Photo Painting Series No. 1 ~ 4

Janelle's artwork, painting, photography, the creative life

For a few years now, I’ve had this nudge to take photographs I have made, get them printed in B&W on watercolor paper, large scale, and paint on them using gouache and watercolors. I liked the idea, but never knew where to start.

Immediately after I returned home from a trip to rural France this summer, inspiration for creating my ‘photo paintings’ came back in full force. What was new were several incredibly concrete, personal themes which began forming in my head.

The themes revealed themselves in two series to start with: detail snapshots of ancient paintings of Mary (below), and an evocative series inspired by the French story ‘The Little Prince’. Many more ideas were swirling around relating to pilgrimage of the heart and this year’s actual Camino pilgrimage in Burgundy. Then throughout the autumn months they slowly developed into four distinct, solid narratives. As soon as I complete the project stories for each one, they will be linked to here:

Read about painting series no. 1: All Roads Lead to Burgundy

Early on, as I was daydreaming about getting a studio and imagining what the paintings would look like, I was floored at how giddy excited I was getting. What is happening to me?? I would say, a little bewildered. Yet this is the very same thing I experienced as I was preparing for my trip to France, so I figured I had better pay attention. Investigating local art studios, I quickly discovered that the right space is not so easy to find. In the meantime I have been creating test versions (see above) of the paintings on a smaller scale to see what works well.

This project feels more ambitious than anything I’ve ever tried, and truthfully – I’ve never made art quite like this before. Poignant and emotional and experimental. Over and over I have sensed that this is my project of the hour, the work that is for *now*.

I need your help to continue creating these works. I can’t do it without you! Here are some options: ~PATREON (crowd-funded art patronage!)~ or ~invest in one of my fine art photographs~

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My film camera on pilgrimage

photography, the creative life, the spiritual life

A run to replace the tiny battery in my trusty old film camera also yielded a colorful set of notebooks made with fancy German paper – on sale and just the right size for a portable, packable journal. Preparations for my trip abroad are coming along, and the countdown is in the single digits. Giddy excited is the operative word.

I used to shoot exclusively with film – this very camera in fact took me through my first 10 years as a photographer. Eventually it was replaced with a digital SLR, and my iPhone for daily use. But as I am about to go wandering with a backpack through gorgeous rural France, I had to rethink how I was going to approach the photo essays I want to make along the way (literally The Way: Le Chemin de Saint Jacques).

(Re)Enter my Pentax K-1000. He takes 35mm film, has travelled Europe with me before, and has made for me some of my best photographs.

There are drawbacks, however. He is all mechanical and metal and a little heavy, I will have to carry film in hot weather which could damage it, and I will not get to see how the images turn out until I am home.

Yet this pilgrimage I am making has so many themes which shooting with film will help to remind me of and ground me in. 

At least for me, photographing with film is a very different experience than photographing with a digital camera. You have to be fully present to what is in front of your lens, more deliberate about framing and exposure, and patient with the time it takes to focus the lens properly or advance the film. In particular there is a trust needed: that your discernment and judgment in the moment may indeed yield something exquisite and profound, even though you do not see the outcome until much later. 

Metaphors such as these echo the journey of the spiritual life:

Intentionality, being in the present moment (attention + presence), prudence, trusting your intuition, and a peaceful detachment from needing a thing to turn out a certain way…

The constant emphasis of these themes have been why my life has felt like a pilgrimage for awhile now. It will be interesting to see how these flesh out as I shift from my Camino, at home, to making my Camino pilgrimage along the ancient ‘way of the stars’.

100 days of Maps+Compasses: Halfway Point Highlights

artistic practice, creativity, Janelle's artwork, the creative life

We’re quite a bit past the halfway point now in #the100dayproject2019 but I have been meaning to share some of my work with you.

The theme I picked for my project is Maps + Compasses, and true to form it has been a winding road. The underlying theme is pilgrimage, especially interior pilgrimage, and my big question became how do I go about sharing that element in a visual way? I tried to narrow the scope as much as possible, by only working with watercolor crayons and pencils – trying to limit my tendency to overcomplicate my creative process.

Strangely enough, my first challenge that showed up was to allow myself to be flexible. To change the parameters of the project as needed instead of rigidly following the original prescription I set for it, allowing myself to find inspiration where ever I went.

Such as when I spotted a bumper sticker on a cherry red Fiat flying down the freeway, and drew it when I got home:

Another great instance of this was found in Julia Cameron’s wonderful book The Vein of Gold. I read about how writing by hand is like a pilgrimage, then curved my cursive of those words around a compass:

Although I tried to stick to my watercolor crayons and pencils, on many days I didn’t have the energy to figure out what I was going to draw/paint. Instead of criticizing myself when I skipped a few days for lack of ideas, I let myself change mediums and experiment a bit. Here I photographed a hiking compass of mine on white paper, and photoshopped it four different ways:

I did keep having to fight against my tendency to give in to tiredness and skip making entirely on the days I didn’t feel like it – even though I know I will feel energized when I am actually doing it! Then there’s the stalling – boy, you KNOW I’m procrastinating when I start doing dishes or laundry before I’ll sit myself down to start painting. What is with that!? I don’t suppose anyone else can relate…

Other rounds involved tracing out a map of France – one of my favorite countries in the world, which I plan to visit this year. Here is a detail of “the heart of France, on fire”. I had seen that exact headline in French shortly after the awful blaze at Notre Dame de Paris.

Then a couple weeks later I pulled out my Fantastic cities coloring book and went to town:

Since the halfway point came and went in late May, the last three weeks have held a whole lot of not making anything, largely due to my desire to create more complicated work bumping up against the daily nature of this project. So from here on out, it’s back on the bandwagon for the final few weeks and a focus on simplicity will be my priority.

If you’d like to journey with me on my ongoing creative pilgrimage, please follow me on Instagram at