Veron Ennis
art of chance

by Cindy-jo Dietz

"If my eye keeps getting
stuck somewhere on a
painting, I have to
determine if it's because
it's great or because
something's wrong."

open and cube

Hexi Pass'

Metro Projection'

VERON ENNIS IS LIKE a breath of fresh air. You can feel the positive energy coming from not only her personality, but also her gallery, VEMA (Veron Ennis Modern Art). The lively colors used in her abstract work tell a story — a relaxed, brilliantly colored and welcoming story. As you walk into VEMA you instantly take in the white floors and walls, with art at every turn. The function and flow of the rooms create a relaxed and cozy feel. Veron is inviting, pleasant to talk with and extremely passionate about her work. An acclaimed artist herself, she often reaches out to support other artists in the community. With such a positive attitude, raw talent, grinding work ethic, and commitment to giving back, Ennis is destined to be well known nationally and internationally in the coming years.

Recently Veron attended Art Basel in Miami, not presenting her work, but rather following the art market. Events such as Art Basel provide artists a perfect platform to see what galleries are picking as their most important pieces. “When you’re looking for what galleries you want to start a relationship with, you want galleries already carrying work similar to yours. Sometimes it’s hard to tell from just a website,” Veron explains. Many times the owners of these galleries will be in their own booth. Speaking with them directly can give artists a more complete feel for who they are and how they run their gallery.

As an artist, Veron attends shows such as Art Basel looking for new techniques she can incorporate into her own creative process. She says exposing herself to new applications helps her work progress in new directions. She says, “It’s so exciting to see somebody use a new lacquer or a new way of doing something I can’t figure out. There’s a constant growing when you’re an artist. How can your craft get better and better? Do I get a better sanding technique? Do I use different tools to pull the paint? Do I use different inks? How do I step it up to the next level craft-wise? I’m really looking at how someone binds something to the wood or what wood they’re using, not just what are they making and the subject. Would I use those materials and does that interest me?”

Veron also frequents many art exhibits here in Lee and Collier counties. She is a firm believer attending events close to home will help the local art culture grow. “It’s such a supportive art community,” she says. “I don’t get the sense of competition. Everyone wants everyone else to rise together. We’re all in the same boat. We’re all on the same team.”

One of the original 12 artists of MAMA (Movement of Aleatoric Modern Artists), Veron explains the movement as one where the artist relies on some version of chance to depict the final work. She describes her own pieces as containing elements of intended result, but also partially created through chance, such as when she pulls paint with a trowel over the work. Chance helps drive the paintings in a direction she can’t control. She explains, “I think of MAMA as an analogy for life, always falling in and out of control and being OK with it. I’m a really slow painter. I will stand and stare for so long drafting a painting. It’ like playing chess. You have to think so many steps forward and imagine where it might be going. As soon as you actually apply something though, all of that changes, and you’re back to square one, changing your entire game plan. So, my work is planned but then it changes and then changes again.”

Representatives from the movement found her and pursued her through the internet. At first, not knowing what the movement was about, she didn’t take their inquiries seriously. But after being persuaded to meet, she welcomed the opportunity to join and has since been instrumental in helping the movement grow.

The first part of creative process for Veron is the color palette. How does it make her feel? She describes color as being her biggest inspiration and she premixes large amounts of custom shades into jars before starting any painting. This simple step allows her more freedom in the composition. She can be confident there will be enough of that particular shade throughout the creative process. “It’s very distracting to have to go back and forth comparing a color to match.”

At times it can take Veron all day to mix the perfect shade of a particular color, sighting the importance of perfection. Veron also likes to go through magazines and color palettes online, viewing what graphic designers are using as the latest color schemes. She uses this material as inspiration for future shades she may create. Many times she finds herself gravitating to similar colors. She believes the colors she chooses show a very true representation of where she is at mentally and emotionally.

Veron describes herself as a positive person and she enjoys making work that conveys that feeling. She doesn’t paint when she is upset or feeling negative. She doesn’t want that out there. She says, “Painting while negative just solidifies that feeling in the world.” It is not surprising to find she has helped name and create a movement called OPT. (Open Positive Transference). Started in early 2013, OPT is explained as not wanting to put out art created during a negative state into society permanently. After conversations with several like-minded artists, she and her colleagues decided they couldn’t be the only artists making work in this way — there must be many. Veron says OPT is an open movement — anyone can say they’re an OPTist.

So, how does Veron come to complete a piece? With abstract work, the subject is typically free-flowing. Is there a natural stopping point? “I love answering this question,” says Veron. “I teach this in my Intro to Basic Composition class. You train yourself to recognize when you’re comfortable or done finding issues. You want to give the viewer something to do, keep them busy. The eye should be led around the work, but stay in it, not going somewhere else. If my eye keeps getting stuck somewhere on a painting, I have to determine if it’s because it’s great or because something’s wrong. Maybe I need to add something or completely cover it. I’ve had to completely cover over an entire area I’ve worked on for weeks. But once you do that, it’s fresh and new. That part is solved. It’s like having a talk with the piece to see what you should do.”

One of Veron’s biggest goals is to make abstract art appeal to the masses on a very basic level. She wants the work to be more approachable. “I think it can be really intimidating,” she admits. “Abstract work can totally freak people out. It makes them uncomfortable.”

Much of the time the responses Veron gets to her work are pleasant in nature and often she finds people will walk up and want to touch the work. She says, “It may be because on a basic level it doesn’t look like you could ruin it. You’re not going to put fingerprints on it. Since childhood we’re trained not to touch things.” She continues, “The work is bright. I think that’s attractive, especially to children. Also, I work on wood. Its tangible and soft, a natural fiber I think everyone can relate to.”

With VEMA opening in March of 2013, Veron has seen many new faces stopping by to view her work. Her Fort Myers gallery is located in what is referred to as The Art Loft in the upstairs mezzanine of the Edwards Building on the Alliance for the Arts campus.

Veron works heavily with the Alliance by volunteering and supporting shows. It’s an opportunity for her to give back. “The Alliance has been supporting me since I moved here,” she notes. “They’re so nice. They truly want artists to do better and do everything they can to help their careers. Plus, they are an excellent source of information. I love the gallery being a part of them. When they have openings we try to have openings. I say we, including the artists next door. It’s a little community up here. We all work on and promote this specific area.

As a curator, Veron suggests to emerging artists that they be as professional as possible. “Sometimes the business of art can be a mystery. The rules are hard to find out,” she advises. “I would say the first thing these days is to have a website. It just makes life easier being able to see the work, your bio and your art statement. It’s a very international business now. You can get into galleries in any country.” As an example, Veron is currently represented in Dusseldorf, Germany by the Von Fraunberg Art Gallery and was recently mentioned in British Vogue magazine.

She continues, “You also want a good relationship with the galleries you work with. It’s a partnership. You have to trust a lot with them. I love Lauren and Emily at HW Gallery in Naples. They’re really great people. I like calling them and seeing how they are doing. I bring them new work and they are excited about it. It’s not like I just want to be in any gallery. I want to meet them, feel their energy and decide whether or not I can have a good relationship with them.

Veron also suggests saving documents. “I can’t stress that enough,” she advises. “Organize and photograph your work as soon as you are finished and make it a quality photograph. Have your biography updated. Make sure everything is current. When you’re applying for a deadline, it may be in a week because you just found out about it. You can just click and the information is ready. It’s a lot of work when you’re just starting, but as long as you keep up with it, it becomes a lot easier.”

Veron suggests to young artists that they get out there and be seen by submitting work to competitions, group shows and open calls. Making a mailing list as soon as possible is vital. You want to invite people to shows that will come see your work in person. This helps build your resume which should also include your exhibition list, where you’ve been published, and the like. The process doesn’t change much as an artist becomes more popular, but applying to national competitions, and international competitions, especially where there’s cash rewards, helps an artist’s career immensely.

She seeks out and applies to new opportunities using websites such as CallForEntry.org or Re-title.com and says there are many websites out there to help young artists move up the ranks.

Veron explains opening VEMA has been an incredible social space. “We host what is called Art Talks here at the gallery,” she notes. Along with her neighboring artists and gallery owners, VEMA invites artists and art enthusiasts for an open discussion of the their community, the business of art, and everything related. “The talks mean so much to me,” she says. The talks include helping emerging artists discuss issues they may be having getting their work seen, what steps to take, what's coming up for one artist or another, how they do what they do. “We help each other create this market.” she says. “We make sure we have our bases covered and we promote each other. We meet new artists. It’s kind of like a live Facebook. Instead of it always being on a screen, there’s discussion. People come and we talk face-to-face about artwork.”

She admits, “There’s really no goal. We’re not trying to make a sale or anything like that. It’s nothing about profit on that night. I think that’s what’s relieving to people that come. It’s not a show. When you have a show, there’s pressure, you’re ‘on.’ At Art Talks we’re not ‘on.‘ We’re relaxed. We encourage visitors to bring their own beer and wine. This is a format where we can all be very open with each other, just be together without it being about one person in particular.

For more information on scheduling and other information please go to Vemacreative.com.

Another project Veron has been recently working on can be viewed at Toccanation.com. “I was looking at Twitter campaigns and trying to crack that code,” she explains. “How do you promote yourself on something billions of people are on? Influencers on Twitter tend to look for give-away items. It provides them something they can promote to their followers. So, what do you give away as a visual artist? I can’t spend hundreds of dollars printing and mailing for free. So, I thought the only thing you could give away was something digital.

At Toccanation.com you can download free artwork for your IPhone or desktop background. I thought, I wouldn’t go to a website that only had one person on it. So, I asked several artists such as David Acevedo, Xavier Brignoni, Tony Myles, and several others to be a part of this group. They made their digital backgrounds from their work and I designed the website from scratch. This website is sort of a collaborative community, with fun, free art. I need that balance. What can I give back? How can I make this fun?

To see Veron’s work in person, you can always visit her at her gallery, VEMA, at the Alliance for the Arts, located at 10091 McGregor Blvd. in Fort Myers. For information, call 849-7772. •

January-February 2015