On the top of Tahoe Donner, a beautifully designed, log-cabin home sits perched against a backdrop of deep-green valley vistas. Inside the home, the sunlight casts a golden glow on the spacious space yet my eyes are drawn to splashes of contrast and color on the walls.
“I love painting. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s a challenge to live up to your own expectations.”– Jane Lufkin
Jane Lufkin Lufkin’s vibrant, landscape, oil paintings are products inspired by her former life as a landscape architect, her current environment and her childhood as the daughter of a horticulturist and a watercolor painter. She followed in her father’s footsteps by studying horticulture in college and becoming a successful landscape architect.
However, she says that in college nothing got her more excited than going to art class. Since her passion was always in art, Lufkin left her lucrative career and moved to Truckee to concentrate on art and raising her family. She took a job at Art Obsessions gallery in Truckee and learned what she liked and what she needed to do to improve her craft. Although she had been drawing mostly, she started experimenting with pastels and acrylics, eventually settling on oil paint as her main medium.
“Nothing is more challenging than staring at a blank canvas with your thoughts and images in your head and then the mechanical dealings of the materials itself, wondering, ‘How am I going to communicate through this media?’ Oil is hard, you can’t just wash it off with water and you have to work with it while it’s wet. But I love oil for its viscosity and texture, it gains different dimensions because of the thickness of paint,” Lufkin says.
Lufkin’s paintings are impressionistic and colorful, containing great composition and movement. While a photograph captures a single moment with set colors, Lufkin’s paintings are vivid and the subjects appear to be moving. Looking closely at one painting, “Vineyard View,” the tree seems to be bending and the grasses caught in a breeze.
“If I showed you a photo [of this scene], the character landscape is similar but the positioning is different. It’s a funny thing, the artwork, composition is really important. If you do a piece of art and the composition is off, it won’t look right. My job as an artist is to guide the viewer’s eyes around the painting. I’m always thinking about the focal point, how to strengthen it,” she says.
In her process, Lufkin starts by showing her sketchbook filled with shadows, drawings, notes and color swatches. Her book shows the composition and value structure of a painting, how it pays attention to the differences between light and dark with the focal point usually in the greatest contrast. Then she plays with paint colors, mapping out what she thinks will work and mixing different shades using a color wheel in her studio.
Finally, she takes brush to canvas and will paint over the whole thing in a single color — usually a warm, effervescent tone.
“I paint as if it’s a mosaic; I want portions of it to shine through. It gives it continuity, it harmonizes the painting because a little bit of it is showing up everywhere,” she says.
“These aren’t wimpy paintings. When they’re on the wall they stand out because of the strength of the composition, the boldness of color,” she says. “I spend a lot of time looking at other artists’ work. Van Gogh is one of my favorites. I just got back from the New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art and my family had to drag me away.”
She points to his self-portrait in a book. “Look at how Van Gogh uses his brush strokes to communicate, the movement,” she says.
Lufkin reflects on her own work and what she’s trying to accomplish with it.
“I love painting. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s a challenge to live up to your own expectations. But as an artist it’s my goal to make people happy, bring people joy through my work. I want my paintings to give people a little vacation,” she says. “A painting is a depiction of a place, but I want to express more than that, I want them to feel movement, emotion, wonder.”
Lufkin’s art is currently on display at North Tahoe Art Center in Tahoe City, Handmade at the Lake in Incline Village and Mountain Arts Collective in Truckee. | lufkinart.com