Jeanne LaRae is a well-known and beloved painting and drawing teacher at the Kimball Art Center. She has taught acrylic, oil and watercolor painting, pastels and illustration classes for over 25 years. Along the way, Jeanne has learned a thing or two about being an artist.
It’s not always easy. Being an artist takes persistence and a little bit of stubbornness.
While chatting with Jeanne in between two of her painting classes I found one thing clear – she is passionate about painting. It wasn’t just about putting paint on a canvas but the whole experience as an artist, choosing what to paint, mixing her mediums and the token smell that lingers when painting with oils. A day doesn’t go by that she doesn’t want to paint; as she puts it, “it’s good for my soul.” But her deep love for art was not always easy to make a successful career out of. Lucky for the Kimball, Jeanne is quite tenacious.
Jeanne always stuck with painting and drawing. After receiving her art degree from Utah State University and learning from some of the best illustrators and painters in the country, she headed to Laguna Beach, CA to find her own niche in the art world. The move was not easy. She worked three jobs for the first little while and immediately got to work putting down her roots in the art community. Jeanne’s token stubbornness paid off as she opened her own gallery and ran an architectural rendering studio at the same time. This is where she began to realize her love of teaching. For the next several years, Jeanne’s business savvy skills and involvement in the arts community lead to success as a practicing, selling and teaching artist.
In May 2009, Jeanne made the move back to Utah and shut the doors of her gallery in Laguna Beach. This move represented a turning point in her already successful career as an artist; she knew she wanted to continue painting and she also knew the days she taught in Laguna Beach were the highlight of her week. In the fall of 2009, Jeanne found the Kimball Art Center, a place where she could make art instruction her main focus and still have time to paint in her studio. The move back to Utah was an intentional decision to change paths and was another example of Jeanne’s persistence to challenge herself and always stay true to her love of art. Closing her gallery and uplifting her well established roots to return to Utah was not the easy choice but it was the reinvention that Jeanne wanted for her career and, once again, her stubbornness allowed her to find success here is Utah as well.
Art is like an instrument …
You must practice every day. It takes consistent practice and patience to learn the basics first. Jeanne always recommends that her students take a drawing class before one of her painting classes to learn about value, perspective and design. Her studies at the university level focused on illustration and created a broad and sturdy foundation for her deeper endeavors in painting later in her career. Just like you learn the cords of the instrument before you can create your own song, you must learn the basics of drawing before you create your own painting.
“You have to play in order to create.”
Play is at the center of creativity. Jeanne creates a fun and relaxing environment in her classes so her students can let go of their daily stresses and allow their minds to wander through their imaginations. Jeanne has taught classes for all ages and finds that by far adults are the most reluctant to embrace spontaneity. This sometimes creates a challenge for her as a teacher and she is always looking for new ways to create an encouraging atmosphere in her classes.
About 20 years ago, Jeanne realized she had lost a little bit of that lightheartedness she always encourages in her students, so she started painting with a palette knife. Palette knifes create bolder strokes and result is a more abstract or impressionistic painting. When using one, the artist must let go of some control and think more creatively about the impact of each stroke. The switch “loosened” up Jeanne’s paintings and brought a sense of play back into her work. Today she works both with brushes and her palette knife, but always returns to the knife if she’s in a rut.
Jeanne sees more art in her future and hopes to spend more time working on abstract pieces. You can find all the classes Jeanne is currently teaching at the Kimball Art Center here.