Meet the Artist: Janna Robins Walters

Meet the Artist

In this series, we get to know the Artists behind the work with ten questions about their practice, their space, and their ideas. These are their Stories.

Janna Robins Walters

“Whether it’s a portrait, still life or landscape my work expresses a playful youthful artistry that emits a dreamlike quality. I explore the use of various media in unison and independently to delve into the fragments of people’s lives. What lies beneath the surface of each individual? Where are you from? What is their story? I want the viewer to engage and look below the surface to discover a surprise or emotion that they did not see at first glance. Layers of different colours help to reveal the mystery of the narrative.”


Swoosh‘, 30″ x 30″ acrylic, oil, and gouache on Hahnemuhle paper

What is your story in how you got became an artist?
I have drawn and painted ever since I can remember.  Even though I couldn’t articulate it at the time, it was a part of me from a very young age.  As a child walking home from school I remember playing with the objects I came across, collecting them and then rearranging them into a composition. I even took a piece of fungus off a tree, carved into the fungus  and then lovingly gifted it. Art has always been where I feel most at ease and comfortable. 

In art school I was worried that I was too broad an artist, playing with all forms of media and not committing to one. I wanted to build sculptures, collage, create installations and paint. I studied illustration and graphic design, trying to meet my own expectation that I would discover my distinct style over that 4 year period.

After university, I was invited into an experimental program at Sheridan college that combined computer technology with fine artists. It was there that I realized my artistic education was not about finding and honing a narrow style, it was about learning to work backwards from what inspires the art, bringing an idea to life.

Tell us how you start your day in preparation for working on your art. 
Well, in all honesty, I usually begin at night with an idea. I doodle in the evenings as my way of winding down from a busy day. This is the time of day when I feel most free. 

I play music and doodle, jotting down ideas and notes as they develop. When I get into a creative flow, it’s hard to stop and sometimes lasts for hours. This allows me to start my day with intention. During the day, I spend the first half getting everything else out of the way and give myself the afternoon and evening to focus on my artwork with no interruptions.

What are your go-to mediums of choice and why? 
I’m a mixed media artist so my go-to mediums are quite expansive. I use gouache, acrylic paints, crayon, oil, and collage. I find I create best when I have the freedom to be tactile with my materials. My iPad is integral to the process, it allows me a sense of freedom, to play with abandonment while documenting my every stroke. 

Usually I begin with a drawing, add colour and texture on top, cut out parts of the image, print them and then begin layering paint, collaging it onto board or paper. Water soluble crayons and inks allow me to continue to layer new colour on top of the first. 

How do you structure your process when creating a new piece? 
My process is cyclical. I doodle, I print out my iPad drawings, I cut, I paste, I paint, I photograph and then I repeat. This method of continually layering new mediums and tinkering with my pieces allows me to organically tease the final piece out of my mind and into the world. The open-ended nature of invented worlds. I often don’t begin working on a piece with a clear idea of what I want the outcome to look like. I try to find the right colour and hues to capture the emotion of the subject. Each piece starts off entirely different from the end result, and I’m comfortable creating in the grey space between the initial idea and the final product.  

Where do you find inspiration for your artwork? 
I draw inspiration from is everyday objects and nature. I find beauty in how the world transforms its palette each season and pay attention to the overwhelming amount of changing colours around me. And I am constantly inspired by the other artists around me. I love to work with and learn from artists of all different backgrounds and styles. Instagram has also allowed me to discover a wide range of talented artists. 

Over the past year, with the lack of physical interaction of fellow artists, I spent a lot of time going on virtual gallery visits, and found the most inspiration for me came from YouTube videos where the artists were able to talk about their work. Some of my favourite talks were from the Tate in London, and The Louisanna channel in Denmark. 

It’s interesting because this provided me an opportunity to virtually travel to these exhibits that may have remained unknown to me before. 

What are you working on at the moment? 
I’ve recently moved studios and have been acclimatizing myself to the new space and all its potential. This year has been a year of reflection for me, and moving forward I would love to begin a ‘break out’ series inspired and hopeful for a  new ‘covid free’ world. I am also thinking about digitalizing some of my artwork and exploring ways to animate the work. This would allow me to tap into a whole new dimension while still staying true to my vision.

What does your art mean to you? 
I think of art as a universal language that can make you feel and make you think. I make art to express myself and navigate the world around me. Art helps me locate myself in this world. It’s both an escape and a way to create a dialogue. I learn most about myself while creating, when I trust my instinct to take over. It helps me feel alive and communicate in the best way I know how.

If art was never part of your life, where would you be? 
A dog walker?  Honestly, I can’t really answer that. I can’t imagine not being able to be creative, it is so much a part of who I am.

Taking a break from art, how do you spend your free time? 
Long walks in nature, by myself and with friends and and long swims in lakes with a canoe by my side. I have a small cabin in Algonquin park where I am surrounded by quiet. I love to cook and be creative with food as well as unwind with a good book!

Where would you like your art to take you in the next 5 – 10 years?
Around the world! 


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