Artist Interview: Janet Nelson

Who is Janet Nelson?

Growing up, I always did something creative. Sew, bake, knit, draw, paint. After taking a printmaking class at Carroll College, I decided that art is what I wanted to do. Started working at a framing shop. Then moved on to an art supply store where I got to try a variety of mediums.  


How would you describe your artistic style? Who are your major artistic influences, and how do they impact your work?


Len Nagler, Bridget Austin, Al Staszesky are probably the primary ones. I saw Nagler do a demo on a black canvas and loved the effect. Always have been fascinated by Bridget Austin’s ability to pull shapes out of negative space.  Staszesky taught me about color and how to let your eyes tell you what color you see instead of your brain. 

hand painting colorful bright floral on canvas

Can you walk us through your creative process from idea to finished piece? How do you overcome creative blocks or challenges in your work?

While I do a lot of different themes, my florals are probably the most involved.  I cover the canvas with color.  Then I start to define shapes by painting negative spaces.  

I will paint in small sections of the background color to help define a shape.  It often will start a roadmap and tell me what the rest of the area should look like. Sometimes in the florals, I will embellish what looks like potential leaves. And sometimes I just throw paint on it and start over. It’s just paint!


What themes or concepts do you find yourself constantly exploring in your art? How has your artistic vision evolved over time?

Currently focused mostly on the florals, though I do get distracted by “squirrels”. I think that learning to paint “color next to color” from Staszesky has gone from what I see painting from life to how I apply color to studio pieces. 

Large rectangle painting of bright colored florals in progress.

How do you see the role of art in society, and what responsibility do artists have in shaping cultural narratives? Have you ever used your art to address social or political issues? Do you believe art should serve a purpose beyond its visual appeal?

I think if it reflects what is seen on TV it is not your voice. Better to paint from personal experience because then it is YOUR story and not someone else’s.

Not really. Those issues are constantly changing. If my art makes you smile, then it has done its job.


What are your short-term and long-term goals as an artist? Is there a particular milestone or achievement you aspire to reach as an artist?

Spend more time in the studio and not having to do art fairs!  While I enjoy doing them, they are a lot of work to set up and take down.


What emotions or experiences do you hope viewers connect with when they experience your art? Is there a personal story or memory often embedded in your work?

I hope they feel happy. There tends to be certain colors/combinations that I like to include if possible.

Large rectangle canvas with bright colored florals

Do you have any rituals or routines that you follow before or during the creation of a new piece? How do you find inspiration in your daily life?

Prayer. If I didn't have a personal relationship with the Lord, I’d be a mess. I am an imperfect person and His grace is what gets me through each day.  

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