Home Features BONJ Series I HeART New Jersey: The Best Nontraditional Painters

I HeART New Jersey: The Best Nontraditional Painters

New Jersey is home to countless artists that find inspiration in their home state. Our I HeART New Jersey series celebrates these amazing artists and their designs; giving them the opportunity to not only share their craft, but share their story. Each creator offers their unique take on a different style of art. This month, we’re featuring unique NJ painters who don’t always use paint.

That’s right, these “painters” use materials other than paint to make pieces of art. From fresh fish (you read that right!) to sand and jewelry, there’s more to these paintings than meets the eye.


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Jenn Hill, Love UR Mug

Painting by Jenn Hill of Love UR Mug

Jenn Hill is well known for her all natural soap and skin care line. But she also has a talent for expressing her creativity on canvas; which is why she started Love UR Mug. Before Love UR Mug, Hill began stippling (drawing using numerous small dots or specks) portraits of people and animals. Now, she works with acrylic paints, combining them with pencil drawings to attain more depth and feeling.

However, most recently she took up the technique of fluid art, becoming fascinated with its visual style. The many layers of paint melting together creates an organic and free design. She finds this technique lets her express herself in a unique way.

Hill often draws inspiration from nature, and the same goes for her paintings. She completes her work on natural, organic pieces including slate and wood, which lends more character to the piece itself. Each piece takes 7-10 days to complete, which is when Hill begins to add personal embellishments; these include butterflies, sand, beads, and gemstones. The result is a life-like, textural approach.

To see more, either visit her website or follow Love UR Mug on Instagram.


Bridget Sawitsky, NJ Shore Gyotaku

Gyotaku Painting by Bridget Sawitsky

Jersey shore resident Bridget Sawitsky is bringing Gyotaku, a traditional Japanese art form, back to life. Dating back to the 1800s, this tradition paints fish and measures them on rice paper before they are eaten. Sawitsky, who has a BA in Visual Arts and MA in Education, researched the art form a few years ago. Her newfound passion now exists in the form of NJ Shore Gyotaku.

Shortly after, Sawitsky convinced some fishermen at the Manasquan Inlet to hand over their fish for a portrait; it didn’t take long for her to fall in love with Gyotaku. Though she still uses rice paper, she also enjoys painting on totes, pillows, and more.

Sawitsky works quickly with just-caught, fresh fish (she swears it doesn’t smell). After cleaning the mucus off with lemon juice, she matches the colors of the fish to ink; then with the fish laying flat, she paints it. There’s a balance between not painting too much so the skin doesn’t clog and also working fast enough so the skin doesn’t dry. Once complete, she rubs the fish on rice or archival paper. Finally, she paints the eyes so they are clean and crisp. The result is a striking portrait of seafood that is still edible!

You can learn more about NJ Shore Gyotaku on Instagram. Her work is also on display locally at Artisan Spirit, BareHands Artisans, and Red Bank Artisan Collective.


Jennifer Ritchie, Made by Jeny

Jewelry Art from Made by JenyAfter opening and then closing an artist co-op in Lafayette, NJ, Jennifer Ritchie wanted to try something else. Particularly, she likes to create earth-friendly art using repurposed material. Working out of her farm home in Sussex County, Ritchie “paints” with jewelry; and sells her work through her own shop, Made by Jeny.

From gardens and landscapes to day and night scenes, Ritchie starts simple and lets her ideas grow. She uses the jewelry she collects to create scenes that sometimes take weeks to complete. (She believes in giving the jewelry time to tell her what it wants to be.)

Ritchie finds that giving old jewelry a second life through the scenes she creates inspires others as well. Beyond sparking her own creativity, it gives viewers the chance to use their own imagination as they examine the art.

For details about Made By Jeny, visit the website.

To see more of the best artists in New Jersey, visit I HeART New Jersey: The Complete Series.


Feature (Top) Image: © Jenn Hill / Love UR Mug
Article Images (in Order):
Jenn Hill / Love UR Mug
Bridget Sawitsky / NJ Shore Gyotaku
Jennifer Ritchie / Made by Jeny