READ OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH JANNA BELOW.
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I grew up in Houston. Have a background in photography that started in high school and ended with starting the photography program at Alvin Community College then I became pregnant with my 1st child. Throughout my years in photography I always longed to paint. While running a darkroom in Charleston SC I was introduced to liquid emulsion which I painted on various types of paper. Using the liquid emulsion was as close as I got to painting until 2011 when I took my first art workshop. The following year I took a workshop with Jesse Reno and haven’t stopped painting since.
When I was a photographer I was really into soft focus. I loved working with the Holga camera. My favorite combination was to use the Holga camera with liquid emulsion because your control over what came out was so limited that it took away all the angst over exposure and all that. Each time you made a print you didn’t know what you were going to get. I was working to capture more of an essence than any sort of technical representation. That translates into my current work in some ways.
I started taking online workshops when my children were napping and eventually took the workshop with Jesse Reno that I mentioned before. When we finished I just kept painting. My neighbor invited me to show my work at WEST and I loved putting it out there to talk about even though the work was just for fun. I got a positive reception and it shifted something. As nervous as I can get, I love having the open studio. I know my work is very different and I don’t feel anxious because I really believe that there’s something for everybody.
I use acrylic paints, oil and chalk pastels, pencil, and sometimes papers or found objects. I work primarily on wood panels made by my dad and husband. I love working with clear gesso- the gritty texture it adds. I just discovered working with graphite blocks and applying India ink with found objects like twigs or string so have been playing with that a bit. I also just started playing with watercolors, colored pencils, charcoal and crayons to create some smaller, simpler creatures.
I don’t start out with a specific idea in mind. I start by making marks and adding paint. I work on several pieces at a time, continually adding paint and marks. I am continually rotating the pieces around and around as I work until I see the beginnings of a creature or scene. I work with it and see if it wants to come out or evolve into something different. Sometimes I’ll have a creature outlined and then I’ll walk into the studio a few days later and see something totally different. I work with my glasses off a lot so that I’m just focusing on the color interactions. I believe that just as the lines and colors interact with each other, the various creatures that come out throughout the creation of a painting have a relationship with each other. It’s as though they are helping each other come out. You see this in the remnants of things like hands or eyes that become part of the final creature. Together they create the story of the painting.
I am inspired by my kids, my imagination, nature, music, the sheer joy and giddiness that I catch glimpses of when painting, the interaction with the creatures, and the fact that I’m a happier mom and wife when I create regularly. With four kids I spend so much time micromanaging lives that in here it’s my time to step out and just let it come out. It’s very therapeutic.
Some of my favorite artists are William Steig, Jesse Reno, Paul Klee, Katie Kendrick, and Anne-Laure Djaballah.
I am showing at WEST on May 14, 15 & 21, 22 at my home studio Stop #39. I will also be showing at Hyde Park Bar & Grill on Duval St. from June 26 to August 7 and Hyde Park B&G Westgate from September 17 to November 12 and December 18 to February 12.
I am always putting up new work on my website and am happy to make appointments to have people visit my studio. For anyone living in Memphis I have several pieces at Bingham & Broad.
I have learned that by just being open, adventures have come my way that I never would have expected, so It’s hard to say. The one thing I can say for sure is more work. I also want to take my creatures into the 3d realm.
I realized that I view life like my paintings. Each day is a unique surprise. I just keep adding layers and making marks. Some days it is big bold strokes and bright colors and other days are all about making small circles. By putting them all together over time something fun is created. There are endless ways to be creative and it helps everyone to be happier and closer to who they are.
Interview by Bronwyn Walls