THE ART OF BALANCE by Jeffrey Human

Jeanne on the Beach


Once upon a time, when I was 25, I took a job traveling around the country. I loaded up the car and left Arlington, Virginia for California.   Once in Los Angeles I began work, but what to do in my spare time? I didn’t know anyone. Somewhere, I learned of a painting class at the Los Angeles Museum of Art and talked my way in. Only two of my early paintings survive, and I still like one of them a lot. Jeanne on the Beach has an edgy, spontaneous feeling about it, although it has dry rotted in places. (Forty years too late, I learned about using gesso to protect the canvas.)

A year and a half later I stopped traveling, got married and a year and a half later out first two daughters were born, followed by a third two years later. I mostly forgot about painting. I shared the diaper changing, and later coached their soccer teams. I worked hard at work. Once when I hated my job I took an evening portrait painting class for my mental health, and ended up giving the finished portrait to the class model, so she could give it to her boyfriend. That reminded me, I still liked to paint and could do so reasonably well.


In semi-retirement in 2011, I took another class from a superb figurative painter. She decided I was educable and began giving me assignments to hone my skills.

After months she opined, “I think you need to tackle something big, say 30 inches by 40 inches.” This instruction produced The Peach Wagon, based on an early color photograph by Russell Lee taken in the southwest of Colorado in 1939.   I like to think I’ve improved the image by enriching the colors. My wife will never let me sell this one.

Peach Wagon NFS

I’ve taken a lot of classes and workshops from a lot of fine artists and have concluded that learning to be a painter is a lot like learning to be a CPA a policy analyst or a mechanic. A base of talent helps but success comes mostly from finding good teachers and working hard. So, if you have time on your hands and need to find a way to help prevent brain rot in your geezerhood, learning art is one good way to go.

Most of my art sales have been to people I did not previously know. This has given me confidence. At first I worried that my work might not merit the prices I was setting. Later, it occurred to me that I could now sell those early works for much more.


My paintings are often abstract or partially so. Where do my ideas come from? From novels, stories, poems songs, symphonic works. From great artists. From memories, dreams, reflections (As Carl Jung put it), from windy days and moonlit nights, perhaps from the collective unconscious, or the auroras of the people I meet. OK, here is an example, The Realm of the Raven ‘happened’ soon after finishing Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark. It is not a scene from the book, but an interpretation of the feel of the story of magic in ancient England.

You guess what inspired Return to the Emerald City.

Realm of the Raven
Return to Emerald City









Finally, my advice for buying art: Start with local artists with reasonably priced work at small galleries. (Hint: like Waverly Street Gallery!) Don’t buy anything you are not enthusiastic about.


Singer/songwriter Kate Wolf wrote,
“It seems we really said the most when we didn’t talk at all
But let the songs speak for us like the sunlight on the wall.”

Jeffrey Human is a Member Artist of Waverly Street Gallery in Bethesda, Md. Jeff is trying to make paintings that sing to us like sunlight, or unsettle us like a gathering storm. His paintings are mostly abstracts, because he thinks they speak best the languages of memories dreams and fantasies. Often they are meditations on books he has read, music he has listened to or direct experiences in his life. Jeff began to paint when he was young, but took off many years for a paying career and with his wife to raise their children.

He now paints as a kind of self therapy and as a way to share his emotional life with you. His paintings are in acrylic, mixed media and oil.


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