Water and light are spiritual elements, widely used and deeply symbolic. Water is not only cleansing and healing, it is powerful enough to erode stone over time. Light is brightening and warming, like the sun on your shoulders, but also intelligence and creativity (the aha! light bulb), and powerful enough to dispel darkness.
Water and light together with transparent pigments create an effect inimitable in any other medium. Light shines through layers of transparent color, hits the white of the paper, and bounces back to the viewer. Only watercolors give back light. At the Park City show in November of 2006, it was so gratifying to hear one collector exclaim, “I just want to take all this light home with me!”
In each piece you’ll see some combination of light, fluidity, motion, color and joy.
My primary goal as an artist is to capture and share my visceral response to natural beauty—particularly light, motion, and rhythm. I am always interested in expressing the interplay of opposition: cool vs warm; abstract vs concrete; dark vs light; lost vs found.
Beyond my formal education, I have taken inspiration from three painters who succeed at expressing strong, raw emotion in their paintings: Andrew Wyeth’s lesser-known watercolor landscapes are a talisman of passion. JMW Turner’s prescient hint at abstract expressionism takes my breath away. (I literally stood and wept at the intensity of a blue he used in a watercolor of the Seine.) Berthe Morisot’s impressionistic and light-drenched views of women and children evoke something evanescent and spiritual and speak to me on a very deep level.
I start with the immediacy of a pencil. As a student I spent most of my time devoted to a kind of trompe l’oeil photorealism. After a while I found there was no passion and very little challenge in a tight rendering like that for me. I still remember the day, the very moment, when I discovered how much energy and expression I could pull from a pencil. It was exhilarating. (A colleague recommended that I drop everything and move to New York when she first laid eyes on those drawings.)
It was even more challenging when I progressed toward achieving a similar expression with a paintbrush. Much like the pencil, my initial approach to painting was careful, tight, cautious. But as I gained confidence and control, my inner brush broke free. Suddenly the strokes I was making were bold, exuberant, passionate. Yet with all that early practice at super-realism, I found I could retain the essence of what I was painting, an allusion to what inspired me, while immersing myself in a dance of color and light.
The energy and elation you see in these pieces is a very real reflection of what I am experiencing when I'm immersed in creation. I use a combination of drawing, pouring, spattering, and direct painting to achieve strong emotion. I realized my work was communicating the way I hoped when a collector at my first show exclaimed, “I want to take all this wonderful light home with me!” I hope it speaks to you, too.
Jana Winters Parkin grew up playing in her father’s studio. When she expressed an interest, he patiently guided her through her first few paintings. Holding the brush together, they dipped it in water and paint, then watched in awe as it dispersed a beautiful blend of color across a pristine sheet of textured paper. This early childhood experience taught her a love of watercolor that has lasted throughout her life.
Growing up, Jana often accompanied her father as he taught both painting and creativity workshops nationwide, from California and Hawaii to Florida, and even Europe. This early exposure to people and places, visual expression and creative thinking, has been invaluable.
In college, she spent summers away, studying first at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, then Cambridge University in England, and taking watercolor workshops in Monterey, California. She earned a BFA in Art from the University of Utah in 1987.
In 1988 she returned to Los Angeles, homeless and jobless. She and her husband of three days were scheduled to manage apartments...but the company sold the building right out from under them while they were on their honeymoon! The young couple sold some of their wedding presents to pay the first months' rent, and Jana started taking on small freelance art jobs to pay the bills, until AS/UCLA brought her on as a full-time Art Director.
After a few years she successfully launched her own design studio. She maintained a broad range of high-profile clients, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Hollywood Bowl, and Walt Disney Concert Hall; The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation/Paul Michael Glaser, Scott Newman Center/Paul Newman, Victory Over Violence/Michelle Pfeiffer and Sabera Foundation/Melanie Griffith; and Rhino Records, Capitol/EMI Music, and InStyle Magazine/Golden Globe Award Invitations. Most of these clients also used or commissioned her original watercolors for publication. A turning point for her came when Breez, a Santa Cruz fragrance company, commissioned a series of more than 30 original watercolors to showcase its fragrance lines.
Soon thereafter she realized that she was enjoying the painting opportunities that were a part of her design projects more than she enjoyed the design work itself. She began to devote most of her creative time and energy focusing on her paintings. Her watercolors have become both a source and an expression of pure joy.
A story she tells from her student days illustrates this:
“In college I used to walk home through this great little shortcut I discovered. It was like a hidden secret right in the middle of the city—there was a wildfower-carpeted hiking trail running alongside a sparkling stream. The leaves on the trees were beginning to turn magnificent colors. There were even a couple of well-worn wooden bridges. Taking this trail never failed to make me feel like I was on a grand adventure. On one particular day, as I walked along, my mind a hotbed of ideas for a project I was contemplating, the sun was teasing the pathway and the colors around me were dancing to a similar rhythm. The weight of my backpack lightened a symphony of sunshine swept me away.
“The trail ended in a parking lot off the aptly-named Sunnyside Avenue, and as I stepped out onto the street, a cop car flashed its lights and spun around, as if pulling me over. Except that I was WALKING. The officer motioned toward me and called out to me to stop. Startled, I thought, “I can’t possibly be speeding on FOOT! Maybe I was jaywalking. Or worse -- maybe somebody owns that property with the little trail and he’s going to ticket me for trespassing.” Hesitantly, I approached the patrol car and braced myself for a citation. He rolled down his window and motioned to me to come closer. Then, completely out of the blue he asked, “Why are you so happy?”
[Happy? I just got pulled over for being too happy?!]
“I was too stunned to give him an intelligent response, so I just shrugged and said, “I’m always happy!” and he drove off. But that question has stayed with me, and haunted me ever since.
“I realized there is an elation I get from being in nature, surrounded by beauty. I didn’t have the words—or any other vehicle of expression—to communicate to that police officer everything I was thinking and feeling on that particular afternoon. As I pondered his question, though, I realized that maybe the experience I have when my head and my heart are swimming in color and light is unique to me, and visibly so. If a police officer noticed, and stopped to ask about it, it must be apparent to others as well. There must be a visual component to joy. I have spent the succeeding years (upwards of twenty!) refining a way to express that elation and share it—not just with that curious police officer, but with the world.”
Jana’s work carries the warmth and energy of Southern California -- vibrant color and exuberant washes. She captures the essence and spirit of both landscapes and figures with this characteristic joie de vivre. Her inspiration is found not only in her travels, but in the beauty, light and color of the everyday. Whether jubilant or serene, each painting is a celebration of life, energy and creation.
Jana has studied with and cites as her primary influences the late George Dibble, Rose Ann Peterson and Ed Maryon. She has also studied with a number of nationally and internationally renowned watercolorists, including Linda Kemp, Carl Purcell, Jean Grastorf, Cheng-Khee Chee, Alvaro Castagnet, Thomas Schaller, and Charles Reid, as well as her father, watercolorist and art educator Nathan B. Winters.
A change in her husband’s career brought the family to Utah in 2004. Jana has, as a result, been able to create the studio time she long hoped for in Los Angeles. In Utah, she is enraptured by the mountain vistas and enjoys devoting her time to her watercolors and raising her three creative children. In addition to her studio work, she currently teaches watercolor painting at Utah Valley University, where she loves imparting her passion for the medium with her students. Jana is also a regular contributor on the popular podcast The Living Room (bit.ly/TLRShowiTunes).