When she was little she spent many hours gazing upon the painted still lifes inspired by the Dutch masters, rendered by a man she never knew. By accounts, Jackie Janisse’s grandfather was a regular hard working man that crushed rocks or delivered furniture- whatever it took to provide for the family. But the canvas summoned his soul, his most cherished time spent with a brush in hand. Polio claimed him while he was still young and his 13 year old son –Jackie’s father, who had just begun painting, stopped.
“Growing up, I wanted to be an artist,” shared Jackie. “But more than that – I wanted to be a curator and a critic. I wanted to know why a painting was a good painting. But I didn’t have the support to do it.”
Entering high school she enrolled in the typical art classes but a tumultuous life at home preceded her parent’s divorce and by the age of 16 years old Jackie’s priority became where she was going to find her next meal.
“Neither parent really wanted us in their home,” recalled Jackie of her and her sibling’s situation. Though still young, Jackie swapped her dreams for practical pursuits and went after a business degree in university.
“But it wasn’t satisfying enough so I went into Civil Engineering and Technology at St. Clair College. What I really liked about it was that I ended up with a pencil in my hand designing buildings and bridges and things like that.” Jackie still wasn’t content with her vocation and eventually ended up obtaining a diploma in machine technology. Though she wouldn’t realize it until her mid-thirties, her diverse post-secondary experience would equip her with a heap of transferrable talents that she draws on today while working in her painting studio.
When she was 35 years old, Jackie was motivated by her neighbours – a retired couple that had taken up painting as a new hobby in their golden years, to grab some acrylic paints and a few canvases. She dabbled a bit, even made a stack of pen and ink cards for holidays and special occasions. And then life demanded its’ dues of her yet again. She resumed her preoccupation with family life and took on ‘extra-curricular’ obligations that caused her to put that dream back to bed once more.
But that spark of love for the canvas was quietly nurtured over the years and when Jackie and her family moved to Sault Ste. Marie five years ago, Jackie began setting one canvas after another on fire.
“I found a very creative place in Sault Ste. Marie and a very accepting place. I felt comfortable being an artist here,” recalled Jackie.
With her children grown and with the support of her husband, Jackie has finally in her late-forties, wholly surrendered to her dream to paint.
Drawing on skills acquired during her post-secondary years, Jackie has built her own studio and builds her own cradled hardboard panels for her canvases. “None of those lessons have been wasted- and especially because I love working in abstract. I love seeing the geometric structures and architectural elements come out in my paintings.”
Jackie admits that painting comes with challenges. Having an office located in her home means mastering a different art- balancing home life and work life in the same space, a transition that the entire family must acclimatize to and one that is not uncommon for many creatives.
Of course, the life of an artist is often one of austerity, and Jackie gratefully acknowledges that without the support of her husband she would be scrounging for nickels.
“My husband has always been very supportive of me.” smiles Jackie. “He’s always encouraged me to do what I’m doing now. Through the years successful artists had benefactors –even DiVinci was commissioned by the Church to paint. It’s commonly known that an artist is not going to make enough to support themselves through their art -unless your Gerhard Richter or Damian Hirst.”
Information compiled from the 2011 National Household Survey and historical data from the Labour Force Survey, Hill Strategies Research provides an in-depth examination of artists in Canada in a final report entitled A Statistical Profile of Artists and Cultural Workers in Canada.
Findings from the report indicate that:
- There are 136,600 artists in Canada who spent more time at their art than at any other occupation in May of 2011.
- The number of artists represents 0.78% of the overall Canadian labour force. One in every 129 Canadian workers is an artist.
- The number of artists 136,600, is slightly higher than the labour force in automotive manufacturing -133,000, and slightly lower than the labour force in the utilities sector -149,900, and telecommunications -158,300.
- Musicians and singers are the largest of nine occupations included as artists -33,800 musicians and singers, or 25% of all 136,600 artists, followed by authors and writers -25,600, or 19%, producers, directors, choreographers, and related occupations -23,000, or 17%, visual artists -15,900, or 12%, artisans and craftspersons -13,100, or 10%, actors and comedians -9,400, or 7%, dancers -8,100, or 6%, other performers -4,400, or 3% (category includes circus performers, magicians, models, puppeteers, and other performers not elsewhere classified), and conductors, composers, and arrangers -3,400, or 2%.
- Artists are much more likely than other workers to hold multiple jobs. In 2011, 11% of artists reported having at least two jobs, compared with only5% of the overall labour force.
- Canada’s artists and cultural workers have much higher levels of formal education than the overall labour force. The percentage of artists with a bachelor’s degree or higher -44%, is nearly double the rate among the overall labour force -25%, while 38% of cultural workers have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Regarding income of artists the research shows that their average annual income is 32% lower than other workers. Canada’s combined income of 135,600 artists average $32,800. The average annual income of the overall labour force in Canada is $48,100. On average, female artists earn $22,600, 31% less than the average earnings of male artists.
Two art occupations have shown annual incomes that are below low-income for a single person living in a community of 500,000 or more where the cut off is $22,600. Dancers earn a dismal $17,900 per year and those who identified as ‘other performers’ report average annual earnings at $20,900.
Musicians and singers at $22,800 annual earning per year and artisans at $23,100 demonstrate average incomes that are slightly above low-income cut offs. At $55,100, only the “producers, directors, choreographers, and related occupations” group has a higher average income than the overall labour force at $48,100.
Actors and comedians earned an annual average of $28,219, artisans and craftpersons -$23,083, authors and writers -$43,893, conductors, composers, arrangers -$36,489 and visual artists, $24,672.
Though Jackie’s paintings may not be going for millions of bucks per pop yet, she has enjoyed unexpected success in her young career. A couple of years ago she posted her first painting created in the Sault and posted it to her Facebook page. It sold almost instantly.
“It was an abstract landscape kind of thing and it got a pretty big response. I just kept painting and putting things on my Facebook wall and they kept selling.”
Since that first painting sold two years ago for a humble offer of one hundred bucks, Jackie has picked up numerous commissions from private collectors and from various organized entities. She has entered juried exhibitions and has even placed in shows. But success has not gone to Jackie’s head and she prides herself as a lifelong learner.
Not eager to incur a $50,000 student debt, Jackie has independently sought out resources that will help her grow in her work.
“I want to learn everything that a person with a Masters of Fine Arts would know,” she enthused. “I’ve gone past the point of just making paintings and people buying them. I personally want to make a good painting. I want to look at a painting and critique it and know if it’s good regardless of someone’s opinion of it. I study for hours- art history, textbooks on colour theory and techniques. I’ve bought every book I could find and read. I want to be a perpetual student of art.”
Whether she is defining her own inspiration upon the canvas or whether she is ‘collaborating’ on a commissioned piece, Jackie’s works are uniquely identifiable. “I sit down with individuals who want a painting for their living room or with someone that has hired me to paint a gift for someone. It’s important for me to find out who they are as a person to be able to make them a painting that they’ll like but it’s still my own artistic expression and emotion.”
Currently, Jackie is creating pieces for a series that she has named ‘Liminality’. “It is a termed used for transition. It means ‘in betweenness’ and ‘at the threshold’. It is something that we can all relate to. We’re constantly going through changes, everybody is. Society does, the globe does, nature does, the climate does.”
The series is personal and one that comes from Jackie’s own sorrow having recently experienced a loss in her family.
“I set out to make something sunny and bright and I end up painting a self-expression. I try to fight it sometimes but I end up giving in to what I’m feeling at the moment. And right now it just happens to be a time that’s been very tough, a tragedy in our family. It’s difficult to come out of that. Basically I’m doing a painting for each of the stages that I’m going through -the stages of grief.”
To view Jackie’s work check out her Facebook page- Jackie Janisse Fine Art or visit her website. You can also visit her work in person at the Artist Alcove on Queen St. in Sault Ste. Marie or by special appointment in her home.