Jan Mapes: From Clay to Canvas

Courtesy Western Art Collector, November 2008 

Jan Mapes fine-tunes her new sculpture, Hare Triggered

Jan Mapes fine-tunes her new sculpture, Hare Triggered.

Jan Mapes, From Bad to Worse, Bronze Edition of 21, 16" x 15" x 9"  Photograph by Mel Schockner

Jan Mapes, From Bad to Worse, Bronze Edition of 21, 16" x 15" x 9". Photograph by Mel Schockner.

Jan Mapes shares an equal passion for painting and sculpting. Though she has been sculpting for over 26 years, she finds pleasure working in both mediums. Medicine Man Gallery will mount her latest creations at its Arizona showroom throughout November. During this exhibition, Mapes will present up to 10 new paintings and about a dozen bronzes with her focus remaining on animals and Western genre.

“I strive to bring out the soul of the animals I sculpt or paint,” Mapes says from her studio near Kim, Colorado.

Jan Mapes, Dos Amigos, Bronze Edition of 8, 26" x 36" x 27"  Photograph by Mel Schockner

Jan Mapes, Dos Amigos, Bronze Edition of 8, 26" x 36" x 27". Photograph by Mel Schockner. 

Switching between both mediums enhances the other, she adds. In either medium she uses hard and soft edges to lead the viewer’s eye across the piece.

“Those very same techniques involved in painting are very important in sculpture,” explains Mapes. “Whenever the light catches it, it does the same thing; one uses paints and one uses texture, and negative and positive space.”

Jan Mapes, Blue Girls, Oil on Canvas, 30" x 24"

Jan Mapes, Blue Girls, Oil on Canvas, 30" x 24"

Whether painting or sculpting, Mapes desires to portray the essence of the moment – being it a particular mood, a time, the light or movement.

“I’m trying to speak a language that I’m receiving from my subject and how it affects me, and then I’m trying to pass that on to you, same as a musician would,” Mapes explains. “I owe it to myself and to the viewer to ask myself what is that piece about and then portray it well using my skills and techniques I’ve acquired over the years.”

 Jan Mapes showing a cutting horse. The artist draws inspiration from personal experiences and the Western states.

Jan Mapes showing a cutting horse. The artist draws inspiration from personal experiences and the Western states.

Having shown cutting horses since the 1980s with her husband Jim, ranching and the Western lifestyle inspire Mapes’ work. Her sculpture titled From Bad to Worse plays off the cowboy theme, illustrating a cowboy roping a calf while a sticky situation ensues. In her new bronze, Double Dare Ya, Mapes depicts an aggravated cow that’s stomping her hoof and snorting. Mapes’ recent oil painting, Blue Girls, shows her husband and his friend in a wagon being drawn by her two mares named Dot and Dawn.

Jan Mapes, Corre Pradera, Bronze Edition of 15, 15" x 14" x 8"

Jan Mapes, Corre Pradera, Bronze Edition of 15, 15" x 14" x 8" 

“It was a pleasing sight to see. I got a lot of enjoyment watching those two mares and how much they enjoyed their job, and the two men and how much they enjoy horses and horsemanship,” Mapes recalls.

In a recent piece titled Hare Triggered, Mapes captures the surprise of the moment when a horse and a rabbit spook each other. The artist portrays the quiet time backstage just before la charritas (cowgirls) perform in her latest painting, Senoritas de los Charros. Like many of her subjects, this image is based on visits to south Texas. “Wherever I go I have my camera with me and I’m anxious to watch,” says Mapes, adding that she also draws inspiration from personal experiences and all the Western states.

Jan Mapes, Twist 'n' Shout, Bronze Edition of 15, 16" x 15" x 9"

Jan Mapes, Twist 'n Shout, Bronze Edition of 15, 16" x 15" x 9" 

Her sculpture Escarlata exemplifies extreme movement and la charrita’s excellent horsemanship, her beauty and pride in what she’s doing. It’s this sense of motion that Mapes hopes collectors recognize in this new body of work.

“I hope collectors can imagine the moment before and after the moment I’m portraying,” she adds.

Whether she’s working in oils or clay, Mapes remains true to her love of the West while always striving to improve her techniques and styles.

Jan Mapes, Senoritas de los Charros, Oil on Canvas, 9" x 12"

Jan Mapes, Senoritas de los Charros, Oil on Canvas, 9" x 12" 

“My creative process is to take my blending of technique and skill of the mediums and to use them to say something about the subject…to touch something in the viewer,” says Mapes. “Like a musician, I use my skills to express something. I don’t think you can be skilled at your trade and not put something of yourself into it.”

Mapes use of flowing lines, lots of texture, and minimal detail to express the personality of her subjects, appeal to a broad range of collectors, many of whom have grown beyond the need for photorealism.

“They say they like the character and emotion I get, not only in the faces, but as it’s portrayed in the whole feel of the piece,” she concludes.