Who ART You? 25

I’m honored to post this interview about Jane Oniki, a treasured friend, a wonderful artist, and an inspiring individual. She is someone who has had a major influence on me and the way I view art. I could probably say she is the one who really introduced me to art. She is the one who first told me to buy original art. And she is the one who has introduced me to artists that I admire and respect a great deal. I own several of her pieces and love them all!

The very last photo is art I purchased from Jane years ago for my personal collection.

Jane Oniki

Who ART You?

How did you grow up?
My early childhood was spent in NYC where I attended a progressive school that had an excellent art program which included weekly field trips to museums.  My favorite was MOMA where I took a children’s art class. My mother found it amusing that I made a lot more “work” than the other students.   There are several favorite paintings that I still visit.  I remember being moved by Picasso’s Guernica and Jacob Lawrence’s small migration paintings.

A trip to Dentist meant a visit to the MET as Dr. Green’s office was across the street. The MET wasn’t crowded then, I enjoyed the sound of my hard soled shoes echoing down the halls, spinning the large color wheel in the long gone children’s section and fondness for that impossibly blue Egyptian faience hippopotamus. 

Another influencer was a children’s book illustrator, Marie Hall Ets, who lived in my building and befriended me.  She had won Caldecott medal for a book titled “Nine Days to Christmas”.  We would spend hours drawing together and I can still see her impact on my work. 

I became an artist because….
I can’t remember not being an artist—I didn’t focus on oil painting until I was 30 years old.

What brought you to art?
Everyone has their strengths, mine has been ability to see things—a discerning way to look at the world and a curiosity about how art is created and why. 

Describe your favorite art piece that you had trouble letting go.
This has not happened to me yet.  

If you could come back and live as any artist, (alive or dead) who would it be & why?
I have always wished I could paint like Richard Diebenkorn.  He makes such good decisions with color, composition and mark making.  He knew when to stop.  There are so many artists I admire and wish I could have their brilliance, inventiveness or bravery. 

Who, what influences your art?
Some of the other artists I am looking at now are David Hockney, Lucien Freud, Wayne Thiebaud, Elizabeth Peyton, Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin, Amy Sillman, Cecily Brown, Gerhard Richter, Fairfield Porter, Toyin Ojih Odutola and Alice Neel.  I am most drawn to painters and painting.

What has art taught you?
I have learned patience, humility and that you have to enjoy the process. Even if I feel I’m not being successful, when I am painting I see my world more carefully—color, tones, shadows, the way the light hits the wall or on a loved ones’ face so everything is more vivid.

I’ve also learned history and aspects of the human condition by looking at art.  So many works have moved me or help me understand another’s life or view point.

Favorite/best resources as an artist?
Part of my process and favorite resource/activity is to look at art in museums, galleries, art fairs, etc.  I prefer seeing works in person but I also collect art books and keep a pinterest art board.  

What becomes a magical instrument in your hands?
Sadly, nothing is magical but Vasari brand paints have beautiful pigments.
What medium do you use? Why?
Oil paint primarily.  They are luscious, workable for a longer time and have more pigment that is constant.  The downside is cleaning brushes and being careful with toxicity of the material.  

What is your favorite subject matter?
I am interested in portraiture but I really like all subject matter including abstraction which has been my focus in the last year.  My daughter, Lauren,  is my muse in portraiture. 

What are you still hoping to learn?
I am always learning about all aspects of art making.   

How do life, business, creativity and art intersect?
I spend a lot of time looking at, discussing and creating art.  I have many artist friends, support art institutions and collect art.  It brings me great satisfaction to have it so intertwined in my life.

A defining moment in my life was when………..
A defining moment would be when I returned to the University of Colorado as an adult and took every drawing and painting class offered. Chuck Forsman was my favorite and most influential professor. 

Best advice I ever got about art or being an artist was……..
Spend as much time as you can on your art.  

Do you have a ritual or practice any creative activities before you make art? If so, what is it?
I will look often at art books and art on the internet for inspiration before I go into the studio.

Is there a quote that inspires you or that you try to live your life by?
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”.  (Leonard Cohen)


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