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  • Jan Thoreen Lewis

WHY I BECAME AN ARTIST (Or someone who slightly resembles one)-- Part 1 

Updated: Nov 27, 2018

In all these years of being an artist, I’ve never really thought about writing about what I do. But I find myself wanting to connect more with the people who have commented on, followed, or purchased my art, as well as those who have been my encouragers, cheer-leaders, and solid foundation through the years. To all of you, I say Thank You! Without your responses to my work, how it impacted you and caused you to smile (or even cry), I’m not sure I would know why I even paint.

Every person's story matters, even mine, & certainly yours!
I'd love to hear it some day over a cup of coffee.
(OK, not coffee, since I don't drink it, but you know what I mean.)

So I've decided to start there-- at the beginning-- and talk about Why I Became an Artist. This may be seriously TMI, so just read as much as you want now & pick up where you left off when you wake up in the middle of the night to get a snack.



A very early watercolor when I was soaking up all the teaching I could get!

As a kid I always loved to doodle, but what I did wasn’t any more special than any other kid’s doodles, but my mom found them everywhere. When I was in 5th grade, my teacher Mr. Bowman asked our class to draw something that depicted the Pioneers traveling West, and I chose to draw a Conestoga Wagon on the prairie. I think we had something to copy from, so I wasn’t the only one doing this ambitious little project.

I was pretty happy with my drawing until I looked at one done by my classmate June Takahashi. June spoke very little English, having just emigrated with her family from Japan, but, boy, could she draw! So at the age of 10 I realized that if I wanted to be really, really good at something I would have to work very hard at it (or, sometimes, if I was lucky, get by on talent). Even with that, there would always be someone who would be better than me, but that would be ok. I could become June’s cheerleader without having to envy her talent. I KNEW that her wagon was much better proportioned than mine.

Embracing what I'm good at and admitting what I
don't do well has made all the difference between peace and frustration.

Fast forward to my senior year in high school. My art class was really a mishmash of lots of media. I was pretty mediocre working with silver to make jewelry because I hadn’t developed an eye for design. But one day we were given an assignment to design an ad for a magazine. At first I didn’t know what the heck to do with all that blank white space. Where should the title go? The tag line? The photo? The copy? It made no sense and I had no idea where to start. My teacher must have seen my frustration, so he walked over and talked to me about arranging all those elements in blocks that mysteriously connected with each other in space. And Something clicked. Seriously--in one minute I fell in love with design, and it all made Sense.

Somehow, from that tiny start, the very next year I found myself taking college courses in 2 and 3 Dimensional Design, Art History, Graphic Design, Sign Arts (sign painting and silk-screening), Perspective and Rendering. You get the picture. I was hooked. I had found my niche and loved every class. If my parents ever worried about my late hours, they could assume I was in a classroom at Pasadena City College getting messy-- and usually I really was!

In two weeks I’ll tell you how I managed to become a dinosaur in about 5 years but kept my passion for design alive. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you then!

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