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Memoirs & Things

  • Wingin' It

    Biographies fascinate me. Whether it be a book or a documentary. I draw so much inspiration from hearing about where someone I admire started. I want to know where they were born, what kind of an upbringing they had. What moment did they realize what it was that they were meant to do, or did they always know?  Was it something they fell into?  And what did it take to keep that dream alive? How many times did they fall and get back up? I want to hear the rejection, the perseverance, the heartache, and the victories. I want to learn about where they went wrong and what they did right. So, since I love bio’s so much, I’m going to introduce myself and start at the beginning. Keep in mind that I actually don’t know what I’m doing. I really don’t know if there is a "correct" way to blog. And, since I’m being honest... I don’t have any formal art training and have no idea what I’m doing when I paint either. I guess wingin’ it is just how I role.

    Hi, I’m Jahna. I love to paint. My Mom and Dad met as kids growing up on the same street in the San Fernando Valley of L.A. My older brother Justin was born right out of High School, then they moved to Canada and had me there in Errington on Vancouver Island B.C. I was born in the house on their little farm while my Dad delivered me. My 4 year old brother hunkered down under Dad and watched me be born. I like to say he was the first person I ever saw and that must be true because my brother has always been my best friend. Being the hippies Mom & Dad were, they took two weeks to name me saying they wanted to “get to know my spirit” first. They claim that they felt the presence of the Indian Guru, Paramahansa Yogananda throughout the pregnancy. I was born two weeks early on his Guru Sri Yukteswar’s birthday. They decided on naming me after him. Yukteswar wasn’t quite right (imagine how many times I would have to repeat that doozy of a name introducing myself!) He was a Jnanavatar, so they thought Jnana was good. My parents pronounced it Jahnavatar, but I don’t know if that is correct. In an effort to make sure people pronounced it right, they added the ‘h’ so that people would say “ah”. J-ah-na. Think Johna, not Jana. It didn’t work. People call me Jana all of the time. Vashti is my middle name. Dad said he liked the sound of Vashti. He said the story of Vashti in the Bible was one of the first stories of true feminism. The story is probably interpreted differently to some, but Dad described it like this: Vashti was very beautiful. Her husband - a King - had her head for refusing to dance seductively for his guests. Poor Vashti. We’d all have our heads lopped off these days, wouldn’t we? So, I’m Jahna Vashti. Crane is my last name but I’ve signed my art with my first and middle name since I was a kid. Dad embellished the story of my name when I was little, “I named you Jahna Vashti because I knew you’d be an artist”. He always made me feel like I was special, that I was somehow different from everyone else. And I needed to believe that because I must admit that I’ve always been sensitive, and that lead to some crippling insecurities which eventually led to a long and sad artist's block. My art was all but lost to me throughout my 20s, because I guess I stopped believing.

    Long story short about my childhood: My parents divorced shortly after my birth and we all headed back to L.A. where I ended up growing up. My Dad raised my bro and me, while we saw Mom on weekends, which we always looked forward to. Mom was so full of whimsical energy and the love just pours out of her. I wouldn't trade mom and dad for anything! Still -even now in my 40s- I still fantasize like a child would, what it would've have been like had they stayed united. We endured the stepparents and the total bummers that sometimes accompany having parents that aren’t together. I was ridiculed and teased for my chubbiness and I struggled throughout school because of my dreaminess. My family is weird, artsy, dysfunctional and wonderful. I had all of the magic, struggles, joy, and pain that a lot of childhoods have. We need to think of those things as the fabric of our invisible superhero capes! Why do I paint what I paint how I paint it? How does any artist do what they do, how they do it? It is born from our joy, our pain, our magic and our struggle!
    I often wonder what I would be like if I had grown up on that farm in a small Canadian town. What would my art look like? Would I still wear bright lipstick everyday? Would I have done better in school? Would I have bypassed some of the insecurities that inevitably were brought on by simply being a girl growing up in L.A.? Would I still be in Canada? I can only wonder.
    They said I was born with a pencil in my hand, which is true. But as aforementioned, I actually didn’t start painting until my early 30s. It was after I became a mother and my Dad died in a car crash just shy of a couple weeks after the birth of my firstborn son. I think the combination of the intense love of my little boy, and the shock of losing Dad in the same time period somehow broke my creative chains. I put up my dukes for real y’all. For my baby and for my Dad. There was no possible way that I was going to sit there and make excuses about anything going wrong in my life, ever again. I became determined to embrace what I already knew deep down, and that is: I’m an artist, there is no other way for me. It’s art or die. When I finally began painting after being broken to 1000 pieces (bear in mind, I left out huge gaps in my story that not everyone needs to know).. I simply didn't care anymore what anyone would think of my art. I didn't curse myself if it didn't look how I wanted it to. I will never forget that moment, when I was completing my first ever painting. It was a cityscape, and I realized that the buildings were leaning to the left. In the past I would've ended it right there and chalked it up to how crappy I was. Instead, I stared at it and thought "It must be really windy there tonight." and I continued. I started turning mistakes into what made the painting right. That time in my life was all about turning mistakes and hurts into what made my life right. It was my time to heal, and to fight. I realized that happiness and success wasn't going to crawl up into my lap and purr. I would have fight for it. I'm still doing that now.

    I started selling my art in my mid-30s. I’ll touch on that next entry.