Who ART You? 01

I’m starting something new! Well, that’s sorta the point of a new year, right? Each month I will be sharing a month of something I love.  JAN kicks off with 30 female artists I love and admire. Every single day of this month, I will feature a different female artist (and before you ask, yes, I love male artists too and may do a series of them at some point). But, before I begin sharing who my favorite female artists are, I thought I would tell you a little bit about myself first. So, today I begin with me and tomorrow….. read for yourself who  my next featured artist of the day is!


Who  ART  You?

Jan McCarthy



How did you grow up? I grew up in Georgia and Florida with two older brothers and a younger sister and the life I remember most is of us going out in our boat, finding and raising wild animals, (flying squirrels, a wild cat, and an ocelot) and creating adventures however we could.

My dad was an entrepreneur, mostly in the hospitality/restaurant business. I worked in the family businesses starting with the day my dad came home and said he bought a hotel! I was 11 years old. My first job there was operating the elevator, serving coffee in the restaurant and working the switch-board when the phone operators took a break. (I’m dating myself here!).  My mom was a homemaker but she loved fashion (and drawing/designing dresses), reading, floral arrangement, traveling, interior design and taking care of her family.

I wasn’t necessarily encouraged to do anything particular with my life, and didn’t have any skills or passions that I was able to identify other than I loved creativity, adventure, reading and sometimes I wrote poetry.  I skipped my senior year in high school and studied dental assisting and real-estate. That definitely wasn’t my passion and eventually I found my way to college at the University of Colorado in my late 20’s, graduating with a degree in Business and Marketing six months after my daughter was born.

I was yet to discover my passion for making art. That would happen in my 50’s. Which is to say, maybe life happens when you are ready for it and it is never too late to discover your passion or talents. It took years before I realized that the reason I was failing at art is because I was trying to make art I wasn’t interested in. Once I found the right techniques to produce the kind of art I liked, I feel like I began to soar.

I became an artist because I had to really. It was the thing I kept coming back to. Creativity was in my DNA and I found that making art was an amazing way to express life and the world in an abstract way. Making art is my happy place.

Describe your favorite art piece that you had trouble letting go of.  One of the first pieces I painted was called “I Believe I Can Fly”, and up until recently, I had it in my private collection. It was symbolic of my flight into becoming an artist and making art. I’m finally ready to let it go so someone else can be inspired to soar.

“I Believe I Can Fly”

“I Believe I Can Fly”

If you could come back and live as any artist, (dead or alive) who would it be & why? Georgia O’Keefe has always inspired me because she was brilliant and enormously talented, independent and had a wonderful spirit about her. I admire that. On the other hand, Cy Twombly’s is one of my favorite artists but his life seems dull by comparison. I would love to jump into his mind and understand what he felt as he created his masterpieces.

Who, what influences your art? Feelings, thoughts, words, phrases, quotes, landscapes, food, conversations, doors, clouds, the sea, travel, architecture, floors, music, patterns and textures, walls and scenes from everyday life influence what I create. Actually, I should have just said everything!

What has art taught you? I don’t even know where to start on this one, sooooooo many things, but….. maybe one of the best life lessons in art is there are no mistakes in art and perfectionism is highly overrated. Art has taught me to be look at myself, other people and life in a deeper and more present way.

Favorite/best resources as an artist? My favorites change but most recently I discovered a trowel for applying large sections of paint quickly and oh man! What a difference! I also love my palette knife, those little spongy brushes that I can toss after I use so I’m not trying to clean my brush each time I change color, and water soluble oil paint sticks. <3 AND, I love making homemade brushes using sticks, twigs, leaves, yarns, fabrics, feathers and horse hair to make marks!

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

What becomes a magical instrument in your hands? Charcoal, water-color pencils and water soluble oil paint sticks. These allow me to experiment and make lines or bold statements with just a smudge or drop of water and if I decide I don’t like it, it’s easy to remove.

What medium do you use? I say I am a mixed media artist because I use any and everything when I make art. But the most used medium is acrylic based because I love how fast it dries, and it allows me to paint quickly and mix things with instant results.

What is your favorite subject matter? Abstract, figure drawing, and landscape are my favorite subject matter but I also I also love incorporating some collage, numbers, words, phrases, quotes, and secret messages into my paintings.

What are you still hoping to learn? I’m excited to take classes in figure drawing and dye making this year.

When I think of art, I think of feelings, something that stirs my soul, speaks to me and evokes emotion. It is my hope that my art makes others feel that way.

How do life, business, creativity and art intersect?  I think life is art. If I write a poem, it’s art. The way I dress or put on make-up is art. There are so many book titles that start with “The Art of………”.  Doing business and doing it well is art. We are all creative human beings, even if we don’t see it. I love this quote by Mary Lee Cook. “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” Creativity and art stimulate, encourage and teach us more effective ways to problem solve, think outside the box, explore, take chances, practice patience, systemize, multi-task, relax, de-stress, and look at life, objects, or scenes in a different way

A defining moment in my life was when……….. I said to my friend Cyndi, “I wish I could paint (after many failed attempts) like that”, (referring to a painting hanging on the wall in her art studio) and she said, “I can help with that.” She connected me to an artist that taught me some techniques and in my first class I painted a large piece that I loved and was proud to hang on my wall.  It was at that moment I realized, I am an artist.

Best advice I ever got about art or being an artist was……..I just mentioned this in an Instagram post but the advice was to buy original art. We may think we can’t afford it, but in reality we can. You can find pieces as low as $15 sometimes (maybe not a huge piece but then art doesn’t always have to be big). One of my favorite #originalart pieces I ever bought was 2” x 2”.

It reminds me to look forward to each day with surprise and wonder!

It reminds me to look forward to each day with surprise and wonder!

Do you have a ritual or practice a creative activity that helps you make art? If so, what is it?  I love to do something creative before I start painting, even if it is browsing through magazines for inspiration or just doodling. This helps me to loosen up and not apply pressure to creating the perfect piece of art. It is like a reset button, letting go of normal everyday stresses to tap into my creative energies.

Is there a quote that inspires you or that you try to live your life by?  “When I’m old and gray, I want to have a house by the sea. And paint. With a lot of wonderful chums, good music, and booze around. And a damn good kitchen to cook in”  ~ Ava Gardner (Except I don’t want to wait until I’m old and gray)

Is there anything you are planning to introduce in the future? Oh yes!! I have a lot of things in the works, including launching this series of monthly blog posts about people/things/places I love!, but I’m especially excited to launch my online classes and fabric products with my art on it!


xo, jan


Jan McCarthyComment