It's not often that Janet Stolle takes a day off from painting. Too much time away from her canvas and easel, and all just doesn't seem quite right with the world. Art is abundant inside her home in Hudson, OH, including a great many of her own pieces adorning the walls, leaning comfortably against table legs inside her studio or the odd pile stacked aside on a bookshelf.
Many depict lovely outdoor scenes of sights as familiar as the Brandywine Gorge Trail Bridge on a cloudy day. Others show scenes from far away places, river scenes from the French countryside or rolling, patchwork fields in the heart of Italy.
The exhibit will feature 26 pieces, each of them painted within the last year and a half. In fact, Stolle painted a majority of the exhibit this September and October of 2018, in the style of plein air.
From her website, Stolle describes plein air landscapes as "painting poetry" but en plein air, simply put, is painting done outdoors. There is, however, an air of poetry to her works. Her plein air pieces are not attempts to capture crystal clear copies of the scenes outside; instead they are closer to an impressionist style, with soft-edged shapes in rich hues, culminating into a dreamlike scene, like a memory of a place.
"When I'm painting outdoors I'm painting what I see and what I feel," she explained. "And the more I paint outdoors, the more I'm able to translate what I see into what I feel. It's another step, and what I feel is a culmination of everything I've seen and everywhere I've been."
She maintains that it's up to the viewer to interpret each piece in their own way, and is happy to watch an audience observe and unpack their own individual experience.
"I think if my works reflect anything, they reflect the conditions in which they were painted!" she said with a laugh. "You will see some pieces in the show that were done in the rain under an umbrella, because nothing was going to stop me when I was in Italy. I was painting every minute because I could."
From September and October, Stolle was in Europe, working with a group of painters in Umbria in a small mountain village called Monte Castello di Vibio.
"The name is actually bigger than the town," she joked. "It's so small that you can walk the whole town in 15-20 minutes. It's this perfectly pristine, neat little town, perched on top of a good sized hill overlooking the Tiber Valley. It was a painter's delight."
During her stay, Stolle took advantage of every opportunity to lay paint to canvas.
"I would be fully immersed in my painting, from dawn to the last rays of the sun," she explained. "I would work from seven in the morning, take a brief rest for maybe an hour or two at lunch, and then I'd go back out at two o'clock or three in the afternoon and paint until seven, or until the sun went down."
She found great joy in painting in Italy, and said there are a few in the series of the same spot, wherein once one painting was done, she swiveled to face another direction and began to work on another. These works, she said, were completed in minutes.
"It's funny, people will say, 'Oh, you did that in ten minutes?'" she relayed. "And I'll say, "Yeah... and 50 years!'"
As a result of such swift work, several of the pieces are quite small, no bigger than a notebook.
"Plein air pieces are often small because you have to capture the light," explained Stolle. "And every two hour it changes, and it throws everything off -- the shadows are off, and the colors change with the light -- so generally, painters who are wanting to get an impression before the scene changes will work small."
Premier coup or first strike is another way of explaining this technique which Stolle developed during a six week master class in Civita Castellana, Italy through The Jerusalem Studio School in 2017. It involves full concentration with careful observation and color mixing before making a mark on the canvas. And once it's there, you leave it alone. Though she employs different techniques for other work, she enjoys the challenges of this style and exploring a new artistic method.
Art has always held a place in Stolle's heart, seemingly from the start. Her mother would tell her stories of watching her finger paint with leftover Bosco syrup from her chocolate milk. She believes though that her passion for art really took root at age ten, when her father commissioned a family portrait.
"We would go to the studio for sittings, and the painter had a cheval mirror behind her shoulder so that you could watch her work," she recalled. "And that was it! I fell in love with painting."
In her lifetime, she would find various ways to pursue creativity, including a long career with American Greetings, first as an artist and later as an officer of the company. To her, it was an immensely satisfying, albeit not a clear channel for her artistic expression.
"When you're working in commercial art, you're working for someone else," she said. "Your job is to visually satisfy the demands of your client. When I was working, I had the opportunity to do an awful lot of trend research and color research -- I was constantly looking for trends and ways to communicate them to our customers, to our marketing department, to our design staff. We were always trying to stay on the cutting edge of what's happening in style, in color. I didn't feel quite like an artist, but rather I felt like a designer."
She sees a similar path for the next generation of budding artists, who, like Stolle, will learn to channel their talents and gifts into a lifetime of love and creative exploration.
"I would tell them to follow their bliss," she said. "But I would also tell them that there's a big caveat. You must learn to find a way to sustain your life so that you are fulfilled while also being practical. Of course, I want them to pursue art if that's their dream, but also I want them to know what's ahead of them and to be prepared. Working for a company like I did, I was very fortunate. I was surrounded by so many creative people. And then you certainly can use your talents and your creativity in truly unique ways."
Stolle's exhibit will run from Jan. 4- Feb. 17 in Moos Gallery. All are also invited to attend her special reception on Friday, Jan. 11, inside Moos Gallery from 5-8 p.m.