In this special interview with The Deckle Edge, we chat with Jana Aspeling about her incredible artistic journey. From her earliest memories of creating art at Montessori school to winning an art trophy at Laerskool Bryanston, Jana shares the key moments that inspired her passion. She opens up about her transition from graphic design to fine arts in university, how printmaking and painting have shaped her unique style, and the little hidden details that make her work so special. Join us for a delightful conversation filled with insights, inspiration, and the personal stories behind Jana Aspeling’s vibrant art.

Q 1. Reflecting on your first memories of creating at Montessori school and winning the art trophy in Laerskool Bryanston, would you describe this as a pivotal childhood experience in shaping your artistic path?

    A 1. Absolutely, those early experiences were undeniably pivotal in shaping my artistic path. Creating was a fundamental part of my childhood, transforming ordinary playtime into an endless exploration of shapes, colours, and textures. My parents recognised my creative inclinations early on and nurtured them by enrolling me in art classes. This exposure to diverse artistic mediums only fuelled my passion further.

    Additionally, my entrepreneurial spirit blossomed alongside my artistic endeavours. I fondly recall knocking on neighbours’ doors, offering my handmade Christmas cards and little artworks for sale. This not only cultivated my artistic skills but also instilled in me a sense of confidence and initiative. Those formative years at Montessori School and primary school weren’t just about winning an art trophy; they were about discovering my identity as an artist and laying the groundwork for a lifelong journey of creativity and self-expression.

    Q 2. During your university years, you transitioned from Graphic Design to Fine Arts. How did each discipline contribute to your current style and approach to art?

      A 2. Even though I only studied graphic design for two years before transitioning to fine arts, the experience was invaluable in shaping my current style and approach to art. Graphic design taught me the fundamentals of design and composition, which are crucial elements in any visual art form. I was introduced to tools like Photoshop and learned to incorporate graphic elements into my work. These skills continue to influence how I conceptualise and design my paintings today.

      However, I found the constraints of graphic design—its rules and structures—quite limiting. I craved the freedom to express myself without boundaries, which led me to pursue fine arts. This transition allowed me to explore and experiment with various mediums and techniques, fostering a more fluid and intuitive creative process. I firmly believe that no learning experience is ever wasted; each discipline I’ve studied has contributed to my artistic evolution, equipping me with a diverse toolkit that enriches my creative practice.

      Q 3. Specialising in printmaking and painting during your studies at the University of Stellenbosch, how do you feel these disciplines have influenced your current artistic practices?

        A 3. Printmaking was one of the subjects I specialised in, and I firmly believe that the meticulous pre-designing and layering process inherent to printmaking has profoundly influenced my current artistic practice. When I create, I still approach my work with a printmaker’s mindset, envisioning the final piece through a series of layers and carefully planned steps. This methodical process allows me to thoughtfully consider how colours, under colours, and washes will interact to achieve the desired effect.

        Painting, on the other hand, has always been a passion of mine. Throughout my studies and beyond, I’ve consistently sought to integrate painting into my work. This discipline provides a balance to the structured approach of printmaking, offering me the freedom to explore and express emotions more spontaneously. The combination of these two disciplines—printmaking’s precision and painting’s fluidity—has shaped a unique creative approach that defines my current artistic practice.

        Q 4. You’ve been known to mention an attraction to the aesthetics of little hidden objects. How do these details influence your artworks, and could you give an example of how such an element inspired a piece of your art?

          A4. There’s a profound significance in the hidden objects within my artwork, especially when working with subjects like flowers. Flowers themselves carry a multitude of meanings, and by incorporating objects like ceramics, small bugs, and jewel-like birds, I can add layers of symbolism and narrative to my pieces. These elements often represent the fragile state of the female form and the various stages of bloom we experience throughout life.

          For example, in one of my paintings, I placed a delicate ceramic teapot next to a fully bloomed flower, with a tiny, intricately detailed bird perched on its edge. This composition was inspired by the idea of immortalizing the beauty and complexity of womanhood on the canvas. The teapot symbolised the vessel of life, the bird represented fragility and freedom, and the open flower depicted a woman in full bloom, capturing a moment of peak beauty and vitality. These small, thoughtful elements not only enhance the visual appeal of my work but also deepen the emotional and symbolic resonance, highlighting the delicate nature of relationships and the stages of life.

          Q 5. Since your usual go-to art store in Johannesburg closed down, you’ve started shopping with us at The Deckle Edge. Could you describe that experience and how it influenced your choice of art supplies?

            A 5. I’ve always cherished shopping at my local art store in Johannesburg, where I had the opportunity to explore and work with a wide range of major art supply brands. When that store closed down, discovering The Deckle Edge was a game-changer. They carry all the brands I love, and their willingness to source items I can’t find elsewhere has been incredible. The service is outstanding, with orders delivered in Johannesburg within two days, which is remarkably convenient.

            The Deckle Edge has also introduced me to alternative options that I might not have considered otherwise, broadening my creative horizons. As someone who values supporting local businesses, I particularly appreciate their stock of Prime Art Iris Heavy Body Paints, which have become a favourite of mine. Shopping at The Deckle Edge has enhanced my experience of sourcing art supplies, allowing me to maintain the quality and variety I was accustomed to while also discovering new, exciting products.

            Q 6. You’ve experimented with various mediums and brands throughout your career. Are there particular brands or types of art supplies that resonate with your style, and what are your must-have items when starting a new piece?

              A 6. In my 20s, I had a strong preference for oil paints. I loved their rich texture and the seamless blending effects they allowed. However, when I resumed painting full-time in my 40s after a 14-year break from fine arts, my lifestyle had changed significantly—I had three young children. Oil paints, with their long drying times and strong fumes, were no longer practical. I transitioned to heavy body acrylics, which I now absolutely adore. They offer a similar texture to oils, dry quickly, and are much more convenient for my daily life.

              To mimic the depth and richness of oil paints, I mix acrylics with various mediums. Over time, I’ve also embraced multimedia techniques, incorporating spray paints, inks, and oil glazes over the acrylics. This layering process allows me to create intricate textures and depth in my work. Additionally, I’ve experimented with oil sticks, which dry permanently on the canvas and add another dynamic element to my pieces.

              My must-have items when starting a new piece include heavy body acrylics, various mediums for mixing, and a selection of spray paints and inks. These supplies enable me to explore and expand my creative boundaries, maintaining the complexity and vibrancy that define my style.

              Q 7. Colour plays a significant role in your art. What are your favourite colours to work with, and how do you choose the colour palette for a project?

                A 7. Colour is indeed a significant element in my art, often reflecting my mood and emotional state. My favourite colours to work with are definitely neons—I have a particular fondness for fluorescent reds, pinks, and magentas. These vibrant hues bring an intense energy and dynamism to my work.

                I also love incorporating metallic bronze as a highlight. It adds a touch of luminosity and elegance, creating a striking contrast against the bold neon shades. When choosing a colour palette for a project, I let my current emotions guide me, allowing the colours to flow naturally and intuitively onto the canvas. This approach helps me create pieces that are not only visually engaging but also deeply expressive and personal.

                Q 8. Since turning your passion for painting into a thriving business, could you share some tips for artists who are looking to do the same?

                  A 8. Certainly! Here are some tips for artists looking to turn their passion for painting into a business:

                  1. Stay True to Yourself: It’s crucial to remain authentic to your own style and vision. Whether your work features bold colours, intricate patterns, or unique designs, there is a place for every artist in the world. Your authenticity will attract clients who truly appreciate and resonate with your art.
                  2. Embrace Art as Therapy: Remember that art is a powerful form of self-expression and therapy. Use your work to explore and process your emotions and experiences. This genuine expression will not only enrich your art but also convey a meaningful message to your audience.
                  3. Network and Collaborate: Networking can open doors to new opportunities and collaborations, helping you reach a wider audience.
                  4. Be Patient and Persistent: Building a thriving art business takes time and effort. Stay patient and persistent, and don’t be discouraged by setbacks.(Trust me there will be many) Keep creating, learning, and evolving.

                  By staying true to yourself and your art, you’ll naturally attract the right clients and create a successful and fulfilling artistic career.

                  Q 9. You’ve expanded your artistic footprint into a clothing line that features your art prints. What inspired this venture, and what can fans of your work expect from this line?

                    A 9. Expanding my artistic footprint into a clothing line featuring my art prints was driven by a desire to make my art more accessible to a wider audience. Not everyone can afford an original piece or even a limited signed print, so I wanted to create something that allows people to enjoy my art in a more accessible way.

                    By transforming my artwork into wearable art and functional pieces in my decor range, I aim to bring art into everyday life. Fans of my artwork can expect vibrant, inspiring designs that add colour and creativity to their daily routines. Whether it’s through a beautifully designed piece of clothing or a functional home decor item, my goal is to help people experience and appreciate art in their everyday lives. This venture allows me to share my passion for art with a broader audience, making it a part of their world in a tangible and enjoyable way.

                    Q 10. Balancing creativity with business and family demands can be challenging. How do you manage your time between creating art, managing the business and looking after your family and all the aspects that come with busy life?

                      A 10. Balancing creativity with business and family demands can indeed be challenging, but I’ve found ways to integrate my business into my family life seamlessly. My studio is located in our home, in an open-plan space that allows me to interact with my kids while I work. This setup enables me to stay involved in their lives and be present while still pursuing my passion.

                      Creating in front of my children not only helps me manage my time but also inspires them to be creative. The studio has essentially become another living room in our home, fostering a creative and collaborative environment. I typically reserve my quiet time in the morning, when the kids are at school, to focus on business-related tasks. In the afternoons, while they do their homework, we discuss their day, and I can continue creating art.

                      By blurring the lines between work and family life, I’ve created a balance that allows me to manage my responsibilities effectively. This integration helps me maintain a fulfilling creative practice while being there for my family and managing the demands of a busy life.

                      Q 11. How has your art evolved since you started painting full-time? Can you share some insights into how your style and techniques have changed over the years?

                        A 11. Since transitioning to full-time painting, my art has evolved significantly. In my 20s, I embraced a freestyle and expressive approach to painting, focusing on capturing emotions and spontaneity. However, my experience in hairdressing for 18 years has influenced my artistic style and techniques in several ways.

                        One noticeable change is my increased attention to detail and perfectionism. The discipline of completing projects in hairdressing has taught me the importance of meticulousness and patience. I now spend more time on refining the finer details of my paintings, paying closer attention to intricacies in subject matter and composition.

                        Additionally, I’ve become more methodical in my approach to painting. Rather than working purely on intuition, I now incorporate a balance of spontaneity and careful planning. This allows me to maintain the expressive energy of my earlier work while also ensuring a level of precision and coherence in the final piece.

                        Overall, my art has evolved to reflect a blend of spontaneity and precision, influenced by both my early creative instincts and the discipline acquired through years of professional experience in hairdressing.

                        Q 12. What advice would you give to aspiring artists who admire your work and want to paint as fabulously as you do?

                          A 12. My advice to aspiring artists who admire my work is simple: never give up. Understand that failures are inevitable, but they are also opportunities to learn and grow.

                          Remember, painting is a forgiving medium. If a piece doesn’t turn out as expected, don’t be afraid to cover it up and start again. Take a moment to reset, gather your thoughts, and approach the canvas with a renewed perspective.

                          Above all, focus on the process rather than the outcome. Allow yourself to explore and experiment without being overly concerned about achieving ultimate perfection. Embrace the joy of creation, and trust that something fabulous will emerge from the canvas as you immerse yourself in the artistic journey.

                          Q 13. Could you share one top tip for artists looking to elevate their art or improve a specific aspect of their work today?

                            A 13. One top tip for artists looking to elevate their art and improve a specific aspect of their work today is to challenge yourself by experimenting with new mediums. Set a goal to add a new medium to your repertoire each year (or when your budget allows) and embrace the opportunity to explore different techniques and textures.

                            For example I found watercolour and watercolour pencils frustrating in the past, but in 2022 considered revisiting it with a fresh perspective. I approached it with patience and a willingness to learn, and I discovered a newfound enjoyment and proficiency in the medium. I now incorporate it in many of my textile designs.

                            Additionally, don’t be afraid to experiment with colour. Colour is a powerful language that adds depth and emotion to your artwork. Explore different colour palettes, combinations, and techniques to expand your expressive possibilities and truly elevate your art. By continuously pushing your boundaries and embracing new challenges, you’ll continue to grow and evolve as an artist.

                            Q 14. Do you have anything else that you would like to talk about with regards to your art or events coming up?

                            A 14. Firstly, I wholeheartedly agree with the importance of embracing change and following one’s passion. Whether you’re an artist or not, creativity is a vital aspect of life that should be nurtured and explored every day. It’s about finding joy and fulfilment in the process of creation, regardless of the outcome.

                              Regarding upcoming events, I’m excited to announce that in the coming months, I’ll be hosting workshops aimed at inspiring fellow artists and students to incorporate art into their daily routines.

                              These workshops will provide an opportunity to explore various techniques, experiment with different mediums, and unleash creativity in a supportive and encouraging environment.

                              I believe that by fostering a community of artists and creatives, we can all learn from each other, grow together, and continue to enrich our artistic journeys.

                              We hope her story encourages you to embrace your own creativity and pursue your artistic dreams. Thank you for joining us in discovering the vibrant world of Jana Aspeling. Follow Jana on Instagram or learn more from her website

                              One Comment

                              1. This is just so beautiful! I love the colours and the spectacular floral compositions. Jana is truly an inspiring and exceptionally talented artist 🎨

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