J u l y   2 0 0 4

Sketch Pad

Jan Rimerman
Adventures along the way
by Kathy Anderson

semester at the University of London was just the beginning of Jan Rimerman's travels. She's also been to Germany, Europe, Africa, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia and, closer to home, a bit of the East Coast. But she always seems to land back in the Pacific Northwest – in her eyes the most beautiful place in the world. Jan lives in West Linn with her other half of 10 years, Dave Haslett, a stone sculptor, vice president of the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association and curator of the special exhibition at the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts.

Making change
Needing to know more than a little bit about the art she teaches her students, Jan Rimerman works with each new medium until she's mastered the skill. Then she moves on.

"Ghost Riders"

"My style and media have changed drastically over the years, which isn't always good for an artist's career," she said. "Luckily, my clients and galleries have rejoiced in the evolution, and many clients own multiple pieces from different series."

Always hungry for new adventures, Jan travels the world to study with artists and learn their different techniques.

Jan, known for her colored-pencil, watercolor and mixed-media artwork, is especially recognized for her subject matter: landscapes, turtles, floral (particularly irises and poppies) and now abstract.

Her drawings are in six books featuring colored-pencil work and two featuring creativity.

Talent or curse
Jan's quests have also resulted in closets full of photos and slides.

"One of my favorite things is to share my international travels with my friends by having a slide-show party in the garden on an eight-foot-by-eight-foot screen," she said. "My photos always have a different perspective and interesting use of light. I'd love to be a full-time photographer."

"Tidal Whim"

But if Jan didn't paint, she wouldn't feel complete. At times, she wonders if this is a talent or a curse.

"My friends and patrons ask me how I can part with the paintings," she said. "It's not the final outcome that is important to me, it's the adventure along the way that's fulfilling."

Ancient wisdom
Before she's finished with one painting, Jan usually has ideas for at least three more. When working with mixed-media, each layer needs to dry before the next one is applied. That means she usually has five pieces in progress at any one time.

There can be up to 16 layers on each one, but the inspiration begins with the first layer, a charcoal pour.

"I paint and print symbols and imagery that float up through the layers," she said. "However, the adventure starts with compositions of rock formations from Pacific City."

Each piece usually contains three swimming turtles – sometimes blatant, sometimes only a brief glimpse as they swim by.

"Painted Hills"

"We have seven turtles in our family," she said. "I've had Neptune since 1979 and the rest followed. They're all rescued turtles and live in the studio.

"Turtles have quite a history in many cultures and seem to be a universal symbol of longevity, wisdom and groundedness. Their power of ancient wisdom has always had an effect on me."

Additional inspiration comes from reading quotes about everyday life and from successful people.

"Sometimes I paint the quotes into the composition itself," she said.

"I'm very sensitive and pick up energy, both positive and negative, all around me. And I have to be careful of violent images, especially TV movies and the news, for it really affects me. My students censor the movies for me."

Making sense
Jan also cites four professors at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., who greatly affected her life.

"My art professors were Hull, Hall and Hess," she said. "How do you keep that straight?

"Cross Currents"

"Roger Hull instilled in me the love of art history and made sense out of a chaotic world. His crack-of-dawn dry sense of humor influences me to this day when I share some of the great masters' stories with my students."

Carl Hall taught Jan about color and true artistic discipline. He gave her the fundamentals of drawing and painting and always kept her on her toes.

"Robert Hess showed me how to be human," she said. "He taught me three-dimensional art, but also the meaning of patience and persistence – the hard way. My freshman year, we both ended up soaked in plaster while casting a clay model."

Hidden meanings and words came to life under the tutelage of English professor Ken Nolley.

Talent show
As rewards for passing into the next swimming level or getting good grades, Jan would receive new art supplies.

"Evening Sky"

"Art was always a part of my life," she said. "Even as a child, I saw the world in a different light, color or shape. Putting it down on paper was just the next step."

Jan's dad was an amateur photographer, her mom a painter and her sister's talents went into singing, dancing and theatre.

Both sides of grandparents and great-grandparents were artists, too.

"Their talents ranged from china painting and drawing to upholstering and gardening," she said. "Those were tough times when most of their energy simply went into surviving.

"Art wasn't always practical, but sometimes a necessity."

Jan took every art class available and hung out in the art and theatre departments in high school. Receiving recognition in both, she decided to major in both. She graduated from Willamette University with a triple major and landed on the President's List of Recognition.

"Layers of Legends"

"I ended up with art, English and education majors. The English and education were for my dad, who didn't want me to be a starving artist," she said. "So I graduated and started teaching high-school art in Washington State, in a tiny logging town where there was a bar and a church on every corner."

Jan launched herself into graduate work at the University of Washington and Portland State. After three years she moved back to Portland, taught for a while at the junior-high level, and now teaches art at Tigard High School. She also gives seminars for adults out of her studio and throughout the Northwest.

Having a cow
Jan is putting a lot of time and energy into the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts, where she's the curator of the Open Show. That means she runs a crew of more than 75 adults and Tigard High students and places upwards of 1,000 pieces and showcards in a circus tent over the course of 58 hours. Jan has been involved with the festival since 1988.

She also works with the Lake Oswego Arts Foundation, a group that raises money for art literacy. "I painted a door for them last year," she said, "and will do another one this summer."


Jan's work can be seen in Portland at Gottlieb Gallery, the Portland Art Museum's Rental/Sales Gallery and on The Arts Action Alliance of Clackamas County Web site, where she recently was the featured Artist of the Quarter.

A memorable moment for Jan was when she was asked to paint a cow for the 2002 Portland event, Kows for Kids.

"My cow was named, Art Mooveau," she said. "She had 15 Alphonse Mucha women painted on her with a garden of irises, vines, poppies, sunflowers, wisteria and nasturtiums connecting the entire image together. That was the hardest and biggest thing I've ever painted!"

Of the 103 cows, Jan's was one of six chosen and printed on greeting cards and one of four to go in the Rose Parade.

Two percent glamour
Jan's dream is to leave the public school system and focus on her art. For the most part, she adores her students, but abhors all the rules and political infrastructure.

"Messages Through Time"

"Teaching full time to more than 200 students a term is exhausting," she said. "Then I come home and work a full-time artist job.

"People think being an artist is glamorous and romantic, but that's about two percent of the time. The other 98 percent is done with four hours of sleep a night."

In her dream, Jan continues to travel, develop her skills and gain as much knowledge as possible.

"There are so many wonderful and talented people out there," she said. "It's all in great marketing and being the best at what you do. If you do something different, you'll be noticed. But make sure it's in a positive manner."

"I really wouldn't change my art-life much, but more trips to Europe for inspiration would be a bonus!"

E-mail Jan at neptunestudios@juno.com. Reach Kathy at kanderson138@comcast.net, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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