Self-taught artist shares her talent

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 7, 2001


PHOTO: ON HER WAY UP in the world, Janice Babin has made her way in life through her art, starting in the little house she grew up in, displayed in her painting 105 West 10th St., at right. Creating through paint, Babin is a self-taught artist who has proved herself commercially and in the galleries. Busy as a bee, her joyful personality is as evident in her presence as in her paintings. (Staff Photo by Daniel Tyler Gooden) Janice Babin started with a paint brush and some attic space. The youngest of seven children, Babin lived in a converted bedroom in the attic of their LaPlace home. “I was in the attic room, and it needed to have some stripes come this way and down and a few trees,” said Babin, illustrating with her hands. She soon moved on to painting crafts. Birdhouses, furniture and other woodwork all felt the touch of her brush. “I got a piece of canvas one day and painted a swamp scene. I was finished in an hour. I didn’t have to sand, putty, take to the show or anything. It was easy,” said Babin. She continued painting, driven in part by a connection to her father, Benedict Weber, who died when she was 16 months old. “I’ll paint something and wonder ‘what made me paint this?’ I think my dad would have liked it. He had something to do with it,” said Babin. As she grew older she continued to paint on anything. Canvas, wood, concrete, shale, sheetrock walls, hand saws, circular saws, T-shirts, almost everything has felt the touch of Babin’s paint. She began to get more recognition when a friend in Donaldsonville put her art in her shop. Officials with the Donald-sonville Historical Museum saw some of her work and asked if they could sell a painting at one of their auctions. They found some old shale roof slates in the attic and asked if she would paint some pictures on them for their silent auctions. Though the shale was brittle and often broke, Babin finished 10 pieces that turned out to be very popular in the auction. At one of the auctions Chef John Folse and the Donaldsonville mayor got into a bidding battle over one of her pieces. “People were looking at me, and I was both embarrassed and very excited,” said Babin. Later she painted a picture of Folse’s Lafitte’s Landing in Donald-sonville, which had burned down a few years before. “He said a lot of people had written about it and sent photos, but he didn’t have a painting of it. He was thrilled,” said Babin. In 1999 she was commissioned to design the 1999 Sunshine Festival poster by the Donaldsonville Chamber of Commerce. She has also done commissioned murals for local businesses and private residences. “A friend commissioned a painting of Dale Earnhardt’s car. Her husband was a big fan, and he was very happy with his birthday present,” said Babin. She does a lot of swamp scenes, landscapes and old homes. One painting depicted a sugar cane farm where a buyer’s husband had worked most of his life. “I didn’t know what all the equipment in the picture was, so I turned the photo upside down and painted it. It was easier painting the shapes than trying to figure out what they were,” said Babin with a laugh. The swamp scenes are a big hit in the galleries. “Tourists like to take home a little bit of Louisiana,” said Babin. Animals are her favorite subjects. “I had three dogs. One was just sassy, the other one was very proud and the third you could tell was thinking I’m just a hunting dog,'” said Babin. The owner of the dogs could not believe how the personalities of each animal had been captured so well. In the last year Babin has spread her talent through teaching. Working with the River Region Art Gallery in Sorrento, last year she taught 10 weeks of fine art classes to 8- to 14-year-olds. At first she planned to have a class of 10 for each week-long session, but there were so many children who wanted to sign up she crowded 15 students into a small room and they had the time of their lives. By the last week session there was a waiting list 50 names deep of children who wanted to paint. “This year were getting a bigger room,” said Babin. She also teaches decorative painting to senior citizens in Ascension Parish. “They would take the beginning classes over again because they liked the atmosphere. I got such a kick out of working with them,” said Babin. She also teaches art in the St. James Parish School System’s gifted program and maintains a website at With all the teaching and a recent move to Sorrento from her hometown of LaPlace, Babin has been busy to say the least. “I’m the PVC queen,” Babin said, explaining a long renovation of her new house. She is also raising two growing boys, Matthew, 10, and Marcus, 7. Painting is her love, her passion and her life, and she is passing that love on to others. She spends much of her time at the River Region Art Gallery, where she is treasurer and has some of her work displayed. “It’s much easier than when I sold out of the trunk of my car,” Babin said with a smile.