Jan Saia's masterful modern still life paintings are abundant with talent and unforgettable
style. Her innovative technique is part traditional painting, part sketching with a paintbrush
dipped in color. "When I lay a color down," she explains, "I usually lay it down knowing that
I am going to put something on top of it that you can see through." As her paint is applied to
the canvas, timing becomes an essential component in the process. At a precise point in time,
she lets the piece set before returning to it in order to work with the paint's altered viscosity.
This creates new dimensions in both color and texture. "It's a timing thing that you learn by doing,"
she relates. With her unique still life paintings that are carefully tooled with personal style
and technique, Jan has taken one of the most traditional art genres and reinvented to create her
But long before the brush hits the canvas, another lengthy and entirely different process takes
place. Jan creates the "scene" she will paint with actual vignettes composed with a collection
of objects. She does not paint from photographs like many artists. "I really paint what I see,"
she says. "I'm not painting detail - I'm painting relationships. The inspiration comes from visual
things outside of painting. It isn't necessarily art – it could be anything. In one piece, it could
be the vase, while in another the main subject is really about how the light is running across the
top of the table and off the edge of a plate." A setup can take a few hours to a couple of days to
put together, and sometimes she may work on one for days before scrapping the whole idea altogether.
"I don't chase it around – I know what I want," she says.
Jan had an aptitude for drawing as a child, entering and winning many art shows. In high school,
her interest in art blossomed even more. "I wasn't so concerned with drawing something just right,"
she recalls. "I was more interested in just letting the subject tell me what it wanted to do, which
is unusual for a 16-year old. That's when I started having instructors tell me I should continue
with art." Professionally, however, she pursued a career in interior design, where she focused her
efforts for several years. Then, Saia began taking instruction from a still life and portrait
painter. "He followed the old masters style," she says. "The basis of my paintings is still like
this - very tonal in the value relationships and how the light falls on form, like a Rembrandt sort
of thing. It's not just objects I'm capturing on canvas, but the relationship of what's around the
objects as well."
What continues to inspire her? "I get inspiration from a lot of things," she says. "I might be
into color at one phase, and I like to see how one color plays off the other, and I evaluate how
I'm actually seeing it. Then I try to create that in my own little vignette. Textures, rhythm,
negative space, form - I'm interested in how the objects play off one another."
For Jan Saia, life and art are indistinguishable from one another. "It's all one big work in
progress," she explains.