pursues cats, bears fur good reason
Los Gatos artist Janet Kruskamp began her career at 2 1/2 with a portrait--albeit uncommissioned--of Mr. Peanut, Planter's "spokesnut." Crayons in hand, she also enjoyed creeping into her parents' walk-in closet to draw on the walls.
"There really hasn't been a time that I didn't know I wanted to be an artist," she explains. "Being an artist is not just something you do; it's who you are."
After decades of perfecting her craft through classes, studying under artists and just plain practice and evolution, Kruskamp made a name for herself through commissioned portraiture, as well as realistic portrayals of everyday American life in her 1970s "Artist in Search of America" collection and her 1980 "Transition Series."
Kruskamp has experienced much transition the past few years, with new lines of personable teddy bears, mischievous cats and romantic indoor and outdoor scenes. It all started when she thought about expansion and became an artist in search of a publisher.
In early 1993, Kruskamp sent letters and samples to various publishing companies and found a match with Walnut Creek-based Bentley House. The painting that started it all, she says, is "Midnight Mischief," which immortalizes the quirks and personalities--from demure to devilish--of seven family cats of the past and present.
In recent years, thanks in part to a suggestion from Bentley House, Kruskamp added a generous dash of romanticism to her realist style and liked what she saw.
With a mixture of pride and a bit of surprise, she says this new flavor in her whimsical paintings of teddy bears and quaint country homes and gardens has been so well-received that numerous makers of greeting cards, posters, stitchery, gift items and clothing have contracted with Bentley House to distribute her works in catalogues and shops.
"Here I am, 'Ms. Americana and portraits,' and what's my bestseller now? Teddy bears. I have classical training, so some people are surprised at what I've been doing in recent years, but I'm having fun," she says, recalling how someone at Bentley House, in reference to her many cat portraits, told her, "You do fur so well, how about doing teddy bears?"
Her collection of furry friends has grown over the years, as have the paintings that feature them. Among her bestsellers are "Bears' Picnic," "Naptime" and "Sleepytime Bears." She also introduced a line of Christmas bear scenes for the holidays.
"My bears seemed to come to life and develop their own individual personalities as I painted them. I began naming them and repeating some of the characters again in different story paintings," she says. Many of her cat paintings are actually based on cats she's known.
Among her scenes of country or seaside kitchens and gardens are "Apple Pie Harvest," "Canning Day" and "Cottage by the Sea." Those with outdoor themes brim with brilliant flowers and bright pathways; those showing the indoors are filled with many knickknacks and decorative touches and look almost real.
Kruskamp often includes personal items in her paintings, such as her antique wood-burning stove or a hand-me-down pie pan holding an apple pie modeled after one baked from a family recipe.
"This is the most 'romantic' I've been, but it's also been the most rewarding. It's a real thrill to walk into a store and see my work," she says. She calls her style "romantic realism" because she paints detailed, realistic scenes and animals but with a romanticized, sometimes almost idealistic quality. Kruskamp's art can be viewed at the Marjorie Cahn Gallery in Los Gatos. Call 408-356-0023 or email email@example.com for more information.
appeared in the Los Gatos Weekly-Times, January 8, 1997.
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