moment. (If you are visiting the valley for a wedding, conference or family experience and wish to record the moment for your guests, Jessel or one of her other Plein Air Artists will attend the event and paint the view. This is an exciting and fascinating way to record important milestones. Contact me for more information). I'm creating something special for a company visiting the valley for a corporate event in April, and I decided to take some pictures as I worked (click to enlarge):
One of my students, Joy West, remarked after seeing this progression:
"VERY insightful....good to flip back and forth, focused upon a specific area to see how you developed it. When I see it step by step, it seems so very doable."
It was a light bulb moment for me as a teacher and an artist. I am fascinated myself watching artists create a work of beauty from a blank canvas or piece of paper. When I break the concept up into steps it allows me to see that taking the time to breathe in between stages is exactly how I need to deal with the world around me.
It's hard for me to describe the process of how I paint a piece. I am on auto-pilot most of the time, so having the actual steps in photographs truly allows me to explain myself without words. I do know a few things I can share and that is I look for a balance of color, design, value and light. Each piece of the puzzle of the painting is affected by the piece beside it, so I work to align the palette on the page. All these concepts seem to work in most cases in my art.
I thought you would enjoy seeing the development of a work of art by a few other Jessel Gallery artists. Here are two other artists' progressions and their own words about their processes.
This large 36 x 48 inch canvas started with a few simple measuring marks in pencil dividing up the space. With a neutralized dark mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Red Deep, I began to establish the big shapes. This monochromatic start, or Grisaille, was modulated to show the shape and value of the main passages in the design before the introduction of color. Next some of the warmth of the field in the foreground was blocked in with earth tones like Raw and Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre. As color was added, the big shapes were adjusted until their proportions and color values are approximated. It’s important to resist the temptation to add detail for as long as possible. The light shapes were put down with a fast drying white to provide a foundation for yellows and reds added later in glazes that bring luminosity to the sunlit areas. Next I let the brush run bringing the gesture of the painting up together. Layers of color and details were created using indirect painting techniques, working back and forth between warm and cool. Some of the initial marks are then visible all the way out to the final painting.
It is always helpful to create thumbnail studies in black and white to organize shapes and values before launching into the official painting. They serve as a roadmap, so that if your painting isn't coming together you can refer to the simple structures on the value study and refine those qualities in the larger version.
My thanks to Daniel Mundy and Erin Dertner for sharing a glimpse of their processes. Happy New Year to you all!
33 years ago, November 1984, the Jessel Gallery opened its door with 3 small rooms in the front of the Atlas Peak 100 year old building, once known as Hedgeside Whiskey!
Through floods, 911, earthquakes and recently wildfires the old French door has swung inward welcoming visitors from around the world.
Our good fortune from the start was the fact that we were located a mile from the Silverado Country Club and you know that business has one saying for success...location, location location.
The second THANK YOU goes to the Clients, Friends & Fans who bring guest and share this lifetime dream with the ones they love. We would not be here if it wasn't for the people who patronize the gallery.
The third THANK YOU goes to my brilliant team of devoted friends who keep the doors open and come to my rescue at a moment's notice. Most of you know I work almost 7 days a week and rarely take a day off. This year my Dear Friend Joy contacted 25 of my friends & everyone sent funds for a "go on vacation Jessel" trip.
I was flabbergasted as you can imagine. Tears filled my eyes when I realized what the big box Joy had created for months was handed to me & the purpose was revealed....To all of you who sent funds & cards...This was the best Birthday Present I have ever received. It was not only the money (which was an amazing gesture in itself) it was the fact that all of you loved me enough & know me to be a workaholic & were willing to share your, precious earnings to get me out of Dodge!
To Joy West, Gay Sherman, Marcia Garcia, Diane Pope, Christi Lesti, Jenny Lomanto, John Stemmer, Marmie Beck, Nouria & Reg Harris, Ryan Miller, Gary Miller...THANK YOU for your willingness to help me keep this Ship floating through good times & bad. I know that I can call on you day or night & a lifeline is waiting at the other end of the phone.
To my friends including Carolynne Gamble, Davina Rubin, Elizabeth Bush, Marsha Johnston, Sam Gittings, Dave Taboni, (and so many more that it would take pages to name everyone). You are my A team & have been on the road since the start of my vision. You know my climb. I will be eternally grateful to you because you believed in the dream.
Last but not least....My HeART felt THANK YOU goes to the Artists who make up this fantastic collection of SUPERSTARS I represent. You are the driving force & lifeblood of my business & without you there would only be Jessel Art.
That is how I started 33 years ago & I knew the day I opened (being the shy child inside) that I did not want the focus to be on my work alone when people came in the door so right from the beginning I brought in other artists.
I do not care who people love when they come to the gallery...I care that they are moved by any of my artists & actually prefer that people do not know who I am so they can honestly fall in love with the artist that touches their heart. I realized years ago that the greatest gift we can give as Artists is to reflect the best of the life we live and the beauty we experience in our daily life.
Some galleries focus on edgy dark work & some are strictly modern in orientation.
The Jessel Gallery is a combination of quirky, whimsical, classical & contemporary with the emphasis on a Positive Messages & Lively Color.
I wish all of you the most Joyous Love~ Filled Holiday Season. YOU ARE MY BLESSINGS.
Thank YOU Jessel, for all you do! For spreading creativity and beauty and for making "me" see a new sight of our wonderful hills. When I drive around, I get teary looking at what, like you said it is not rocks but burned loving trees! However, YOU are putting in my eyes, heart and soul a new sight and I am so very GRATEFUL to you! Thanks! also for sharing Betty and Buddy-during the fires Joy's narrations of their doings made my
heart lighter! And your Gary and those Kate and Ben are Yes! precious!
Thank you for giving all of us the Beauty of Yourself, and the love for the creative process as well of exposing us to the healing of your words and Art. You are incredible my Dear! Thanks the universe for YOU!
Have a loving Holiday Season!
I am writing this blog because every young artist coming up in the world needs to hear about "what to expect" on the journey to attaining a gallery. My hope is that this story educates young artists on the manner in which one navigates the Real World of Gallery Representation.
Growing up in a small town in Canada I lived a protected life filled with honor and respect by the community. Though I was a shy child my parents, by example, equipped me with a voice (though quiet as I was) to stand up for myself. Many years later living in Piedmont Ca. married and still shy, my husband (at the time) insisted that I needed to get out and find gallery representation.
Difficult as it was for me to make the first appointment, I did just that with a (what I thought was a ) well respected gallery in San Francisco in 1978. I presented my work, which included several portraits. The owner of the gallery (who shall remain nameless) expressed his admiration for my talent and invited me to lunch.
To this day I am appalled by not only the term Stable...but mostly by the fact that I believed what this man was saying. I said I would contact him later that day thinking I had to answer his vile demand.
I actually thought I had to respond to this disgusting man because I felt like he was speaking for all gallery owners in the city and to get a show I would have to be part of the galleries "Stable."
My second blow that day was coming home to my husband . We were having problems in the marriage because he was overwhelming dominant and aggressive and I was beginning to realize this may not be the right person for me. When I told my husband what this man said to me he immediately said " So what did you do to make him say this."
He blamed me!
I was in shock and at that very moment I realized beyond a doubt that I was married to the wrong man and the gallery owner was a creep and disgusting pervert.
I kept quiet about this incident like several other events in my life as a young girl because that was what we were taught to do. Nice girls maintain their divinity and keep these stories to themselves. Only close female friends and artists heard the story over the years as a warning but when I started hearing people speak up about their "me too moments" I felt compelled to share my story because it happens everywhere including the Art World.
I went on to have a show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and painted 25 Well Known Personalities including Maya Angelou and Dianne Feinstein. (one of the celebrities chased me around his office trying to kiss me and I took the photo of him and ran for my life never telling anyone who he was) .
In 1984 I made the decision to open my own gallery because I felt I could best represent myself and other artists due to the fact that I knew what it took to be an artist and I also had business sense watching my father as a child.
I made a promise to myself when I began representing other artists in the Jessel Gallery. When an artist would present their work to me I always treated them with the utmost respect (no matter how I felt about the art). I would tell the truth about their work and honor their willingness to be vulnerable and share their art. My goal to this day is to support and uplift the artists I represent and anyone who shows me their work. I hope that the Jessel Gallery continues to support and embrace the creative soul in all of us.
Here is my advice to anyone seeking a job or representation in a business or gallery. I recommend that my artists no matter their age go into a gallery first and see how you are treated as if you were a possible buyer. If you like how the staff talks to you and approaches you then take a card call later with a request as to how to submit your work. If you are dismissed by the staff or feel disrespected in any way...this is an example of the core ethics of this business and it will only get worse as you get closer to the top or boss of the business. Turn and consider yourself lucky when you walk away from this kind of energy. There are hundreds of wonderful galleries and businesses in this country who respect their artists and employees. "Water seeks its own level"
(Watch for the upcoming "From the HeART Benefit" supporting the Artists who lost everything in the recent Napa Valley Wildfires)
My hands on the keys of my computer I notice the layer of what seems like dust. It covers everything and everyone living in the Napa/Sonoma Valley and beyond.
He alerted me that there was a fire on the hills beyond the gallery. Friends arrived moments later to see if I was okay and we looked out on the hills and saw the fire off in the distance. I had seen small fires before and heard the engines roar by the gallery so I thought it was a tiny hillside fire and even though there was a lot of smoke I went to bed.
I quickly took the only possessions that I felt were important...my 2 cats, my purse and flash light (there was no electricity. I ran out of the gallery thinking it was not that bad and I would be back the next day. One lesson I will pass on to all of you is have a suitcase with anything that is important ready at all times. I roamed the streets and went to where Marsha had landed (at her friend's home) and then at 5am I woke Joy West and she took me in.
From early Monday morning until Friday I sat (very comfortably I must say) with Joy as we watched the sad and devastating scenes of countless homes burned throughout the Napa, Sonoma, Fairfield, Santa Rosa area. I have never been evacuated from anywhere in my life and now understand the plight of all those in recent history including the hurricane victims, and the earthquake victims. HELPLESSNESS overcomes you (and I was one of the lucky ones who had a friend/ friends who welcomed me into safety).
If there can be good news from this event it is the outpouring of love the Jessel Gallery and I have received from all of you around the world who called and wrote out of concern. I have had this gallery for 34 years and one never knows whose heart is touched by the experience of crossing my path. BLESS ALL OF YOU FOR CARING ENOUGH TO LET ME KNOW WE ARE IN YOUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS.
MY HEART weeps for everyone around me who lost everything. I look up at the hills and cry for the homes burned but mostly I sob for the loss of life to animals and humans.
THIS IS A STRONG COMMUNITY and we will come out of this yet we will need your help and support.
I have to thank JOY WEST who has come to my rescue many times in the few years we have known each other. She took care of me for 3 weeks during my recovery from a hip replacement in May 2017 and now we have one more hole punched in our history card of loving friendship. The light shines through when the holes match up and this was a really BRIGHT LIGHT.
I end with 2 photos of my sweet cats who got pretty comfortable at Joy's House.
Buddy found a box in Joy's closet and Betty took over the big chair in the living room!
THEY HAD NO IDEA flames were roaring all around the valley. Last night as I lay back in my own bed they flanked me on either side and with hands on each one I finally had a peaceful sleep for the first time in a week.
I LOVE YOU ALL. Jessel
No doubt you’ve heard stories—and maybe experienced yourself—the athletic skills, the amount of practice, the hours of honing fledgling abilities until they are poetry in motion, seemingly effortless in their execution. Behind every appearingly simple arch of the back, extension of the leg, leap in the air, graceful focus of the dancer, the skater, the runner are hours and hours, sometimes year upon year of evolving prowess.
When I watch Jessel paint, there is a seemingly effortless surrender as her brush touches the page. Magic happens before my eyes upon a page once blank as she whistles or sings to her piece, enticing it to take form, muddying her rinse water quicker than anyone else I know, sometimes trickling paint purposefully, at other times being led by where the paint wants to flow. Leading, or being led, it is a dance she does well, in a seemingly effortless way. Yet she is quick to remind that for over a third of a century she has been painting professionally. Before that came formal studies and before that, she drew and explored on her own. It’s fair to say creativity has flowed from her right hand for almost her entire life. Effortless? Not hardly.
I’m guessing a similar tale could be told about many of the artists at the gallery. What looks pristinely elegant, easy really, is a compilation of year after year of mastering.
Jessel recently took time off for surgery and recuperation. Several of us stepped up to fill in during her absence. It was then that I got a tiny glimpse of all the effort required to keep this gallery looking and running like the temple she has created. From keeping the exterior plants healthy and the deck inviting, to knowing which artists to represent and which to refer elsewhere, to interacting with a diverse array of personalities and requests of customers and clients, to record keeping, to keeping ample toilet paper in all the stalls, to creating new and stimulating shows month after month, to being genuinely thrilled when you walk through the door and truly desiring to be of service---these are just some of the roles Jessel has played, the hats she has worn since 1984.
Effort appearing as effortless? It’s an art form. And it’s alive and well, practiced daily at Jessel Gallery.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
1. We all see through the filter of our life experiences and our likes and dislikes.
2. I ask that there be NO JUDGEMENT through the process. I find that when I do the what I call the Big Reveal” at the end of the class students really like their pieces.
3. There is no right or wrong way to paint an image, Just your way.
4. Watercolors teach the painter the process of going from light to dark and allowing the layers to waft through which is exactly the opposite way Oil or Acrylic painters work. It is the perfect medium to learn color and the blending techniques can be translated to any medium once learned.
Artist. Author. Art Gallery Owner. Cat Lover Extraordinaire. A little bit of art and soul.