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A visual arts journey

Santa Clarita Valley native taught elementary school, high school and college students for 26 years

Posted: April 2, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 2, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Jaylene Armstrong poses with some of her 11 heart collages in her Newhall home on Wednesday.

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At 83 years old, retired art educator Jaylene Armstrong continues to spread her passion for the visual arts by creating her own diverse works and teaching lessons to those who are willing to listen.

The Santa Clarita Valley native crafts a diverse range of art that ranges from pastels, triptych art, high-end jewelry, multidimensional photography and three-dimensional sculptures and pictures.

"I love two things: my son and the arts," Armstrong said. "I've always been a visual person. I have always been different and stood out in the way I dressed and what type of shoes I wore or the style of my hair. My art allows me to be expressive."

Armstrong has been an art educator all her life and describes her reality as being consumed in the visual world.

Her introduction into the modern world of art and its history came later in life, when she met her ex-husband as a freshman in college. He would take her to galleries, exhibits and art shows.

"He started taking me to art exhibits, and I started to understand the history of art," she said. "I loved going to see new and creative things. I love beautiful things. My mother and father in their own right were very creative people, so I think that's why."

Originally from Madison, Wis., Armstrong attended the University of Wisconsin, where she studied and obtained her bachelor's degree in art education, as well as her master's in art education. From there, she would teach art history, its themes and its structures for 26 years to elementary, high school and college students.

"I am a strong advocate in supporting the arts in public schools, and still today, I'm pushing to further it in our community," Armstrong said.

Additionally, Armstrong said her passions for the arts don't stop at education. Her talents as an artist have given her the freedom to concentrate on multiple ways of expressing her creativity.

"The world is so visual that if I took away all the elements of design from the visual world you would have nothing to look at," she said. "You would just be standing on dirt. Whatever exists in this world has to be created. Who made it? Someone who has the ability to design. Whether it's a road, a house or skyscraper, it's the ability to see how design affects all of us. This all starts with visual education, and you begin to notice all kinds of things."

Her work is extensive, and although she enjoys all of her creations, she admits she enjoys her heart collage pictures the most.

"Each has its own title that suggests an overall theme of the piece," she said. "It pulls the viewer into each piece. I'm very fond of the shape of a traditional heart."

Her inspiration comes from the everyday where the organic lines, shapes and colors of the outside world inspire her to create.

"Once you become aware of the world and all it has for you to see, you can't go anywhere outside without observing shapes, colors and lines," she said. "It's all there. There's no way to ignore the visual world because we live within it."

She is also inspired by other artists, such as abstract expressionist painter Paul Jenkins.

"I like the way he handles colors and shapes," she said. "It's just inspirational. I'm not a conservative-type artist. I don't like things that are pedestrian. Jenkins is more abstract and very suggestive. My home and work is full of things like this, very abstract and impressionistic."

Through the years, Armstrong has seen her passion for the art world as being an advantage that continues to keep her feeling young.

"My salvation as I age is that I'm a creative person," she said. "My art is what allows me to be sane. I don't get depressed. The reason I teach art is to teach people to discover their creativity and I think my creativity never stops. I'm always being accused of being a creative nut."

Armstrong explains that the lines and shapes of her world give her inspiration and a reason to continue her lifelong passion.

"I don't think there's a day that goes by where I don't have a new idea," she said. "I'm constantly writing about art education and thinking of new projects."




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