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Jo Annette Sieve: Landscaps and Portraits

Article by Sue Snively

Local Artists – February 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

The Card Game

They sit, five distinguished men on a hill, under the sprawling branches of a tree, concentrating intently on the card game they are playing. One of the individuals has thick white hair, and sits with his back against the tree, looking to be in deep thought. Perhaps his next move in the card game is the subject of his thinking, but I think not. My imagination tells me he is thinking about how to take cover from the ferocious wind. Another subject is looking off into the distance, as if the card game is trivial and he has better things to do; perhaps he is planning a polite escape. They all stand out in the picture, not because of who they are, but because of the way the artist has fit them into the unusual background.

The Card Game, by Jo Annette Sieve
The Card Game, by Jo Annette Sieve

The card players look as if they are about to get blown away. Brush strokes portray an intense wind that you can almost feel on your face and in your hair. The tree branches and grass bend with the wind, indicating its strength, and making you wonder if it will soon sweep the men off. One amazing thing about the painting is that it is all done in rather subdued shades of orange, white and black with apparent streaks of light showing through the background. It is really a black and white pastel done on colored paper and is one of Jo Annette Sieve’s earlier works.

Jo Annette Sieve, of Buena Vista, works mostly in oils and pastels but she likes watercolors and pencil as well. She does portraits of people and animals, and paints landscapes which often portray animals in their natural habitat. She frequently combines her talent for writing with her art work.

Ms. Sieve sold her first oil painting when she was 12 years old. Since then, art has played an important part in her life. Even though her concentration after graduating from high school was focused on raising her family of four girls and a boy, she managed to stay in the art world on a professional basis, working as an artist for Hallmark Cards and as a package designer for a large manufacturer based out of Kansas City, Missouri. She also did free-lance work.

When her children were in their teens, the family moved to an acreage near Parker, where they strove to live a self-sufficient lifestyle. All of their food came from the farm, including fruits, vegetables, and wheat. Their meat came from the animals they raised.

Ms. Sieve also wrote articles about country living and self-sufficiency for country and livestock magazines, many of them about the goats she raised. Ms. Sieve bred and showed purebred, registered Nubian and French Alpine Dairy Goats. The family sold goat cheese, milk and show stock. She was co-founder of the High Plains Dairy Goat Association; a frequent winner in Colorado Cheese Contests; and wrote many articles that included recipes for chevre (goat cheese).

Jo Annette also developed and sold a note card line called Country Concept Note cards, which featured pictures and passages about farm animals. There is a card about a cow named Lilly and her calf, that exults in maternal love. The writing is particularly poignant:

“‘God speed and good luck!’ I wish to those who challenge Space or climb the corporate ladder. But I, in contrast, must dance to Earth’s ancient tune. Thus bound to the music of the ages, She sings to me with: the scent of bread baking, poppies in bloom, birth and baby animals, hand spun woven cloth and strong family ties.”

Up Near Independence Pass

An award-winning pastel painting called Up Near Independence Pass is part of another note card line Sieve markets. (It’s on the cover of this edition.)

Up Near Indpendence Pass, by Jo Annette Sieve
Up Near Indpendence Pass, by Jo Annette Sieve

On the back side of the card she writes of the coyote in the foreground: “A lone and optimistic coyote tracks a herd of elk in the eternal quest to feed himself. Ignoring the harsh weather and with his nose to the ground, he concentrates on the scent.” When you look at this work, you can almost feel the anticipation of the tracking coyote as he progresses upward. The painting, through lighting and depth, shows the difficult climb up the pass, over rocky terrain through groves of conifers along a snowy and rock-lined stream.

In 1995, after the children were raised, Ms. Sieve and her husband divorced and Jo Annette moved from her small farm to a crowded townhouse complex in Aurora. In the ensuing years, she concentrated on making a living in a variety of occupations and her artistic endeavors had to take a back seat.

During that time, she maintained her interest in nature by visiting the Cherry Creek Reservoir and Park, where she pursued her love for sailing. Sieve bought, restored and refitted three sailboats, living and sailing on them most summer weekends before she sold them. This sport was the most challenging thing she had ever attempted. Unlike art or her other endeavors, mistakes in sailing can be life-threatening. “Thus I acquired invaluable dimension to my life experiences, as well as creating confidence in myself that has spilled over into all aspects of my life,” Ms. Sieve says.

In 2001, with her boat in storage, she decided it was time to get back to a more active “art life.” Jo Annette joined the Aurora Art Guild and began painting on a regular basis. She has since been juried into many shows and exhibits, and has won numerous awards.

The Kansas Farmer

The Kansas Farmer sits behind the large steering wheel of his John Deere tractor, looking to his fields, and squinting under the shadow of his cap as the winter sun warms the distant land. His face is rugged from years of exposure on the weathered Kansas plains. The wrinkles around his eyes and mouth define his character; he looks tough and yet kind.

Kansas Farmer, by Jo Annette Sieve
Kansas Farmer, by Jo Annette Sieve

The man is Charlie Johnson, Jo Annette’s grandfather. “He was thoughtful and kind and a very influential and loving grandfather,” she says. “I created the painting from a tattered old black and white photo with the goal of bringing him back to life so my family and myself can remember him forever.”

In 2005, it was time to retire, and Sieve essentially “moved back to the country” and settled near Buena Vista. She loves living here and has acquired some really wonderful friends in her neighborhood and within the art community. One of the best aspects of moving back to a rural area is the wonderful scenery which is just waiting out there for her to paint.

Sieve recently finished a large commissioned piece of The View from Cottonwood Pass for “Editions Ltd.,” a large and well established art gallery in Indianapolis, Indiana. The gallery will be representing the artist by exhibiting some of her future work.

As can be seen in The Kansas Farmer, Ms Sieve is adept at capturing the heart and soul of people and animals in her portrait work. There is a wonderful picture of a Canadian Goose skimming across the waves in a Colorado pond; and there is the motorcycle man!

The View from Cottonwood Pass, by Jo Annette Sieve
The View from Cottonwood Pass, by Jo Annette Sieve

Bound for Sturgis

He sits on the seat of his Harley, gripping the handlebars. One can almost hear the characteristic thump, thump of the American motorcycle. His countenance exudes the pleasure he gets anticipating his next ride. He is long-time Colorado and Buena Vista resident, Gary Barnthouse, and is portrayed sitting on his pride and joy near Trout Creek Pass.

As the title of Sieve’s pastel painting indicates, Barnthouse is “Bound for Sturgis.” When Jo Annette told him she created this portrait to show people “what this man is about,” he grinned and said, “Well, that’s real easy, it’s about a man havin’a lot of fun!” Bound for Sturgis has won many awards for Ms. Sieve.

Bound for Sturgis, by Jo Annette Sieve
Bound for Sturgis, by Jo Annette Sieve

Three of Ms. Sieve’s paintings, including two landscapes and one portrait, were entered in The Pastel Society of Colorado’s “Mile High National Exhibit and Sale” last October at the Red Brick Center for the Arts in Aspen, Colorado. The show was juried by Bob Rohm, a well known pastel artist, and over 80 artists were represented. “Evening on the Arkansas,” a landscape Jo Annette entered, won third place overall. The painting is a perfect example of how she adds animals to the foreground of her paintings. A coyote coming up from the river blends in perfectly with the background, and serves as a focal point without standing out.

A recent addition to her art portfolio is a unique and interesting note card line called “Images of the Arkansas.” One rather striking picture is of The Narrows, a white water area north of Buena Vista.

Besides creating artistic and literary pieces, Ms. Sieve hopes to begin sharing her talents through teaching. She’s already given a workshop at Colorado Mountain College called “Basic Pastels and Beyond.”

Goose, by Jo Annette Sieve
Goose, by Jo Annette Sieve

Jo Annette’s art work, including her paintings and note cards, are now on exhibit and for sale at the Cartwright Gallery at 149 W. First Street in Salida. Sieve may also be contacted directly regarding her art work, or for information on her art classes at 303-378-6096.

Words by Sue Snively, who writes articles about artists and writers in the Arkansas Valley, when she’s not busy dealing with her cat, dogs, and husband. Some pictures by Frank Snively, who keeps hoping for some magic computer program that will correct his mistakes automatically.