Late bloomer: At 98, Palos Park woman has done more than 200 oil paintings
By Susan DeMar Lafferty email@example.com February 23, 2014 7:30PM
Jane Frazer catalogued her many oil paintings with photographs of them. | Susan DeMar Lafferty~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 25, 2014 6:12AM
Jane Frazer always has been rather creative, so it was no surprise to her family when — in her retirement — she developed a hidden talent for painting.
At age 98, Frazer now is the artist in residence at Peace Village in Palos Park, where many of her paintings are on display in the halls and in many individual apartments, including her own.
Before she retired from her job at Warren Turf Nursery, Frazer never had painted before. She picked it up as a hobby to pass the time and because it wasn’t expensive. Since then, she estimates, Frazer has completed more than 200 oil paintings, mostly landscapes.
“I couldn’t stay in the house 24 hours a day, so I found some free art classes,” said Frazer, formerly of Evergreen Park. “I needed to do something, and this was free.”
Her varied portfolio features rural scenes, beaches, bridges, forests and flowers. About 20 are displayed in a long, sunny hallway on the first floor at Peace Village, which bought several of Frazer’s works.
She attributes her success to having good teachers. One teacher in particular gave her a lot of artistic freedom.
“She would make suggestions for improvement, but she didn’t try to change what I was doing,” Frazer said. “That kept my interest going. I was there to do what I wanted to do.”
She especially wanted to paint scenery. Most of her landscapes are from the South Side of Chicago.
With her art supplies stashed in her car, Frazer would drive around the area, and if something caught her eye, she would stop and paint. If she could not stop at that moment, she would make a note of the location and return when she could.
“I liked to paint on the spot, instead of from a photograph,” she said. “I didn’t travel much.”
She also considered herself a “fast painter” — completing a scene in a couple of days.
But if it didn’t turn out as she planned, she would paint over it.
“Once I had an idea, it didn’t take me long,” she said. “I’m pretty fast at whatever I do.”
She shied away from portraitures.
“I knew my vision would not be the same as their vision of themselves,” she said.
Her advice to those who may want to dabble in the arts — or anything — is simple: “Try it. You never know. I didn’t know.”
Jane Frazer’s name is well known at Peace Village, said her caregiver, Marj Villarin.
“If they don’t know her personally, they know her name. People see her and say, ‘Oh, you’re Jane Frazer? I’ve seen your paintings,’ ” she said. “I feel like I’m taking care of a celebrity.”
Frazer admitted it “feels good” seeing all her artwork in the halls of this retirement community where she has lived for 15 years. After suffering a minor stroke a few years ago, she no longer paints, but she still enjoys playing cards, working on jigsaw puzzles, doing crafts and reading.
“She was always creative, always used her talents in one way or another,” her son Bruce Frazer said. She also sewed clothes, polished gemstones, designed jewelry and was “quite an excellent cook,” he said.
Many years ago, his mother entered a contest to design a logo for the Evergreen Park Public Library and won. She also exhibited — and sold — her artwork at local art shows.
“She had a locker full of paintings,” Bruce Frazer said.
Family members, including her son, daughter, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, all have selected their favorites.
“I’ve been around so long, I’ve done it all,” Jane Frazer said. “It’s all about using your mind. I can’t just sit here and watch TV. It puts me to sleep.”