A Look Through Erie's Creative Lens | Janine Utegg

Tuesday Jul 2nd, 2019

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Deep empathy and an appreciation for the small joys of everyday life meet the canvas when Janine Utegg creates a color palette of nature and wildlife. A childhood love of sunsets, water scenes, and animals, along with a family of self-made artists propelled her to take those warm feelings and share them with others through paintings on wood, canvas, and stone. She paints with oils, acrylics, and watercolors in Impressionistic/Naturalistic Realism, contrasting light and darkness to create an atmospheric mood that is warm, bold, and colorful.

Janine worked as a Registered Nurse for thirty years, and later as a Licensed Cosmetologist. As a newly graduated Registered Nurse, she began her first professional art mentorship at SaltCreek Artworks in St. Petersburg, Florida. In 2011, while she was a Cosmetology student at TONI&GUY Hairdressing Academy, she took her painting to a higher level and expanded more deeply into acrylics for two years at the Erie Art Museum. From there, she worked with another mentor, embracing oil paintings in a more loose style at the Mercy Hilltop Center, where she has been ever since. She has even dabbled in jewelry making and painting on shale rocks. The painter currently resides in Lake City, PA, where she continues to learn in her own time through video tutorials, books, and self-discovery.

Annually, she enters several local and regional art shows, and has won several awards in juried group exhibitions. In addition, she is a member of The Presque Isle Artists’ Association and The Erie Art Museum. She was recently selected to be in the 2019 Regional Juried Art Exhibition at the Hoyt Institute of Fine Art in Newcastle, Pennsylvania.

She attributes her creative gifting and inspiration to her sensitivity, as well as her faith in God and daily prayer. In the future, she plans to explore commercial productions of her paintings on clothing, in stores, restaurants, and on greeting cards. One of her life dreams is to be accepted at The Butler Museum of American Art.

I had the privilege of interviewing Janine to find out what drives her to create such realistic pieces. Read on to find out:

In what ways does having grown up in a family of self-made artists challenged you to improve upon your own skills?
Artistry was nurtured into me from the age of five on, by both sides of my family. The best artists in my family all died when I was around twenty, including my Grandmother Gertrude Discher, who was skilled in several art forms. She especially liked to paint landscapes and wildlife, and she made wood carvings with amazing detail. Her sister Kate had art everywhere in her house. Her mail box was even painted with flowers. On the male side in my geneology, there were master craftsmen, auto mechanics, and contractors. Although I wasn’t surrounded by creativity for much of my life, it is definitely in my blood and I eventually discovered it within myself.

You have both a cosmetology background and a nursing background. How has the diversity of your occupational background and skills added to the diversity of your art?
It’s all connected. My sensitivity and love for people led me to nursing, where I learned about the patients’ lives though their reflections on memories. These stories filled me with compassion, and that compassion needed an outlet, my art.
After thirty years in nursing, I went to TONI&GUY, where missing pieces of myself began to surface, and I gained self-confidence and grew in popularity as an artist through the art classes I was taking at time.

I expanded on what my mother taught me as an early teen about warm, cool, and neutral color tones. Prior to even nursing school, I worked as a Beauty for All Seasons Color Consultant, and later a MaryKay Independent Consultant. Learning to create a makeup palette and do hair is similar to creating a paint palette. For instance, an unframed painting is just like a perfect makeup application, but without a complimentary hairstyle color. Similarly, a great hair color and cut isn't complete until the makeup and correct clothing colors are pulled together. It is in this manner, an individual's appearence aesthetically flows together. An artist can easily detract from a painting with a poorly chosen frame, the same way you can hinder aesthetic appearance by selecting the wrong tone of hair color that doesn't complement her/his facial skin tones or makeup. Everything is color flow.

How did you transition out of the mainstream workforce to focus more on your art?
I had no choice but to leave the heath care industry due to back injuries and stress, so that freed up a lot of my time. Fortunately, my husband’s income sustained both of us, making the transition somewhat easier. Since I’ve shifted my efforts more toward art, I’ve also focused more on getting it out there. In March 2018, I had my first solo show with the guidance of my peers at PACA. There, I sold seventeen paintings and multiple prints. I was very blessed to give portions of my earnings from the “Love of Farm Animals” show to one of my favorite local charities, “Blended Spirits Ranch.” I still really miss earning my own steady salary and healing the sick, working in medicine and being around medical professionals.

Where does nature take you mentally, spiritually, and emotionally?
I think of my childhood and the stillness of a single moment. I form soul connections with animals and I feel intense compassion for them. I want to help everyone I can, and nature touches me spiritually. My paintings reflect rebirth in a time when it feels like you can’t reflect on where things come from anymore. I want my life to have more meaning. We’re all artists and we all have something to say. When you sense God’s presence, your intuitiveness and sensitivity for the big picture deepens. I see the intense brightness of light in the darkness and it literally takes my breath away. I am always pulling off to the side of busy roads to capture nature's magnificence with my camera. I feel we need to bring awareness of the beauty in our souls, friendships, and relationships with God back to the art in Erie.

Do you prefer painting animals or nature scenes?
Both. Nature is dependent on animals, and animals are dependent on the environment. One can’t survive without the other. When I paint animals, I paint realism and naturalism in the background. I want you to feel like you’ve been there before. Even in my landscape paintings there is usually an animal somewhere in the background. However, if I had to choose one over the other, it would be painting animals because they’re the love of my life.

What do you want people to feel when they see your paintings?
I have experienced much loss and pain throughout my life, especially early on, but God pulled me through it. My paintings are an escape to places I’d love to be. I try to pull out feelings of peace, joy, and love in my paintings. I want people to feel the light and the warmth of the sun when they look at my work. I believe, when light shines through the clouds on overcast days, it is God reaching toward us through the darkness. I want my paintings to make the viewer feel this, or hopefully bring back memories of loved ones and childhood experiences.

Your paintings are so detailed and lifelike. How do you know when you have finished one?
I am like most artists. We never know when our painting is done. A painting has to go through my rigorous perfectionist analysis until I’m proud of every inch and every corner. It has to flow and convey the meaning for which it was intended.

You have entered several art shows. What is the first thing you see in other peoples’ art?
The first thing I notice are the colors, and whether it flows or not. If I feel it flows, I’ll then look for composition, and I am especially drawn to skies. I can always sense the amount of emotion — or lack thereof — by staring a while into another artist's work. I never pass a painting, ever, without checking out the signature and appreciating its presence.

What is the most beneficial thing you have learned in an art class?
The thing I love most about art classes is the positive energy you share with other painters. It encourages you to be the best you can be. We are amazed by each other’s strengths, so we give positive praise to each other. I love it when somebody needs my help with something, and I get to teach them how to do it. The vibe in the room is powerful and creative.

What is a technique you would like to try in the near future?
I want to get better at being more painterly in the looseness of impressionism. It is very difficult for me to convey an image without painting details. My goal is to be more purposeful with fewer brush strokes. I would also like to experiment more with portraits of people and their pets. In the near future, I’ll be working on a wildlife assemblage art piece.

Thank you, Janine, for sharing your thoughts with me. You can check out Janine’s website www.janineutegg.com and like her on Facebook. Janine is also looking to collaborate with other artists, writers, etc. with book illustrations and venue art, among other things. If that’s something you’re interested in, feel free to contact her in one of these two places.

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Erin Maloney recently obtained her Associate’s degree in Business Administration Marketing & Management from Fortis Institute. She is a poet and a writer who is passionate about art and helping it reach all who can be touched by it. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.