Visual Arts | WIP

Janiece Murray Wrestles with the What Ifs

Courtesy the artist

Salt Lake City artist Janiece Murray says she is a student of traditional artistic crafts, like gilding, bookbinding, geometry and handmade watercolors. Her studies with Wulf Barsch at Brigham Young University spurred her to learn more about the “crafts of the master artists of old,” which she did at London’s The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts (founded in 2004 by Prince Charles).

Murray is also interested in spiritual and religious traditions and their symbolic content, drawing inspiration from manuscript illumination and calligraphy in her degree project (which, if you browse Murray’s Instagram page, you’ll find was visited by His Royal Highness). “I am intrigued and fascinated by symbolism and the wide range of information a single symbol can convey,” she says. “As an artist and a visual person, I love the possibility for a visual language in works of art through symbolism and the ability for those to be subtle and even subliminal. It’s easy to take things for granted, to see only what’s on the surface, but a symbol etc. can make you feel or think of home, for example, without your realizing how or why.”

This past summer, Murray returned home, where she has been busy investigating their mountains that have surrounded her for most of her life. But she is still influenced by her teachers in London. “Currently on my art desk/table (too big for my small easels) I’m working on an assignment or challenge piece from my former tutor and mentor, Lisa DeLong [another BYU graduate who went on to study at The Prince’s Foundation School and now teaches there]. Lisa challenged me to work big, much bigger than I normally work, to try to avoid overworking, to work from photos, in this case, mountains with atmospheric perspective, and to really let the paint shine through.”

Murray’s current painting is 22 x 30 inches — pretty large for a watercolor and definitely larger than Murray’s normal working size of 12 x 9 in. or smaller. “In issuing this challenge, Lisa brought up a process picture from a previous painting — the image was of a spot in the painting when I considered stopping but continued on with my original vision. Lisa talked about how the painting might have been more successful and not overworked if I had stopped there. I’m really struggling with that idea in this current painting, I’ve reached a place that’s lovely but completely different from the original inspiration for the painting.”


Murray, who creates some of her own pigments, says she avoids mixing colors on the paper, working in single color washes, to build up colors over time. “Working this way can bring some wonderful surprises to paintings but it may also contribute to overworking. I have enjoyed the challenge of learning how to mix colors in this way to achieve my desired results but there are pros and cons to everything. I now find myself thinking, and overthinking the “What ifs.” What if I keep going and it’s so much better than this? What if I keep going and ruin this painting? What if I stop here and it’s only okay? What if I do one thing on this painting and then go back and do another version the way that I wanted to do it originally? (I’ve done that one before). I imagine this happens to other artists as well, but I sometimes struggle to know when to trust myself and my instincts and when to listen to others and be open to their opinions, knowledge, and/or experience.”

You can follow Janiece Murray’s work at and on Instagram.

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