Illustrator for How Big is the World: Poems and Folk-art of the Seasons
Art Inspired by Words. Words Inspired by Art.
With the new book release, I thought I would take time to interview my mother, Jane Comtois, about her art and her creative process. For our debut collaboration, First Snow: Poems and Folk-art of Winter, I wrote the poems and then Mom created a painting using my words as inspiration. This time, I suggested we reverse the order. How Big is the World: Poems and Folk-art of the Seasons is the result of my words inspired by Mom's art.
It was much easier to write poems for First Snow, since I only had to write what I saw in my head. Mom had the difficult task of trying to capture the images using the words I chose. This time, I found the process a bit more difficult, where I'm sure the opposite was true for my mother. It's only fair.
I present the interview from my mother's point of view. I thought about using the third-person POV, Jane, but it felt weird. What can I say? She's my Mom!
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Newport, Vermont, located in the northern region of the state called The Northeast Kingdom. I grew up on the West Side of town in a home located on the shores of beautiful Lake Memphremagog, the center of both our winter and summer activities. I have many memories of ice skating and swimming there.
My parents owned and operated a second generation "Mom and Pop" grocery store (L.G. Rocheleau's) attached to our home. Learning the aspects of working in the store began at an early age for my older siblings and me. As soon as I could write numbers, my parents put me to work marking prices on products.
When did you first become interested in art?
At a very early age, I would sit at the kitchen table in the evenings and watch my father sketch cartoon characters on the edges of the newspaper he was reading. He would encourage me to copy what he had sketched.
When I was eight years old, I decided to enter a local contest to draw George Washington's face. What a surprise when I won third prize! My art was hung with others in the Newport Municipal Building Auditorium. The pride on my father's face gave me the confidence to continue art, and I practiced privately for many years.
How did you arrive at painting folk-art?
After raising three children and retiring from work at an early age, I decided to take up art once again. When my husband and I moved from Maine to New Hampshire, I discovered a local folk artist offering lessons . The class was small, very relaxed and informative.
I had tried all forms of art on my own but found folk art to be the art form that inspired me the most. Being from New England and enjoying antiques is likely why I chose folk art. Anything primitive and old fills me with joy.
Who are your artistic influences?
Of course, I was influenced by my father in the early years. Since returning to art as an adult, my biggest influences have been Grandma Moses and her son Will Moses. To paint with such simplicity is a true art form.
What is your favorite work of art by someone else?
Visiting Grandma by Will Moses is my favorite artwork. After touring the Will Moses Gallery in upstate New York, my husband purchased the limited print for my birthday a few years ago.
Which of your own works is your favorite?
My favorite painting I have created is Solitude. This is a lone tree in a field and the first painting I ever created from my imagination.
How do you decide what to paint? What inspires you?
Painting large murals for my home and my grandchildren's rooms have filled my life with fun. I love to paint from photos of New England and my other travels, and sometimes even photos taken by friends and family. My daughter (that's me!) has encouraged me to just paint from memory, and the results have been interesting.
Can you describe your creative process?
I choose acrylics as my medium. I paint on canvas and occasionally on wood and slate. I prepare my canvas with a coating of paint. Depending on my mood and the subject as to which color I choose. It could be white, gold, pink, yellow, or any light color.
I work in the spare bedroom at our home in Florida. Sometimes when it is cool, I take my easel onto the lanai for a few hours of painting.
The time it takes to finish a piece depends on the subject and how detailed the painting will be. I listen to 60's rock n roll for a lively, fast painting and calming ballads for slow, detailed paintings. Sometimes I switch it around...you never know.
What is your favorite part of the creative process? Least favorite?
The best part is when I have thrown caution to the wind after the first stroke and went for it. The most rewarding is signing my name after all is complete.
My least favorite part of the painting process is that first stroke on the canvas. I am somewhat nervous and excited at the same time.
What motivates you to keep painting?
For a period of time, I shared a small shop with another artist friend where we sold our paintings. Later I sold at many fairs and was requested to place one of my paintings in a calendar for a charity event. I enjoyed my first showing at a small gallery in New Hampshire. This was a dream that I had never thought possible. Today I paint for relatives, friends, or to donate a piece of art for charity. I hope that when anyone sees my art, they receive as much pleasure viewing it as I did in creating it.
How does this collaboration experience compare to the first? Would you do it again?
This collaboration was much easier because I knew what to expect. I enjoyed the process of joining my daughter in the collaboration of art and poetry. It was a great experience to share for a mother and daughter. Many of the subjects in the paintings are family and friends. This makes the book very special to me.
And yes, I would do it again.
How Big is the World: Poems and Folk-art of the Seasons is available now at Amazon.com
I write novels and poetry and this blog.