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Interview in New Bern Magazine with Jan Francoeur

Attmore Oliver House by North Carolina Artist Jan Francoeur

New Bern Magazine

By Jonathan Burger, Craven Arts Council & Gallery, Inc.

Where are you from and how did you end up in New Bern?

I’m originally from Michigan, my husband and I left there in 1982 and spent six years in Aspen, Colorado. From there we traveled in an RV and spent the next year in the Florida Keys. It was from there we started looking for a new home. We told people we wanted a place on the water, was on its way but hadn’t gotten there yet, and had history and neat architecture. A fellow from Duck said, “New Bern sounds just like what you are looking for.” We came here, in our RV. We weren’t sure if we could make a living here or not so Michael said he’d always wanted to live on a boat. I thought “if I can live in an RV I can live on a boat.” Which we did for the next 3 years before we bought a house. That was 33 years ago.

Do you have any formal training or are you mostly self-taught?

I have a BA from Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan where I concentrated on drawing and printmaking. Through the years I’ve taken a workshop here and there as well. But much of what I do has come from experimentation.

You work in several mediums, including watercolor, oils, and painting on pottery. What sort of relationship do you see between these different lines of work?

It has been a progression, one building on the other. I worked exclusively in ink, black and white, for 20 years and doing calligraphy as well. Then I started adding color to my drawings with watercolor, then I started doing straight watercolor. We bought an old house on Pollock Street and I wanted to put my mark on it  by doing a tile backsplash. I worked with underglazes in a watercolor fashion, adding lines to define the buildings. Which led me to develop a line of pottery I call Celebration Pottery. You can see the progression. I’ve dabbled in oils off and on but never really had the time to feel like I had a handle on it until now. For the past year that is what I’ve been concentrating on for this show and I’m pleased with the results. In a way my background has hindered me working in oils because I really want to paint looser. So I’ve had to work at not being so tight, many of my oil paintings in this show are loose and I’m pleased with that.

Is there a central theme to your work, or several themes?

I love architecture and gardens so that’s what I’m mostly doing right now. And I love our town so that is in many of my paintings. On the pottery I do gardens, beaches, buildings, often with a quote around the edge. Which combines the line, the watercolor like painting, and the calligraphy.

You started and owned Carolina Creations for many years, what sort of relationship do you see between that business and your art?

I loved owning Carolina Creations and all the artists we represented. Often if you are represented by a gallery and there is one look that you do that sells well for them, they want you to keep repeating that. Because I owned the gallery I could put in whatever I felt like doing, drawings, paintings, clay, whatever, so I didn’t have to keep doing the same thing over and over. When we came to town I didn’t think there were many nice souvenirs so I made that a mission. Either I made the souvenirs or found other people to make them for me using my images, Christmas ornaments, Christmas cards, coasters, magnets, etc.

Do you have any behinds the scenes advice for artists looking to sell their work or get into more galleries?

I think just keep working and improving and put yourself out there where people can see your work. Approach a gallery in a professional manner with a body of work.

In there another artist whose work you admire or inspires you?

There are many artists I admire, right now I’m obsessed with Sorolla, a Spanish artist, some call the painter of light. I was lucky to go to his home and garden in Madrid this summer. A couple of paintings in the show at the Bank of the Arts are of his garden.

What artwork, exhibition, or award are you particularly proud of, and why?

In this show at the Bank of the Arts I’m particularly pleased with my painting of the College of Charleston, the light, the colors, the looseness of it. As far as awards, I received the Bernie Award from the Arts Council, Entrepreneur of the Year from the New Bern Chamber, Main Street Champion from the NC Department of Commerce, and quite a few awards for my watercolors. Our gallery won many Niche awards for top Craft galleries in the US, I’m very proud of those  Niche Awards since it was the artists that made the choice. 

Is one sentence, what is art to you?

It’s what I do, recording the things I love.

I know you’ll be having an exhibition at Bank of the Arts in late November through January, but where else can people find your work?

Carolina Creations, 317 Pollock Street, and on their website  is the main place you can always find my work and I have a blog where I write about what I’m doing artwise and my travels