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Connie Janney does collage paintings, incorporating paper cut outs into her paintings.  (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Connie Janney does collage paintings, incorporating paper cut outs into her paintings. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Jennifer Larue

When Connie Janney was growing up, her Christmas trees were not the norm. One year it was tumbleweeds, and another it was blue with plastic fruit.

“My mother has always been very open and creative,” Janney said. “She likes change and that’s an inspiration in itself.”

When Janney was 15, she was bedridden for three months with mononucleosis. Her parents bought her art supplies and she started painting.

One of her first paintings is of a jockey on a horse running straight at the viewer. It is framed and displayed in the North Side home she shares with her mother, Bernice Janney – a house bursting with creativity. “It’s set up in a way that we have our own living areas and areas in which to create,” Connie Janney said.

Connie Janney’s “studio” is filled with dozens of finished and unfinished pieces. She has worked in many mediums from jewelry design and bronze sculptures to papier-mâché. About seven years ago, she began creating what she calls “glorified doodles” with Sharpies and gel markers. When the intricate designs began filling up boxes, Janney decided to do something with them.

It began with cranes. She cut up her doodles to form multicolored birds frolicking on a painted background. At first she collaged her cut-up patterns onto paper and has since moved to canvas, creating whimsical figures dancing in a strange and beautiful world, fish and underwater foliage, and a chicken with feathers made of strips of contrasting, colorful squiggles.

One canvas that leans against the wall of her workspace is covered with a color wash in greens and blues. A large cow sketched on paper covers half of the canvas. It waits to be formed and filled in with fanciful shapes. Janney uses Mod Podge to apply the paper to the canvas that has been painted with acrylic paints. She often coats the finished piece with an acrylic varnish as a UV-light protector.

Janney’s goal as an artist is to give others a new view of things in a happy and fun way. Her work illustrates this as it is difficult not to smile at her doodles gone wild.

Janney, 62, has always supported herself creatively though she has a degree in business from Eastern Oregon University. She hopes her business smarts will help with the artists’ co-op she is thinking about beginning in the near future. Currently, she is vice president of the River Ridge Association of Fine Arts, a group of about 45 artists.

Janney has always been creative, a habit that she said is necessary in order to “feel right.”

“For years I wondered why I saw things the way I did, and felt so strongly about them,” she said. “I know I didn’t want to duplicate nature because it was just perfect the way it is. I have worked in many mediums over the years and sometimes came close to knowing the why, but I think I have finally found the mediums and my voice for expressing my joy of this incredible world. I believe in infinite possibilities and I love the spontaneity that I find in my work, color, shape, texture.

“When I finish a painting it’s like opening a wonderful surprise gift, as I am always a bit surprised and pleased by the creative spirit that works through me.”

The Verve is a weekly feature celebrating the arts. If you know an artist, dancer, actor, musician, photographer, band or singer, contact correspondent Jennifer LaRue by e-mail
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