For this lunch and interview I sat down with Janis Galbraith Fitch at the Station Tap Room in Downingtown. When I emailed Janis to set up the lunch she was so excited and told me how she had read the other interviews and was honored. I thought Oh Crap! She knows all the questions and has all the answers rehearsed. Like all interesting people the conversation was all over the place and we shared many stories along with many laughs.
One thing that we shared was that we both had just come back from Cape Cod. I reflected on how quaint and beautiful Martha’s Vineyard was. She had just returned from her third visit to the Cape this summer. Her enthusiasm for the beach, the rocks, the sea glass, and the light could not be contained. Yet, all the pictures were saved on her iPhone that she often shared. I loved her enthusiasm for her passion which is the subject matter expressed in her art. Beaches, beach houses with the blue skies, Cape Cod sun and shadows painted with blues and fuchsias. That’s just some of her paintings. Now place a cow within the painting on the beach! I know…but really it isn’t that odd. She has been painting this unique combination for over 20 years. I’ll let Janis tell it, hoping that her enthusiasm comes across in words. Make sure you smile and think of that warm summer sun as you read.
Janis Galbraith Fitch
How did you get started making art?
I always drew. I always drew as a kid. I would draw my dolls, my backyard.
Did you receive any formal art training? Where and what did you major in? Yes, I went to the University of Delaware. I started as a math major. My dad thought I was going in as a math major. Before I ever had to take a math class I changed to art. My sophomore year there they got a BFA program. So I entered that and there was 16 of us I think and so I got my BFA in drawing and painting.
Describe your work in general for the readers? Cows, and the beach…and sometimes its the cows on the beach, and bright colors. The cows are not wearing sunglasses, they belong there. I guess its kind of pop. I don’t know how to describe it.
What is your medium? I use oils because, that's what I was taught in my painting classes at the U of D. But I also think it's because they blend easily, I can get intense colors with them, and I can get a nice shiny surface with them. And the smell of oils is the best.
When did you start placing cows on beaches? When I lived in Texas. I lived in Texas for 2 years. 1984-1986 I think. Right before we lived in Texas I lived in Pennsylvania and I took pictures of all these cows and I really was homesick. So I was looking at all these cows and I was also looking at these pictures of Cape Cod, I also love Cape Cod. I thought it would be really cool. Wouldn’t it look good if I put a cow at the bottom of this hill on the beach? And there is something about the cows, their black and white; well usually they are black and white and the beach because the colors of Cape Cod are so vivid that they go well together. I’m kind of obsessed with them. I do paint cows that aren’t on the beaches. I get away from the cows and I have to start painting them.
You really capture the sunlight and warm glow of the Cape Cod sun. What tip do you have for artists to capture that? Go at the right time of day. I go around and take pictures, I take a lot pictures in the early morning before there are a lot of people on the beach or cars, but my favorite time is in the afternoon when the sun is lower and it just has that warmth. Cape Cod just looks like that. You have to remember there’s a lot of yellow in your white.
What are your thoughts on perfection?
Perfection? Um… I have no thoughts on perfection. Obviously I haven’t reached perfection yet because I’m still painting so sometimes you get to a point and you think its great but I wouldn’t say it is perfection.
How do you decide when an artwork is done?
I knew you were going to ask that, I saw it on the blog and I was like CRAP! Well I was thinking about it and I will look at my painting and like analyzing it. Like this one I am working on right now that I have these beach chairs and they are looking over the Provence town line and you can see all the monuments and I really love that I changed the sky, it was awesome! And I went back downstairs after dinner and looked at it and I was like Crap! The monument is crooked! I mean little things like that. I wrote it down because I wasn’t going to get everything out that night, so I make a list. And I say ok, monument bothers me. It’s crooked, and I have to remember to put the bright light on the side of this chair. I have all these things, little tasks that I have to finish with the painting before it will be acceptable. So when I can look at the painting and there’s nothing that screams at me that says this is bad, I think it’s done. There’s always the time limit.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
Gosh, I don’t know. I guess everybody has left a mark.
What inspires you?
I never really know, usually Cape Cod and cows and I always have to have my camera with me. We’ll be driving along and I’ll say, “Stop Stop Stop!” And it’s just sunlight on a building and I know I have to paint it, and sometimes we’ll pass something and I’ll think I should have taken a picture of that, so 5 min down the road I’ll say Richie can we turn around there’s something I really want to do.
Do you have any habits or morning routines you do before going to the easel?
Yes, indeed I do. I wake up, I have 2 cups of coffee; I go to the YMCA and work out for 2 hours. Then I come home and I try not to go on the Internet, so I shower and paint. If I go on Facebook I paint much later.
What are you eating right now?
Well I have a ham and brie Panini and its very very good, very creamy, truffle fries, and it tastes like a little bit of garlic but not too much.
What is your favorite food?
Probably ice cream
Your proudest moment?
It’s not a moment, my 2 daughters I guess, them turning out so good. I’m very proud of them.
What was your mother right about?
I was hoping you’d ask this one because my mother is totally right about this. She always said I never feel older than 18, like in my mind, I always feel like I am 18. And I thought yeah right, Well I never feel older than 22. I never liked 18 because I was too shy, so maybe 24. I can relate to everybody that is young. My body is maybe not cooperating. I look in the mirror sometimes and I’m like oh my God it’s my grandmother. But she was right, you never feel older than a certain age.
Money is OK, but it isn’t what life is about.
What is it about? Life is about relationships.
Where did you grow up?
New Jersey .
Two words you would use to describe your ideal self?
Happy, Successful .
Sea glass and rocks.
Something that is important on your nightstand?
My romance novel .
Your strangest possession?
I guess my rocks, I guess that’s kind of weird .
An artist whose work you highly respect?
Two things you did today?
Drank a __ beer, exercised.
What was your first word?
Play I was in Little Abner, the first play I ever saw was Jesus Christ Superstar.
Piece of art you sold
A picture of the water and some boats, sold it at a little gift shop in Cape Cod.
You think I would have realized by now that these conversations take at least three hours. This one was no different. We had a window seat at the Station Tap Room, like its name it is situated across from Downingtown Train Station. During our conversation many passengers boarded and disembarked (never really got to use that word.) The food here is awesome, simple yet gourmet along with a great rotating beer selection. We chatted over a homemade chorizo and goat cheese sandwich and a ham with a triple crème panini. I insisted on getting the truffle fries.
I looked at my watch feeling bad that we had to end it and get on with the remainder of the day. Her nerves were squelched form the pint of Weizen Beer (if you ever need a good hang man word.) So I took advantage of the opportunity and played a speed round of questions. She thought I was easy on her.