Honey, There's a Cow in the Din­ing Room!

Arabella - - CLAUDE LANGEVIN - writ­ten by Lorie Lee Steiner

When your child­hood home backs onto a na­ture re­serve in the scenic en­vi­rons of Calgary, Al­berta, a young girl’s thoughts in­evitably turn to love. Thus, it was, for Janet B. Arm­strong. “My love for the nat­u­ral world was in­stilled by my fa­ther, Dr. John Michael An­drichuk. He had a PHD in Ge­ol­ogy, and con­stantly re­minded us to re­spect na­ture and every liv­ing crea­ture on this planet,” says Janet. “My love for both grew through my child­hood.” By the age of 5, Janet was draw­ing with chalk on side­walks, fences, tar­get­ing any sur­face that could be painted or drawn on. Her mother, Olga June – her­self, an artist and mu­si­cian – re­mem­bers wip­ing down the walls, as Janet’s crayons al­ways seemed to wan­der beyond the colour­ing books. Mom handed over her own set of oils and brushes to her daugh­ter, when Janet was 9 years old. The die was cast.

“At age 13, I was sent to sum­mer camp in Wa­ter Val­ley, Al­berta for two weeks,” Janet re­calls. “This is where my pas­sion for paint­ing re­ally de­vel­oped. I was in­vited into the top of the old lodge to see the Art Stu­dio. I was hooked. It was in that stu­dio that I de­cided to she at­tended the Al­berta Col­lege of Art, and was then hired by Gulf Oil as a full-time Graphic Artist. For seven years, she did sign paint­ing, tech­ni­cal draw­ings, car­i­ca­tures and dis­play work. A spousal cor­po­rate relocation moved her grow­ing fam­ily ( two sons) to Ontario, where Janet stud­ied paint­ing and sculp­ture at the Burling­ton Arts Cen­tre twice a week. Then it was a re­turn to Calgary, where her daugh­ter was born. Dur­ing this time, Janet con­tin­ued to do art work from home and take evening cour­ses at ACA and the Univer­sity of Calgary. Learn­ing led to teach­ing, and for 14 years she taught paint­ing classes at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions. She notes, “I fell in love with plein air paint­ing in my 30s, af­ter a paint­ing trip to Writ­ing on Stone Pro­vin­cial Park in Al­berta. This is where my in­ter­est in Cana­dian land­scapes re­ally grew. Cross­ing Milk River, we had to be very care­ful with our can­vases bal­anced on our heads. Our group of artists were there to paint and sketch the Hoodoos and ad­mire the hieroglyphics. Fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence, as the pub­lic no longer has ac­cess to this area of the park.” Af­ter this trip, Janet in­vested all her earn­ings in a travel trailer and a truck for plein air paint­ing. haul­ing and set­ting up paint camps for her­self, a week at a time. Yes, this artist is fearless!

For 20 years, she rented stu­dio spa­ces away from home. Two in Calgary, and the lat­est in Cochrane Al­berta. The Cochrane stu­dio was a tiny but pro­duc­tive space. Janet sold her paint­ings from there un­til a large re­tail space be­came avail­able. She had 24 hours to de­cide whether to take it. She did, and the dream of hav­ing her own com­mer­cial art gallery and stu­dio be­came re­al­ity. Just Ima­jan Art Gallery/stu­dio was es­tab­lished in 2008, and show­cases many Cana­dian Artists. Aside from the Gallery busi­ness, Janet’s hours of work­ing as an artist have in­creased dra­mat­i­cally. With as­sis­tance in the gallery, she is now able to step back and fo­cus on her own paint­ing.

Don’t Have a Cow…

Of Janet’s many un­usual paint­ing projects around Calgary, these are, well, re­mark­able! Art Project was a riot! The life-sized cow was de­liv­ered to our home and my plan was to paint it in the base­ment stu­dio. When she ar­rived she was ac­tu­ally too long and wide to get her hips around the cor­ner, to go down into the base­ment. So she was painted up in the din­ing room. My hus­band ar­rived home early from work and found a cow star­ing at him through our French doors into the din­ing room. He was caught to­tally off guard. “Honey… there is a cow in our din­ing room!” The next project was a 60-foot painted aisle run­ner for an up­com­ing wed­ding at The Banff Springs Ho­tel. I un­rolled the can­vas down our drive­way to do the ini­tial sketch­ing. “Honey… why is there a huge piece of can­vas on our drive­way?” Then there was the “Se­cret Gar­den” paint­ing – 60 feet of beau­ti­ful green­ery with the oc­ca­sional frog, lady­bug and newt hid­den in the fo­liage. Once, I was com­mis­sioned to paint 352 din­ner plates for an event at The Pal­liser Ho­tel.

Again, our din­ing room be­came my stu­dio. I had all the plates on the car­pet and table, as I painted Granny Smith ap­ples on each – in a se­quence of eight paint­ings – each plate a dif­fer­ent stage of an ap­ple be­ing eaten down to the core. The way that the event com­pany pulled ev­ery­thing to­gether for this awards ban­quet was stun­ning. I also de­signed and painted a 92-foot mu­ral in the Calgary Civic Cen­tre which was, sadly, de­stroyed by the Flood of 2013.”

Paint from the Heart

Janet ad­vises be­gin­ners to try dif­fer­ent types of paint­ing – in­door/out­door, ex­per­i­ment with new tech­niques, go to work­shops, net­work with art groups and set up a good stu­dio in any room. “I took on the chal­lenge of open­ing an Art Gallery, as well as hav­ing a stu­dio in a com­mer­cial space. I con­tinue to pro­duce paint­ings and man­age the artists wished me “Good Luck,” as they felt do­ing both would be a risk. Happy to say, I am head­ing into my 10th an­niver­sary with Just Ima­jan Art Gallery and have been suc­cess­ful with the gallery busi­ness, and sell­ing paint­ings from the gallery

and my home stu­dio. I am also an AFCA As­so­ci­ated Sig­na­ture Mem­ber with the Fed­er­a­tion of Cana­dian Artists and an SCA Elected Mem­ber with So­ci­ety of Cana­dian Artists. Janet com­pleted Paint­ing Res­i­den­cies at the Banff Cen­tre in 2012 and 2013. Janet de­scribes her work as rep­re­sen­ta­tional. “I want my paint­ings to look like paint­ings, not pho­to­graphs. I in­vite the viewer into my paint­ings, so they will ex­pe­ri­ence what I felt. cold wa­ters drop­ping over rocky ledges, grasses blow­ing, ice melt­ing with beau­ti­ful blues be­low…” She has worked with oil paint, gouache, wa­ter­colour, inks, pas­tels, pen­cil crayons, even en­joyed sculpt­ing with var­i­ous ma­te­ri­als, but acrylic is the medium of choice. Her paint­ing process be­gins with in­spi­ra­tion from a trip or hike that she pho­tographed, or painted en plein air. “I start with wil­low char­coal, ever so lightly sketch­ing my di­rec­tional lines and shapes on the can­vas; slowly lay­ing down colour in stages, usu­ally dark to light, and al­ways keep­ing in mind where my area of in­ter­est will be. De­cid­ing the light is al­ways in­ter­est­ing, as the en­tire

paint­ing can change in a few brush strokes de­pend­ing where the light­est lights are painted.” Re­cently, Janet de­signed and built a won­der­ful art stu­dio in her home, lo­cated on four acres of for­est. “I take a break, walk out­side in na­ture, and it re­gen­er­ates me as an artist. I force my­self to paint from the heart. My own in­ter­pre­ta­tion and style come out in every com­po­si­tion. Some days, I have com­pany as I paint. The local moose and deer have brunch at our hedges and peer through the win­dows.” They even­tu­ally do be­come char­ac­ters in her paint­ings. Wildlife, land­scapes, a bit of whimsy and the odd air­plane paint­ings have all been cre­ated in Janet’s stu­dio. “My paint­ings are my in­ter­pre­ta­tion of our beau­ti­ful world and mo­ments in time. Cap­tur­ing that scene and paint­ing it on can­vas is my goal. Hav­ing some­one else fall in love with a piece is a bonus.”

Fine gal­leries rep­re­sent­ing Janet B. Arm­strong in­clude:

Pre­vi­ous Page, Ca­noes For You, acrylic on can­vas, 30” x 40” Photo ref­er­ence: Gemma Arm­strong This Page, left, Is­land Life, acrylic on can­vas, 30” x 48” right, Con­fed­er­a­tion Park, acrylic on can­vas, 60” x 40”

right, Spring Melt­down, acrylic on can­vas, 16” x 20”

left, Evening Stroll, acrylic on can­vas, 24” x 30”

above left, Ve­su­vius Bay, Salt Springs, BC, acrylic on can­vas, 16” x 20”

above right, Cozy Den, acrylic on can­vas, 16” x 20”

left, Back Al­ley Hues, acrylic on can­vas, 36” x 24” right, Tar­get Prac­tice, acrylic on can­vas, 30” x 36”

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