To use a verb common to interior design and fashion, Chesterfield artist Jo Jasper Dean’s Palm Fronds positively pops.

The chromatic vivacity of that 36- by 48-inch oil, which Dean committed to canvas in 2017, may remind many viewers of the botanical jubilation of an increasingly mythic-seeming “ordinary” late spring or early summer here, one unmarred by either flooding or drought. Like many of the other works displayed in her website’s gallery, Palm Fronds also may tempt viewers to think fruitful thoughts: lemon, lime, tangerine, kiwi.

“I find nature inspiring and color intoxicating,” Dean relates. “My images are inspired by direct observation of nature – developing the composition in the field through the camera lens. In the studio, value and color studies are created, followed by color studies translating the composition to my color palette. Beginning with a detailed realistic grisaille – underpainting – executed in sizzling red, I adhere to the reality of defining the form of the subject I’m portraying, but reality stops there.

“I then layer on an imaginative color palette of saturated, amplified colors, igniting visual electricity sparked by the interaction and tension between complementary colors. Using impressionistic, expressive brushstrokes to capture the textures of nature, I always leave a hint of the grisaille showing to add an element of heat.”

Within that general creative context, Dean provides specifics on the origin of Palm Fronds.

“Wherever I travel, I seek out botanical gardens and nature preserves, scouting for the unique and beautiful to convey in a painting,” she says. “The Naples Botanical Gardens [in Florida] is a frequent stop, as we visit family living nearby. One winter, we were strolling the paths when the crisp, warm air was overwhelming as the breeze rushed over me, and the palm fronds seemed to clink like wind chimes above me.

“As I looked up, the fronds were swaying to the breeze following the tune of their ‘chimes.’ I had to paint it. Click – I got the shot, and relived the warm experience as I re-created it in my studio – in my color palette.”

Dean relates that she studied art at Clayton’s Fontbonne University and St. Louis Community College, ultimately earning a bachelor’s degree in business management from Town and Country’s Maryville University.

As a painter, she’s taken part in juried shows for Art St. Louis, the St. Louis Artists’ Guild and SLCC, among others, and since 2015, Sara Eyestone of New Mexico’s La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa has represented her.

That said, Dean’s enthusiasm for the visual arts long predates her collegiate stint, let alone the present. “I always remember painting and drawing, even when I was a small child, winning my first blue ribbon for an oil painting in sixth grade,” she recalls.

“I was fortunate to have a solo show less than four years after I stopped a corporate career and began painting full time. It’s in my blood – I suppose I’ll always be painting and loving every minute of it. When I go to my studio, I tell my husband, ‘I’m going to paradise.’”

Aptly so. In both her works and her words, Dean seemingly embraces an almost Edenic harmony. “I enjoy painting in this style to convey my emotional connection to the image, and to communicate how I see the scenes and subjects that move me,” she says. “Whether in the open landscape or a creature’s environment, I’m attracted to the bountiful offerings, unique treasures and endless textures in nature.

“My paintings focus on a dramatic close-up view of nature to deliver an intimate view of the subject, inviting the viewer to step inside the scene and feel the emotional connection I experienced with my subject. I enjoy using exaggerated explosions of color and lively brushstrokes to evoke the energy I see in nature.”

In short, if Palm Fronds and Dean’s other works prompt jubilation in a viewer, that feeling scarcely goes unshared by the artist herself. “Painting gives me great joy,” she says. “It lifts my spirits and feeds my soul.

“Painting is an invigorating sensory experience: I love the smell of oil paints, the sound of the palette knife scraping across the surface of the palette, the feel of the brush dragging the paint across the texture of the canvas and the sight of the image developing before my eyes.” 

To learn more about our featured artist, visit jojasperdean.com.

St. Louis-area artists who wish to be considered for future installments of this monthly department of Ladue News should email inquiries to bhollerbach@laduenews.com with “Art and Soul” in the subject line.

Bryan A. Hollerbach serves as LN's copy editor and one of its staff writers. He loves to read, write, impersonate an amateur artist and research all things bibulous.