Arts & Culture

Five Minutes With: Artist Jean Norton-Torjussen

Jean Norton-Torjussen paints from her Beaufort home, but she might as well be doing it from the Far East.

The watercolor artist revived her painting career by taking on Lowcountry scenes with an influence from Chinese art.

Norton-Torjussen, a retired newspaper editor, is the newest resident artist at ARTworks in Beaufort. The resident artist program allows locals to rent space at the gallery to work and show.

Norton-Torjussen explains how an Asian influence crept into her art.

Question. How do you explain your art?

Answer. Basically, I'm doing Chinese watercolor and mixing it with pen and ink. It's an "East meets West" type of art. I started with flowers and am moving into Lowcountry landscapes.

Q. How did that come about?

A. It's just always been a fascination for me. In my home I have Asian artifacts and gifts from people and books. It's just always felt like home. I've never been there, but maybe I'll get there one of these days.

Q. How long have you been painting?

A. I studied (fine arts) at the University of Maryland. But the last time I painted was 1984. I picked it up again about a year ago.

Q. Why did you start again?

A. Because of a phone call from a friend. I hadn't seen her in 40 years. She asked how my artwork was going. I said, "I don't think it's going at all" (laughs). I ended up going with watercolors, which both my parents painted with.

Q. Was it difficult to pick up again?

A. My first sketching was horrible. I looked at it and thought, "Good heavens." My 5-year-old stepson at the time could have done better. It was sheer grit that I knew I could do this.

Q. And now you're at ARTworks?

A. At first I was a bit hesitant about painting around others, but the people in the vicinity turned out to be wonderful. There's a lot of interaction. I moved a few easy chairs into the area so we can sit and read or talk.

Q. It's the place to hang.

A. Exactly.