by Alan Li
Jan Kraus is a retired spiritual care professional and educator who was forty years old before she took her first watercolour painting class. She continues to take art classes in a variety of mediums whenever possible. Plein air (or painting outside on location) combines her love of watercolour and nature.
Please describe your first steps into the world of drawing and painting?
I decided to take a one week trip to the Smoky Mountains for a watercolour painting workshop. That was back in 1994. I was an absolute beginner; I didn’t even realize I needed to add water to the paint in order to be able to mix it properly. Luckily, I had a fabulous teacher who was incredibly patient, and I give him all the credit for getting me hooked on painting.
Which artist do you most admire and what’s your favourite piece of work of art made by this person?
I’ve always been amazed by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. Even as a child, I knew there was something special about the lighting in those paintings. It left me in awe that someone could have created this by hand. A Vermeer masterpiece that stands out for me is a painting called The Milkmaid.
What’s your favourite medium to work in and why?
Watercolour! I love the way I have to let go of control and allow the paint do its own thing; it’s a playful medium that dances! Watercolour is also way more forgiving than most people realize.
Did you know much about ravines before joining LUNA?
I attended the first ravine symposium at Toronto Botanical Garden where I learned a lot from listening to all the different speakers. Prior to that, I didn’t know too much about these wild spaces, although I had visited many ravines before.
What inspires you when you’re walking through Wilket Creek?
I love rocks and water. There’s just something magical about the movement of water around the rocks which fascinates me. There’s a particular spot on the creek bank where I’ve been sitting when I’m painting, and every visit I notice how much more the bank has eroded away - water is a powerful force.
What tips do you have for someone interested in trying outdoor painting for the first time?
Pack a bottle of water and don’t forget the bug spray! What I personally struggle with is keeping things simple. My advice is to pack as few things you think you can live with like a basic set of paints, a single brush and few sheets of paper. Don’t let yourself become weighed down.
What’s next for you?
Well, I hope the LUNA projects continue; I love the idea of spending another year in a different ravine or exploring a completely different ecosystem around the city. I’ve also enjoyed getting together regularly with a small group of artists who are all focused on the same goal, but who all interpret the same surroundings in completely different ways.