For Spring Hill artist Jana Withers, nothing beats painting outdoors.
Although she has a comfortable studio inside her home, she prefers to tote her easel and oils to a wide-open space where, as she puts it, "nature shows you what to paint."
Testament to that philosophy can be found in Withers' vivid landscapes, a collection of which are on display at the Spirit Of The Hand Gallery in Spring Hill.
Her intriguing images of flowers and wildlife reflect her fascination of how natural light can help capture the gentle interplay and varied lushness of nature's hues.
Discovering how to breathe life into paints on canvas is what brings Withers her greatest creative joy.
"If you look close enough, you'll find there are colors you can only see outdoors," Withers said. "They change with natural light. I enjoy the challenge of trying to capture that in my paintings."
That creative quest has taken Withers through an enriching journey as an artist that began with her first pencil drawings as a child growing up in Iowa. Soon after Withers' family settled in the Tampa Bay area, she began dabbling in watercolors and oils.
While her thoughts turned toward earning a business degree at Eckerd College during the 1970s, she never abandoned her desire to paint.
After moving to Spring Hill in 2001 with her husband, Larry, Withers decided it was time to set a new course for her artistic pursuits. Two teachers, Paul Foropoulos of Tarpon Springs and the late artist Tony Caparello of Spring Hill, helped show the way, she said.
"I spent six months at Paul's studio doing nothing but drawing," she said. "To him, depth and form are crucial to creating what artists call values. It proved to be quite insightful."
With Caparello, Withers learned how to create a more formidable palette by experimenting with paint blends. He also suggested Withers try painting more often outdoors, where color, light and shadow are constantly changing.
Withers sought out an artist collective known as West Coast Plein Air, which consists of a group of painters from Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties that meets regularly at outdoor locales to paint. Though most sessions last only a few hours, Withers says she is constantly amazed by the ever-changing perspective of her subjects.
"You don't just see what is in front and around you, you feel it," she said. "There is a freshness about plein-air work, not to mention the serenity one enjoys."
The past several years have seen Withers' renown as an artist continue to grow. She has exhibited in places such as Ruth Eckerd Hall, the Dunedin Art Center and the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Dunedin. Locally her work has been shown at the Brooksville City Hall Art Gallery, Easy Street Home Decor and the Rising Sun Cafe in Brooksville.
In addition to her current display at Spirit Of The Hand, Withers' paintings are part of the current exhibit at the Hernando County Public Library's West Hernando Branch.
Although her paintings have earned professional accolades, Withers says nothing beats seeing the reaction of strangers when they view her work.
"If it makes them smile, it tells me that they found something in that painting that brings them joy," she said. "That says to me that I've done my job."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 848-1435.