By Jennifer Pizzillo

I’m working on a set of drawings that use some trickery with salt. I flood the surface of a really nice thick smooth piece of paper with watercolor until it almost seems too wet, and then I place piles of kosher salt on the wet surface. The salt sucks up color giving the surface a funky lichen effect. Once completely dry, I scrape off the salt and start working on the surface with acrylic ink applied by a dip pen.

I love pen and ink for its sublime line making potential, but it is a risky way to work because even a slight bump can ruin a whole piece. Oil paintings are pretty easy to fix: you just scrape up the mistake, add a layer, or paint over it, and your flub is fixed. With acrylic ink you really can’t fix the missteps, but with a steady hand and dose of good fortune you can get a slightly raised, slightly shiny, silky line quality that’s really lovely.

I was born in Pittsburgh just as the manufacturing industry there was crumbling. When I was about 10 we moved to a small town in Western Maryland and I don’t know how well I fit in. It was the kind of place where everyone seemed to be distant cousins. No one went to dangerous places like Baltimore, or Washington, and even though I spent 8 years going to school there I still felt like an outsider when I graduated.

I went back to Pittsburgh for a year in college to attend Chatham College. I spent more time with my grandparents and made great friends and got to know the city again. I loved living there. I transferred  to Towson to finish my art degree but I still visit Pittsburgh often to see family and friends, and I sort of always wished I never had move away from there. My husband and I like to travel and even those short trips north help me remember that DC is not really the center of the universe.

I don’t make art for provocation, or to advocate for feminism, or abused victims or the powerless, or to express political rage, or to tell my sad stories or to exorcize demons. For me, art is exploration, itch scratching, mental maintenance and creative noodle exercise. I make things and then they pile up and I occasionally show them to other people, and sometimes I offer them for sale to make money to buy more stuff so I can keep up with my art itching. Life is complicated; art really isn't for me.

About the Author

Jennifer Pizzillo is a graduate of Towson University. Her work is concentrated on assembling pleasing color palates and striking pattern in order to produce something visually stimulating. Through the practice of mark making, the effect of mixing textures and media, and the translucence of layering, she aims to create a harmonious patterned aesthetic that incorporates a wide swath of materials, surfaces, and techniques. She lives and works in Montgomery County, Maryland. More information at:

This article was produced and published on in the arts magazine Bourgeon with the support of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities within a partnership between Day Eight and the Washington Project for the Arts in conjunction with WPA's Hothouse: ImPRINT exhbition that will open in May at the Capitol Skyline Hotel.

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May 4, 2015