Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Feature: Mary Jansen

Hi Everyone,
"Midas Touch" original watercolor by Mary Jansen

Today is another amazing Friday Feature, I feel like there is a never ending supply of fabulous artists and I'm so happy each week when I get to share another one with you.  

This weeks is Mary Jansen, her work is spectacular.  She is really a jack of all trades and seems to master everything she touches.  I met Mary through a blogger group I'm part of called Art Colony.  Mary not only paints at full size but she also paints in miniature and she does these amazing Celtic Ukaranian eggs. 

To see more of her work visit her blog.
"On Golden Pond" original watercolor by Mary Jansen
 How did you get your start? What’s your artist journey so far?
 This is a tough question for pinpointing the “start” of an artist’s career is ambiguous at best. When were we not artists? I believe creativity is an intrinsic character trait built into our own DNA. This particular attribute defines who we are and how we see the world around us. Constructing pots of mud from our backyard or pilfering plaster cast “sculpture making” materials from my Dad’s medical office as a child were favorite occupations from day one.  Mom always had a pencil and paper on hand with which I could doodle. So when did I start? From the moment I learned to grasp a tool. When did I begin professionally? The moment I realized I had no choice but to respect and acknowledge the disquieting creative process that churned within me. This was when I had decided to hone my skills with the pursuit of a degree in the arts.
Since then my artistic journey has been tremendously fulfilling leading me to occupations in graphic design, design department management, fine arts crafts and finally, full time watercolorist. It is through watercolors that my creative muse is most satisfied. My artistic journey continues as I explore ideas on formats anywhere between 2 x 3”, (miniature painting) on up to full sheets of watercolor paper.

Where were you born?
I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio but grew up in northern California.  San Francisco/Bay Area is a marvelous place to nurture a creative soul. There is so much cultural diversity and artistic stimulation packed into that community!
"Golden Goose" original watercolor by Mary Jansen

If you could live anywhere where would you live?
I am drawn to the west coast. I would be at home any place among big trees- from northern California up to British Columbia. It’s important to live within a creative community as well. Artists have a way of generating a thrilling kind of synergy among their friends and acquaintances!

What’s your favorite thing to paint and why?
Birds. I just adore birds! I never tire of their unique personalities, clever antics, graceful stature and movement and dazzling feather patterns. When I paint them I focus on inherent characteristics of the species I’m trying to convey. Are they particularly intelligent? Graceful?Awkward?Energetic or cocky? If I can capture the personality of my subject then I will have considered my composition a success.
I enjoy painting other topics as well. If the lighting is enticing and the subject tells a story then it simply doesn’t matter WHAT the subject matter is. It matters only that I convey the appropriate idea.
"Ugly Adolescence" original miniature watercolor by Mary Jansen
 Could you talk about your painting techniques?
Watercolors are fickle and stock full of personality. To really commit to this medium one must develop a relationship with every tube of paint. Every color has its own characteristics, perks and flaws. And each one must be tested so one is not surprised later while working on a painting. Once that “relationship” is developed the fun begins.
A painting for me is an evolutionary process. It is critical to begin with a strong concept and then remain faithful to that concept throughout the development. This affects everything from how one composes the elements to how one regards the lighting and pigments. I choose my limited palette of paints before I even begin the drawing process.  (And yes, this varies though I do use a core palette of paints I couldn’t do without. They are my “Old Faithfuls”!) I work from light to dark layering hundreds of washes to acquire luminosity, hue intensity and value variation that best defines what I believe expresses the original idea.
Some watercolorists are quick and confident in their approach. My process is slow and calculating. Neither style is right or wrong but merely a reflection of one’s personal tastes.  Because my paint application is time consuming, (arduous at times!) I must routinely remind myself of what the painting is about. I will repeat this in my head and recite it as a kind of mantra to keep me on target for it’s easy to digress from the core concept.
There are times in the process of painting where I become extremely frustrated. I call it the “Ugly Duckling Stage”.  This is generally the time when many of the initial wash layers are applied and cover the greater part of the paper. The image looks dull and unexciting as at this stage the value development has really not had a chance to evolve. I must remind myself to push on and grind through this stage for it is at this point that visual excitement is just around the corner! I mention this because I know that many artists go through a similar process only to give up at this point. Persevere and one will be rewarded with a rich, satisfying piece of art!

Do you have go-to paints/colors, what are your favorites?
My all-time favorite paints are the Daniel Smith Quinacridone series. (Q. Deep Gold is my favorite of those.) These colors are superior in blending, lifting, and the layering of clean washes. I find them reliable and stunning.
I tend to steer away from opaque colors and rely on washes to build up color and definition. I enjoy mixing interesting grays and love the warmth of Winsor Orange mixed with French Ultramarine.
"Come to the Dark Side" original watercolor by Mary Jansen
 Do you have a favorite artist? Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I have so many favorite artists I couldn’t possibly list them all! I am spoiled for I live within close proximity to Chicago’s Art Institute and get to indulge in the best! I love the lighting drama of old Renaissance masters such as Caravaggio and Vermeer and I admire the design considerations of Art Nouveau artists such as Parrish, Beardsley, Rackham and Mucha.  Extraordinary color juxtapositions from Matisse and delicate portraits of Mary Cassatt excite my muse! And who can leave out the fantastical illustrations of Brian Froud and Adrienne Segur!
 But watercolor artists are my favorite. Of these there truly are too many.  I think this is the “Age of Watercolor” and we are so fortunate to not only see masterpieces come to fruition but we have opportunities to rub shoulders with some of the “greats” and glean tips and helpful information from them. I have never met a watercolorist yet that I have not enjoyed wholeheartedly!
"Maggie's Nirvana" original watercolor by Mary Jansen
 What have been some of your crowning achievements?
More rewarding than the acceptance of any award is the affirmation one feels when a viewer takes in a painting and responds to it in the way one had intended.  To get feedback through unsolicited comments and compliments is its own award for only then can one really bask in the satisfaction of knowing a job was well done.
I have won many awards in several international miniature shows in the last five years.  Of them the most noteworthy was the coveted “Excellence in All Entries” in the Florida MASF exhibit in 2011. It’s always a thrill to learn the news of an award but I think my most crowning achievement is having trained my family to subsist on days of dinner leftovers while I obsess over paintings!

What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? (Dream big here)
1. Acquiring signature membership in TWSA and AWS
2. Acquiring signature membership in MAA (Miniature Artists of America)
3. Writing and publishing an article in a watercolor magazine.
4. Development and facilitating of a watercolor society/community within the Chicago suburbs.
5. A personal invitation to teach watercolor courses on a year- long cruise through the Carribean, (hey, you DID say dream big here, right?!)
"Yellow Lilies" original watercolor by Mary Jansen

What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career?
There is a gentleman in our church who, in our weekly prayer petition always says, “Pray for the perseverance of artists everywhere.” I love that he solicits the Spirit to help artists remain true to the inherent talents God has gifted them.  Whether or not you believe in God I think it so very important to take yourself and your profession seriously and then maintain that mindset. Find that spirit or inner tenacity to keep you motivated in the down times because there WILL be down times regardless of how talented you are! It’s too easy to give up, especially when society attempts to pigeon-hole our creative careers into “less-than-serious” professions. An artist’s life is an emotional roller coaster ride but if one examines those who have succeeded one will find a couple of  common denominators among them: 1. they don’t let society define who they are, 2. they take their professions seriously and acquire the marketing and business skills to make it profitable.
"Humdinger Christmas" Mary's Christmas card for 2012
 What is the best advice that you have received as an artist?
Choosing the vocation of artist is not an easy path to take.  I can’t stress enough how vital it is that one becomes involved in creative circles. Yes, artists are notoriously introverted but to isolate oneself from the rest of the artist community is to truly do oneself a disservice. Not only are there tremendous resources and gleaning of techniques and information to be had from colleagues but there is an emotional support system as well. I have been involved in several art circles over the years. Some are local and some are online. Many of these artists have become very close friends. The advice, support and companionship is priceless. Get involved. Make friends and watch your career develop!
Mary's amazing Celtic Ukranian eggs, I want to learn how to do this!!

Chocolate or Vanilla?
Both. What’s light without the shadow?
Your dream vacation spot?
Well…if I’m “dreaming”…then a place resplendent in delicate lights streaming through mossy redwood groves and cascading waterfalls. Oh…and endless miles of hiking trails!
Book or Movie?
Book, (on a sunny couch with a purring kitty on my lap)
Favorite author?
Bill Bryson, Stephan Jay Gould, Annie Dillard,Phillipa Gregory, E.O.Wilson, (what…I can only choose ONE?!)
Favorite Movie?
Galaxy Quest (so silly!)
Romance or Comedy
Favorite Dessert
Root beer float with Mocha Almond Fudge Ice Cream
Night Owl or Morning Person:
Morning.  I like to greet the day.

Thank you so much Mary!!



  1. Thank you Carrie! What an honor it is to be on your blog! (Thank you too Sue!)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Carrie--I particularly love Mary's "Maggie's Nirvana" (it looks like my son's cat)--does Mary sell prints of her work?


  4. So fun to read this Mary...there are still things I do not know about you and so this was wonderful!!! Great job Carrie!

  5. Beautiful work! I look forward to reading your friday interviews! Thanks!

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  7. My absolute favorite egg and turkey artist, not necessarily in that order.

  8. I so love when you do these, Carrie. Her work is spectacular and I so wish I knew her since we live in same neck of the woods.

  9. My goodness! This is breathtaking work! Absolutely stunning - Wow! What an amazing talent! :0)

  10. Thank you everyone! Thank you for taking a look!

    Elaine, I do have a couple of fine prints of Maggie's Nirvana ,(it is a miniature). I sell them for $15 each. Here is my email if you are interested: are a hoot!

  11. Mary ,
    Awesomeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, hugs , see i knew u would make it to a artist book one day soon..
    congrats woman! hugs from a MN neighbor..
    sandi* IN KS now.. hugs hugs hugs

  12. Hello "Crimson Leaves" I'm in that in your "neck of the woods"? Chicagoland can be a big daunting place! LOL!

  13. Wonderful, Mary. So great to learn more about you.

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