A standout among the emerging talent of pop-art is Jordanna Ber, a designer-turned-artist who made her way from Canada to Barcelona, and she is now building her dream studio space from an old stone countryside villa in the Costa Brava.
Jordanna describes her style as hyperrealistic pop, and she’s best known for her bright and cheerful colored pencil technique. The muses for Jordanna’s latest collection dubbed “Not Your Trophy” are wild animals typically hunted for trophies, each with a colorful and distinct personality. Her work can be found in galleries including Wall Candy and Canal Gallery and online at Saatchi Art and Jordannaber.com.
We asked Jordanna to tell us a little more about her creative inspiration, her unique medium and her current projects.
What inspired this collection?
The concepts for my collections usually build in my mind slowly, over a period of time and experiences. Then, all in one moment everything just clicks and I need to stop whatever I’m doing and start sketching before the idea escapes me. To give you an example, the idea for my current collection came to me when I was at a yoga retreat in Sevilla. There was a decorated elephant sculpture in the room, and all of a sudden I jumped up while everyone was in savasana and ran out of the room to grab my notebook and start writing it all out (apologizing to the amazing instructor afterwards, of course).
I always have a ton of different ideas for collections swirling around in my head, but I can’t start them until there’s that ‘ah ha’ moment, where it all comes together and makes sense. The collection I’m working on now, titled “Not Your Trophy”, is a trippy, acid pop art take on a traditional hunting lodge trophy wall. This collection is an amalgamation of so many experiences over the past 10 years. I’ve always been passionate about animals, I’ve worked as a guide for sustainable tours in South Africa, and more recently I worked for a pet tech company. Seeing the forever on-going gun debate in the US also makes me both incredibly angry and terribly sad that the system is failing not only animals, but humans as well. I think it’s probably accurate to describe this collection as a mashup of my passions and fears.
How do you know when a collection is complete?
I’m pretty methodical, both as a person and as an artist (that’s a politically correct way of saying that I’m a complete control freak). I’d love to say that I’m a go-with-the-flow-kinda-gal but that would be a total lie. I guess I’m not the stereotypical artist personality. Before starting in on a new collection I will do a ton of research and do a rough mock up of the entire thing, including how I will lay out the pieces to flow at fairs and exhibitions. Then I will calculate the rough timeline for hitting deadlines in order to make it for the shows that I want to participate in.
Is there a piece that you are most proud of?
There are about three pieces complete for the “Not Your Trophy” collection so far, and I’m in love with the first piece, titled “Reggie”.
“Reggie is the sassy ‘qween’ of the jungle. He is a born leader with a big heart, but don’t be fooled by his charismatic nature, his perfectly manicured nails are sharp enough to slash any haters.”
I completed Reggie around the time of Pride month and he took on this gentle but fierce nature that I admire in so many of my friends that don’t subscribe to traditional gender roles and expectations.
Why do you use pencils as opposed to other mediums?
I actually love working with many different mediums. I especially enjoy the freedom that comes with acrylic paint and oil pastels. However, I have always been a bit of a nomad, and pencils and paper are easy to pack up in your carry on (my love-hate relationship with my industrial electric sharpener is a topic for another time though). With pencils you don’t need to wait or worry about drying times or stretch canvas onto stretcher bars when you arrive at your destination. If you’ve purchased a piece from me, it’s likely that it’s traveled with me to various locations. My last commissioned piece came with me to the Lofoten Islands in Norway, to Canada, and then to the South of Spain.
Aside from the portability aspect of coloured pencils, I also enjoy that they are still a rather unexpected medium in the world of fine arts. Coloured pencils are traditionally seen as art supplies for children, and people are always taken aback that my art is done solely using coloured pencils. Yet, coloured pencils are extremely long lasting and when layered and blended, they become much more malleable and take on an almost oil pastel like consistency, allowing you to push and pull colours into place. I see coloured pencils as my little happy rebellion to the fine art world.
When/how did you know you wanted to be an artist?
My parents tried to enroll me in various activities when I was a kid and realized very quickly that I was not coordinated enough for team sports, and that I was too much of a control freak for dance class. True story, I once spent an entire dance recital organizing the props at the back of the stage into a straight line while the rest of the class performed the routine we’d been learning for the past 6 months. But art… art always made sense to me. I’ve always been a natural creator and storyteller. If a few days go by and I haven’t been able to draw, I’m not a happy camper.
What goals have you already accomplished?
One of my major goals was to support myself fully through art, and this past year I made the exciting leap to be a full-time artist and haven’t looked back.
Another one of my goals for this year was to partake in an international art show, and this past March I was selected as one of the new artists to exhibit at The Other Art Fair presented by Saatchi Art in London. What an incredible experience — I learned more during those four days than I had in the past year! Meeting the other artists and getting feedback on my work was invaluable. The community of artists was so welcoming and it was extra exciting to be the only coloured pencil artist to exhibit.
Lastly, being an extrovert, one fear that I had in making the leap to becoming a full time artist was that I would go a bit mad working for long hours alone in my studio. So building a strong community of artists to work with and share challenges and successes was really pivotal to me. I was lucky to find some great shared space in the Gothic Quarter and this has made all the difference to my well being.
What are your future goals?
Coming from a business and tech startup background, I find the art market and the business side of how the various stakeholders interact with it to be so fascinating! Although it’s centuries old, it’s somehow still very much the “wild west” in terms of business operations. Many top galleries still operate without contractual agreements with their artists, and pricing is, for the most part, completely opaque. There’s an amazing 3-part podcast produced by Freakonomics called “A Fascinating, Sexy, Intellectually Compelling, Unregulated Global Market.” for anyone that is interested in learning more about this topic.
Although this is starting to change, I’d love to be involved in some way in disrupting the structures that have been built to keep the rest of the population out. It’s so interesting to me that the system that has been built to protect art and artists could actually be its demise.
Aside from completely disrupting the global art market… I’d love to be in a place with my art career where I could give back financially and make a real impact through social initiatives that foster the arts for youth and give them the tools to pursue successful careers in the creative field.
We need to break the “starving artist” stereotype, and stop teaching kids that it’s a dream to pursue a career in the creative industry.
Any projects in the works?
Each of my pieces takes an average 3-4 full weeks of work (approximately 100 hrs+ per piece), so I will be completing the “Not Your Trophy” collection towards the end of this summer, and look forward to showing the works in various exhibitions in the autumn.
Right now, I’m in the process of building out an artist studio space in the Costa Brava and my hope is to offer it as a shared space for artist residencies and special projects in the near future. If this is of interest, I often share progress and updates on my Instagram.
Lastly, I have a few solo shows coming up! The first is with my Montreal gallery, Wallcandy, which will be taking place the first week of August. I’m also planning another show in Barcelona towards the end of this year. I will share all of the details on my website shortly, but signing up for my newsletter is the best way to be the first to hear about new art drops and shows.
What do you want people to know about you and your art?
I strongly feel that the vast majority of the art industry wrongly focuses on selling art as an investment – something to be held for a period of time and then sold for a profit at a later stage. My dream is for more people to buy art they love, simply because it makes them happy. I make my art for myself because I need to create, and because it brings me joy. So when someone purchases a piece from me, I want it to bring them happiness every time they look at it.
My partner once joked that I’m like the Jack Johnson of artists, and the more I think about that comment, the more I feel the truth in it.
By Leah Prately
About the author
Hello! I’m a student at the University of Oregon studying abroad in Barcelona for 8 weeks. I’m excited to be here and contribute to Frikifish, which allows me to explore the city and all of the incredible art it has to offer. I enjoy reading, writing, going to museums, and the beach. That being said, I couldn’t picture a better place than Barcelona. Hope you enjoy following along with me!