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Capturing the brilliance of nature:
paintings and drawings by Janet Collins

by Kimberly Renate’

When artist Janet Collins and her family were packing and getting ready to move to Sedona, she found all of her old oil paintings of still-life subjects in the attic. She thought that they were terrible and lined them up alongside the trash bin to be hauled away.

Fortunately however, her neighbors and passers-by had picked up every single painting before the garbage truck came! Art is definitely in the eye of the beholder.

Born and raised in the midwest, Collins moved to California with her parents after high school. Encouraged by her grandmother, an accomplished artist, Collins started out with charcoal drawings and even paint-by-number.

“When I started the paint-by-the-numbers, my grandmother had a fit,” said Collins. “I had always done a lot of drawing, so she thought I could do better than that. She started me out by doing charcoal drawings for about six months and then I moved on to oil paintings. She encouraged me to take classes, at which time I studied painting with oils at San Bernardino Valley College.”

After several years, her oil painting was put aside as she became a single mother with four children to raise. It was a tough time, but it only made her more determined to succeed at whatever she chose to do. She later met her second husband, and when they were able to take vacations, they would trek through Arizona and the Sedona area.

In 1987, Collins and her husband bought property in the Village of Oak Creek and in 1994 built their home on a one-acre parcel, which is shared with their dog and two cats. One room in their home is Collins’s studio, which includes her computer, easels, drawing table, and supplies for matting and framing her work. She has a wonderful view from her studio of the beautiful red rocks.

Determined to get back into art, Collins studied with well-known artists at the Sedona Arts Center. She studied colored pencil techniques under Richard Drayton, a master artist. Colored pencils allow Collins to capture the details of her subjects along with their vibrant colors.

In addition to her colored pencil paintings, Collins is developing her use of acrylics on canvas and other surfaces. She has studied with Will Tapia and Rock Newcomb. She continues to take workshops and classes, because there is always more that she wants to learn. Collins‘ acrylic paintings allow her to work on a larger scale, and while her work is still representational, it is not as detailed as her colored pencil work.

“I use both fluid acrylics on paper and acrylics on canvas. The fluid acrylics are used for the red rock landscapes as they provide the vibrant color I see in the late afternoon. The burnishing techniques I use for my colored pencil paintings give a very painterly quality to each work. Many people are amazed at the result. It is difficult to tell whether it is paint or colored pencil.”

Photography is an important tool in Collins’ creative process. Not only are her photos used as reference material but they are also produced as photo note cards of southwestern art, wildlife, and landscapes.

Collins spends a lot of time gathering her photo references. This is especially important when she includes wildlife in her paintings. Photos are taken from all angles and she tries to capture their behavior patterns. Many of her paintings are a composite of several photos. She doesn’t have far to go as her property is abundant with birds and also has had visits from chipmunks, squirrels, coyotes and a bobcat. She has her camera mounted on a tripod in front of a window - so she doesn’t miss any wildlife opportunities.

“Whenever we take a trip, even short trips, I have my camera,” said Collins. “You never know when something will catch your eye. I take lots of photos because these are references that you may never see again. I also keep my camera on a tripod in the front window just in case some wildlife comes through our property. One morning I looked outside and saw an animal about the size of a large dog. I realized it was a bobcat with a rabbit in his mouth. I quickly focused my camera and caught him on film. I’m currently working on a painting of this event. Without my camera, these are opportunities which can pass you by.”

“Living in Sedona has provided me with an abundance of photo reference opportunities. I work only from my own reference photos. My paintings are a composite of several photos. This requires many hours of time and the development of many rolls of film before a painting idea germinates. Even though photo references are used, you get a feeling for nature and the wildlife that influences the painting beyond the photo.”

Collins’ paintings and photography have been accepted in numerous juried shows and have won many awards. Her paintings have been purchased by both American and European buyers and now reside in several different countries. Her work has been accepted in the International Colored Pencil Society of America annual shows in Chicago (1997) and Michigan (2000).

Her fascinating photographs as well as some of her exquisite paintings, can be seen locally, seven days a week at The ARTeri Antique & Art Gallery, located in Bell Rock Plaza in the Village of Oak Creek. You may call 284-2555 for additional information or directions.

Collins is currently Vice President for the Sedona area of the State Chapter of the Colored Pencil Society of America, a member of the Sedona Arts Center’s Exhibition Committee, and a member of El Valle Art Assoc., Inc. She also teaches colored pencil workshops for the NAU Elderhostel Program in Sedona.

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