Trop­i­cal Rain­bow of Col­ors

Cap­tur­ing Sani­bel’s na­ture, Sissi Janku blends whimsy, ab­stract and re­al­ism

RSWLiving - - Contents - Erik En­twistle, a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia, writes about the arts, par­tic­u­larly mu­sic. He is a pi­anist, in­struc­tor and mu­si­col­o­gist, who teaches on Sani­bel Is­land.

Sani­bel’s abun­dant wildlife and nat­u­ral beauty are en­joyed by vis­i­tors and res­i­dents alike. But for some, the con­nec­tion to the is­land grows deeper, even­tu­ally es­tab­lish­ing not only a way of life but also a way to make a liv­ing. Such is the case for artist Sissi Janku, who is now celebratin­g 25 years of cre­ative work pro­duced here, much of it in­flu­enced by the na­ture of the is­land.

Af­ter leav­ing her na­tive Germany for Hawaii, where she stud­ied in Honolulu with painter John Chin Young, Janku later re­lo­cated to the U.S. main­land to gain more exposure, dis­play­ing her works at art fes­ti­vals around the coun­try. Miss­ing the trop­i­cal life­style, she even­tu­ally de­cided to move to Sani­bel.

“No place looked more invit­ing than Sani­bel … I like Sani­bel be­cause it is sim­i­lar to Hawaii,” Janku ob­serves. “When I came to Sani­bel, it felt fa­mil­iar, and I said this is the place where I really want to grow old and live for a long time.”

She finds inspiratio­n in her out­door stu­dio space over­look­ing the oa­sis of her Sani­bel Bay­ous back­yard. The boundary be­tween hu­mans and na­ture is blurred, with grassy ar­eas yield­ing im­per­cep­ti­bly to an un­tamed landscape of na­tive fo­liage, drift­wood and water.

Nest­ing ibis, herons, egrets and other birds—along with the oc­ca­sional al­li­ga­tor—all come and go as they please while Janku com­pletes her lat­est projects. “Paint­ing out­side is a lux­ury for me. I think it’s the best, and I’m glad I can do that. I feel closer to na­ture, and I have all these an­i­mals around me. It’s per­fect.”

But artis­tic re­wards are not all that Sani­bel has had to of­fer. “The best thing that hap­pened in Sani­bel was to meet my hus

band, Chris [van der Baars]. He is my big­gest sup­porter and it’s great to have him in my cor­ner. Be­cause of his as­sign­ments as an hote­lier, we had ex­tended stays in Mex­ico, in Egypt and in China while we were liv­ing in Sani­bel.”

Janku’s style has had many sources of inspiratio­n, owing at least par­tially to her trav­els, and has con­tin­ued to evolve through the years. She’s worked ex­ten­sively with wa­ter­col­ors and oils, but more re­cently turned to acrylics as her medium of choice. “I changed to acrylics be­cause I wanted to be more play­ful with the tech­niques,” she notes.

“Acrylics can be applied very liq­uid, al­most like wa­ter­col­ors. They dry very fast, so I am able to layer the paint very quickly. The ef­fects can be very trans­par­ent as with wa­ter­col­ors, but I can also use the acrylics very thick and opaque,” Janku

ex­plains. “This al­lows a va­ri­ety of ef­fects and easy changes. It keeps my cre­ative juices go­ing, since I can project my thoughts and ideas onto the can­vas im­me­di­ately and don’t need to wait around for the paint to dry.”

She con­tin­ues, “My new style of paint­ing has a lot of move­ment and is full of fun ac­tiv­ity, which is supported by the ver­sa­til­ity of the acrylics. Oils take a very long time to dry, some­times months. That de­lays the lay­er­ing and the spon­tane­ity gets lost.”

Janku de­scribes her new style as “whim­si­cal trop­i­cal seascapes.” The paint­ings re­veal hu­man­ity and na­ture in peace­ful co­ex­is­tence, with ma­rine and land-based wildlife go­ing about their busi­ness amid homes, boats and the iconic Sani­bel Light­house. “Too much re­al­ism is not good. With the whim­si­cal, the ab­stract and the re­al­ism come to­gether. As an artist, if you some­times just go straight with your in­tu­ition it might open other worlds, more pos­si­bil­i­ties. I don’t think about tech­nique. I try to sim­plify and have a more ab­stract ap­proach to it,” she says.

This style has af­forded her a greater free­dom of ex­pres­sion, which she rel­ishes and wants to explore fur­ther. “Right now I feel like I need to push my­self to be even more loose and ab­stract, and ac­tu­ally pushing my­self away from the real and go­ing even more to the wild side.”

Af­ter 25 years of liv­ing on Sani­bel, and having just en­joyed a suc­cess­ful ret­ro­spec­tive of her work at The Com­mu­nity House, Janku is not one to pause and rest on her lau­rels. “I still can’t get enough of cap­tur­ing the beauty of this is­land in my paint­ings and painted fur­ni­ture, and be­ing around my stu­dents and friends. I hope I will be able to do so for many more years.”

To view her work, check out sis­si­ and visit Is­land Style Gal­leries in Peri­win­kle Place on Sani­bel. She also of­fers paint­ing classes at The Com­mu­nity House and at South Seas Is­land Re­sort on Cap­tiva.

Janku de­scribes her new style as “whim­si­cal

trop­i­cal seascapes.”


Sisi Janku paint­ing a mu­ral at Golisano Children’s Hospi­tal

Janku’s stu­dents with paint­ings

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