Originally from the outskirts of Philadelphia, artist jane troup moved to the Midwest for the most relatable reasons.
“I knew someone on Nantucket Island, and her grandmother had a big farm here that she didn’t even live on. So we thought: ‘We are artists! We can live anywhere,’” Troup said.
The couple moved to the Ozarks but divorced after 10 years, and Troup moved to Springfield. She now shares a home with her husband Gary Brown and her poodle hers Tess. They live in a sunny place reminiscent of a tree house overlooking a stream. For a painter specializing in landscapes and animals, it is the perfect backdrop.
Troup knew she would be an artist from the start.
“It was more like a call. It’s like this inner voice is saying, ‘That’s what I’m supposed to do,’ Troup said. “Even when I had a job, I was like, ‘No, I’m supposed to be doing this.'”
opening the roof
Raised in a wealthy family, Troup found a semblance of freedom after a financial hit.
When he was 20 years old, his father sold his manufacturing plant, which made precision parts, and developed a condominium into a country club. It didn’t work. Troup’s family lost everything.
Things have a way of working.
Troup points to Dave Eggers’ memoir “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” to illustrate his change of mind.
“When his parents died, Eggers said: ‘The floor of my life fell off. But the ceiling opened up,” Troup said. “Security was gone, but he had freedom. When my parents lost their money, it was like, ‘Now I’m free.’
Troup said she felt relieved of the pressure and guilt of not being as financially successful as her parents.
“You were trained at a young age, or I was, that what you need comes through the father,” he said. “When that got cut, it was like, ‘Oh wow, okay. Now it’s me and I have the freedom to be who I am.’”
The wolf at the door
That didn’t make it easy, even though Troup had supportive parents. He attended art school, though he paid for his last two years at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. She worked as a bartender and waitress to pay her bills for years, “to keep up my painting habit,” he said.
“My father would say: ‘You have to get a job. You have to have a job.’”
“It’s hard to make money,” Troup continued. “You can be a very good artist, but nobody will accept your search and it will be your business person. Not many artists want to do that.”
He hasn’t had a day job since 1983, but Troup wasn’t always prosperous financially.
“I’ll tell you, it was many years with that wolf at the door,” he said. “I got so paranoid about it. I finally said, ‘This is ridiculous. I’m worried about money all the time.’”
Troup was divorced and had two young children. He didn’t get a day job, but he worked to change his mind about money.
“I had the help of a life coach and really explored that fear,” she said. “And when I was able to control the fear of money, she arrived. When you’re afraid of something, you’re going to stay there.”
paint furry friends
Troup came up with a particularly good revenue stream around 2001.
“I thought, ‘Okay, it’s really hard to sell paintings,’” Troup said. “What the hell can I make someone pay for a painting because it has some meaning to them?”
He loved pets. Everyone else too.
Troup chose 16-by-16-inch square canvases. At first, she asked family and friends for photos of his furry friends and painted a dozen pet portraits, which he exhibited at Mudhouse Coffee in downtown Springfield.
“I had to be able to prove to myself that I could do it every time,” Troup said. “Like, ‘Okay, I can do a painting and it won’t take me that long, and I can charge X’.”
Soon after, he was featured in Mary Engelbreit’s “Home Companion” magazine and began receiving commissions. She had found a niche.
“Doing pet portraits is a very good cash flow for artists,” Troup said. “I’m not really applying, but I have a lot of people asking me to do them because I did them in the last 20 years.”
Clients often ask Troup to paint various pets as they join the family over the years. Crista Hogan has commissioned three portraits: “’Stella the Wonderdog,’ ‘Breaker, my sweet Irish setter,’ and a joint portrait of the cats Dewey and Nuni,” Hogan said.
“It’s hard to express how much they mean to me,” Hogan added. “The only one who is still with us is Nuni, but thanks to Jane’s art, I have them all present in spirit.”
Do Your Research, Then Tune Out: The Painting Process
After accepting a commission for a pet portrait, Troup requests several photos and a description of the pet’s personality.
“I don’t want to just copy a photo,” he said. “That’s not interesting to me. I use various photos to get a three-dimensional idea of what they look like, what their personality is like.”
Then she takes a step back.
“I take all that information and then I go offline and paint it,” Troup said.
Clients can request a solid color background or have the Troup incorporate a nature scene with a beloved mountain or tree.
Kathryn Hope commissioned Troup to do an oil painting of her family’s Doberman, Spencer, and her African gray parrot, Bob Hope, who were best friends. Troup incorporated flowers and trees from Hope’s garden into the scene.
After Spencer passed away, Hope asked Troup to paint the family’s blackbird blue Australian Shepherd, Henry.
“She spent several days with Henry to understand his personality, and she got him and his expression perfectly,” Hope said.
Troup paints in a surreal style, so he can display familiar objects in unexpected ways.
“You put a tree on a little stand and you’ve identified what it is, but you don’t see its true nature,” Troup said. “But if it’s presented in a different way, then you can start to understand things about it that you didn’t when it was too familiar.”
You give Plato the opportunity to show you those Forms instead of simply relying on your own limited vision.
“It’s worked for me because now people are familiar with my style,” Troup said. “They get it.”
try and try again
Troup compares his process to archery. At first, he tries to hit the target, if not the bull’s-eye.
“You start somewhere and you keep trying to perfect it,” he said, pointing to a pet portrait on his easel. “That green is going to be water. I’ll probably do two more sessions, at least.”
A session lasts three or four hours as he works on pieces and repaints. She uses acrylics or oils.
“Sometimes I can get the whole frame out in about six hours, but sometimes it can take 20 hours because it has to be taken out,” he said.
Troup knows when it’s done intuitively.
“I usually listen to a recorded book or music so I can give the poor part of my brain that wants to control everything something to do,” Troup said. “So I just paint without thinking too much about it.
“That’s a secret. That’s why I do pretty well, because I know how to slip into that spot.”