Jan Johnson

Member since: 2019


As a child, I always loved to explore outside and then once inside draw and color whatever I’d been occupied with. Eventually my favorite subject became drawing horses. Over the years, I became pretty good at knowing the facial structure of a horse’s bones and muscles. As I grew older, I learned there were other animals and objects to draw and in college I’d intended to become an art teacher!

But alas, when married, I quickly realized that being a permanent resident of a small farming community didn’t offer many opportunities to become an art teacher. So, I switched my major to elementary education and taught second grade till my retirement. During those years, I was too tired when I arrived home to do much of anything except collapse. Once retired, I unearthed my art supplies and began with simple pencil drawings and eventually began working with pastels. Many pastelists first complete a watercolor underpainting before layering pastels over it while allowing some watercolor to show through. I was never successful with this but decided I needed to also learn to work with watercolors.

I am someone who likes to control their art efforts and watercolor resists that urge. I am learning to allow it to do its own thing with minimal control and we’re both getting along better with one another. Another watercolorist once told me that when I began painting with watercolors that I would never go back to pastels. I responded with, “No”, but I have found that I am working less and less with pastels. I am an introvert and both mediums allow me to be alone with something relaxing that I love to do.

Trying to decide on a favorite tool is hard. I have had several brushes recommended to me, which I’ve purchased and tried and now have way more than I need, but I do have to say that I purchased one brush Joyce Hicks said she used and immediately fell in love with it so purchased a second size. The Princeton Round Aqua Elite are light and hold lots of liquid. 

I have always been fascinated by the human face. There are so many variances in features and the way a subject’s features change in various lighting and thought. Animal faces offer the same inspiration. In Stan Miller’s workshop, I learned lots on painting the human face. Most of my animals have been done in pastel but probably my favorite watercolor painting is of a Snowy Owl I saw and photographed at Gavin’s Point Dam two winters ago and completed in batik.

I never seem to know when a painting is complete and always overwork some area so I guess I would have to say my dream project is to complete a painting without overworking it.

Three artists whom I admire work in various mediums. Robert Bateman is probably top of my list. I remember spending hours in the Joslyn Museum in Omaha many years ago staring at his enormous wildlife paintings and how each small stroke transformed into something so life like from a distance. Deb Copple is a local artist from Homer, NE, who is a fantastic wildlife painter in oils and pastels. Linda Kemp’s negative paintings are a puzzle to look at and try to determine the steps she went through to accomplish her amazing abstractions. Someday, I may be able to produce a small piece…