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(Image: Jolene Sunding)

Artist of the Week: Jolene Sunding

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! See all of our past Artists of the Week in our dedicated section.

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? What mediums do you work with?
Jolene Sunding: After careers in the secretarial field in many different levels, organizations and cities, then beauty school and my own salon, then managing and doing design in flower shops, I decided to go to art school at the age of 35 and finally do what I always wanted to do but never thought I could. I received a degree in Graphic Design with a minor in Fine Art.

I work in acrylic, watercolor and am also driven by the thick and thin black lines of pen and ink. My 25 years as a professional graphic designer has influenced my love of paper and seeing my art in multiples — how gratifying to have my art available on a surface that could be purchased and provide a hands-on experience to be shared with others.

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Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
Actually, after my years of design, I work well with deadlines and the pressure to create. In 2020, I stopped doing freelance and rented my first dedicated art studio space. It has been a big transition, and I find I need to self-impose deadlines.

For example, I have always designed and sold greeting cards. I was preparing to exhibit at "Noted: the Greeting Card Association's Expo" in San Francisco, May 2020, and COVID canceled that. I was in the midst of "reinventing" sympathy cards because the ones on the market are tired, overly religious or very floral. So, I focused on empathy and created an updated version of cards with beautiful, thick, colored cardstock, colored envelopes and foil graphics.

My process always involves the project's end result, meaning it depends on whether the piece will be sent to a commercial printer (greeting cards or surface design) or if the project is a painting, whether it is acrylic or watercolor, or a combination including pen and ink.

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Tell us about where your inspiration for your art comes from.
The common thread in my art — whether in greeting cards or paintings — is the acknowledgment of the range of emotions we experience as humans on a scale of joy to grief.

Do you have a specific "beat" you like best – nature, food, profiles, etc.?
I paint florals, leaves, funky birds and abstracts with mark-making added at the end, so nature is definitely a part of everything I do.

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Do you have one piece of art that means more to you or is extremely special to you?
Yes, "To Contemplate" is the title, and it is an abstract watercolor.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
My father's death, my travels, moving to the Pacific Northwest and meeting my husband in 2001.

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If we want to see more of your work, where should we go to find it?
My website, and on Instagram @jolenesundingart and @onthebirdwalk.

What is next for you? Anything you're working on right now that you're really excited about?
I am currently working on a semi-abstract series of vessel paintings acknowledging all we have gone through with COVID. I wanted to explore the idea of the human experience and self as vessels. After all, there are many similar attributes; we hold things in, we pour things out, and we are all sizes, shapes and colors. With every brushstroke, reflecting on this past unusual year, I am considering the range of emotions we as humans have dealt with and continue to deal with. Where do we put them and what do we do with them? My sense is that we can be open to all the possibilities and fill the cracks with healing, hope, joy and gratitude. I have 19 done and have 12 more canvases prepped to go.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? (We ask everyone!)
Double shot 2% latte with extra foam.