at Work : Jill Rosean Tishman
Santa Fean Jan/Feb 2004
Look closely and you just might see the music in Jill Rosean
Tishman's landscapes. In and among the layers of pastels,
charcoal, ink, and paint, you can sense its presence. Music
animates this artist and helps her access the emotions that
infuse her compositions. Her spacious studio, located in the
steep, rocky hills along Hyde Park Road, reverberates with
all kinds of music when she's working, including classical,
rock, world rhythms, and blues. "It's always playing,
" Tishman says. "I don't think I could create my
work without the music."
Tishman begins each piece by sketching the composition in
ink and charcoal. She then adds several coats of pastels,
sometimes rubbing and blending, sometimes leaving bold lines.
"That's when the magic takes over," she says in
her quiet voice. "I react to the music I'm listening
to, and engage more emotionally with the piece. And if the
music grabs me, I've been known to stop and dance a little
The artist is dancing a lot these days – and not just
in her studio. Two years ago, she started taking ballroom
dancing classes at Strictly Dancing (now Dance Central) in
Santa Fe. It's easy to believe this soft-spoken woman when
she says that she is shy in front of other people, and it's
impressive to hear that she is considering putting herself
in front of an audience with a dance recital at the studio.
"I find that everything I do has an impact on my artwork,"
she says. "intuitively, it seems like a really nice challenge."
There's another kind of magic in Tishman's work, a visual
point where, as she says, "you stand back and the loosely
drawn pastels tighten up." This transformation is particularly
startling in her latest series, which includes several seven-foot-high
renderings of gigantic trees and forests.
"Trees, to me, are like people," Tishman says. "If
you're doing a portrait, each has its own characteristics.
I want to capture that, but then let loose emotionally. The
trees are actually quite alive to me. I do think there's a
spiritual being out there. I get that feeling in nature."
The artist's reverence for nature is often depicted in scenes
where treetops create a cathedral-style ceiling over a brightly
illuminated path. The paths also symbolize life's myriad journey,
which, for Tishman, have been extraordinarily varied.
Even though she received a scholarship to summer art program
at the San Francisco Art Institute while in high school, it
was several decades before Tishman became a professional artist.
"I didn't think I could make a living at art," she
says. Instead, she pursued philosophy in graduate school,
and taught ethics and social and political theory at Ball
State University in Muncie, Indiana, and at the University
of Wisconsin in Madison.
While she loved the intellectual challenges of academia, Tishman
felt cut off from her emotions – and from other people.
"the subject of philosophy was often a conversation stopper,
whereas art seems to open people up," she recalls. Tishman
stepped off the intellectual track and back onto an artistic
path when she returned to her native San Francisco. This time
she enrolled at the Art Institute with a sense of purpose,
and by 1989 she was selling her work. She is currently represented
by the Chiascuro galleries in Santa Fe and Scottsdale, Arizona.
Tishman and her husband moved to Santa Fe in 1990. Their sunny
home, and the artist's studio, are filled with her dramatic,
large-scale works of art – and, of course, with the
music that inspires Tishman to paint, and to dance. "I
am always moving," she says.
– Erica Wheeler
Erica Wheeler, a regular
contributor to Camera Artis Magazine,
finds particular pleasure in writing about artists.