As the seventh daughter in a family of nine children (eight girls!), my parents either ran out of ideas or lost interest in middle names by the time I came along. I was christened Jane, simply Jane, and so I remain….
It was in college at the University of Minnesota that my talents were first put to the test publicly, as an editorial illustrator for the Minnesota Daily. It was a fast paced, art-on-demand job that stripped away my inhibitions and ultimately ignited a creative spark that is still with me.
As soul-nurturing and gratifying as art can be, it can be tough making a living at it. My early days required creativity beyond the paintbrush just to make a go of it. I would exchange art services for vet care, theatre tickets and photography services. A desperately needed root canal led to adding “muralist” to my repertoire. I suggested, portfolio in hand, to the director of the dental clinic, that “I haven’t any money, but I have a little talent.”
After painting a play area for children at the clinic, I was hired to paint many more murals in clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants and private homes all over the United States.
I also found myself drawn to helping kids find their own artistic voices.
I was a visiting artist in the Minneapolis public schools, traveled to a remote village in Alaska to teach art projects to K-12 students, and worked with neighborhood groups in North and South Minneapolis to create community art gardens with amazing flowers & snake fence pickets painted by the kids.
Their enthusiasm and innate creativity never failed to inspire me.
And then I married and had children of my own. Things slowed down – a lot! Nation-wide mural painting gigs and parenting aren’t a natural fit. I stayed in the game with the occasional local mural and a continued involvement with community projects, but George and Gayl were the real focus of my creativity.
Well, you can divert a passion, but it doesn’t go away. Whenever my children had friends over they would ask for illustrations to color. I began using a sharpie marker to draw Hello Kitty, unicorns, and dragons in a coloring book style. I drew patterns on placemats I drew on magnets, mirrors, furniture and eventually canvas. The seeds for Simply Jane had been planted.
Check out Jane’s Fabulous Sister Artists:
Sister Anne www.anneelias.com
Sister Meg wwww.watchhumansfly.com
Sister Lisa www.eliasmetalstudio.com
Sister Mary www.myspace.com/aliaseliasray