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SIDE STREETS: Teen's pencil sketch morphs over decades as inspiration hits

By: BILL VOGRIN
November 16, 2012
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photo - Susan Janty painted "Mythical Bird and the Flower" on a willow tree behind her Rockrimmon home. She first sketched it in pencil when she was 14.  Photo by Courtesy Jim Janty
Susan Janty painted "Mythical Bird and the Flower" on a willow tree behind her Rockrimmon home. She first sketched it in pencil when she was 14. Photo by Courtesy Jim Janty 

Inspiration is a funny thing.

When Susan Janty was 14, she had an idea about an exotic bird. Like other artists in her family, she put it on paper. She called it “Mythical Bird and the Flower.”

Then she put it away.

“Every once in a while, I’d take it out and think I should do something with that,” Susan told me.

In fact, she dabbled in painting over the years, but life always distracted her from her art.

She had a family and a career — she works as an HIV nurse specialist at the Peak Vista Community Health Center after 16 years at the El Paso County Health Department.

“Art has always been one of my interests, but I have to be motivated,” she said.

Still, she hung onto the black-and-white drawing on the fragile parchment.

Then about 10 years ago, she got it out again.

“She oil painted she sketch onto an 18-inch plate and had it fired,” Her husband, Jim, told me.

She liked the plate with her colorful bird and flower, which she said is the source of the bird’s energy and food.

Again, she was satisfied with the plate.

“But I kept thinking I’d like to do more with it,” she said.

But that inspiration thing was lacking.

Until this summer.

After a trip to Sturgis, S.D. and a visit to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the nearby Crazy Horse Memorial, Susan came home energized.

“It’s unbelievably beautiful,” Jane said of the massive sculptures carved out of the Black Hills granite.

Susan didn’t realize it but the trip had inspired her again.

When they returned to their Rockrimmon home, the couple realized two willow trees in their backyard were failing. She had an idea.

“I said: Don’t chop it down. I have an idea for that tree,” she said. “I just wanted to do something different with the tree.

“I wanted to revive it.”

The tree trunk would make a huge canvas to unleash her mythical bird and flower.

At first, Susan considered using mosaic to apply the bird. Then she opted to simply paint the bird and flower on the trunk.

Today, 40 years or so after it was conceived, the mural stands 12 feet high and has a Dr. Seuss quality to it.

It’s been well-received.

“I’ve had neighbors peeking over the fence,” she said.

And she posted photos on Facebook that produced encouraging responses.

“A lady in Chicago thought I should take it and make bookends with the painting on it,” Susan said.

Now she’s contemplating how to transform her pencil sketch into a three-dimensional scuplture.

And there’s another willow tree in the backyard. I’m guessing it will be the canvas for a new Susan creation.

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