Art Immersion – Jonah Allen – Ep 21
March 16, 2022
ON TODAY’S EPISODE
One of the hallmarks of artists that have found tremendous momentum is that they have incorporated their art into not just one, but many aspects of their life. Momentum has a particular look when we start. Our art can be just an idea or simply a hobby in the beginning, but it can become much more over time. Your art can become your life and this kind of momentum can result in powerful, amazing art.
I recently came across Jonah Allen. An extraordinary nature photographer primarily focused on the ocean that makes images depicting the essence of the sea, waves, and light. His work is potent and stirring because of his deep immersion and love of the subject matter. He literally lives and breathes the ocean. During the day he goes swimming and surfing, walking the edges where water and land meet. And at night, he continues by studying weather patterns, all in pursuit of his photography.
This conversation reminded me that momentum is a powerful force in one’s art journey. It happens when an artist goes all in for their art by also incorporating it into their life. Jonah’s life and art are a refreshing peek into what our days could look like if we too, stepped more fully into what we love.
Listen if you are interested in…
- Getting to know Jonah Allen and his relationship with the ocean [2:52]
- The different ways Jonah interacts with his subject matter [7:53]
- Photographing fractals, the patterns of nature, and going beneath the water’s surface [13:23]
- Wrestling with time as an artist, Jonah’s travel plans, and using art to make a global impact [17:35]
- Bringing physical art to the digital age, the journey Jonah took to open his gallery, and sacrificing for your art [23:33]
- Compounding decisions to create momentum in your art practice [34:12]
- Diving into Jonah’s creative process [38:08]
Capturing a moment
On the surface, Jonah’s love of the ocean and the feeling he tries to convey with his work is all about energy. He loves waves because they were ultimately created by energy from the sun that surfers harness and ride with water as the medium. His photography centers around capturing that experience because for Jonah, it is one of life’s most essential experiences. On a deeper level, the ocean is where Jonah feels most at home and spiritually connected. You can tell. Because aside from energy, there is a feeling of peace that overcomes you when enjoying his work. A calm that washes over you and envelopes your senses.
The magic of great photography is that it allows you to view the world from the artist’s perspective. For Jonah, art is about emotion. If one of his images can make you feel SOMETHING, it has done its job. I’ve been to the beach more times than I can count. I’ve seen waves crashing in the ocean my entire life. But when I look at Jonah’s work, it’s like I’m experiencing something new for the first time because I’m seeing the ocean through his perspective. He masterfully captures a moment in time where you can not only see what that moment looked like for him, you know what it felt like too.
Three unique perspectives
When I create a painting, I have the freedom to play with the composition. I can add things I feel the painting needs or subtract what it doesn’t. Photography, however, is restricted to what the environment has to offer. Your composition is fixed so it’s all about taking shots with the right light and perspective. To avoid reusing the same angles over and over again, Jonah has resolved to satisfy his obsession with capturing the relationship between water and light from three different perspectives: water, sand, and air. Shooting from the water requires him to literally get IN his subject matter with a wetsuit, flippers, and specialized camera housing. Being at the center of the action is what allows him to take such dynamic and nuanced pictures of a universal experience.
The second perspective is from the sand. Jonah is fascinated by the sacred geometry of the earth and the sacred patterns that have been here longer than we have. He loves bringing them to life with his camera. Finally, Jonah takes photographs from the air. Using drones and helicopters, he overcomes the limitations of gravity to create almost any desired perspective imaginable. Drones are a low-cost option that is great for taking precision photos from impossible angles. While renting helicopters can be expensive, there is nothing quite like hovering hundreds of feet above the earth, exposed to the elements, trying to get the perfect shot. Whether it’s from the water, sand, or air, Jonah is always looking for an engaging perspective to capture the perfect moment.
There are massive benefits to artists utilizing digital resources to get their art out there and social media has been game-changing for the art world. However, it’s one thing to see art on a phone, computer, or tablet, and an entirely different experience to see it in person. The physicality and scale of art are what stop people dead in their tracks. It allows the viewer to be immersed on a level that is simply not possible with a screen. A great way for artists to get people in the physical presence of their art is through publishing books. Books allow art to take up physical space in the viewer’s world without needing them to leave their coffee table. Get a copy of Jonah’s first book in the links below!
One of the most impressive things about Jonah is that he took steps to represent himself and open his own gallery that features his work. It didn’t happen overnight, though. There’s a reason that opening a gallery is mostly the path not taken these days. He recounts a tough grind with many bumps along the way to get to where he is right now. But he also notes that it’s important to define what success means for you personally. For Jonah, success is having the financial freedom to do what he wants, how he wants, with who he wants and he knew sacrifices would need to be made to get there. Few things matter more to him than getting to fully integrate his art into his life and it’s clear that nothing will stand in his way. I’m amazed by the clarity of Jonah’s vision to take on a project of this size and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Resources & People Mentioned
Connect with Jonah Allen
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the founder of Art2Life.
With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.