See “Luck Walk With Me” by Janie Olsen in the Artist of the Year’s exhibition “Animal Kingdom” through April 13 at the Schack Art Center in Everett.

See “Luck Walk With Me” by Janie Olsen in the Artist of the Year’s exhibition “Animal Kingdom” through April 13 at the Schack Art Center in Everett.

Janie Olsen’s paintings are reminiscent of children’s books

The Artist of the Year’s exhibition titled “Animal Kingdom” opens March 7 at the Schack Art Center.

EVERETT — It’s realism. But it’s magical.

Painter Janie Olsen — Schack Art Center’s 2019 Artist of the Year — produces the stuff of make-believe.

Think bejeweled creatures lopping through a mossy forest replete with detailed flora and fauna, myth and legend.

About 80 of Olsen’s acrylic paintings are on view in a solo exhibition titled “Animal Kingdom” through April 13 at the Schack. Olsen plans to be on hand at the opening from 5 to 8 p.m. today, March 7.

Longtime friend and fellow artist Karla Matzke, who also represents Olsen at her gallery on Camano Island, says Olsen’s work shouldn’t be confused with surrealism.

“She starts with realistic portraits of animals and adds mystical symbolism,” Matzke said. “Janie’s work brings me back to my childhood and those magical feelings you get from children’s books. I am so happy the Schack has recognized Janie and her fascinating work.”

Olsen, 62, grew up in Issaquah as Janie Williams, a girl who loved crayons and easels. After high school, she graduated from the Burnley School of Professional Art, the forerunner of the Art Institute of Seattle.

“I had wanted to go to Cornish (College of the Arts), but graphic art was a sure way to make money,” Olsen said.

The Bellevue-based Rena Ware cookware company employed Olsen for 38 years, keeping her busy with photography and layout design for its catalogs. Despite her full-time job and while rearing two children, Olsen continued to paint.

“There was never a time when I wasn’t painting,” said Olsen, who now lives in Monroe with her dog Arrow. “I like to be busy. My paintings are busy. I quit my job a year ago, and now I can’t stop painting. I have to paint each day.”

Inspiration for her work comes from the likes of Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielsen, Jamie Wyeth and her grandmother’s Swedish children’s books.

“And I’ve always loved animals. I was raised with with animals, and so were my kids,” said Olsen, who has names for each of the hummingbirds that feed in her back garden.

“The ideas of nature, romance, chaos and opposites — good versus evil and ugly versus beauty — are elements in my paintings.”

Olsen does her own framing, and the computer skills she learned at Rena Ware have helped Olsen prepare for the work she does making prints of her paintings.

Her prints and paintings are offered for sale at the Schack, as well as at Matzke’s gallery, The Curious Nest in Seattle and A Lot of Flowers in Bellingham.

“It is a great honor to be named Artist of the Year by the Schack,” Olsen said. “I was not expecting it at all. I am sure this will be the biggest show of my life.”

Since 1992, the Schack Art Center (previously Arts Council of Snohomish County) has annually recognized a local artist to celebrate her or his artistic excellence and achievements in the visual arts.

Also opening today at the Schack is a group exhibit titled “Pets on Parade,” which offers a tribute to pets through the eyes of 40 regional artists. The works include acrylic, watercolor, photography, ceramics and sculpture.

If you go

Artist of the Year Janie Olsen’s “Animal Kingdom” and the group exhibit “Pets on Parade” are displayed through April 13 at the Schack Art Center, 2921 Hoyt Ave., Everett. Opening reception is 5 to 8 this evening. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Call 425-259-5050. More information, including about Schack art classes, is available at www.schack.org.

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