Art profession blossoming for Lahaina painter Janis Casco Blayer
“I wanted to honor a front-line hero at the hospital and called Brendi Simpson at Maui Memorial. I asked her to help find me a male or female nurse that deserved to be honored — someone whom may not have won the employee of the month or of the year award, but deserved to be recognized, nonetheless. She helped me choose Katie Talbot, RN, head Emergency Department nurse,” she explained.
In her oil painting called “Triage,” Blayer captured Talbot at a pressure-packed moment on Aug. 15, 2021, when the Emergency Department was full, someone with a traumatic injury was due to arrive in 15 minutes and she was communicating with three people at the same time.
Talbot explained, “The effects of the pandemic were felt throughout Maui County and, specifically, the 200-bed hospital I work at. The Emergency Department (ED) of Maui Memorial Medical Center has approximately 30 beds to care for all levels of care and emergencies. On this day, the ED was at capacity, holding overflow inpatients, and there was a traumatic ocean-related incident arriving in approximately 15 minutes. The paramedics were communicating with updates on the patient, the blood bank was on the phone securing the availability of blood products for the incoming patient, and the nurse manning the front entrance was being instructed to hold patients outside due to needing as many staff members as possible to care for this trauma patient.”
The stressful moment led to a compelling painting, and Blayer on Jan. 9 learned that “Triage” was chosen for the triannual Schaefer Portrait Challenge.
The show is underway until March 20 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. There were 166 entries that met all criteria, but only 48 were selected statewide.
Blayer is glad her portrait will help honor heroes of the ongoing pandemic.
“Nothing in my lifetime has so universally impacted the world health as the COVID-19 virus has. The loss of loved ones, fear of the virus and the change it has made to our daily lives is now deeply entrenched. Many individuals bravely served others, risking their lives during this crisis, but none more recognizable than the ‘front-line’ nurses and caregivers. I couldn’t imagine a more worthy subject than to honor one of the heroes with a portrait reflecting the unrelenting stress of daily service in this dangerous environment,” she noted.
“With shifts 12-and-a-half hours long, Katie knows the grief of life lost and constant split-second decision-making required to treat those in most need.”
She plans to donate 50 percent of the artist’s proceeds for the purchase of this piece to the Maui Health Foundation.
Blayer moved from the Northwest to Maui in 1979 and resides in Lahaina with her husband, Jeff, and their two cats.
Many in the West Maui community may know Blayer as a retired Certified Financial Planner and owner of Casco Wealth Management, LLC.
An impressionist artist, Blayer has been painting all of her life and studied art at Washington State University. After retiring, Blayer spent three years painting and attended workshops held by nationally and internationally known plein air (outdoor) artists.
“I never pursued it as a profession — as I thought I would starve to death — and decided to hold serious efforts with art until I retired,” she explained.
“Dick Sargent recognized my talent several years ago and invited me in to Sargent’s Fine Art Gallery and Jewelry in February of last year. That helped, but I would have to give the Maui Arts League and Lois Reiswig’s efforts the most credit, as she has brought the best plein air painters to Maui over the years and the workshops before and after the annual Plein Air Painting Invitational. I was able to take advantage of the workshops, and these inspired me to take others on the Mainland and in Australia.”
Blayer’s next breakthrough was her own solo show last year in Clarkston, Washington, which included 64 pieces and ran for a month.
“I actually graduated from Clarkston High School. I visit my mother there one or two times a year, and while I was with her during a workshop sponsored by the Valley Art Center, their president, Robin Harvey, challenged me to put on a month-long show in October of 2020. I had nearly 12 months during COVID lockdown to work on the 64 paintings representing my body of work for the show,” Blayer added.
This year, she was selected for a commission by the Sentry Tournament of Champions to paint 40 portraits — one for each of the qualifiers for the PGA Tour tournament held earlier this month at Kapalua’s Plantation Course.
Blayer was also invited to include eight of her paintings in Maui Arts League’s Art Walk tent at the event.
She said she was “honored, shocked and elated” to have the opportunity to paint portraits of the 2021 PGA Tour contest winners who qualified for the Kapalua tournament.
“I credit Lois Reiswig of the Maui Arts League for introducing me as a potential artist for the commission, but of course it was Sentry and the PGA that made the final decision. I was commissioned the first part of June 2021 and began in earnest, as several golfers had already qualified by that point. It took me from June to mid-December to complete the commission. I did little else during that time period,” she said.
When she does portraits and paintings of animals, Blayer starts with a rough sketch of the overall subject in a setting, and then she works on the eyes.
“To me, the eyes are the window to the personality, and if I get that right, everything else seems to flow. That seems to be my strongest ability — to bring out the personality or character of the person or animal I am painting,” she explained.
This year, she will continue to study art and take classes and workshops whenever possible. Blayer’s next class is at the Scottsdale Artists School in Scottsdale, Arizona, in April, followed by a watercolor workshop at the Valley Art Center in Clarkston.
“I am currently working on two more commissions and look forward to more folks recognizing my talent and style at Sargent’s Fine Art Gallery and Jewelry,” she concluded.