Kansas artist Jane Booth specializes in large, abstract paintings. When she outgrew her workspace, she created one that could expand her reach. As part of our occasional series called Tools of the Trade — about artists and their relationship to the tools that make their work possible — we visited Jane Booth's new studio.
One early morning, Booth is out on the back porch of her metal studio in Spring Hill, Kansas. She’s dressed for work — jeans and a smock splashed with layers of paint. The prairie is alive with birds and Booth is just starting a new painting. As pigment moves across the fabric, Booth begins to get excited about what she sees.
“I mean, you know, can you even stand it?” says Booth. “I just love what happens right there. Where that water is and isn’t. So, we’ll come back in a little while.”
Booth picks up a bucket and a few brushes and steps through the sliding glass doors into her studio. Large-scale, colorful canvases hang from the high walls. Booth says she’s always been drawn to painting on a grand scale. But until her studio was completed last year, her desire to create was constrained.
“Well, for years I painted in my living space. And so I painted on the floors of my living room in the winters and I painted on a porch in the summers, falls, and spring. But my work kept getting larger and larger,” Booth says. “And so I began to work on a basketball court outside and immediately the work changed. Some of it because it is outside and everything is alive and fresh and there’s wind and the elements, but also it was that felt space, that endless space.”
While working out of doors allowed Booth to spread her wings, she lost more than a few paintings to the changeable Kansas weather.
“The wind up on this high ridge is intense. Sometimes a great big gust would come up and flip the canvas,” says Booth with a laugh. “One time I had a 17-foot canvas that was wet with paint. A sudden wind came up and a mulberry tree — in five minutes — lost all of its leaves. The leaves all blew onto my 17-foot canvas and there they still are. There’s nothing you can do about that.”
Despite losing a few canvases, Booth says the thrill of creating big paintings kept her work outsized. But, eventually, she made the decision to invest in a space large enough to house the work she wanted to create.
“It was certainly a decision that small businesses have to make,” Booth says. “Where do you invest before you can afford to in order that your business can grow? Or do you stay where you are and keep your expenses low and just work within your means? And I just couldn’t stop but to make that leap. It was just a force that just kept moving towards building this studio.”
Booth says the studio has opened up new possibilities.
“The first painting I painted in here was a 24-foot painting and it was like a wonderful sign that everything was going to be OK because here I had this space,” Booth says.
“It was raw. There was no sheetrock up, there was no windows in, there were no doors. Immediately I could begin to see the beauty of it because I had the canvas rolled out on the floor, I had it wet, and to pin it up on the wall, and sit back across 40 feet and look at it was an ecstatic moment.”
Now Booth says she has everything she needs at her fingertips.
“This studio is a tool,” says Booth. “It’s a tool. It’s a huge tool and it makes everything around the process of painting and creating quieter and the process of painting and creating be the focus so it’s a pure concentrated way of seeing and of working and it’s divine.”
As Booth rolls out another canvas on the floor, she is beginning a new chapter in her work in a space large enough to contain it.
Find out more about Jane Booth in the Artists' File Initiative in the library at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak Street, Kansas City, Mo. 816-751-1381.