Jan Killian has always loved nature. “I was the kid that somebody would find a bug in our house, ‘Oh, there’s a beetle here,’ and I’d yell, ‘Don’t kill it!’ and I’d be running over and I’d grab it and I’d put it outside,” Killian says.
Killian is a full-time artist who runs Woolyfrog Arts studio in Cumberland. She incorporates her passion for nature and animals into her work. “I paint wildlife,” Killian says. “I love painting birds and frogs and turtles.”
While there are many artists who paint wildlife scenes, what sets Killian apart is she paints with alcohol ink, a dye-based ink in an alcohol solution. “It’s like painting with water basically,” Killian says.
That’s because once the ink leaves the brush or marker, it runs like watery ink from a bottle would. This makes it extremely difficult to control on canvas or tile. Most artists who paint with alcohol ink create abstract paintings where fine detail is not as important. Killian taught herself how to harness the ink to produce more realistic looking animals in bright, whimsical colors.
“It was such a challenge, and I just love challenges,” Killian says. “Finally, just through my own determination, I figured out a way to control it.”
Killian likes to start each painting by getting the details on the animal’s eye just right. “If I can get that eye perfect so it draws people in, you can basically do anything else you want with the rest of the painting,” Killian says.
Killian showcases her work at art shows around the Midwest. She also holds regular classes to introduce others to alcohol ink painting. Even with years of practice, she concedes each painting is still a fun challenge. “I do my best to wrangle it, to get control,” Killian says.
“It just depends upon the subject and the detail and how the ink is flowing that day because it definitely has a mind of its own.”