By James Grob, email@example.com
Des Moines artist Jan Davison has been creating art for just about as long as she can remember.
“Art has been a whole lifelong thing for me,” she said. “I remember in kindergarten wanting to be an artist.”
Davison, a native of Owatonna, Minnesota, said her father worked for a printing company, and he would often bring home scrap paper that she would make use of.
“I always enjoyed using the paper to be creative,” she said.
The drawings and paintings of Davison will be the featured exhibit at the Charles City Arts Center throughout the month of July.
Davison creates art with pastels, acrylics and mixed media. Her subject matter is often abstract concepts, geometric designs or the beauty of nature.
She will be hanging up her work on Thursday, and there will be a reception for Davison starting at 5 p.m. Friday at the Arts Center.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” she said. “I think it’s going to be fun.”
Davison said her acrylic paintings tend to be more abstract while her pastel drawings are more realistic. Usually the subject matter is nature — such as landscapes or butterflies.
For example, one piece, “Summer Swallowtail,” is a pastel drawing inspired by the “beautiful butterflies” that frequent Davison’s flower garden. Another, entitled “Fantasy,” is an acrylic painting inspired by photos of outer space. Both will be among the more than 30 paintings and drawings she will have on display at the Arts Center this month.
“I often do mixed media,” she said. “Sometimes you need to do other things, other than just paint on canvas.”
Davison also writes poetry — and she uses it to create what she calls “art poems.” She arranges the poetry in an artistic manner and frames it.
“I’ve been writing poems for quite a long time, but I never did anything with them.” she said. “I had an idea to make them into a graphic presentation.”
Davison said she brought some of them to a show and was “amazed” at how well they did.
“They were fun, and they were very well-received,” she said.
She will have seven of her art poems on display at her Charles City exhibit, in addition to the paintings and drawings.
Davison has shown her art at various venues around Des Moines, but her Charles City display will be her first out of town. She made the connection to Charles City through a friend, Judy Sebern Beachy, a Charles City native who had an exhibit at the Arts Center last summer.
Davison went to Des Moines from Owatonna to attend Drake University, where she studied graphic design and journalism and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Initially, she had her sights set on becoming an art teacher.
“Somewhere along the line I dropped the idea of being an art teacher and studied graphic design,” she said. “I liked it, and I thought I could earn a living at it.”
She studied art abroad for one year in Florence, Italy, her junior year at Drake.
“That whole year was focused on fine art,” she said. “It was all about immersion in drawing and painting.”
She worked for 25 years as a freelance graphic designer, followed by 12 years as a communication director. She also served for several years as a volunteer art instructor at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women. While she’s been a creative artist all along, she’s been doing artwork just for pleasure for about the last 20 years.
“I like to connect with people, and I hope my art takes them to a positive place,” Davison said. “I hope maybe my art will remind them of somewhere they’ve been or something they’ve experienced personally.”
Davison launched a project in 2011, called Charitable Creations. People will host art parties in their homes, and Davison displays her artwork, and 25 percent of whatever art they sell is given to the charity of the host’s choice.
“I felt like I wanted to have a richer, more meaningful experience with my artwork,” she said.
The 68-year-old Davison and her husband have one adult married daughter and two grandchildren, ages 4 and 1. The whole crew just recently returned home from France, where they’d spent a week visiting friends.
“It went surprisingly well. We had a good time,” she said.
With two young grandchildren along, Davison said it was more of a family-oriented trip, so there weren’t many opportunities to take in the famous French art scene.
“We did visit some local galleries. That was really fun and inspiring,” she said.