Designer Spotlight: Jane Moore Houghton

HELLO, PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELF:

Hello! My name is Jane Moore Houghton and I am an artist and illustrator living and working in Central Massachusetts, USA. I am an exhibiting fine artist who's latest works feature at-risk and endangered species as well as Heritage Breed large, mixed media portraits. 

These works incorporate my unique process of embroidering on tissue paper as an integral part of the surface of the acrylic, oil stick, colored pencil, gouache and graphite mixed media works. 

I am currently working towards building my children's book illustration portfolio. I recently completed an independent children's book project, "Gracie Brave", a story written by authors who hope to bring awareness of childhood depression and anxiety through their Gracie Brave heroine. I recently completed the Lilla Rogers Studio Make Art That Sells online course, "Children's Book Illustration" to support my goal of building my children's book illustration portfolio. 

I have an undergraduate degree in Studio Art from Skidmore College and a Masters in Educational Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. 

I have been making work professionally since 2006 - turning forty was pivotal for me! 

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY/WEEK LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

To supplement the ebb and flow income of being an artist, I have two part-time non-art jobs on Mondays and Tuesdays. I work in the studio after dinner with my family (I am married and we have two teenage boys at home and a daughter in a local college).

On Wednesdays - Sundays I work 4 - 10 hours/day in my studio or run errands and research trends, go to museums, walk in nature to support my art and any project that I am working on at a given time.

I have an active commission practice so I will meet with clients and work on commissions intermittently between working on personal work and illustration jobs. 

If I am getting ready for a show I will work daily on new work. Currently I am focusing on illustration work so I do not have a show in the books. 

I teach art to adults once a month and plan unique and challenging classes each time. We go on several "field trips" a year: to an art museum or local botanical gardens to practice watercolor plain air techniques. 

I have a shop on my website so at this time year I am running back and forth to the printers to stock cards and my newest product: an advent calendar I designed and launched last year. 

Several times a week I volunteer at a children's grief counseling center outside of Boston. Children's grief and art therapy are additional interests of mine. 

WHAT’S THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR JOB?

When I am trusted with a commission and can deliver a piece that delights the client and know they will cherish it for years/generations to come. I love to create commissions that reflect the unique family or child it is going to live with. I enjoy getting to know special memories, quotes, etc... that I can incorporate into the piece. 

In the same way, I love taking a text and bringing it to life through a careful understanding of the text and communication with the author or client. I enjoy the process of creating a collaborative project. 

Finally, I love the "happy accidents" of mixed media work.

IF YOU COULD GIVE YOUR 10 YEARS YOUNGER SELF ONE KEY PIECE OF ADVICE OR AN INSIGHT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Oh boy - this one touches a nerve for this fifty-something artist! I spend an embarrassing amount time beating myself up for not focusing my efforts earlier in my career! I have taken quite a few detours! For example, I have a Masters degree in Educational Psychology and have spent a good portion of my professional years as a counselor and mother. I actually started painting and selling my work ten years ago after being inspired by the art students I was teaching in my (then) private art school I was running out of my home five days a week to ages 3 - 13. So - ten years ago I would encourage myself to stay focused on my goals and find a community of like-minded artists in my area (something I am still working on). I would encourage myself to hold my head up high when I say, "I am an artist" . I would remind myself that people respond to the joy that I paint with so keep it fun and be open to growth always.

WHEN YOU FEEL STUCK OR IN A DESIGN RUT, HOW DO YOU GET YOURSELF OUT OF IT AND BACK ON TRACK?

Nature! Nature has always been my greatest inspiration. I find I get more excited about creating new work by visiting a natural history museum than even an art museum. My current favorite place is the Natural History Museum at Harvard University. 

I also love the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. It is a spiritual experience for me to visit a place that celebrates children's book illustration in such a beautiful and meaningful way. 

Another favorite museum is the Peabody Essex museum for it's variety of exhibitions. 

Finally, my last nightly practice is to feast my eyes on the visual eye candy of Pinterest! I find the images we can all see there inspires ideas as I sleep and often wake with new ideas and energy to face the day.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE DESIGN TOOLS?

A good black ink pen: my favorite, Pentel hybrid Technica. My light box to refine sketches. Photoshop - I am a recent convert and learn new ways to use it weekly. 

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR DESIGN PROCESS? FAVOURITE APPS AND PROGRAMS

I often start my research on Pinterest and google image  - creating mood boards of color palette, historical references, photographic resources. 

I will sometimes make a physical mood board on the wall of my studio - cutting out images and color swatches from magazines and catalogues. 

I then begin some loose sketches as I listen to calm music or in silence. I try to brainstorm ideas in a list form and allow myself to get as "out there" as I can.

I sometimes use a technique I add to all the time: I have a small box of little notes to spark unusual ideas. For example, the notes might say: " plaid", or "paper dolls", "prayer flags" (all sampled from my collection) I might use the sparks literally or they may help me come up with something completely unexpected related somehow to that idea. 

I've found that I am trusting my instincts more and more and will force myself to relax and know that the solution will come even if I feel lost in the beginning of the process. 

I then sleep on an idea. When I come back to it the next day I try to see it with fresh eyes and pick up from there.

I also have come to view the thinking I do as I exercise (6x a week) or drive my boys to and from school as key in supporting ideas and solutions. I've come to realize that my time away from the work is integral to it's success and growth.

WHO ARE YOUR DREAM CLIENTS OR WHAT IS YOUR DREAM PROJECT?

Illustration: My dream client would be to illustrate books for British publishers of children's books. I find the British-design sensibility to fit with my style and I think would help support my brand to places I see it going. 

Dream project would be to publish the book I started years ago and that I have begun looking at with fresh eyes since taking the Make Art That Sells Children's Book Illustration course this fall. 

Fine Art: My dream client would be to be represented by a gallery in Northampton, MA where I feel the vibe is a great match for my style. 

My dream project would be to create art with the intention to support children healing from trauma and loss. 

DO YOU FOLLOW TRENDS?

Not generally - I try to learn from them - but, generally I try to be true to what inspires me and to my brand. I tend to feel that if something is an obvious trend then by the time new artists create, i.e. the next great image of a llama - it's been over-done. 

I do get weekly trend and color reports for potential inspiration. 

DO YOU ATTEND ANY SHOWS AND EXHIBIT AT?

I attend shows at local galleries and museums. I belong to the Worcester Arts Association where I attend opening receptions for local artists as well as workshops on things such as book keeping or legal insights for artists.

I have exhibited several times with the Worcester Arts Association. Most recently, a solo show at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester of  my "Beasts series".

I am not currently represented by a gallery but I am interested in finding the right fit. 

THERE HAS BEEN AN ART SUPPLY SANCTION IMPOSED AND DESIGNERS ARE ONLY ALLOWED TO POSSESS 3 ITEMS/TOOLS, WHAT DO YOU CHOOSE?

- sketch pad with quality paper (my current favorite brand - Bee Paper "super deluxe" square format. 

- Hybrid Technica Pentel black ink pen

- gouache and 2 paintbrushes (that's more than three :-) ) 

WHO WOULD YOU SAY THE GREATEST DESIGNER IS?

My cousin, Lane Myer - an industrial design professor at Rhode Island School of Design and my greatest role model for becoming an artist

When I’m long gone, I hope people remember me for creating art that brought joy and the unexpected to daily life.

Where you can find me:

website: http://www.janemhoughton.com

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/janemh/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/janemhoughton/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/arkgirl21