Everything is relative.
One of the many reasons local artist Jan Hodson moved to Payson four years ago is that it's such a big town.
"Where we lived before, in Star Valley, Wyo., it was very isolated," Hodson said. "We were in a 50-mile-long Valley that had no stoplights."
That makes it tough to sell paintings. Even paintings as good as Hodson's, which are good indeed.
Hodson, who is president of the Payson Art League, has just been juried into the prestigious Signature Show of the American Academy of Women Artists. She is also a member of the Sedona Art League and has been in that group's member show the past two years. And for those who need a Hodson fix between shows, her work is on display at the Roberts Gallery in El Pedregal in Scottsdale.
Not bad for a lady who only began painting seriously four years ago when she and husband John moved to Payson.
"I majored in art in college," Hodson said. "In fact, I was a painting major. But then life got in the way. I raised a family and had a career. I retired from Wyoming State Hospital as director of activities."
The first five years of retirement the Hodsons spent wandering the country in an RV.
"We did every state except North Dakota and Minnesota," she said. "We spent a lot of time in Arizona in the winter."
The Hodsons moved to Payson for several reasons, not the least of which that it reminded them of Wyoming.
"We had been looking for some place to winter, and my daughter in Phoenix said, ‘You might like Payson,'" Hodson said. "We spent a night here and drove around Payson. We went back to Wyoming and one day we were sitting there and decided Payson would be a nice place to be.
"It's the beauty that brought us here. Each individual has their own things that are important, and the mountains and trees are extremely important to me."
But it's also the people and the opportunity to interact with a community of artists.
"It's really a friendly, open town," she said. "You go to the store and people are like they were 20 years ago. They welcome you and they visit with you."
Once here, Hodson weighed the pros and cons of finally committing herself to painting.
"I had dabbled in Wyoming, but when I came down here I had to make a conscious decision -- whether I really wanted to see if I could make it in the art world, whether I wanted to try and invest that much energy and money.
"I decided to try it and so far it's been going pretty well."
Hodson works primarily in oils, concentrating on landscapes with a special interest in trees. Her paintings range from very large works to miniatures, and from realistic to abstract.
Although she normally works in her studio from her own photographs, she occasionally paints outdoors at the scene.
"I think when I'm outdoors I paint more impressionistic," she said. "I wonder if it's because it requires you to paint a lot faster."
Another unique aspect of Hodson's technique is that she doesn't use a brush.
"I paint totally with knives," she said. "I was introduced to it when I was in college. I tend to get muddy with a brush. I tend not to keep my colors clean."
Hodson, whose very first interest in art was fostered by an outstanding high school teacher, is passionate about the values inherent in the fine arts.
"The fine arts humanize us," she said. "I'm speaking of drama, of music, of all the arts. Viewing and experiencing the arts, listening to classical music, enriches my soul. It makes me feel whole."
It's not surprising she takes a dim view of cutbacks in the fine arts programs at the area's schools.
"To me it's an absolute travesty that the schools are giving up the fine arts programs," she said. "When we lose the fine arts, then we have nothing to enrich our souls. Then we are nothing but machines."
Hodson also encourages support of the local art community.
"Payson has some excellent artists, some fine fine artists, and a lot of new ones are coming in,"she said. "We have the opportunity to put Payson on the art map just as Prescott and Sedona are becoming.
"It's so important that our small community strive for the highest caliber of arts we can attain.We can go as far as we want to go."
PAL's fall show
The Payson Art League's Fall 2003 Fine Art and Fine Craft Show & Sale will be held Nov. 7-9 at the Tonto Apache Activity Center.
The show opens with a wine and dessert artists' reception from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday evening with a $5 donation. Saturday and Sunday show hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with free admission.
Go to www.paysonartleague. com to view samples of the artists' works. For more information cal (928) 474-8658.