I chatted recently with an artist who I’d only ever met in passing at art markets that my wife was at in the Edmonton, Alberta area. I’m pretty certain we didn’t even remember meeting each other since it’s been so long.
Janet Sutanto is a Christian, married mother of three adorable, young children. I’m grateful to her husband for being kind enough to wake up and watch the kids during Janet’s and my chat. (I know what it’s like being married to an artist. ;))
We had a great conversation, which you can read below.
[Featured Artwork: “Things Unseen” by Janet Sutanto. Acrylic.]
The following responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.
01. Rock, paper, or scissors?
02. What are three interesting facts about you?
A. I play the drums on a worship team.
B. I am the youngest of four girls.
C. The first time I went on an airplane I was 20 on a missions trip to China.
03. What is the best single day on the calendar?
Christmas Day. It’s a day where you can just be with family.
04. Is art your career?
I have a hard time saying it because I’m a stay-at-home mom but, yes, art is my career.
05. Creating the art is one thing, but selling it is another. Have you cracked the business side of art yet?
The last year was very interesting for that. As the pandemic restrictions eased, art markets did open and that’s how I started out my career and how you would promote yourself. But now it’s social media and that’s a whole different ball game. It’s been a struggle for me. As a Christian, I struggle with self-promotion a lot. A lot times as a Christian, it’s about glorifying God, not yourself. It’s about letting him increase as you decrease. Social media is about promoting yourself. I feel like I do have all the tools but I don’t feel like I want to use them because it’s self-promotion. But I also believe God wants us to be successful, so, like I said, I struggle with it.
06. What is the main medium you use in your art pieces?
I use acrylic on canvas; sometimes on wood panel, but mostly canvas
07. What movie title best describes your life?
08. What inspires your art?
Nature. And a lot of the times it’s just something I organically need to do. Just be creative; especially being a stay-at-home mom, I definitely need an outlet for myself to be creative and to think in that different sphere.
When I go into my studio, I get a chance to turn off “organizational mom mode” and go to the other side of the brain and be creative and be inspired by colour, paint, and texture. When you look at my work, it’s a lot of abstract impressionism of nature but a lot of time when I’m doing it I have worship music playing so it’s also like a meditative time for me. Not always, though, sometimes I’ll actually have my random playlist mix.
09. What is your go-to band or artist?
This year, I have three. Hillsong is my main worship go-to, but then I really like this Korean band called BTS. I’m a proud Army. When you’re hardcore BTS fan, you know Army. And, finally, Olivia Rodrigo. When she came out with her album, it just really brought me back to my junior high days. I would just listen to her album for weeks while painting, but it’s definitely the opposite of worship songs.
10. What song or artist do you like but rarely admit to liking?
11. Where did your passion for art start?
When I was young. Before I can remember, the thing I loved to do is draw. I even remember when I was in elementary I would be doing little drawings and I would give them to my friends. Pretty much that was the thing that I was good at and felt confident in. Any art class that I could get my hands on, I would take.
12. Did you have anyone who was key in encouraging you in pursuing art?
I went into University and did Fine Arts as an undergrad but then I switched to Education half way through and just did a minor in Fine Art. I taught for six years. I still loved art. So, back in 2013, I took half a year off teaching and went to Emily Carr University in Vancouver. I did a full course load just doing mixed media techniques for the entire four months.
I left my husband at home and I lived there for four months and pretty much just dove in. I pretty much lived at Granville Island (where Emily Carr University is located).
My main instructor was Jeanne Krabbendam. She was an artist there and taught me so many techniques using different mediums. I would try but when you don’t have the background knowledge it’s hard to do. She was super encouraging and just opened the door to that kind of art for me. From there, I experimented using the techniques that I knew.
13. What are you hilariously bad at?
Public speaking. My tongue grows like three sizes and I stumble on words.
14. What do you hope people get out of your art?
My art, when I paint, I want them to feel like a sense of hope. I like my paintings. I want it to take you away from things and bring you to a place where you feel joy and happiness and hope and peace.