Woman Reading from a Piece of Paper in an Art Studio 

Janet Littlejohn-Kaufman

Janet has been a member of the Bookies for about 13 years. (since 2010)

Janet is originally from West Virginia. She holds a Masters Degree in Fine Arts, and is a past juried member of Tamarack Arts Center in Beckley, West Virginia.

As owner and artist-in-residence of Littlejohn Arts Gallery, Janet worked with interior designers and decorators to create one-of-a-kind sculptures, paintings, and murals. Before her retirement to rural North Carolina, Janet taught her love of pottery, weaving, mixed media, painting, and drawing both privately and in public schools and universities for 40 years.

In January 2007 Janet suffered sudden Anterior-Ischemic Optic Neuropathy “AION” in her right eye. It is sometimes referred to as a stroke of the optic nerve. In time, Janet’s eyesight improved to some degree and she could continue to work as an artist. However, in January 2015 she was struck with AION in her left eye, and subsequently declared legally blind. Because of the sudden loss of vision, the disease can take an emotional too as there is no cure. Janet had spent ha lifetime in the love of art, color, and beauty in all its forms and sharing ther perception of that beauty with countless people. She was now being told by medical experts that she would face a future void of the very thing that was her passion. No longer able to drive, and hoping to retain as much of her independence a she could, Janet prepared for the future the doctors told her to expect. More importantly, she listene to the one who had sustained her body and spirit throughout her life. God told her that he held her future, and that he makes ALL THINGS POSSIBLE.

Janet began to force herself to draw, sculpt, aint, and make pottery. She gave Jesus control of her eyes, her hands, and her mind, and refused to give up or give in to what the world told her she was. God was already at work preparing her restoration. In time, something called “cortical adaptation” took place. Simply put, the sections of the optic nerves that died are still dead, but the brain started recalling what the eyes could no longer see. (Much like faith is the belief in that which is unseen). In July 2016, Janet’s NeuroOpthamologist reversed her former diagnosis and prognosis and declared the restoration of her sight “a huge miracle”!

Janet gives God the Glory every day for her restoration and her ability to see beautiful colors and the intricacies in all his creation. While some saw her disease as horrible misfortune with a gloomy and doomed future, Janet chose to let God use her as an exam[le of what blind faith really means.

Email: janet.kaufman.littlejohn@gmail.com

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

From my Lord, Jesus Christ: “Ask me to be your partner in all you think, plan, and do.”

From my parents: “Always do your best in whatever you do. Honor God through how you treat others and yourself. Work Hard.

What are your ultimate artistic goals?

Having fun experimenting and using materials I have collected in various ways of layering techniques in my books, wall hangings, sculptures, and pottery.

Why do you do what you do?

When a child I wanted “to learn how” to be an artist. Art was not taught in the public schools grades 1-6. In the 7th grade my art teacher made a positive encouraging comment to me about my painting. That’s all it took to encourage me to start the process of ‘drawing out of me’ the abilities God had planted in me to develop, explore, and have confidence to work hard to develop those abilities.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you.

My 7th grade art teacher complimenting me on a piece of my art.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

In 1996, when Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia was opened, I was juried into the artistic community to sell my pottery. It was a very strict jury, so I was elated to have qualified. They used one of my pieces in their opening ad in Better Hoes and Gardens Magazine. It was a vase with my theme ‘old-man’ sculpted on it.

I was also thrilled to work with two different interior decorator businesses in Bluefiled and Princeton, W.Va. I was commissioned to interview clients in their homes and design and create one-of-a-kind wall pieces for their homes. These were always a huge challenge involving time, theme, creativity, talent, and energy. At that time in my life I was teaching in small colleges and high schools, so the demands of being “my best” as a teacher and as an artist were great. It was great fun and a huge honor.

A third response to my artwork was when I was hired to design and paint a 40 foot mural on the interior wall of a new, privately owned,  barbeque restaurant in Princeton, W.Va. named “A Taste of Memphis”. During that time I was also producing pottery for Tamarack Art Center in Beckley W.Va., teaching in the public school system full time, and running my art gallery called Littlejohn Arts in Princeton, W.Va.

I love working with students of all ages, Kindergarten through college. I relish working with the challenges of the “whole person”, not just the idea of making art. I was honored in the early 1990’s with several tri-state, W.Va. National Teaching Awards, competing against secondary level teachers of all academic subjects.

Where are you from and how does that affect your work?

W.Va. being on my granddaddy’s farm- roaming the hills, wading in creeks, going to country church had a big influence / environment in development of my sensitive imagination.

What’s the purpose or goal of your work?

To use the techniques I’ve learned, discovered, and developed throughout my life; express myself using materials in unexpected ways of combining various materials (mixed media)