Jane Cowley recalls having a need to create from a very young age. She has a bright studio in an old elementary school. When she gets an idea for a work of art, she gets right to it and completes a piece within several days.
When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person?
The realization came very early, aged four or five. I clearly remember being fascinated by details in nature and the desire to draw what I observed. I don’t think that’s unusual for most artists. The need to create often comes at a very young age.
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What motivates you artistically?
Different things motivate me.
Nature, faces, poetry, music, other artists work, many things stimulate my senses and offer an opportunity to express myself artistically.
How does your environment influence your creativity?
I don’t think it has much impact apart from the need for good lighting.
Once I’m in the creative bubble, my surroundings are not that apparent to me. Of course, the spell can be broken by outside interruptions, but those are usually welcome breaks from concentration.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I have a studio in a defunct elementary school. The classrooms are now studios with plenty of room and windows and the old cloak rooms serve as storage areas. The school is home to several artists’ studios, which is ideal for a sense of community.
What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade? Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your studio?
I made a mahl stick out of an old broom handle and covered the end in a wad of masking tape. It has served me well for eons.
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
An idea stews for a while in my head and then I dive in.
I rarely do a preliminary sketch, probably because my impatience and zeal to get to it prohibits the discipline of planning. I paint quickly, so a new oil can be completed in one or two days of three-hour sessions.
I rarely work on more than one painting or drawing at a time because my concentration is often diverted to the other project.
How does your formal art education help your work develop? Does it ever get in the way?
The education was essential for learning technique and studio practice. Of course, as students, your paintings tend to reflect your instructors’ values and artistic influences.
Over time, you find your voice and can incorporate the different techniques you acquired to create works that are independent of past influences.
Has your work changed over time?
I suppose it has. My brush work is looser than in the beginning of my career and I am more willing to rework paintings that no longer appeal to my esthetic sense.
If you could interview a creative person (past or present), who would that person be? What is it about that person that intrigues you?
I would pick John Singer Sargent. I wouldn’t even bother him with endless questions that he would no doubt find annoying. I would simply want to watch him paint.
What traits, if any, do you think that creative people have as compared to people who are not creative?
The creative person seems to have an insatiable need to express their feelings, views and observations of their inner and outer world. I think there is also a willingness for self-reflection in creative people.
What is on your “someday” creative wish list?
It’s more fantasy for me than a reality that can be practically achieved. I’m sure I’m not the only artist that would like to devote time to creating work without having to deal with the details of daily life. So much time is eaten up in the daily grind.
Where can people see your work?
I currently have portraits in an exhibit at the Midwest Museum of American Art in Elkhart Indiana., Local Color Gallery in Union Pier, Michigan, and my website: jcowley.fineartstudioonline.com
Facebook: Jane Cowley Fine Art
Interview posted August 2023
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