The Ease of Simplicity

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Why make the simple hard? In her life and her art, Janet Jacobs tries to express the ease of simplicity.

As a person trying to navigate through the complexities of today’s world, and as an artist and an art teacher, I feel the need to keep it simple every day.

In my studio work I’m trying to be as direct as I can and paint about a few things rather than a whole bunch of ideas.

As a teacher, I want to help people feel some personal flow in their day – the feeling that everything in the world disappears for a little while as they focus on the beauty right in front of them. I also want them to grow technically, but I try to keep my messages limited each lesson. I don’t want people to feel frozen with too much to think about. Keeping my ideas down to earth and simple seems best.

As a wife and a mom to three boys, and as a daughter and a friend, as well as a dog owner, I try to keep my own life as simple as I can. It’s hard.


But the lessons in the studio help. Life metaphors abound in art making and I’m trying to listen, and point them out.

Recently, my regular Sunday afternoon student came to paint. She’s been working with me for about 20 years. I can’t really call her a student anymore. She’s become a friend, and an artist. In her calm, extremely thoughtful, and right-minded way she’s also a powerhouse in the business world.

She made a painting as her warm up that echoes a Diebenkorn drawing in its directness and ease and confidence. She had brought a few of her birthday presents to the studio - ones that she had just received, wanting to paint them. We set them up in front of her and I asked her to start with line, using her left hand – her non-dominant hand.

The result was: 

Simple lines in a few different colors that showed how connected she was in her looking. The quality of looking came from being completely absorbed in the nature of the forms she was looking at and the lines she was making. She wasn’t thinking about what it should or might look like. She wasn’t asking it to be anything other than what she experienced as her eyes moved over her objects.

There was no interference between looking and drawing.

It was unselfconscious.

No sign of thinking hard.

No “judgie” brain.

Just doing.

Just seeing, and drawing.

In flow.

How good it feels to keep it simple – to be in the act of looking and recording what you see, and nothing else.
And how beautiful the result!

With a Perspective, I’m Janet Jacobs.

Janet Jacobs is a native San Franciscan and lives in San Anselmo with her husband and three sons.