Puslinch artist, county employee commissioned by Hall of Fame

Janice Mac­Don­ald calls her artistic endeavours “just a hobby that pays.”
But, for just a hobby, she is certainly keeping busy these days.
This year, her artwork was placed in the Agriculture Hall of Fame at Country Heritage Park in Milton.
And word of mouth, arguably is the best type of adver­tising there is, and it helped to get her there.
So did her talent.
MacDonald said that the Hall of Fame has been com­missioning pencil sketches of its inductees since it began in the 1980s. Further, that same artist was doing all of those pictures.
But Bruce Lepper, of Mill­brook, Ontario, had wanted to retire.
Some of the women at the Hall of Fame were familiar with MacDonald’s work, and men­tioned her name to Reg Cressman, the secretary of the Hall of Fame.
He contacted her, she showed him some of her work, and, as MacDonald said, “He liked what he saw.”
But MacDonald was not exactly given free reign to do five pictures of the inductees this year.
The Hall’s board of directors wanted some conti­nuity in the artwork, so Mac­Donald had to adopt his style – and she had to work from photographs. Some of the in­duc­tees are deceased.
“They gave me the photos for the inductees for 2007.
“I drew pencil sketches that were approved by the board. They were unveiled in June when the inductees were honoured. I tried to match his style, and they seemed to be quite happy with that,” MacDonald said.
She noted that the board also considered having com­puter generated portraits of inductees, “but they weren’t satisfied.
“They looked like a cutout. I don’t know if they [considered] other artists or not,” MacDonald said.
She said that creating portraits by photographs has advantages and disadvantages. With a photo, the light does not change, but, on the other hand, her work is easier if the photo’s quality is top notch. Families of the inductees are asked to pro­vide the photos. Some are better than others.
MacDonald was raised in an artistic environment, and is used to adapting
 She grew up in Marden, the daughter of a very musical family, who had a band called Fletchers.
Her parents, Doug and Jean, and her two brothers, Rob and John both played in the band. MacDonald played the piano well enough to teach, and so did her sister, Marilyn, but, she noted, so did her Mom.
“You only need one piano player in the band,” she said, laughing.
But while she had musical talent, MacDonald was also talented in drawing. She sold her first painting to a teacher when she was in grade 11, and she had continued to sell her work over the years, without a formal agent. People simply hear about her, like what she does, and commission her work.
She graduated from high school and studied art at the Uni­versity of Guelph. Then, it was on to teachers college, and teaching. She married Hugh, a beef farmer, and they have lived in Crief for the past 22 years.
She still teaches piano to a number of students, and she is the Music Director at Knox Presbyterian Church Crief, and is involved in the hand bell choir, too.
Besides that, she has worked for the past nine years in charge of children’s programming at the Puslinch Township library, in Aberfoyle.
Which does not leave her a lot of time for farming.
“This summer, I helped unload two wagon loads of hay,” she said, adding with a laugh, “Teenage boys come in handy for that. She and Hugh have a daughter, Amy, 19, and sons Scott, 17, and Brandon, 14.
One reason MacDonald was able to adopt to the required pencil sketches is that she enjoys being flexible when it comes to art.
“I like to mix it up a little bit,” she said. She works in water colour, acrylic, and, “I’ve also done some work in ink.”
She added that she has not worked in oils since high school, but, “Acrylic is much like oil – but it dries easier and is not as messy.”
The head-and-shoulders portraits for the Hall of Fame were a first for MacDonald.
As an artist, she enjoyed challenging herself by doing something that she had seldom done before. She said doing new and difficult art is good training.
She prefers doing country scenes, and she is particularly attracted to heavy horses. Thus, she said, she is often attending  local plowing matches and fall fairs.
She has completed and sold close to 80 works over the years, but, she noted, “I’ve never really pursued it seri­ously.
“I take seriously what I do. I’ve done several commis­sions over the years, but it’s usually word of mouth.”
Or, in the case of her portraits for the Hall of Fame, someone saw what he liked. Peter Hannam, of the Guelph Agri-Centre invited her to display two of her works at his business. Those works hang beside other noted artists such as A.J. Casson, of the Group of Seven.
But, MacDonald said, finan­­cially suc­cessful, full time  artists have to work tirelessly to pro­mote themselves, and use their public relations skills, some­thing she admits she does not enjoy doing. Thus, she has had no gallery showings, although her work hangs in the township office and in a local restaurant, and she has sold many commissions over the years.
Would she like to do art full time? MacDonald is unsure.
“I ask myself that every single day, because I don’t want to do three part time jobs. As I get older, I’d like to do more art.”
But, she also has a practical side. “It’s just like beef farm­ing,” she said. “It’s not con­sis­tent cheques.
“Maybe some day in the future,” said. “I joke that when I retire I’ll have more time to do art – but then my eyesight will be going and my hand will be shaking.”