Whatcom Magazine

Bellingham designer Jane Burns creates ‘Bold Maid’ art cards

Bellingham graphic designer and artist Jane Burns favors bold splashes of color, both in her art and in the way she decorates her workspace. Maybe that’s one of the reasons her current favorite project is a card game she calls “Bold Maid.”

“I had always fun playing Old Maid as a kid,” she says, but, she adds in hindsight, the negative connotations about single women were oh so wrong, especially for little girls.

“So, with a simple twist, ‘Old’ becomes ‘Bold,’ and presto chango, the loser becomes the winner,” she says. “I just had to take out her warts, freshen up her glasses, give her a wheel, and set her loose. ... Now I’m eying that teetering pile of book and game ideas to see who jumps off next.”

It’s obvious that Burns had fun designing the cards, many of which pay tribute to people in her life. There’s DotDot, with a cartoonish image of an older woman with a butter-bean-shaped face, because of Burns’ love for Southern cooking. There’s Ginger Snap, an image based on Burns’ mother, with a background that reminds her of the wallpaper in the house where she grew up. And there’s Mister Ray (say it quickly and you’ll see why it honors the undercover work of a San Francisco police officer).

Burns has always loved to create art.

“Ever since I can remember I’ve loved to draw, play and write,” she says. “I blame my family for my affinity for games and engaging in mind trickery as a sport, but some of the shenanigans I amuse myself with are just unavoidably me.”

With her eye for design, it’s the visual world, more than particular artists, that inspires her.

“I am no more inspired by any particular artist as by the path of a yo-yo; 12 - exactly 12 - birds on a line; the trajectory of a Ping-Pong ball; or a shadow that is just so,” she says.

Burns is quite philosophical about her work.

“I keep busy with one aspect or another of making a living with art,” she says. “I like when the muse takes a break so I can catch up on those tasks for which she is unsuited. But really, she never leaves. ... She only pretends she’s gone.”

Burns was a painter and illustrator for 30 years, but “all that waggling to and fro of the paintbrush” led to tendonitis in her wrist.

“So I hastily taught myself to chase the stylus instead, and am now illustrating and doing graphic design on the computer,” she says. “I sprinkle in just enough painting to keep the more tangled parts of my brain in order.”

Working with computer graphics inspired her to leaf through the pile of children’s book and game ideas she has accumulated and set aside over the years. Fleshing them out on the computer is an easier task than doing so by hand, she says, and at this stage of her career is the kind of work she’d most like to pursue.

And what does she have to brag about?

“Locally I’m very pleased with the look of Pepper Sisters restaurant,” she says. “I did the paintings, menus and designed signage, so it’s the whole package.”

In the 1990s, Nordstrom commissioned her for paintings that ended up in stores all over the country, she says. She’s also proud to have had the Washington State Arts Commission purchase several of her paintings for schools and universities. And a couple of children’s books she collaborated on for Random House and Chronicle Books were, she says, “a bit of a feather in my little cap.”

Her styles vary from abstract to what she calls “storytelling figurative.”

“I’m always surprised when people can recognize my work as mine,” she says. “I think it’s all over the place.”