Tena Mullen-Henry was born a logger’s daughter in Oregon, in the early sixties. Her Family moved to Shafter in the Central Valley, Agricultural and Oil producing mecca of California. The summers spent in the Sierra’s living in a tent with her family as she listened to chainsaws in the distance, in addition to the daily life during the schoolyear provided a visually rich surrounding environment. This influenced a joy of the beauty of creation and the beauty of diversity in the mostly working-class people of Kern County.
Tena’s artistic nature was inherited from her mother’s side of the family. Her Mother, Alma Mullen, was a self-taught artist who loved painting in oil on hand stretched canvas. The house would be filled and decorated in “Theme” with these paintings. Her mother often sat down with Tena to draw and paint together.
She is an alumnus of Shafter High School, Class of 1980. Under the instruction of Teacher and Artist, Mr. Kalman Matis, her pencil drawing “The Spectator” won the “Best in Show” at the Kern County Fair and went on to win third prize at the State Fair. The drawing was then displayed at the Bakersfield Museum of Art.
The two years spent at Bakersfield Junior College were focused on liberal arts and computer science with a few drawing and painting classes mixed in. Tena spent 20 years working in the financial services industry moving several times throughout California and traveling throughout the United States on business. After a forced early retirement due to Lyme’s disease Tena began nurturing her love of drawing by Bible Journaling and creating personalized greeting cards for friends. It was during this time she began taking Oil Painting classes at Santa Rosa Junior College.
More recently Tena and her husband, Bryce, moved back to Bakersfield to take care of family. Before the move a friend gave her an old set of hard pastels. She began watching many You-Tube videos to learn more about pastel paintings and quickly fell in love with the medium. She attended Julie Fleming’s mixed media class at the Bakersfield Art Association to study improvement in art technique.
Tena is also a student of Charlotte White’s watercolor class through the Bakersfield Art Association. Learning in watercolor is helpful to the pastel medium as Tena uses an underpainting of soft pastels and alcohol in her compositions. Tena is also inspired by impressionistic artists such as Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne and Degas. The watercolor class is also helping her to “loosen up” her work and hopes it will help her evolve into more of an impressionist artist.
Soft pastels have the most pigment and least amount of binder, giving them the most vibrant color. Pastel sticks contain crystals with light scattering properties which is one of the reasons this medium is so luminous. A pastel work of art has extreme longevity when created on a conservation substrate such as artist quality sanded pastel paper or pastelmat card and is properly framed under glass.
Each painting is created with deep inspiration and passion made with artist quality soft pastels on high quality surfaces. Tena say’s she is inspired by the beauty of nature as well as her travels throughout the United States and the around the world which has reinforced her love of people of all cultural backgrounds.
Kern River Valley Art Association, People’s Choice Award for February 2021 Armchair Show for my entry “Beach Ride at Sunset”