We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Jana L Bussanich. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Jana L below.
Jana, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Learning the craft is often a unique journey from every creative – we’d love to hear about your journey and if knowing what you know now, you would have done anything differently to speed up the learning process.
How did you learn to do what you do?
I am a self-taught watercolorist, painting instructor, and author of Watercolor Technique and Color Theory Essentials: Cultivate an Art Practice that Works for You and Your Art, released in 2021.
Knowing what you know now, what could you have done to speed up your learning process?
Two things are true, there are no shortcuts to learning to paint, but there are shortcuts that make possible the likelihood that you’ll learn to paint. The only way to master the discipline of painting is to do it, but the fact that we don’t know how to do it is why many people with the secret wish to learn to paint never start. Establishing a regular art practice and getting to know your materials is the most crucial first step to learning to paint. Painting requires moving between learning and integrating acquired knowledge. It helps to understand what painting is–it’s drawing with a paintbrush in your hand. And drawing is seeing. It is the calibration between the hand and the eye. The hand records what the eye sees. To speed your learning to paint, attend to the discipline of drawing, which we might say is the discipline of seeing.
What skills do you think were most essential?
Before a skill can be fully developed, there must be interest. So the first question might be, “am I interested in watercolor as means of expression in art-making? It’s essential to start with your interest, in this case, painting with watercolor, so that you’ll be less likely to quit when the thing you are learning feels hard. Because learning something new is challenging (whether you are interested in it or not), an interest followed leads to an aptitude developed. Aptitude (or talent) developed builds to competency, and competency boosts self-confidence.
Be a student of what you don’t know and master what you currently possess—plan regular contact with your materials to build trust and confidence in them. Keeping a focus on the process is vital. Suppose you come to watercolor with little or no experience. Start with the grammar of watercolor painting. In watercolor, understanding water management and paint-to-water ratios are essential to successful painting with watercolor.
Finally, for experienced painters who want to keep developing in their art, it’s important to remember what it was like to be a beginner and practice the fundamentals of painting regularly, apart from making a proper painting. I mean color mixing, exercises that develop brush control and water management, and improve draftsmanship with graphite, ink, and paint.
What obstacles stood in the way of learning?
Failure to understand that any new skill takes time to develop. This lack of understanding leads to inconsistent practice, inconsistent results, and slow progress. My students often judge their results, which, if poor, lead to false conclusions about their aptitude (I must not be as talented as I thought). Instead, we should evaluate and judge our process with the result, keeping realistic expectations in mind to avoid discouragement that leads to quitting.
Jana L, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
- Jana L. Bussanich is an artist who makes fine art watercolor paintings and sketches and paints art-travel journals.
- Teaches online and In-person watercolor classes and workshops—founder of the Yellow Couch Creative, Community, and Classroom online.
- Provides art and travel opportunities for students in the US and abroad.
- The author of Watercolor Technique and Color Theory Essentials of Watercolor Technique and Color Theory Essentials: Cultivate an Art Practice That Works For You and Your Art (2021).
Is there a particular goal or mission driving your creative journey?
At Jana L. Bussanich Art, Yellow Couch Creative, we believe interaction with art and the act of creating is an inborn human behavior. We need healthy and positive ways to experience, express, understand and connect with ourselves and others through art. Art interaction and creation provide a language beyond words. It tells a story– it is history that helps people connect, heal and express themselves. Art offers an opportunity for shared experiences with the power to break down social, political, and racial barriers. Art enhances productivity and inspires.
In your view, what can society to do to best support artists, creatives and a thriving creative ecosystem?
Meaningful change happens at the individual level, then the family or community level, and finally in cultures where we honor and recognize the collective power of the individual. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to this question. The answers to this question will be as varied and complex as those who make Art and support artists. To address it, we need to define what we mean by society. Or ask, which ordered group of people makes up the so-called society supporting artists in a thriving ecosystem? The answer is many. Many groups of people, organizations, and communities comprise society’s sectors that support the arts culture and artists. Ask, “what can I do as an artist or a patron of the arts that creates a thriving ecosystem within the culture? I like to think about what I’d like to do for the world that would be impossible to do and then do it for one because I believe strongly in the power of the individual surrounded by many to effect change.
In making Art, the process belongs to and is for the artist. But the result. The thing we call Art. It’s for others. A patron participates in the creative process by showing interest and giving money, most commonly, to hold and create space for the work to exist. Without the patron, the result is dead, silent, or left wanting. Our walls are blank, galleries are empty, and public spaces lack activation, beauty, and culture–these ABCs are the artist’s why.
A healthy ecosystem is symbiotic. The relationship between the artist and patron must originate from sustainable reciprocity to be mutually beneficial. The main currency of our day is money (the means commonly used to purchase supplies, pay studio rent, cover framing costs, etc.); though there are other forms of currency worth trading for goods and services, I’ll limit my reference to the use of money as a mechanism for equitable trade.
Offering artists wall space to show Art, for example, is not always reciprocal or symbiotic (the artist does all the work, and the organization receives all the benefits). It can also mean that patrons enjoy viewing artwork for free and might never have the need to purchase a piece for their home. The entity hosting (galleries not included) the work does not actively employ a gallerist or committed representative to sell the work. It’s not even reasonable to think this would be the case. Yet the establishment owner often views their wall as real estate worthy of a commission if a piece of Art happens to sell itself, making the opportunity not without additional cost to the artist. In this instance, the establishment receives the full benefit of decorating its walls at the artist’s expense. It would be more equitable for establishment owners to purchase or lease work from artists.
The artist can start by defining the terms for showing their work and decide whether or not showing in exchange for “hang space” and paying a commission in a non-gallery setting meets their financial and other professional needs. Establishment owners who desire to address the aesthetics of their space with Art can create a budget to either lease art with a patron purchase option or commission commensurate with the representation given beyond offering passive wall space.
Questions we can ask before choosing where to show our Art: How do I benefit from contributing to the ABCs (activation, beauty, and culture)? Is it through the equitable exchange of goods and services between the artist and those who derive perceived benefit from their work? If not, why?