It’s time for the archetype of the starving artist to be destroyed,” says Jan, who founded the non-profit Lake County Business of Art Center in 2005. “Artists are typically, traditionally, archetypically starving and have no business skills and can’t think about math and the other stuff. I do not think this is necessarily true.”
Her center provides a setting where artists can flourish. With more than 15 years of corporate experience with companies like Hewlett Packard and United Airlines, not to mention a degree in management, Jan is able to share her business acumen with fellow artists. For those who need to market their work, the center in Minneola serves as a unique gallery for consignment pieces. Described as a place “where art meets life,” the center is also large enough for art classes and special events.
It’s not just Jan’s corporate experience, however, that enables her to relate to artists. The one-time musician is an established airbrush artist, who has shown in galleries and has completed unique portraits on commission.
“Airbrushing hasn’t really had a place in galleries except in automotive galleries” Jan says. “People usually relate airbrushing to flames or skulls painted on trucks, cars or motorcycles.”
In the beginning, making a living at her art meant that she was doing a lot of work painting wild designs on motorcycle helmets and small pieces in her garage. Although she enjoyed doing that kind of work, Jan found that a choice had to be made between a volume business and a value business. She could either mass produce t-shirts or license plates to be sold for relatively low prices at fairs or special events, or create original one-of-a-kind pieces on a larger scale.
“The thing that really makes you successful is that passion when you’re kind of channeling that ‘specialness’ of you,” Jan said. “I like to take somebody or something exactly as it looks on earth but portray it the way their spirit feels inside.”
After studying with several professional airbrush artists, including Michael Cacy, Steve Driscoll and Henry Asencio, she is moving away from the traditional form. She learned some new and creative techniques from Asencio. His influence gave her insight on how to produce more artistic pieces as opposed to simply air-brush renderings from photographs. By throwing a drink at one of Jan’s completed portraits, and instructing her on how to fix the resulting ‘damage’ to her work, Jan learned to add some new, creative elements to her work. This brought her work more character and uniqueness. With this new process, her passion toward gallery work increased.
After deciding to work on vehicles and larger gallery pieces, she knew she needed more space. The search for a place that would meet her specifications ended at the current location at 202 South Highway 27 in Minneola. The property was larger than necessary for her “Airborn Art” business, which she founded in 2000. But it provided an opportunity for her to realize a long-time dream of opening an artist co-op, where artists working in various genres could share and benefit from one another’s skills and experience.
Jan’s career into the art world took a somewhat circuitous route. After graduating from high school, she enrolled in UCLA as a pre-med student but quickly learned that she wasn’t cut out for the medical profession. She changed her major to art, but her first love was playing drums. At a time when females were barely being accepted as rock musicians, Jan became a rock drummer and was working steadily in Los Angeles.
Eventually, it became apparent that there was more to life than clubs so she took a job working at United Airlines to deal with financial reality. Several years in the corporate world paved the road back to college, to study Information Technology and finally getting a degree in management.
A career in big business followed. Jan was working for Hewlett Packard in Colorado Springs when a friend invited her to Orlando, where she ended up relocating. In whatever spare time she had, she worked on her airbrush art.
“I managed all of their mission-critical call centers for all of the Americas,” she remembers. “After several acquisitions by the corporation, I just thought it was time to make a different decision.”
The major change came when she left the corporate environment behind and started moving forward with her business. With that transition came the desire to leave Orange County and move to a smaller town, a bedroom community.
“Orange County was too much like L.A. for me,” Jan reflected. “The speed of the traffic and sound of the helicopters reminded me too much of L.A., and I got claustrophobic.”
Clermont seemed to be the perfect location, providing easy access to the city, but providing lots of lakes allowing her to enjoy her love of boating. It was also time to pursue art on a full time basis.
“I didn’t used to think I had anything to say with my artwork, but I really do now.” Jan says confidently. “After my first showing in a gallery, I got a real fire in my belly for painting portraits.”
When Jan’s paintings were displayed recently at Tu Tu Tangos, an Orlando café, she believes it changed her self-image from businesswoman to artist.
“All these people were seeing artwork that I made,” she said. “It’s like having a piece in a gallery. It makes you the thing that you are trying to be. You are no longer trying to be an artist — you are an artist.”
Want To Know More?
For more information about the Lake County Business Arts Center and the services it provides, please visit LCBAC.com. For more about Jan’s art, visit airbornart.com