Visiting Artist Janay Everett Works with Students

Pace students work on portrait painting after spending time learning from visiting artist Janay Everett. Photo: Omar López Thismón

It’s no exaggeration to say that Janay Everett is a modern-day Renaissance woman. She is an experienced traveler, published photographer and exceptional painter. Moreover, her cheerful personality and smile are contagious. Her self-published photography book “Wanderlust” is nothing short of remarkable and her ongoing pursuit of learning is inspiring.

No wonder art teacher Donice Bloodworth brought her in for three days this week to work with his students. “Anytime you have the opportunity to learn from other artists, it’s a great thing,” said Bloodworth. “Being able to see how they work and their style is beneficial to students.” Meeting Everett is arguably beneficial for more than just aspirational artists. Her cultured perspective and genial personality make her a delight for anyone to meet.

Although she is a Philly native, Everett moved to Atlanta during her high school years and graduated from Chattahoochee High. “Coming from the North, [Atlanta] wasn’t really my jam,” said Everett. After graduation, she went back to her Northern roots and, briefly, moved to New York City almost two weeks before 9/11. There, Everett studied at the School of Visual Arts.

However, the city post-9/11 was “kind of nuts,” prompting her to leave New York. Back in Atlanta, she studied at the Atlanta College of Art alongside Bloodworth, and after college, she joined the Creative Circus, a local, creative portfolio school, to pursue her dreams. A couple of years later, those dreams took her out to Los Angeles, where the artist currently resides.

In California, Everett works as a professional artist with a focus on portraits. Her website includes a variety of categories, from a comic heroes series, to a master studies section, but her hidden talent is her photography.

In 2010, she traveled to Portugal to visit the family of a good friend and brought a camera along with her. Little did she know that the pictures she took during her trip would become the foundation for her photography travel book “Wanderlust.” Beginning as a Kickstarter in late 2013, “Wanderlust” was yet another ambitious idea the artist sought to tackle.

Everett was met by immediate support from family and friends. Her Kickstarter campaign raised over $7,000 in about six weeks, and within four months, she released her 500-photograph book documenting travels from Warsaw to Paris. “I don’t buy souvenirs,” said Everett. “So my photographs are my souvenirs.”

Her ambition is impressive. As I walk into the Pace Fine Arts Center to interview her, I cannot help but admire the focus she devotes to her work. Back turned towards me and hunched over her latest portrait painting, Everett seems engrossed in her process. Alongside her are two already completed paintings of a sullen, shadowy woman from earlier classes.

During her first day at Pace, she demonstrated her painting technique to students, narrating her choice of color and method of shadowing while painting. Scrolling through her website, one can detect a motif in her work. Form and lighting interest her the most. However, she also admires a Caravaggio method of contrasting dark colors with extreme bright ones. Today, she is going easier on Bloodworth’s students.

Over the next two days, students worked on a portrait of their own, attempting to mimic Everett’s style. Why portraits? According to Everett, “if you learn how to make a portrait you can paint anything else.” Portraits are so specific: hard lines on the eyes, soft cheeks and transitions. “If you can master getting the likeness of a person,” she says, “then you can apply that to anything.”

What is she hoping that the Pace students take from her visit? “I think it’s important to never stop learning from other artists,” says Everett. “Take a class, find a workshop.” According to Everett, students should never stop developing their craft.