Jan Layh lives with her husband, Don Layh, on their farm in the Assiniboine River Valley east of Langenburg, Saskatchewan. Jan is a retired educator who is now self-employed as a cultural consultant, facilitator and full-time professional artist. She is active in the arts community. Jan is President of the Langenburg Arts Council and chairs the Visual Arts Committee, which organizes the Annual Langenburg Adjudicated Art Show as well as art classes and workshops.
She has been a strong promoter of local art, having been the Artist-in-Residence in Langenburg from 2000-2002. Much of her work as artist-in-residence celebrated the importance of art in the community. She created a colourful mural on the Langenburg Theatre, built three intricate mosaic tile walls along the town’s main thoroughfare which depict the Coat of Arms of Langenburg as well as the contribution of area veterans and pioneers. She has taught children’s art classes and offered adult art workshops locally and provincially.
For the past twenty-one years Jan has organized the Annual Shellmouth Art Retreat attended by artists from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, B.C. and Ontario. The focus of the retreat is to provide artists with an uninterrupted opportunity to create. Although the retreat is a non-instructional one, artists collaborate and share techniques with each other. Artists share a variety of media at the retreat from photography to sculpture, mosaic work, woodwork, and painting in a wide range of genres – realism to abstract work. They inspire and challenge each other. This retreat has become very popular among artists from across the prairies. In recent years, musicians, poets and song-writers have attended the retreat. Jan believes that the varied genres of art can inspire and excite each other; indeed, an important feature of the Art Retreat is the encouragement of collaborative work. Artists working together on the same canvas is a typical sight at the retreat. There is much to learn from the discussion between and among artists who collaborate on a single piece of art using a variety of media and techniques. Her many collaborations with colleagues Dean Bauche and Darrell Baschak have given them the opportunity to participate in public art works. Indeed, the three artists have done a public collaborative work in P.E.I. in 2014 in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the first Canadian Confederation meetings. They have collaborated in painting as performance as well. In July 2020, these three will offer a collaborative workshop at Ness Creek in Saskatchewan.
After her son Adam was born in 1980, Jan began painting using a box of paints she purchased at the local Pharmacy. In subsequent years, while spending her summers at the farm with Adam and her daughter Avery, she painted Plein Air the landscape that surrounded her. She is completely self-taught. She has learned from books, from galleries, from other artists and from long years of experimentation with media and technique.
The Prairie landscape has always been an inspiration for Jan. For the first fifteen years of her painting career she used watercolour to depict the subtle hues of the surrounding hills and fields. Eventually she began to paint her landscapes on a larger scale using acrylics. Jan is continually challenged by the changing seasons, the grandeur and the beauty of the Prairies. She continues to challenge herself by experimenting with new media and new subjects. In her most recent work (the past twelve years), she has painted in series. That is, she discovers a subject and paints several paintings on that subject believing close and thorough study of a subject is necessary to truly know it. One series focused on trees of the boreal forest (inspired by the birch and poplar around her home). Another series focused more specifically on Jack Pines (inspired by canoe trips in the north). Yet another series, inspired by the family lake property, was a number of water lily paintings. She painted a series of large banister paintings that were initially inspired by the way the light struck the old banisters in a heritage building that she and her husband purchased in 2008. Her most recent series looks closely at how water reflects the shore.
Jan is well-know across the country for her winter works. These often large canvases bring to life the beauty found in the winter landscape. There is a sense of peace in these paintings that speak to people who have been raised on the prairies.
Lately Jan is also studying portraiture and working on several large pieces determined to learn as much as possible about this new subject. In the past two years, she has worked extensively with oils applied to the canvas primarily with palette knives. She has also experimented with a combination of acrylic and oil using the acrylics as the primary colour palette then applying oils as a finishing technique.
In her personal work her goal is to continually study and learn – new subjects, new media and new techniques. Her goal in the arts in general, is to encourage others to recognize their creative potential and ability and to inspire participation in the arts in all genres. As the President of the Langenburg Arts Council, Jan has been instrumental in bringing the arts, in all its genres, to the community and in creating in Saskatchewan and Manitoba an "arts community” for people who enjoy any and all forms of art. She is passionate about the arts and the difference that they make in a community. She is a tireless promoter of the arts, the Arts Council and the community.
Jan has done the set design and artwork for the many productions that have been presented by the Arts Council. She has designed the sets for the numerous DinnerTheatres produced by the Arts Council. She has designed sets for Children’s Theatre Productions, "CRIMES OF THE HEART” and "LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS”. Two years ago she headed up the set design for "CHICAGO”. This year she will head the team in designing the set for "ANNIE”.
On her more academic side, Jan facilitates workshops across the province for not-for-profit organizations. The majority of these groups are Arts Councils who need support in strategically planning for the future. Many of these workshops are specific to "Succession Planning” to insure that their organizations stay viable into the future.
In addition Jan also facilitates art workshops in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. These range from drawing to painting. Her many years as an educator at the high school level has honed her teaching skills. Although retired from teaching at the school level, these workshops provide an opportunity for her to continue her passion for teaching.
Her greatest joy is painting with her children, Adam and Avery, who both share a passion for the arts. Indeed, at the Shellmouth Art Retreat, the three Layhs often do collaborative paintings inspired by their travels together.
Jan has had shows in Saskatoon (Collector’s Choice and Humanum Galleries), Regina (McIntyre Street Gallery), Winnipeg (Fleet Gallery) and Calgary (Free Spirit Gallery). Her most recent show was in Regina in 2017. Her work can be found in private collections across Canada and in Europe.