in partnership
(Image: Jayashree Krishnan)

Artist of the Week: Jayashree Krishnan

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? Do you work with other mediums?
Jayashree Krishnan: Ever since I can remember. My earliest memory was drawing a large peacock with chalk when I was four. I am a painter. I work with different types of paint.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
Here is a little window into my creative process behind building a concept-based piece titled "The Inside Job." Confession: I listen to Oprah's podcast called "SuperSoul Conversations" while I work. After listening to a few of those, I kept getting one common message from what all the people she interviewed were saying, "you need to get out of your head." They were talking about how to be fully present and mindfulness, of course. But to me, the sentence presented an image. What you see in this sketch is a first attempt at creating a visual.

It looked too weird and confusing. I hired a photographer after several of these sketches, and we set up a photoshoot with my daughter as the model. Meanwhile, I boldly purchased a 4-foot square panel and prepped it for painting. Once you have made that commitment, all you can do is move forward.

My next goal was to somehow paint what it looks like inside our brains when we think.

I started to look for articles about recent research on the biological neural network. I came upon one titled The Forest Of Neurons showing an animation of the neural network in our brains. The next few days involved a lot of back and forth — sanding, scrubbing, wiping and reworking took place until the painting resembled the image in my head.

Here is what it looks like now. There is an idea for the next big one, no sketch yet. When it happens, the process will begin all over again.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
From everything around me and everything within. I love taking hikes around the Seattle area and enjoy painting the scene in front of me — en plein air style. Last month I finished a series of nine portraits showing a human emotion each. My models are all South Asian women. Inspiration is really everywhere.

Do you have a specific "beat" you like best — nature, food, profiles, etc.?
I love to sketch everyday scenes in local cafes, on the bus ride to my studio, at Green Lake park, UW and with our Seattle Urban Sketchers group. You will likely find me in a café going right back to where I left off, once it is safe to be in a coffee shop again.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
Each and every piece I have had the pleasure of creating holds special meaning to me. Samsara, the tree of life, is by far the most special of them all. Probably because so many people from diverse backgrounds connected with it.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
Until five years ago, I was teaching mathematics to college students. I quit that job to paint full time. Since then, art has been a journey of wanting to learn more and to keep challenging myself to push the boundaries. The past three years, I have had the pleasure of holding workshops for at-risk youth and their mentors using grants funded by 4Culture. That has been an incredible experience for me, giving this art a place to go and to make a change in someone's life. This time of social distancing has been very productive for me. I have created over 50 pieces in the last three months alone. To answer the question, "Art has become a way of experiencing life."

If we want to see more of your work, where should we go to find it?
Most of my work is online on my website, and I am on Instagram @jayashreeart. You are, of course, welcome to a studio visit at the historic building Inscape Arts where I work. Currently, I am working from my makeshift home studio.

What is next for you? Anything you're working on right now that you're really excited about?
Currently, I am painting a series of local doctors, nurses and health care workers treating COVID 19 patients. It started with portraits I made of my cousins, who are both doctors, donning their PPE at work. After that, I painted several nurses and ICU doctors from different hospitals in the country. I paint around one every day. The series of watercolors will be displayed at the Virginia Mason Hospital downtown when it is finished. It is my way of saying thanks to all medical workers and first responders for the incredibly challenging work they are doing every day.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? (We ask everyone!)
16 ounce, black, extra hot, please!