"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

When this artist packs up and leaves town, it’s a good thing

By on November 27, 2018 in Arts with 0 Comments

Jane Walter Bousman: At home in two happy places.

By Susan Lagsdin

Jane Walter Bousman — spurred by a pivotal transition a decade ago — has created a symmetrical two-part life for herself that’s personally and artistically satisfying, with just enough of a wide-open future to keep it interesting.

Folks from New York to Minneapolis to Seattle know how this first part is done: early in November, Jane UPS’d big boxes of belongings, locked up the East Wenatchee house (’70s luxe and filled with art), packed a carry-on, put her cat in a pet carrier, and flew down to sunny Phoenix.

Once there, she settled into her house in Surprise, Arizona for a six-month sojourn of painting.

She’ll revel in art exhibits, classes and confabs at the active adult community of Sun City Grand, all in the varied terrain and consistent warmth of the Sonoran Desert. There, still in long distance contact with Wenatchee friends, she maintains southwest-style holiday traditions with fellow snowbirds.

Jane has followed essentially the same pattern for eight years, traveling solo. She declared that  the real home of her heart is here in north central Washington, but she relishes her half-year away.

She said, “What’s appealing about being in a big, active retirement community is that at our age, everyone around you is finally good at something. It makes for great conversations, art and music, lots of support and plenty to do.” Jane stocks a fully-equipped studio in Arizona, where she paints desert flora and landscapes and is a member of the SCG Gallery.

One of Jane Walter Bousman’s works is this blue abstract titled Aquifer.

Her artworks, carefully bubble-wrapped and boxed, travel back and forth; some come back home to Wenatchee’s Two Rivers Gallery, where she was last June’s featured artist. She appreciates both of those cooperative galleries, which, Jane said, “provide opportunities to learn, gain confidence, and show my work.”

This six-month/six-month life wasn’t always the plan.

Jane explained, “My husband and I bought the Arizona place as an investment 14 years ago, thinking we’d rent it out until we could move down there.”

With a heart-wrenching divorce, the “we, us, our” changed to “I, me, my” after 42 years of marriage. That was the same pivotal year that Jane retired from her long and satisfying career in education, including 22 years as a teacher and then as an administrator with Head Start.

In that emotional time, Jane found some blessings. She said, “I finally moved my art supplies from the kitchen table to what had been my husband’s office. And on that first trip to Arizona by myself in the winter of 2010, I realized one morning, while I was out on my patio sipping coffee, listening to the birds, that it was warm and sunny — and I was happy.”

Her art life flourished. “I could feel myself blooming,” Jane said. “I actually started calling myself an artist.”

Time, space and intention seemed to finally unlock her desire to paint. She had initially studied art at the University of Northern Iowa, and in Wenatchee, where she’d moved for her husband’s work, she substituted in art classes, joined an art cooperative and took classes from local legend William Reese. But as a graduate student, a teacher, a wife, a homemaker and a mother to son Brian, Jane found she only had time to dabble in the art that she’d once thought was a calling.

Applying paint to canvas is just one outlet for artistic self-expression, however. Jane maintains that in those earlier years she was never not creative. She said, “I believe there’s creativity in planning curriculum, in raising a child, in the garden and the home…”

Van Gogh and stained glass inspired her current bold, delineated style, and she said her art is “less about subject matter than color and shape.”

On her easel you’ll find warm-toned acrylics — often depicting flowers and plants, that faithfully regard classic concepts of line, texture, movement, balance and focus.

Red Flower: Beauty with Thorns.

Jane will also switch and mix media and tweak them to serve her purpose. Graphite and ink are perfect for the shadowing in figure drawings, many of which are displayed in her home, and her sketches illustrate her friend Jane Nagler’s Strawberry Mountain novels. Photography, once simply a tool, has become another art form for her, and she competently captures and edits scenes on her iPhone 8.

“Creative experiences can be tiny and incidental. Waiting for food in a restaurant, removing the wrapper from the straw, tearing it into little pieces and arranging them on the table. Yes! I do that… and I’ll take a picture of it.” She said, “Whether it’s the artist or the viewer… all art is an extension of a very personal interaction with the world.”

Jane has reached a sweet spot in her life, and she knows it.

“As you get older, you create a new outline and start to use yourself in different ways. I always knew what I didn’t want,” she said, “and I recognized nurturing experiences… today I am least hampered by the former and most influenced by the latter. I like this place.”

And whether that place, geographically speaking, is the surrounding hills of her Washington home or the sere desert scape of her Arizona home, she’s going to paint it as beautifully as she can.

Chrisman Barn of Marion County, IA.

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