Artist of the Month: Jean Matheson: Love of Art Leads to Satisfying Career

Desert Bloom II, a watercolor by Jean Matheson, won the Best of Show award in the “One Image, No Limits” contest hosted earlier this year by the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild. (Photo by LaVerne Kyriss)

LaVerne Kyriss

Love of art leads to satisfying career.

Jean Matheson has always loved art. While there weren’t a lot of classes available to her when she was growing up, she was frequently chosen to create artwork for various school activities. She also got interested in art history and was able to take part in an international study tour after graduating high school.

In college, she pursued this love by studying to teach art. “I took everything art-related—weaving, watercolor, oil, ceramics, sculpture. I wanted to be prepared to demonstrate a wide variety of methods to my future students. I then started work in a small, rural school in Illinois where I taught art in kindergarten through 12th grade,” she said.

“One of my greatest joys is to have had an impact on students’ lives. Art can be a haven for people all their lives. It’s a place where you can create something and let other concerns drift away. Art is a way to get kids interested in school when they’re not engaged in many other aspects of school,” Matheson added. “A quote from Picasso summed up my teaching philosophy. He said, ‘Every child is born an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up,’” she smiled.

Not only was Matheson an excellent art teacher for more than 25 years, she was recently honored with the Best of Show award in the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild’s recent “One image, no limits” contest. The contest challenged Guild members to interpret a photo of a saguaro blossom provided by Guild member Janet Frost using any medium. Matheson’s watercolor piece, Desert Bloom II, features the required saguaro blossom with a Catalina mountain scape in the background.

“I knew right away I wanted to include the mountains in my entry. I’ve been intrigued by the Arizona vegetation, specifically the textural detail,” Matheson noted. “The contest gave me a chance to explore that.” “Complex composition, beautiful use of color, strong painting technique and dramatic imagination,” noted the contest judge in her remarks.

I work very slowly and build up layers. I like bold colors but still want the transparency that you can only get with watercolor. I’m also very detail-oriented, and that slows me down, too. I’d like to get a bit more free in my work and maybe even simplify more,” she reflected.

“The ‘doing’ is the satisfying part of art for me,” she said. “And the camaraderie of artists together is what drew me to the Guild. I’ve been very lucky to have spent my career doing something I loved. And now that I have more time, I’m interested in continuing to learn new things. But I have a whole list of ideas to paint before I try new things and build new skills,” Matheson laughed.

Matheson’s work and that of the other contest entries has been featured in the RoadRunner Gallery at SaddleBrooke One’s clubhouse. For more information about classes and other Guild activities, visit them online at