An artist lives on through her art

Jane Champagne … for many in the arts community of Southampton and beyond, the name conjures up a strong image of ‘joie de vivre’. When Jane died, it was a loss not only for her daughters but also for those she inspired to live their lives to the fullest.

We wrote a special tribute to Jane on the day she died (March 28, 2008) and, given that her daughters are now giving many the pleasure of viewing Jane’s many works of art at the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre, we thought that we would give our readers the opportunity to read more about her. She was quite a gal!

Jane Champagne Painting on Location at Lake George Killarney Provincial Park

This is NOT an obituary but the way I knew Jane.

Anyone in Southampton who is involved with the arts community or the environment, or just about any other cause, knows Jane Champagne.

It isn’t often that a name and ‘joie de vivre’ can be said in the same breath, but with Jane, it was easy for she loved life, loved the out of doors and, above all, loved painting.  She viewed the beauty of nature the way that few can and was one of those fortunate enough to be able to translate that to canvas for those who could not.

Born in Toronto in July, 1930, Jane graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Toronto and, true to form, went off to France to study language and culture.  It was there that she fell in love with painting and, for ten years, painted in Paris, in Greece and in Italy.

When she returned to Canada, and while raising her daughters Sophie and Anne, she became a writer-editor for magazines, such as MacLeans, Homemaker and The Canadian Composer.   Once her children were grown however, Jane returned to her first love … painting.

Throughout Ontario and, in particular, Killarney, she became an accomplished plein air artist, creating vivid landscapes from the beauty around her.

In her book “Painting the Ontario Landscape”, Jane describes her adventures of painting throughout the countryside.  Published by The University of Toronto Press in 1991, the book still inspires would-be and long-time painters both.

She once said that, “Someone gave me a copy of Churchill’s ‘Painting as a Pastime’ when I was still an art student and it has stayed with me ever since – six times across the Atlantic and several moves in Canada.  It’s tattered but unbowed … the image of the redoubtable Churchill facing one of his biggest challenges, a blank canvas, inevitably encourages even the faintest of heart.”  So much, did she admire the man, his writing and his art that she recommended it as reading in her own book.


Having spent many summers in Southampton, it was only a matter of course for Jane to be very involved in the Southampton Art School & Gallery where, for approximately 20 years, she was an instructor and, where as a plein air artist, founded the Ontario Outdoor Painting Society.  She knew every director since the school’s inception and, through her affiliations with groups, such as the prestigious Arts and Letters Club of Toronto of which she was a member, she was instrumental in getting many high-quality instructors to come to the school to teach.A colleague and friend, from the Friends of Killarney, Phil Chadwick, was one of those who came at Jane’s bidding to take up the Artist in Residence position.   “Oh my, this is very sad indeed.  She will be missed; her energy and drive to move society ahead … one step at a time … with so much enthusiasm for life in all of its colours and texture.  She helped me greatly.  True artists of life and paint tend to do that.”

And true artist of life she was.  She surrounded herself with a wide, eclectic circle of friends or rather they surrounded her.  They admired her tenacity, her strength, her generosity and her courage and honesty to say what she felt.

It was only recently that she ‘took up pen’ once again to write a weekly column in the local newspaper where she expounded on many subjects of which she felt strongly and even took the time to write several missives to this publication.  But it was still her art that was the passion of her life.

“As far as I’m concerned, painting small pen and wash sketches capture the essence of a place better than any photograph, for the painter at least, and for those who have explored the Park (Killarney) and loved it.  There’s something about the immediacy – the need to get on paper that sparkling moment, Killarney’s special, indescribable light, colour contrasts, water depths and reflections.

I could go on … and on …

… and, through her art, Jane will.

Jane died suddenly this morning in Southampton Hospital and is already missed.

Sandy Lindsay

March 28, 2008