Artful Entertainment

Photo by Amy Martin
Photo by Amy Martin

Q&A with Jane Booth

At this dreary time of year, we could typically use a brighter perspective. Whether it’s searching for the right accent for your new neutral palette in a kitchen or bathroom, or just something to bring you out of a winter funk, a pop of color is the perfect pick-me-up. For painter Jane Booth, color is central to her work. Color is really her language, and it speaks to quite a few: Booth has been featured on the Martha Stewart Living website and is carried in galleries across the country from Boston to La Jolla. We met up with Booth at the Sherry Leedy Gallery in the Crossroads, which carries her work locally. Just viewing her large-scale, high-color abstract paintings is a breath of fresh air mid-winter.

Spaces: You’ve studied both at the Kansas City Art Institute and under Philomene Bennett.

Jane Booth: Philomene Bennett had everything to do with me being a painter. She coaxed me from representational work to abstraction. She’s great at meeting people exactly where they are, and that was what was coming up for me. She is such a colorist. I just kind of landed at the right spot at the right time.

Portrait Series: Strumming Portrait Series: Strumming

S: Tell us about your process.

JB: We live on a ranch southwest of Olathe. We have an old basketball court on our property. I buy canvas in 30-yard rolls, then I unroll it on the basketball court in one big long piece. I work out there initially, for three seasons except winter. It’s raw canvas, so paint doesn’t sit on top of it like it does with other canvases. It soaks in. It’s more stained. It gives it depth, a really different feeling from thick paint that you usually see on canvas. So that first part of the process, I’m pouring color into raw canvas, letting it dry, pouring more color over that, letting it dry. I’m putting together form and color that way. And it does happen on the ground.

S: Is it all done on the ground?

JB: Mostly. It depends on the piece. When it gets to a point where it’s really compelling, I take the piece into studio, tack it on wall and look at it. Sometimes that’s all that needs to happen. If not, I begin to go in with marks, then lay it on the ground, pour more form into it. It’s a process of working on the floor, then on the wall and back again.

Some of it is heavier, more color field. I think it has its roots in color field paintings, very pure expansive spreads of color with little reworking. If I put it up on the wall, it’s much more abstract expressionist. The key thing, no matter where I’m working, my sources are my senses. My challenge is to translate with as few levels as possible what my senses detect into color.

S: How else is color influential?

Water and Light Series: Balance Water and Light Series: Balance

JB: We have one tall wall in our living room. I very often will take a large, 10- or 15-foot painting I’m working on and put it on that wall so I can really see it and live with it to see if it needs anything else. When that happens, the whole room takes on that painting. The big swath of color that’s up on the wall affects how we function in that room. When the painting has a lot of greens and blues, it’s calmer and quieter; when it has yellows, we’re chattier. When it’s red, it’s interior and rich. It has a big impact on me.

S: How did the Martha Stewart site find you?

JB: There’s a gallery in Arkansas, Tobi Fairley Interior Design, that carries my work and wrote a blog about it. [Former Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia VP of Product Design] Aaron Stewart [no relation] read the blog and contacted me. He wanted a painting for himself. He showed me around to some of the top designers, sold a little work for me. He just left Martha Stewart and opened his own store in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He took me with him and is representing me down there. He’s wildly successful; it’s just great.

For more of Jane Booth’s work go to