This week, the Kings Lens and Friends revolving art gallery features the work of Little Compton artist Janie Kinnane. Kinnane is on a mission to create art for good through her business Charlie Lou, named after her grandfathers. You can view and shop Kinnane’s art at The Kings Lens through December 16th. 

Follow Janie on Instagram here and read our interview below to learn more about the inspiration behind her distinct, incredibly detailed block print and watercolor work.

Photo courtesy of charlielou.com

1. Tell us about yourself and your background. How did you start creating block prints and watercolors and why? 

My name is Janie Kinnane, I am from Little Compton, R.I. and I come from a large family of creatives. When I was young I was always asked to paint or draw portraits, but making art was never my dream. In fact, I didn’t want to become an artist. Years later with consistent encouragement by my family and friends, I felt it was more of a calling; like I had this responsibility to cultivate a gift from God that I stubbornly fought for years. I started to pursue art through mentors, trial and errors, and YouTube tutorials.

Now I can’t imagine any other career. 

I started working in watercolors first. I began using them because it’s my mom’s favorite medium, and later discovered the appreciation of their simplicity when traveling. In 2018, a friend of mine and fellow artist, Claire Bowen, sent me a call for entry to an event called Big Ink. They travel the country printing large-scale pieces carved by different artists. One of my first woodblock prints was with them. It was an 8-foot long humpback whale. The process was amazing and I was hooked from there. I loved learning about this new medium. It’s humbling to venture into a new process and discover how much you don’t know about something.  The whole experience was really encouraging and exciting. As an artist, it’s always tough to know when to stop working. In this medium, you can only go so far and then there’s a point where you have to let go and call a block ready to print. You don’t always know what you’re going to get. Then there’s this big reveal moment when you get to see the final result. It’s suspenseful and when it comes out good it’s rewarding.

Photo courtesy of charlielou.com

2. Tell us a bit about how you developed your style and process. Did you experiment with any other mediums?

I’ve always been drawn to hyperrealism, so my style can be tight. I try to work in as many details as I can, while constantly being challenged to stay loose and not overwork a piece. I’ve worked with a lot of different materials and mediums. I started with mostly acrylic, pastels, graphite, reversed painting on glass, and silkscreening. I’ve also dabbled in wood-burning and pottery.

One thing I found with most of the mediums I work in is this backward thinking process. With watercolors, you’re mapping out and working around the white of the paper and painting your highlights first. With carving you’re pulling away the negative to create the positive. In reversed painting, you have to paint the tiny details first and then work backwards. I love creating, there are so many directions you can go in art, the endless options are exciting and totally overwhelming! But that’s what keeps it fresh.

3. Your business name, Charlie Lou is inspired by your grandfathers. What or who else do you feel inspired by?

Almost everything I make is inspired by the coastal farm environment here in Little Compton – from sea life to farm life and botanicals. 

There’s this artist I’m inspired by, Zaria Forman. Her work is about creating awareness around climate change, which she documents through her pastels.

4. Do you have any specific goals for Charlie Lou as a business? What would be your dream project or piece to create?

To address a purpose greater than just my art hanging on a wall. I want to make sure that my work is raising awareness, support, and funds for humanitarian or environmental charities. 

Gaining any experience first-hand creates a deeper connection and nuances for my art, so it’s a huge dream of mine to create a piece that would center around getting to dive with whales. If I could create something from that experience that would reach a large enough audience to benefit ocean life in a substantial way would be amazing. I would love to work on one of these projects with Sea Legacy which is an organization that really interests and inspires me.

5. In addition to Kings Lens, are there any other local or regional places people can find your work? Do you have any special sales for the holidays?

You can find me at my studio, Charlie Lou 26 Main Street in Little Compton), or at the Art Cafe (7 S of Commons Road in Little Compton). I am currently offering 25% off notecards (pack of 5) for the Holidays.

Photo courtesy of charlielou.com

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