The Art Biz ep. 52: Making Art While Grieving Loss with Jan Heaton

Grieving is a necessary byproduct of being human.

Perhaps it's the loss of a pet, a dear family member, a relationship, or a safe structure that was taken away from you, along with the memories it held, in a disaster.

We will all grieve about something at one point or another. It's an emotion we share.

©Jan Heaton, Mandalas for Kristin – Breathe. Watercolor on paper, 22 x 22 inches. Used with permission.

When I first approached Jan Heaton to be a guest on the podcast and talk about grief, we were living in a different world. We had a recording session on the calendar and then the world as we knew it stopped.

It has become very clear that, whether or not we have lost loved ones during this pandemic, we are all dealing with grief of some sort. We have all lost something.

Artists are collectively grieving a number of things.

  • The exhibitions, art fairs and festivals, residencies, workshops, and other opportunities.
  • The plans we had made.
  • The studio spaces we can no longer visit.
  • The connection to others.
  • Our routines.
  • Our freedom to move about. To travel.

Grief on so many levels.

This is a huge topic and Jan wants to be very clear that she isn’t an expert on grief. I asked her to be on the show just to talk about her experience in hopes that it might be helpful—even if for only one person.

Listen Now

Music by Wildermiss.


  • Kristin's story (3:06)
  • Kristin's misdiagnosis (9:02)
  • Jan moves to Laguna Beach from Austin to help out Kristin and her family (11:19)
  • Everyone moves to Boston for Kristin's treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital (Mass Gen) (13:17)
  • Kristin took control of her healthcare (16:11)
  • Jan recommends recording all sessions with doctors (16:38)
  • Jan sets up a makeshift studio in Kristin's home by the beach (19:53)
  • Ali Cavanaugh recommends taking naps when the kids nap (20:48)
  • The kindness of anonymous gifts from friends and neighbors (26:47)
  • The genesis of the Big Pink Blanket of Love project (31:13)
  • Davis Gallery raises $35,000 for The Peabody Fund in 2017 with the exhibition Mandalas for Kristin (32:00)
  • The Big Pink Blanket of Love auction is delayed because of Covid-19 (38:13)
  • How Jan is spending time during Covid-19 (38:33)
  • “Sometimes art is not just about making the art.” (42:25)
Jan with The Big Pink Blanket of Love – Davis Gallery September 2019.

Mentioned and Recommended

Jan (right) and her daughter, Kristin.

About My Guest

Born in Michigan, Jan Heaton is a watercolorist who calls Austin and Laguna Beach home. She has studied at Wayne State University, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the University of Texas – Austin. Heaton’s watercolors are abstract, but her creative process is inspired by the structure, color, and pattern of elements in nature that are often overlooked. Her work isolates details and exposes the viewer to an everyday object or place seen from a new viewpoint.

Jan is represented by the Davis Gallery in Austin, along with art dealers and galleries in San Antonio, Marble Falls, Houston, Atlanta, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco.

Music by Wildermiss.


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6 thoughts on “The Art Biz ep. 52: Making Art While Grieving Loss with Jan Heaton”

  1. Thanks for this. I listened while I worked here in my home studio/gallery, matting and framing work that’s been lying around for some time. Kristin’s story is sadly moving but also inspiring… I also cling to the hope and optimism that guided her life.

    Thanks, too, for broaching the subject of the loss and grief we are all feeling now. I lost my dear mother unexpectedly last July, and her death began a sad, steady drumbeat of loss that continued for 6 months, taking my father-in-law, brother-in-law and dear aunt, my Mom’s only sister. Losing so many significant people so close together was brutal.

    I’m not sure that I’d connected that grief to what I feel now due to the pandemic. Sure, the workshop in Mallorca planned for April didn’t happen, and all shows have gone virtual for now. But I feel the most loss around not being able to meet a friend for coffee or lunch… to talk, to hug.

    1. Thank you John. I am sorry to hear about your Mom.
      I do believe they will be in our hearts forever. I am missing my friends also. Grateful for the ability to make art. Kindly, Jan

    2. Alyson Stanfield

      John: I can’t imagine all of those losses in one year. And now this. You are a survivor and I’m inspired by your fortitude and attitude.

  2. Incredibly thoughtful, powerful interview. I appreciated Jan’s candor in sharing such an intimate and painful experience.
    Jan, with the love and grace and fortitude with which you face the world, it is no wonder that you were supported and surrounded by so much love in your community. Kristin sounds like an amazing young woman.
    Davis Gallery seems particularly wonderful. The mandalas are soulful and beautiful.
    Thank you Jan and Alyson.

    1. Thank you Christine for taking the time to send a message. The Mandala event was amazing. . . and you are correct Davis Gallery in Austin
      is pretty amazing. It does take a village. Hope you and your family are safe and well. Jan

    2. Alyson Stanfield

      Thank you for listening, Christine. I’m so lucky to have artists like Jan who are willing to be vulnerable and share their personal stories.

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