Longtime artist inspires generations embedded in Lowell area
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Note: The IW winter series, which leads up to the International Women’s Day on March 8, features women from all walks of life who continue to inspire others in our communities.
Their positions in the society are not measured by money or the accolades they receive, but by contributions to progress and well-being of all.
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Lowell, MI – Artist Janet Y. Johnson, 86, is an icon. Together with artists late David Davis and current Kathleen Mooney, they have created an artistic legacy for generations embedded in the greater Lowell area.
Johnson has been a staple at the Flat River Gallery & Framing in downtown Lowell with countless exhibits of watercolor and acrylic paintings.
The gallery will celebrate its fourth anniversary with the “Let’s celebrate” event with champagne and chocolates on Feb. 11 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Johnson recalls all the great years of exhibiting and painting in the Lowell area.
“They’re all realistic paintings,” said Johnson about her work.
Some of them go as far back as to the heydays of another icon, the Lowell Showboat on the Flat River in the 1950s.
“I used to sing on it, and then I painted it,” Johnson said during a recent interview at her home.
As we looked at the dark blue watercolor painting of the Showboat with strings of lights floating on the Flat River hanging in the detached studio, one could imagine the lively atmosphere on the deck.
You could almost hear the voices singing:
“Here comes the Showboat.”
Johnson sold two paintings of the Showboat and bought one back when the owner stated, that the painting should stay in the Lowell area.
Johnson has lived in the Lowell area for 57 years.
Growing up on a farm in Alto, Johnson acquired a natural affinity to all animals.
Johnson studied animal drawing at the Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota, FL and graduated in 1951.
Prior to that, she studied at the Kendall College of Art & Design in Grand Rapids, and worked as a publication designer for Amway in the 70s.
“It was a wonderful place to work,” she said.
Among her favorites are vivid paintings of exotic animals in circus settings.
Johnson’s most recent watercolor painting is of the Miller Circus which performed in Lowell last August after the fair. She will hang the painting of the circus at the gallery for the new February show.
According to Johnson, the circus ringmaster at the Miller Circus was connected to the Ringlings.
Johnson spent most of 2016 illustrating the children’s book “Gertie Goose.”
“It’s a story about bullying,” said Johnson.
Pat Markle, former teacher of Hastings Schools, wrote the book. This was the third project for the author illustrator duo during the last decade.
The book is available at the Lowell Arts and at the Flat River galleries for $15.
“Gertie Goose” was published by J-Ad Graphics of Hastings in 2016.