Seattle and Tacoma have art walks, evenings dedicated to visual art. Olympia’s twice-yearly Arts Walk, happening for the 53rd time this weekend, makes room for arts of all kinds.
It’s fitting, then, that the painting depicted on the cover of this fall’s Arts Walk map is of a musician. And perhaps even more fitting that the painter, Brian Wayne Jansen of Olympia, also is an actor, writer and musician.
“I’ve always been artistic, but I oscillate,” he said.
He’s probably best known as an actor, last seen in Olympia last season in Theater Artists Olympia’s “Seven Ways to Get There.” He’s done numerous shows with Theater Artists and Olympia Little Theatre, and now is in rehearsals for Tacoma Little Theatre’s “Dracula,” opening Oct. 21.
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Jansen, who grew up on a Nebraska farm, is a self-taught artist, and although he has been showing his “fast and furious” acrylic paintings since 2008, he refers to himself on his website as an emerging artist.
“I took an art history class in high school, and I was really inspired by Andy Warhol and Picasso,” he said. “I got paints and started painting, and I’ve just done my own thing with that ever since.”
His work has gone in a new direction in the past two years. Previously, he painted abstract pieces, but he picked up a library book on chiaroscuro, the art of using strong contrasts between light and shadow. Fascinated by the idea, he began practicing realistic work that depicted the light — and human figures.
I took an art history class in high school, and I was really inspired by Andy Warhol and Picasso. I got paints and started painting, and I’ve just done my own thing with that ever since.
Artist Brian Wayne Jansen
“I’m constantly learning and constantly wanting to improve,” Jansen said. “It’s like a competition with myself. I can do things now that years ago, I never imagined I could do.
“I worked really hard on just drawing people and drawing light over and over again. I was obsessed with that, and now I can do it.”
“Cellist,” like many of his current paintings, isn’t a portrait. He found an image that inspired him and painted it his way.
“The paintings are more like studies in painting light,” he said.
Though his style has evolved, Jansen continues to create very textural paintings. He paints over some of his paintings repeatedly — an economical choice, but also one that lends depth to his work.
He moved to Olympia much the way he discovered art and chiaroscuro — by happenstance.
“When I was just out of high school, I would just move different places,” he said. “Then I’d move back home, and every time I’d go back, there would be fewer friends there.
“Some acquaintances of mine had moved to Olympia, and a friend was like, ‘Do you want to go?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah,’ and it stuck.”
“Cellist” became the cover image by happy accident, too. He was working on another painting for the cover and wasn’t happy with how it was progressing.
“When I’m frustrated, I’ll put something down and work on something else,” he said. “I found this image of a woman playing a cello, and I thought, ‘I’ll do that for fun,’ but it turned out to be stronger than what I had been working on.”
This is the first time the map cover has depicted a scene from the arts since 2000, when the city began holding a competition for cover artists and commissioning a new work for the cover, Arts Walk organizer Stephanie Johnson said.
“I like that the cover makes reference to music as well as visual arts,” she said. “It represents the entire event.”
Brian Wayne Jansen
What: Artist and actor Jansen painted “Cellist,” the bold yet subtle painting featured on the cover of the Fall Arts Walk map. “Cellist” and other recent paintings — all figurative — are on exhibit for Arts Walk.
When: 5-10 p.m. Friday (Oct. 7) and noon-5 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Rush In Dumplings, 205 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia.