Artist Jen Sterling’s Abstract Art Is Bold, Beautiful And “Out Of The Box”


Arnold resident Jen Sterling loves color, not just in her paintings, but also in her life. “I’ve always been inspired by color,” she said. “It totally impacts my mood and how I approach the day.”

As an abstract painter, Sterling has a compulsion to help others feel that same excitement through her paintings, which she calls unique. “They’re not the standard crabs and sailboats that you see locally,” she said with an infectious laugh. “They’re not intended to match the couch.”

The paintings are big and bold. “I think there is a certain amount of bravery in throwing together something that you think might not go together or to offer something more intense than someone may expect to find,” she said.

Sterling explained that buying pre-framed or ready-to-frame art is “safe,” neutral, and it goes with everything. That’s not what she offers.

“I’m going to give you something that’s not safe,” she said. “It’s not ‘in the box’ or even in the same zip code as ‘the box.’ I want to do something to get your attention.

“I like a lot of contrast — bright and bold, with action and shape so that each time I look at a picture, I see something new,” she added. “I may only use a small number of colors, but they move or interact and create energy.”

Sterling’s natural passion for color ignited when she and her sister, Robin, traveled to the American Southwest almost 20 years ago. “The colors out there were incredible,” she said. “That was the first time I consciously realized how they affected my mood. I realized I need that bright intensity and color.”

Upon coming home, she wanted to find a way to express the way she was impacted. “I bought paint and canvasses and tried to let it flow out of me,” Sterling said. “I was feeling emotion while painting. That is my mission with art: to have other people feel that too. It had such a positive impact on me.”

Sterling was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and her family often relocated. A retired college professor, her father taught at various universities. The family moved to the northern Virginia area when Sterling was in fourth grade, and that’s where she stayed until five years ago when she moved to Anne Arundel County. “I fell in love with a man who worked on the water,” she said with a smile, referring to her husband, John Norton.

Sterling went to college with plans to be a genetic engineer or a lawyer, but after taking a required art class, she fell in love with typography and design. She changed her major and graduated with a degree in visual communication. “I found a whole business side I didn’t know existed,” she said.

She started a branding and marketing company, Red Thinking LLC, and has been managing it for 28 years. The painting she did on the side “for sanity.”

“I never thought I could make a career out of fine art, but a few years ago, that changed,” she said. “I shifted in my thinking. Up to that point, I painted for myself. I never felt confident enough to take my painting out and show the world. It’s crazy, but I need to do that.”

Following her passion, Sterling concentrated more time on her painting, and then began not only showing but also selling her work. Thrilled with her success, she rented a studio in Eastport in February and now spends several days a week doing what she loves.

“I’m so much happier,” said Sterling, emphasizing the support she has received from her mom, sister, husband and 15-year-old daughter, Rachel.

After discovering there are many other local artists, Sterling started the group The Artists of Eastport as a way to bring them together for friendship, to show their work, and to encourage and support one another.

Sterling’s art has been on display in a variety of venues in and around Annapolis, including a recent showing at Maryland Hall for Creative Arts. From July 8 to August 30, her work will be on display at City Hall in Annapolis. Those interested may also view her work or commission a painting by appointment. Contact her through email at or visit


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