Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Feature: Jane Freeman

"Made In Poland" original watercolor by Jane Freeman
Hi Everyone,

I'm so excited about today's feature.  I have been following Jane on fb for a long time.  Her work is extraordinary and I had the hardest time picking images for this feature because I wanted to include them all.  She has a book available on Amazon called "Celebration of Light" and has been featured in magazines and North Light Books Splash 12 and 13.  

Please visit her website and blog to see more of her amazing works!

"Draped Grapes" original watercolor by Jane Freeman

How did you get your start?  What’s your artist journey so far?

My first introduction to the arts was through a teacher I had in Alamo, North Dakota. This was a small school in a small farming community and he was fresh out of college when he came. He had us put on plays all the time and took our band to Estes Park where we received an award for best marching band. Every student played an instrument. Then in my Junior year he offered an oil painting class after school at his apartment. I was lucky to be one of the students. It was the first time I realized one could be an artist. From that I went to college at the University of North Dakota and received my BFA and a teaching degree. I am still on the journey and hope I am until my last breath.

Where were you born?

I was born in Williston, North Dakota where I lived for about 6 years and then raised on a farm near Alamo, North Dakota.

If you could live anywhere where would you live?

 I suspect there are millions of places that would be wonderful. I need wildlife, beautiful scenery, privacy and beautiful light. But none of this would matter if I did not have my friends there. I suspect I would choose exactly where I am as here in the north woods of Minnesota I am surrounded by beauty. I do not have galleries and opportunities like so many others but I surely have everything else.

What’s your favorite thing to paint and why?

Finding ones passion can be a struggle for many but I have learned over the years what mine is. I love so many things and had always thought I would be a landscape painter or more figurative as I studied medical illustration in college and loved the human shape. But what I have discovered is that if I walk into a room with a beautiful still life set up…even a furniture store where the lamp and vases are arranged beautifully or a candy store with a perfect arrangement, then that is where you will find me. I gravitate to that like butter to beans. I was in an antique store in Oregon some years ago and walked into a room where it was all white objects beautifully arranged into perfect still life setups. Everything was a painting. I could hardly leave the room. I was breathless. I knew then that anything that excited me that much had to be my passion. We can paint anything but finding what gives you joy is most important. I always say,” If you paint what you love you will love what you paint”.
"Lean On Me" original watercolor by Jane Freeman

Could you talk about your painting techniques? 

When I wrote my book, A Celebration of Light,  I was stumped as to what to say about my technique as I did not have a word for it. Then I saw what Susan Harrison-Tustain said and it made perfect sense. I asked her to use that word in my book. It really is priming. By using water in  areas where I want to portray smoothness or shine, I wet that area and let the water begin to soak in and it opens up the fibers and draws the paint in deeper. It allows me to layer up about 40 light layers before it really begins to lift the paint below if I do it right. It allows me to shift values very gradually and play with what I want rather than being stuck with what I laid down. I began to work this way immediately because in the beginning I did not have the paper to waste or the paint. It was a luxury in those first years of learning watercolor to ever have 5 sheets of paper so my style came out of the need to make everything count. I rarely have thrown a painting away with this method. That is what I try to teach to my students as there are a lot of artists trying to save a few dollars from their grocery money to buy paint supplies.
"A Slice of Summer" original watercolor by Jane Freeman

Do you have go-to paints/colors, what are your favorites?

Every artist that paints a lot has favorites. I had the Jane Freeman palette with Daniel Smith back when I taught more. That has evolved some but those tried and true favorites remain. I have 5 that will remain on my palette forever I guess and they are New Gamboge, Indanthrone Blue, Quinachridone Rose, Sap Green and Transparent Brown Oxide.  That said, I own every color I think but some colors you just use over and over and you know them like your own children and know exactly what they will do.

Do you have a favorite artist?  Who has been your biggest inspiration?

I studied art history in college for 2 years but lost most of that information after a brain injury. What I found was I began turning more to contemporary artists for inspiration because it was so disheartening to go back and try to relearn everything I had lost. I just moved on instead. In the 70’s I was writing letters to Robert Bateman begging to let me apprentice under him. As far as I know he never did such a thing with anyone but I was willing to keep asking. I am sure he laughed but I was very serious. Then I found Carl Brenders and fell in love with his detailed work. Up to this point I had been an abstract artist in most things except my drawing which was detailed human forms from all my medical illustration training. Over the years I have loved Stephen Lyman for his night paintings and Jack Hendershot for his night work. When I saw John Stuart Ingle’s work is when I fell in love with still life. He used everyday objects in his home and I just loved what he did. I began to arrange what I had in my home and remember so clearly when I saw those first photos how excited I became. I knew these things well as they had been in my family for years. That began my journey to where I am now but it was never one artist who inspired me. Each day I am inspired by artists I see in the art magazines and books and on Facebook. Who could not love Alvaro Castagnet! I love the work of Chris Krupinski and the lovely washes of Chris Beck.What a time we live in. I know if Turner or Wyeth were here they would be in awe of what is being achieved with watercolor now. It has really taken on a life of its own and I am so tickled to be a part of that.
"Every Day's a Celebration" original watercolor by Jane Freeman
 What have been some of your crowning achievements?

I think my first national show entries that were juried in was the highlight because it was those first moments of knowing I was being accepted into the art community. Since then each achievement has been a blessing. Writing my book was more than I ever expected and to be in American Artist magazine and International Artist magazine and all the others. Each time was a blessing. Perhaps above all is just being somewhere and someone will come up to me and say, “Are you Jane Freeman the artist?” and I will be in total awe to be recognized. All I ever wanted to be was an artist so to be recognized as that is my most wonderful achievement.

What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? Dream big here:)

1)      I would love for my work to take a leap in a wonderful new direction. Maybe become a painter of clouds and skies!
2)      I would love to have a group of 4-5 artists go somewhere together every year to learn from each other and share and paint the places that they are. I am not around a lot of artists like myself and I would enjoy that so much. In fact, if we can dream big…we have a name and are known for what we do as a group and are envied for all the fun we have!
3)      I would like to live somewhere totally inspirational for a year and absorb the culture.
4)      I would love to write for one of the art magazines and inspire people to become the best artist they can be.
5)      I want to become comfortable with who I am as an artist and have confidence in that I can do whatever I put my mind to and be accepted for being that person and acknowledged by my peers as a friend and artist of value.

What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career?
I am speaking to those who run a household and family and do the cleaning and groceries and mow the yard and do the wash. These artists have a full life just doing the daily stuff and it is hard to find time to paint. I was told unless I spent 4-6 hours a day painting I would never be a great artist. Well I learned that some days I could only get in one wash but that worked. I could study my work more carefully. One year I only managed one painting but it was the one that got into AWS. One great painting is worth it and so do whatever you can and if it is only one wash in a small area a day, it is enough. It will help you achieve your goals and one day you will be able to paint more and you will have all the skills already developed to go for your dreams.
"Musical Pears" original watercolor by Jane Freeman
 What is the best advice that you have received as an artist?

In 1972 an artist told me not to join any local art groups. In my area they were little ladies who painted together and really they all painted alike it seemed. I have a BA in art but I decided to work in watercolor so I stayed to myself and worked on learning this new medium through books and magazines. I think it made me more of an individual and made me a stronger person. It made me learn how to dedicate time to my craft and how to work on my own to achieve my dreams. It kept me focused. I do not think I would be where I am today if I had not gone this route.

"Pear Tea" original watercolor by Jane Freeman
Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate with fresh raspberries and almonds

Your dream vacation spot?
Norway or a small town in northern Italy with friends and paints

Book or movie?

Favorite artist?
Robert Bateman because of his art and also because of who he is as a person. He is a conservationist and lover of the earth which I greatly admire.

Favorite Famous painting?
Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent because it was the first time I saw something that glowed in a painting and I was so struck by that.

Favorite author?
Diane Ackerman

Favorite movie?
Oh l have no real favorite. I just love anything that makes me laugh or feel happy.

Romance or comedy?
Romantic comedy

Favorite dessert?
Good homemade fresh fruit pie……and maybe more pie!

Night owl or morning person?
Definitely it is morning.  Raised on a farm I was up early to do chores and I still get up around 5am. That is when the world comes alive and birds sing their first songs and the light is so amazing!


  1. I"m a big fan, too - thanks for this - and I like knowing we share the favorite all time painting!
    Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose....

  2. Being a non-painter, I am easily impressed by painters. Frequently I am amazed ... but today I was totally overwhelmed. "Draped Grapes," took my breath away. My art is about detail, but the detail here is inspiring!

    Thank you, Carrie; thank you, Jane. A wonderful interview!

  3. She is incredible! I've been a fan of hers for a long time too. Since her book first came out and the north light club was still going. :) Great interview.

  4. Her paintings are exquisite......great one Carrie!

  5. Janie is one of my favorite painters and a dear friend. She is such a lovely person. Always helping people.

  6. I love Peonies! and I first got to know Jane Freeman when I saw her paintings on peonies. I am surrounded by the beauty of peonies at my Peony Farm at Washington State when they are in bloom, but I sure wish I have one of her painting to grace my wall. Impressive.

  7. Where can I get her book? I'm speechless!!

  8. OH MY!!!! This is an incredible interview, Carrie!! She is SO talented. I visited her blog and she has a lot of wonderful pieces!! I love "Draped Grapes"! Stunning!!!
    Thank you Carrie and thank you Jane!!

  9. I think there might be something at Amazon...but it is no longer in print. Thank you everyone!

  10. Thanks Carrie for the wonderful interview !!! They don't come much better than Janiecakes;))

  11. Carrie this is a wonderful interview thank you. Jane is an amazing artist but an even more amazing person. I've first met Jane on a workshop she gave near her home town. I've loved her every since. She is a great teacher and motivator. Jane you rock all around.

  12. The way Jane paints light is unbelievable. Thanks for the interview. Really enjoyed it. And her work reminds me so much of yours. That finesse.. Ah..

  13. What a wonderful and inspiring interview. Thank you so much. Indeed Jane Freeman's work reminds of yours. :)

  14. Let me add my love for Jane Freeman's gorgeous work. Never in a million years, when I bought my very first art book "A Celebration of Light" with those gorgeous pears and lace and shadows on the cover, would I have ever dreamed that I would someday meet Jane and since become a personal friend. Talk about a first mentor...Jane Freeman is mine.

  15. Oh Mollie...thank you so mean more to me than you know.

  16. Thanks for showing a glimpse into Jane's world, Carrie! She's a fabulous artist and even more wonderful friend!

  17. wow what unique art...You are a wonder...and very verbose! a very interesting style

  18. They are wonderful, impressive real work, I sit in awe of the talent to develop those beautiful watercolors, congratulations greetings from his follower.

  19. Great that she admires Robert Bateman.....Made in Poland is EXCEPTIONAL!