An Observer of Life
At some point or time in life every artist gets the call. For some it comes late in life, for others it comes during childhood. For Jacqueline Chanda, that call came as a young child.
When Chanda was in second grade, she did a drawing of her mother that actually looked like her. Her parents were amazed. The accolades were so strong that it made her feel she had discovered that special thing that set her apart from others. From that time forward her parents indulged her by providing art supplies as birthday and Christmas presents. She, like many children, started off with coloring books, and crayons, but her parents moved it up a notch while she was a child to paint by numbers kits, watercolor sets and sketch pads.
Having no other visual artists in the family, Chanda had to develop her own sense of what it meant to be a visual artist. She remembers studying about famous artists, such as Thomas Gainsborough and Pablo Picasso in the fourth grade. This knowledge helped fuel her interest in painting. She started reading about artists and replicated old master paintings, such as Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough.
During high school, art kept Chanda focused and centered. She took as many art classes as she could and worked closely with the art teacher. She won scholarships to the Art Center in Los Angeles three years in a row and acquired other awards and honors for her drawings and paintings.
After high school Chanda attended UCLA where she majored in painting and drawing with a focus on education since she had been told that it was difficult to make a living being an artist. Upon finishing her undergraduate studies she wanted to continue her education in art at a private fine arts college. Unfortunately, the cost was prohibited, so she went to France. She chose France because she had participated in a study abroad program in Bordeaux, France her junior year. She liked the educational system, was fairly fluent in the language, and familiar with the culture. Besides she had told her mother as a very young child that she would some day live in France. Instead of returning to Bordeaux, Chanda went to Paris, where she continued her art studies at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, the Académie de Port Royal and the Sorbonne University where she
eventually completed a Ph.D. in Plastic Arts Theory and Aesthetics.
Chanda was born in Detroit, Michigan in the 1950s. Her parents moved to California in the 1960s. Unlike the urban environment of Detroit, in California Chanda lived in a suburban area just outside of Pasadena. It was during this time that her interest and excitement for the visual arts grew. Her parents allowed her to turn the one car garage into a small art studio. It is here that she began to use oil paints, and experiment with printing techniques, which enabled her to create greeting cards that were sold at the local stationary store. She was 14 years old.
Fast-forward with her through marriage, a daughter, and 28 years teaching and doing research in art education pedagogical practices at several universities, we find her doing what she always loved and wanted to do, paint full time.
What is Chanda’s world like today? As a full time artist, she wakes up every morning filled with excitement and goes to her studio, situated about five feet from her home in Tucson, AZ. She is in her studio painting or doing something related to her art career almost everyday.
As an oil painter, Chanda paints a variety of subject matters; landscapes, animals, etc. however, she devotes most of her creative energy to representational genre paintings, painting of intimate scenes from everyday life, of ordinary people at work or play. She draws her content for these paintings from her world travels and her immediate surroundings. She feels that her interest in painting people in everyday activities stems from a bus ride she took in Detroit when she was 8 years old.
Chanda’s mother sent her downtown on the local bus to pick up some medicine. This was her first time traveling alone. When the bus arrived at the depot downtown Detroit, she was fascinated by all the people, taking the bus, waiting for the bus, walking in the street, going into shops, crossing the street. She watched people closely. This notion of observing people followed her to Paris, France where she lived for seven years. She would take the bus and people watch, she would sit in a café and people watch, she would walk in the street and people watch. She says, “You can learn a lot by watching people.”
It is this notion that fuels the content for Chanda’s past and recent body of work related to urban street scenes. She generally develops her compositions for her street scenes from photographs she has taken and sketches she has done. Most recently, however, she has begun to work more from her imagination, using photo references and sketches to create scenes that exist only in her mind.
Her clients find her genre paintings intriguing and full of life. One client says, “I like the way you capture a moment in time and give the viewers the feeling that they are looking at a slice of life.” Customer, Tucson, AZ.
Her greatest influences have come from artists, such as Richard Diebenkorn, Paul Cezanne, and Edgar Degas. She loves the structural elements of Diebenkorn and Cezanne’s work and the snapshot-like compositions found in Degas’ paintings.
Since focusing full time on her painting practice, Chanda has been very active, participating in residencies, and making, exhibiting and selling her artwork. Her work has been accepted to several juried local and national shows and she has won several awards; 2nd place in a national exhibition, a crystal merit award in an international exhibition, and two honorable mentions. She and her work have been featured in the Arizona Daily Star newspaper, the Sororan Arts Network, art review, Lovin’ Life After 50 magazine, the Tubac Gallery guide, the Tucson/Marana Daily News and she has appeared on PBS Television “Spot on the Arts” and KGUN 9 T.V.
Chanda belongs to a number of local and national art organizations, such as Sonoran Plein Air Painters, the Oil Painters of America, and the Portrait Society of America. Organizations such as these allow her to continually develop her skills as a painter and stay connected with other artists.
For Chanda, every painting is an adventure as they explore memories of places, sights and sounds she has experienced in her life and the lives of her customers. When she is not in her studio, Chanda can be found riding her road bike. She puts in around 100 miles a week and is looking forward to taking her cycling interest to places outside of Tucson, to places far and near so that she can continue to observe.