Native Arts

Watercolor painting of Native American blankets and basket by Janet Tarjan Erl.

Native Arts

Medium: Watercolor, Image Size: 23 1/2″h x 15 1/2″w, 2002.

I set up this still life of authentic Native American crafts that were in the collection of my sister and brother-in-law. I loved the shapes, colors, textures, and designs of the different objects, and it took many watercolor washes to paint all the various colors and textures and to do it as a purely transparent watercolor. I had to use many small brushes to get the details just right.

Many native American cultures produce exquisite art through their practical utilities such as blankets, pottery, baskets, and clothing, and this painting honors a few of those artistic creations.

Original is sold.

Reproductions Available

Note: Image Watermark of Copyright and/or Website are NOT on the Original.

Vicarious Healer

Watercolor painting by Janet Tarjan Erl.

The Vicarious Healer

Medium: Watercolor, Image Size: 16”h x 12”w, 2020.

This painting is a depiction of compassion. In this artwork I am both the cancer patient and the compassionate healer-the Rainbow Dragon. The dragon is my all-empowered warrior – my symbol of healing, loving, and protecting. I, the dragon, have caught myself on my descent into the cancer abyss, and I hold myself in an intense, loving embrace while I carry my other weary self-back to the world of light.

As a dragon, I have come to help to dissolve the darkest experiences – to recall and put to rest those terrifying moments, the moments that were so profound they petrified me, and when they did so, I not only planted tiny seeds of cancer within my most vulnerable cells, but I also transformed my DNA into retaining memories of those moments. While I embrace myself, I soothe away the overwhelming loneliness, and despair of those fearful moments and keep reminding myself that, “I’m here with you, and all will be okay”. I, the dragon, am there to give me courage, hope, and love and help me through the brutality and unfairness of life, but I am also there to unravel those fears that are so embedded in me that they perpetually attract me to despair and unlucky circumstances. I am there to undo the darkness, and the growing of my cancers that I have planted so that I can heal.

As a dragon, I am there to love me, but I am also there to teach me to be a dragon, and to be a dragon is to be all color and radiance, all harmonics and song, all compassion and love, all hope and sacredness, and to be one and whole again.

The Rainbow Dragon is a warrior of compassion and love, and where there is love, there is healing. Though this painting was created as me being the dragon, it also symbolizes my husband. As a vicarious healer he has kept me from falling again and again, and he has absorbed my pain and suffered because of it. I would not have lived these many years without him. We all need vicarious healers, so whether a dragon is us, our loved ones, or our healers, the dragon entangles us with their compassion so that we can heal.

Original is sold.

Reproductions available.

Note: Image Watermark of Copyright and/or Website are NOT on the Original.

Live or Die

Pencil sketch by Janet Tarjan Erl

Live or Die

Medium: Pencil, Image Size: 19″h x 16″w, 2007.

The drawing is a symbolic story about choosing to live or die as I experienced it. These were the choices I struggled with when I found out I had advanced uterine cancer and needed to do chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Having advanced cancer was a terrifying experience, especially when I found out that fewer than 2% of cancer patients with my stage of aggressive cancer survived beyond five years. Think of it this way, if you have a fifty-chamber revolver loaded with forty-nine bullets, would you want to play Russian roulette? Or it’s like being in a river gorge where you are surrounded by steep cliffs when a grizzly bear comes running towards you. You can’t climb up the cliff – it’s too steep, and the water is raging towards a deadly waterfall. Stay or swim, you feel doomed either way. That’s what cancer feels like-a lose-lose situation with no good choices to choose from.

Under such circumstances choosing to live was the most difficult choice I faced. It didn’t help that I had been depressed for several years prior to getting the cancer because I thought I was a failing artist. Ironically, getting the cancer, in my eyes, culminated into the biggest failure yet. It was hard to muster the will to live when my life was so screwed up, and having cancer gave me the perfect opportunity to let go. But living, in spite of all its failings, was so hard to let go of. Having cancer created the greatest challenge I ever faced. I had to choose whether to live or die and to fight or give up.

Though having cancer, at first, felt like being in the talons of a predator, in time, it transformed into being a great liberator because it freed me from the chains of my oppressive ego. For nearly all my adult life my identity and self-worth revolved around being a successful artist. When I wasn’t succeeding, I was failing, and the failures were adding up. It’s no wonder I got cancer. It was a wake-up call to warn me of the swampy, self-pitying muck I was sinking in.

Paring down my ego was not an easy task, however, and it wasn’t until I learned that the treatments often cause severe damage the nerves of the hands and feet – a problem known as neuropathy – a problem that would likely prevent me from ever painting again in my style because I wouldn’t feel my brushes and know how to control them for the precise details I love to create. Furthermore, I might lose the sense of my feet and my sense of balance which would really hamper my hiking and exploring. Getting cancer depression was inevitable. I wondered what I would be if I wasn’t an artist. I couldn’t imagine being anything else because I spent my whole life from the age of twelve becoming and being an artist. At that point, when I took stock of my life and tallied all my failures, calculated my odds of dying from cancer, and realized the two things I loved most – exploring and creating art – might only be memories. So, I bottomed-out and lingered in the darkest, suicidal place I’ve ever been.

As dark as that void was, though, obviously my life didn’t end there. In fact, the darkness faded as new hope appeared. I realized and accepted that there were many things I could do and enjoy. I could write or teach. I could do photography or computer art. I could design houses or alternative energy systems. I realized there were so many interesting things I could do, I actually got excited thinking I could pursue new careers. What initially felt like the sad end of my life ended up becoming the beginning of my new life, a life that was no longer judged by what I did. It allowed me to have value by just being alive without being labeled.

That was my turning point where I chose to fight for my life. I did do all the treatments, I did highly focused visualizations where I would see the physical changes and outcomes, I wanted my body to achieve, and I had amazing results that thrilled my care providers, and I expressed my thanks for being alive. In retrospect, my cancer brought my soul, mind, and body back together.

This drawing is in the permanent collection of the Woodsen Art Museum.

Note: Image Watermark of Copyright and/or Website are NOT on the Original.

Limber Pine Root Study

Pencil sketch by Janet Tarjan Erl

Limber Pine Root Study

Medium: Pencil, Image Size: 12″h x 16″w, 1985.

This pencil study of a Limber Pine root was drawn on location on the east side of the White Mountains, near Boundary Peak, Nevada. These trees can live up to 4,000 years, so I can only imagine how old this root was – maybe twice that age.

Artists Collection.

Note: Image Watermark of Copyright and/or Website are NOT on the Original.

Limber Pine Root

Watercolor landscape painting of Limber Pine root by Janet Tarjan Erl.

Limber Pine Root

Medium: Mixed Aqueous, Image Size: 23″h x 28″w, 1985.

This is the overturned root of a dead Limber Pine (notice the rock). I love complex, contorted shapes, so when I hiked past this ancient limber pine root, I wanted to do a painting of it. I saw this root on the east side of the White Mountains, near Boundary Peak, Nevada. These trees can live up to 4,000 years, so I can only imagine how old this root was – maybe twice that age.

This painting was juried into the Aqueous Open’86, 1986, Pittsburgh Watercolor Society, Pittsburgh, PA. (Merit Award).

Original is sold.

Note: Image Watermark of Copyright and/or Website are NOT on the Original.

Filleting the Catch

Watercolor painting of fisherman cleaning fish by Janet Tarjan Erl.

Filleting the Catch

Medium: Watercolor/Gouache, Image Size: 16.25″h x 23.25″w, 2009.

This scene depicts a fisherman filleting his catch of fish for the fish market in Charleston, Oregon. This is my favorite harbor in Oregon. It’s a real fishing harbor where most of the boats are fishing boats and most of the commercial buildings are fish processing businesses.

I like the colors, shapes, and character of this piece which is enhanced by the seagulls waiting for scraps.

This painting is in the permanent collection of the Coos Art Museum, Coos Bay, Oregon, and it exhibited in the Thirtieth Annual International Marine Art Exhibition, 2009, The Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT.; and the 25th Annual Maritime Art Show, 2018, Coos Art Museum, Coos Bay, Oregon.

Original is sold.

Note: Image Watermark of Copyright and/or Website are NOT on the Original.

Cancer Descent

Watercolor painting by Janet Tarjan Erl.

Cancer Descent

Medium: Watercolor, Image Size: 18”h x 9”w, 2010, modified 2021.

This painting is a depiction of the intense feeling of despair and loneliness I had when I was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2005. All the red pigments represent blood because I was literally bleeding to death at that time. As I descended into despair, it felt like an abyss of darkness where no one could reach or help me – not my family nor my doctors.

Being told you have advanced cancer feels like a terrifying, unfair death sentence, and I don’t think I stand alone in that feeling. My mother died from cancer when I was in my twenties, and I watched her battle the disease three different times until she finally gave up trying. I browsed a collection of hundreds of artworks by female cancer patients, and the feeling that prevailed throughout most of those artworks was fear.

The fear a patient has is well substantiated because our medical approach to trying to cure the disease is brutal. It usually starts with surgery which is, then, followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation. Much of our western medical methods involve the destruction of dividing cells – which cancer cells are doing very rapidly – and this is why treatments of chemo and radiation are used because they destroy dividing cells. The problem with this approach is that the cure is also destroying a lot of healthy cells too. It’s this destruction of healthy cells that causes the vomiting – chemo is poison after all – or the intense damage to cells by radiation – which is burning your cells to death. What adds to the fear, is that the cure is usually never permanent, in fact, most patients with advanced cancers don’t live beyond a few years – in other words, they were never cured. That’s why cancer patients are so afraid. They fear dying in a drawn-out struggle with death where they have to endure physical brutality and emotional torment.

Until you are Sentenced with Cancer, you will never know how it feels. Trust me. You’ll never know.

Original is sold.

Note: Image Watermark of Copyright and/or Website are NOT on the Original.

Woody Under Sail

Watercolor painting of a wooden sailboat on Port Townsend Bay by Janet Tarjan Erl.

Woody Under Sail

Medium: Watercolor, Image Size: 5.25”h x 5.25”w, 2015.

When I saw this cute wooden boat, I wanted to paint it. I saw it at the 2014 Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend Washington. It was small and easily tacked between the bigger boats at the festival.

Original is sold.

Note: Image Watermark of Copyright and/or Website are NOT on the Original.

Pleasant Sail Before the Storm

Watercolor painting of sailboat underway by Janet Tarjan Erl.

Pleasant Sail Before the Storm

Medium: Watercolor/Gouache, Image Size: 12”h x 10”w, 2010.

I saw this sleek sailboat sailing by one afternoon. I loved its lines and shape, and I thought it would make a nice study for a sailboat painting.

Original is sold.

Note: Image Watermark of Copyright and/or Website are NOT on the Original.

Sunny Day Sail

Watercolor sailboat painting by Janet Tarjan Erl.

Sunny Day Sail

Medium: Watercolor, Image Size: 5.25”h x 5.25”w, 2015.

This quick study is of one of the bigger sailboats that sail the waters in the Port Townsend Bay of the Puget Sound, Washington. I saw this boat at the 2014 Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival.

Painting Available

Note: Image Watermark of Copyright and/or Website are NOT on the Original.