We had the good fortune of connecting with Janis Fowler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Janis, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
Making time for simply playing and experimenting is so important for me! I think as a lot of people “grow up” they forget how important it is to try new things and not take themselves too seriously. I try and make a point to try any artistic idea or medium that really gives me a feeling of excitement at least once. For example, if the idea for a piece is something off the wall, unconventional, or even gross I don’t let that stop me from making it. I have made some really fun pieces that ended up being really successful even though I was skeptical in the beginning. The big bonus to this approach is that even the failed attempts are interesting, and you ALWAYS learn something that can be used later!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have always loved making art, but I have not always seen it as a career path. I started drawing and making weird sculptures when I was young as a means of stress relief and personal escape from a childhood filled with turmoil and sadness. My father was an early supporter of my art, and I loved bringing him art that I had made to get his seal of approval. Unfortunately my father died when I was 12, and introduced a well of sadness that I began using art to escape from. I often felt a certain solace, like I was closer to him somehow, making him proud with each new thing I learned. I drew all the time and loved the agonizing process of trying and trying again to get something “right”. Art helped me immensely through my adolescence, but when I was accepted into college I never considered art as a possibility. I instead chose a path that felt more “safe”- a degree in Architecture. Although I used my drawing skills a bit during college, architecture was heavily computer-based degree and I more or less put drawing and art creation to the side while I obtained my degree. As luck would have it, I graduated in 2008 during the height of the recession and was unable to find much work in Architecture. That inability was depressing at the time, but it led me to move to Austin where the economy was less affected, and I started making art again. I started selling drawings off the walls at the restaurants I waited tables at, and slowly but surely I started being able to work less shifts and instead take on commissions to make money. I really began to expand myself as an artist when I got a job at the local Jerry’s Artarama selling art supplies. My artistic path really opened up from there! To be honest my whole life experience has taught me an uplifting message: Even when things seem dire and the path we had planned to follow is cut off, sometimes things work out for the best in the end. I LOVE being an artist, and I don’t think I would have found nearly as much happiness and flexibility had I pursued architecture further. I feel like this lesson is so important to remember during the current Covid-19 crisis. I love experimenting with different media, and I am really inspired by art that is somehow interactive with the viewer. Lately I’ve been particularly drawn to work similar to that produced by the artist collective Meow Wolf, which often surrounds the viewer and makes them an active part in exploring the art. I love art that make the viewer feel like a kid again, and encourages the viewer to play! Anything shiny, furry, textured, or alien-looking draws me in, and I have been trying to make my art more and more tactile and interactive. I have several themes that come up again and again in my work. The eyeball has been something I’ve drawn, painted, and sculpted over my life many times, and I find it still pops up in a lot of my sculptural pieces. Beautiful ladies with animal friends with colorful backgrounds and resin-filled scenes as their clothing is another theme I find myself returning to. I also love making humorous animal drawing and paintings…. basically anything that makes me smile in the moment! My ultimate goal is to create something that makes the viewer smile, laugh, or just want to gaze at or touch. I’m super excited to see what comes next!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Austin is a wonderful city to do many things in. I don’t do a lot of those things anymore but I do still take advantage of the food. Austin has a fantastic food scene, and I would 100% recommend a food tour. Mi Madre’s or Try Hard Coffee for breakfast tacos, Vera Cruz for lunch tacos, Micklethwait for BBQ, Ramen Tatsuya for ramen, and honestly countless other places that I don’t even know about. After all that food I’d say a walk around town lake and maybe some paddleboarding to soak up some vitamin D before finding more food!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
While there are so many people that have inspired me and helped me along my path, I think my employment at Jerry’s Artarama in Austin was probably one of the most important times so far in my artistic career. Jerry’s gave me employment at a crossroads in my life, and selling art supplies encouraged me to use the supplies I sold. The store provided a creative outlet and built-in support group that helped me see that there could actually be a path for me in the arts. Before I began my employment in about 2013 I was solely a pencil artist.I had never really tried painting, and the one time that I had attempted I had failed miserably because I just didn’t understand the process. Jerry’s gave me motivation to try again, as well as the personal support of my fellow employees in learning each new medium. I worked there for about three years, and by the time I was ready to stretch my wings and fly solo I was hooked on almost everything in the store. It was amazing getting to talk to all the other local artists that came in to purchase supplies. I made some of my most creative and inspired work yet there, and I still buy my supplies from there. Much love to Jerry’s Artarama!