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Interview with an Artist: Janice Huckaby Baillie of JanArt Bonaire

by Maia Muttoo Aug 12, 2019

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Image courtesy of Janice Huckaby Baillie.

Janice Huckaby Baillie is the artist behind JanArt Bonaire, an art gallery in Kralendijk which she runs with her husband, Larry.

Inspired by the natural beauty around her, Janice has created over 1,200 paintings of Bonaire in a range of mediums including watercolour and oil.

Yello spoke to Janice about her path to painting, her working process, and her greatest successes as an artist. She also shared some of the profession’s biggest challenges, her favourite painters, and tips for up and coming artists. 

How did you get started as an artist?

I was always interested in art. 

In my younger years, I was fortunate to meet George Farrar, a Texan artist who became my life-long mentor, friend, and art coach.  He taught me how to paint with oils in the old masters’ style.

As a teenager, I started taking photographs of people for our youth group at church and became very interested in creating photographic art.  I continued with underwater photography when I became a scuba diver, and then a dive photography instructor. 

I moved to the Caribbean in 1989 to pursue my goal of becoming an artist and used my underwater photography skills to get jobs at dive shops in Grand Cayman and Bonaire. With every photo I took, I dreamed of a painting I would someday create.

Can you describe your artistic style?

I have many artistic styles. 

I create paintings that are realistic, almost as detailed as a photograph.  I also create paintings that are my impression of the real world. This style is my ‘real-impressionism’ because it is my impression of reality.

My newest idea of labelling my style would be called ‘fanta-realism’.  I enjoy painting realistic subjects but putting them in an embellished fantasy environment that accents nature and gives the viewer a fun visual scene to enjoy.

What are your favourite mediums to work in?

I prefer to work in oils when working on an intense fine art painting.  I work with watercolours when I want to freestyle and flow.  Sometimes I like to add acrylics to watercolours for a deep colour splash which gives the paintings the intense colours of the Caribbean.

Image courtesy of Janice Huckaby Baillie.

What, or who inspires you?

Nature is my inspiration. 

My patrons are also very nice inspiration.  They give me ideas of what they would like me to paint to add to their collections; these are usually nature-themed as well.

Do you have any favourite artists or paintings?

I enjoy studying the paintings of two North American artists, Richard Schmidt and Robert Bateman.

I really cannot resist enjoying those clever impressionistic artists Manet, Monet, and Renoir from the 1860s.

It would be very difficult to pinpoint a favourite painting from this list!

Describe your working process.

Each painting done has its working process since I work in a variety of styles and mediums. 

The key to the working process is staying focused on getting a painting started and completed.  First, I have an idea and concept to formulate a plan and reason for the painting.  Then, I work on the compositional layout with sketches and reference photos if appropriate.  After that, I start with the first layer of paint to block the scene in and work up to the fourth layer over time.  Each layer has its own principles to pursue. Local colour, highlights, shadows and texture are all part of these layers.

You paint a lot of landscapes and underwater scenes using photographs you’ve taken in Bonaire. How does Bonaire inspire your work? Is there a particular place that inspires you?

I paint Bonaire as I see it. 

A grain of sand is just as special as the next grain of sand beside it. There is no particular place in Bonaire that inspires me.  Bonaire is the inspiration as a whole.

Image courtesy of Janice Huckaby Baillie.

As an artist, what would you say have been your greatest successes thus far?

My first great success was to become a full-time artist; I achieved that in Bonaire in 1996.

After working in my home and on the street under a tent, to become an artist that could fold that tent up and open the door to my very own gallery as the sole artist in 2011 was the next feeling of great success.

Signing painting #1299 for Bonaire this past week felt pretty much like a great success as well.

What are some of the challenges of being an artist?

As an artist working for a clientele that loves the special animals and places of Bonaire, staying creative after repeatedly painting the same subject matter is a wonderful challenge.  I like to be able to paint the same subject in a totally different way or style and not repeat myself or copy a painting that has already been done, even if it is my own art to begin with.

The biggest challenge though is to find enough time to paint!  There are many hats to wear to get to the end result of creating art.

Besides art, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I really enjoy my garden.

I spend time planting, pruning and designing a visual space that is enjoyable with plants, trees, birdbaths and flowers just for the joy of having a nice place to relax when the work is done.  I can sit and just enjoy or make more reference photos of birds and flowers!

For holidays, my husband and I travel to nature destinations to enjoy the world beyond Bonaire. I now paint at those locations as well. I cannot be there and not paint those beautiful scenes. So now, I have become a travelling artist in my spare time just because I love it.

Image courtesy of Janice Huckaby Baillie.

What advice would you give to up-and-coming artists in Bonaire?

Paint what you know, not what you think you know. Paint what you are passionate about, not what you think might sell. Study art from all avenues available: internet, books, museums, artist magazines, and artist tutorials.

Make art a part of your daily plan. Try to do a little art, or a lot, every day. Even a quick pencil sketch will keep you moving in the right direction.  To be successful as an artist, it takes a lot of work, study, and motivation.  If you are a gifted artist and art comes naturally, remember the gift is nothing without the work.  If you are an artist that has to really work at getting it right, keep practicing, and it will start to get easier, and that is when the fun begins.  It is very important to have fun, and then you will find success!

What’s next? Do you have any exciting projects or art pieces coming up?

Yes!  I hope to complete a painting that has taken almost two years to complete.  It is a very detailed oil painting with some of Bonaire’s architecture, artists, folk dancers and people of many nations all interacting together in a scene at Wilhelmina Park. 

After it is done, I am ready to start the next painting of Oil Slick Leap which will show off the cliff landscape and the underwater fish and corals you can find there.

My to-do list of paintings is endless and exciting to look forward to!

To learn more about Janice, visit JanArt Gallery at 14 Kaya Grandi in Kralendijk, or visit her website at www.janartbonaire.com.