By Gina Malone
Color, Jane Schmidt says, is her subject more so than the natural world she is transferring to the canvas. “Landscapes have become the structure upon which I can explore and have fun with color,” she says. “I feel we respond first to color and then to subject. Color truly ‘paints our perception’ of subject.”
Like most artists, Jane discovered art in childhood, taking classes from the time she was eight years old growing up in suburban Michigan until she graduated from high school. She attended the University of Michigan, Barat College in IL, and the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, graduating with a BFA in graphic design. She worked jobs as a senior designer and art director in Michigan before moving to Phoenix, AZ, in 1982, and starting her own graphic design firm.
She considers her friend Julee Hutchison, who was also a graphic designer in Phoenix at the time, a motivator in her decision, eventually, to leave design work for a career as an artist. “After 15 or so years as graphic designers, we became restless with the limitations of graphic design and began looking for painting classes to satisfy our inner desires to pursue the fine arts,” Jane says. “Julee and I took several workshops and classes together at the Scottsdale Artists’ School, an internationally renowned center for the fine arts. Julee went on to become a widely recognized and acclaimed plein air artist and I decided to pursue a Master’s in painting at Arizona State University, graduating in 2004.” For the next ten years, she taught painting and drawing at the college level, continuing through a move, in 2006, to Charlotte. There she exhibited her work at Shain Gallery, along with other galleries throughout the country, and taught at Wingate University.
She moved to Asheville in 2015, and opened a studio to devote herself full-time to her art. “My boyfriend Phil Gooley is a potter,” Schmidt says. “We just decided this area was the most conducive to both of us.”
She does not paint from photographs or from other references, Jane says, but “from years of observation and travel across our country. My paintings can take on the ‘appearance’ of the Southwest, the Northeast or the Southeast without being site-specific. I like that visitors come to my studio and have a painting ‘remind them’ of a time and place like a soft, sentimental memory.”
Maine has been a big influence through the years, and she returns there whenever she needs to reconnect with nature. “It was not until I spent several summers in Maine during my twenties that I became enraptured by nature,” Jane says. “Surrounded by pines and the rocky coastline, the salty smell of the ocean one moment and then the intoxicating wave of balsam the next, Maine became an exhilarating sensory experience.”
She begins her process by staining canvas or board in a warm red that reminds her, she says, of the warm earth tones from which vegetation grows. She paints in layers using scruffy round brushes and, at times, a palette knife. “I love both implied and actual texture,” she says. “I will build layers, but also scrape back into layers to reveal hidden colors.”
As she paints, she says, she gets “lost and consumed” in the process. “I have an ongoing conversation in my head with color. Color is so objective and can only be described by the color it adjoins. It can become warm, cool, light, dark, vivid or dull depending on its relative location.”
More than other genres, she finds landscapes “forgiving,” allowing her to be more expressive and gestural with mark making and the use of color. Her bright but soothing palette has earned her many commissions from the health care industry and her paintings hang in hospitals in Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan and the Carolinas. Paintings with warm subdued tones grace the walls of cancer centers, while ones with brighter tones and dynamic strokes are displayed in rooms where patients are recovering from surgery.
Jane calls herself a colorist. “Based on observation and later on memory, my paintings connect the reality of what is seen to the realm of what is felt as I explore the edge between abstraction and representation,” she says.
Jane Schmidt ArtWorks is located at Riverview Station, Studio 234, in Asheville’s River Arts District. She opens her studio Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but recommends calling 704.998.7958 to ensure that she is available. To learn more, visit JaneSchmidt.com or find her work on Pinterest and Instagram. Galleries exhibiting her work include I. Pinckney Simons Gallery in Beaufort, SC; Warm Springs Gallery in Warm Springs, VA; and Bee Street Gallery in Dallas, TX.