Donna Clair

Southwest Contemporary Artist


Jan Herring was a dynamo.  Quite simply, she loved people and she loved to teach!  Married to a Texas farmer named Henry they raised their family in Clint, Texas.  She began painting in 1952 and it was my understanding that she had studied with well-known artist and writer, Frederic Taubes. Over the span of her career, she produced more than 12,000 paintings!  She exhibited in over 103 one-woman shows and won many major awards, including the American Artist Gold Medal in New York City – all while raising children and keeping her home in Texas.  (Here I am reminded of Gov. Ann Richards comment about Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire – “She did it dancing backwards and in high heels”!)  Each summer Jan maintained a large teaching studio space at the Lodge, plus a separate cottage on the grounds as living space.   Thanks to our friend Ernie’s El Paso gallery connection with Jan, I had been given the gift of one week’s workshop experience!  It changed my life!

All through those years of visiting the Chicago Art Institute and living with the Renaissance and Impressionist painters, there was a great mystery.  How did they do it?  I had studied these works intensely and all I had were questions – I still didn’t even know what I didn’t know.  I was as empty as those few blank canvases staring at me that first Monday morning of this painting workshop.  I didn’t even know enough to have any expectations – life is so full of surprises!

There were about 20 students – the door opened and Jan appeared.  Laughing and affable she put the entire room at ease.  Tensions disappeared in those first few minutes.  She put a newsprint pad on her easel in front of the room and made some charcoal sketches of faces and figures – gesture drawings, proportions – fast flowing information quickly written down in my notebook.  She put a model in front of us and we practiced some sketches.  After lunch she did a demonstration in the Taubes technique of alla prima oil painting with copal mediums. All based on Mr. Taubes’ lifelong study of the Flemish masters.  I was faint with joy!  Answers to some of my questions!  After this first class, the studio crackled with new energy and much excited conversation!  We were in awe of Jan and her magic brushes!!

Note from Taos: Last night I read an article which stated that college art majors had the same chance of finding jobs as high school dropouts!  Jan’s workshop was the equivalent of a full college art course!

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