It's hard for me to believe it has been over three years since I met visual artist Jan Heaton and photographed her for the first time at her house. I was in the middle of my Panorama 365 Project and was focused on capturing artists working in their studios. That visit to her home studio, to create the photo at the bottom of this post, was so much fun. She is such a smart and talented artist. We ended up talking for hours about art and business. Homemade minestrone soup was served for lunch! What a great memory.
When Jan wanted a panorama of her visiting a farm stand to coincide with her market series promotion, I was more than happy to do it. Boggy Creek Farm ended up being the ideal location. The owner Carol Anne was more than happy to let us use her farm stand and Buddy the dog kept and eye on things. At times It was challenging with all of the customers coming and going but in the end I was very pleased with the result.
To commemorate Jan's current exhibit "The Market" at Davis Gallery in Austin, and to show off our images, I decided to send her some questions and catch up with a blog post. Being a farm photographer also makes me a little biased. Her paintings of vegetables and fruits are so gorgeous.
SDG: When did you start your market series and what inspired you to do so?
JH: The current series started three years ago with three watermelon radishes I purchased at Johnson’s Backyard Garden. It was an unexpected surprise to reveal the color, lines and forms when I sliced it. I painted three small 4 x 4 paintings with a plan to do them on a larger scale. I was hooked. The next week I bought maroon carrots and painted them, followed by eggplant, squash, etc. I go to various farmers markets as often as I can. The displays alone are inspirational. I also painted limes and figs from neighborhood trees and cherries as a tribute to my cousin who lives on a cherry farm in Michigan. I love to cook and focus on organic and fresh produce whenever possible.
SDG: Did you have to push the limits of your skills as a watercolor artist or go beyond them to achieve the look and pattern of these fruits and veggies? Any in particular?
JH: As I approach a new subject I often paint small studies in my sketchbook. For the market series I painted small 4 x 4 paintings that resemble a very colorful deck of cards. My vocabulary of technical skills changes and grows with each new painting. I experiment with different ways to handle the watercolor medium. Each painting is unique and an exploration.
SDG: Are you still working on this series?
JH: Just about when I think it’s time to do something totally different I run into a papaya or something I have not painted yet. There are over 100 paintings in my current solo exhibit at the Davis Gallery, and I feel like I have just skimmed the surface on subject matter!
SDG: How is it different painting from still life as opposed to creating something from your imagination?
JH: My paintings are based on memory. I don’t paint with the object in front of me. A market bag’s contents would be sliced, cut, chopped, diced, and sketched before the painting began. I then leave those inspirations and start painting. I zoom in on details and expand them. Sometimes it is simply the form, or the pattern of seeds, or a detail in the rind. My objective is to capture not only what I observe, but to isolate, simplify and abstract the subject matter and record the essence of a fruit or vegetable with minimal marks.
SDG: Has this work led to or inspired new work or a new direction for you?
JH: I am always interested in remembering and recording details. It may be a piece of produce, a colony of fish swimming by a rock, the pattern trees form against the clouds. Right now I am inspired by a wren nest in my agave plant! Subject matter is never a challenge, it’s editing and finding the time to paint it all!
SDG: How does teaching watercolor to students have an effect on your work?
JH: I teach four weekend workshops a year at The Contemporary Austin Art School at Laguna Gloria. I always learn from my students. Being a studio artist is a solitary pursuit. Teaching has also allowed me to meet other artists and examine my creative process. It has also helped me improve my presentation, and public speaking skills. I strive to create a relaxed and casual environment in my classes. Most of my students are working or retired professionals. This is an opportunity for them to do something they love. They are always a gracious, appreciative, and talented group of people. Many of them become longtime friends. I value the dimension they give my work.
SDG: What are you working on now and what’s next for you?
JH: I am collaging a full size fiberglass cow in my living room! The cow will be an interactive art activity at Dell Children’s Medical Center’s Art of Giving 2016. At the April 2nd event the children will be able to collaborate on the cow’s design. The event benefits Art & Healing and Music Therapy Endowments, and the Dell Children's Trust granting pool. Twelve professional Austin artists are participating in this fundraiser. I am also working on a branding project for a spa. Creating small images of watercolor patterns and textures that will be used in their identity package. I worked in advertising for over twenty years so this is a little like returning to my roots. This weekend I am teaching a watercolor workshop at Laguna Gloria. I like to be busy.
SDG: Sounds like you are very busy. Thanks Jan! I'm so grateful to have had an opportunity to know you and your wonderful work. Everyone should make a point of seeing this fantastic show.
The Market at Davis Gallery-Austin
An Exhibition of New Watercolors by Jan Heaton
On View: March 5 - April 16, 2016
Opening Reception: Saturday, March 5, 7-9pm
Artist Demonstration: every Wednesday, 12-2pm
Artist Inquiries: janheaton.com | email@example.com