If I look at my past, the signs were there.
My grandma and uncle were artists and my mom had artistic leanings. I used to spend my childhood painting and drawing and baking, but most of all, I was a voracious reader. Ironically, doing well in school actually pulled me away from the land of art. I was on the college-prep path without any spare time to think about creative endeavors. However, I remember peering into the high school art room as I walked to my classes, wishing I had time to take a class--it seemed like magic was happening inside there.
I started college at the University of Illinois as a Russian major and finished as an English major (with a brief sojourn to San Francisco during my sophomore year in hopes of becoming a chef.) After graduating, I worked as a technical editor at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) writing computer manuals and interviewing scientists for articles. I had a great job that allowed me to travel, but I just “didn’t fit.” I was unhappy, and didn’t know how to find what would make me happy. My roommate was an engineering major and another friend was a speech pathologist. I used to “interview” them, trying to figure out how they KNEW what it was they wanted to be without ever waivering from that path. I always felt something was wrong with me that I didn’t have this knowledge—that I still felt like I was floundering. I knew I was smart, but I couldn’t find my “place.”
Many of my best friends were artists, and I remember thinking, I wished that I could start over and be an artist. Once, I sent a bunch of pages I had copied from a novel about artists in the 1920’s to a graphic designer friend, and she said, “you sent me all these pages, and you would have one word highlighted on a page—artist.” I would buy tons of magazines and books, but later would realize it was because I loved the illustrations and wanted to just study them. You see, my heart was trying to send me a message, but I still couldn’t—or wouldn’t hear it. I wrote constantly, so I thought perhaps that was the pathway I was supposed to take to the land of creativity. I had come across Natalie Goldberg in the 1980’s with her book, “Writing Down the Bones.” Later, when I found out that she also was a painter, and created crazy, off-kilter paintings, I thought to myself, that’s how I draw--I can do that! I always appreciated “fine art,” but nothing pulled at me like Outsider art or children’s art.
Still, I plodded in a different direction--graduate school in Library and Information Science at University of Texas in Austin and Indiana University. Marriage happened and another corporate job in an accounting dept. I felt like my soul was being sucked out of me. I had that “empty” feeling inside again. I never could figure out why other people seemed fulfilled with their jobs, but I didn’t. I was always searching for the answer. I read all of SARK’s books and Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” and I started going to more and more art fairs. I wanted to be one of those artists! That overwhelming feeling led me to finally, at 32, begin to draw and paint again. I painted murals on our patio, on our living room wall and our kitchen cabinets (for which I appeared in the paper). After people saw that, they started seeing me as an artist. I was asked to paint chairs for an annual charity auction.
Things moved on at this pace for years. I continued to paint. I joined an art group; I was part of some gallery shows; I even painted some large “Abraham Lincoln” hats in 2008 for a public celebration (similar to Chicago’s “Cows on Parade” in 1999). Again I was in the paper, and two of the hats were on display for 3 years. However, several times, I would be in shows, and my art would be passed over. I would be crushed. I felt that no one saw me as a “true” artist, because I didn’t have the degree or didn’t paint landscapes or a stereotypical portrait. Little did I know that those times or rejection would actually help me later.
Remember when I said, the art rejections by others actually were a blessing in disguise? Well, I was so used to people not liking my stuff that I didn’t care anymore (well, at least not as much) if they didn’t like it—it no longer mattered. I knew my style of drawing and mixed-media paintings had its place in the world so I just made it. I didn’t worry if people liked it or not. I just put it out there more and more. In a sense, my life was changing as well--some friends were heading in a different direction than me and health issues forced me to scale back on tutoring Spanish and French. As a result, I found myself with more time to make art. I committed myself to buying a tent, being in shows, and painting and drawing as much as possible. I still remember one day when I was walking my dog, I stepped over a mud puddle, and the thought came to me: I never was successful or happy at all those other jobs, because that wasn’t who I was or the path I was meant to be on. I am an artist. I finally know my place in the world.
You can find my artwork at www.facebook.com/jillhejl or www.facebook.com/jujubeanart.
My website and Etsy store will be coming by the end of 2012.
Cute, wacky, and wild paintings! Welcome to the Late Bloomers :)ReplyDelete
I resonate with the path of academics getting in the way of art... my high school counselor dropped me (without my permission) from several art classes my senior year and added me into Physics and Calculus because "otherwise I wouldn't get into an Ivy League School." ARGH! I told him I wanted an art school, not ivy league! But nonetheless the classes (ceramics, photography) were filled already and I couldn't reverse the action. I did end up taking those classes my senior year of college and found that they were passions (I ended up being a potter for four years during summers off as a teacher, and still love photography) but always regretted the missed opportunity. p.s. I dropped Physics and became my art teacher's assistant!
Oh, Erin! That is horrible that your h.s. couselor did that! I'm so glad you dropped the physics and assisted your art teacher--that's taking matters into your own hands! I never had a single study hall in h.s...sometimes you DO think, "where would I be now if I had started sooner?" but in the end, maybe it was all meant to work out that way. I can tell you, I have determination to burn at this point, because of the feeling that I have less time to do things in... I hope you keep pursuing your passion for pottery and photography. Thank you for your compliments!Delete
I absolutely adore your oh-so-happy paintings and am thrilled that although your journey was full of twists and turns you are finally sharing your happy gift with the world. The colors and whimsical feel of your work just screams "happy!!!" Consider me your newest fan!!!ReplyDelete
Thank you so much, Heather! I couldn't be happier that you think they scream happy!! What a great description--I love it!! (-: It is definitely my goal to spread humor and good feelings throughout the world with my artwork. You make me feel as if "Mission Accomplished!" (-; By the way, the painting of the guy sneezing? It's called "When Snot is Beautiful." It was based on me driving to work one morning last February--I had one hand on the wheel and one hand holding coffee. I couldn't cover my mouth when I sneezed, but when I opened my eyes, these beautiful rainbow droplets were shimmering in the sunlight that was streaming in. I thought to myself, I've got to do a painting of that...and 6 months later I did! ha!Delete
Your art matches your personality: fabulous, fun, and full of youth! Your creativity and talent continue to evolve through each project you do. I am so proud to be your friend as well as have the privilege to own some of these fanciful pieces!ReplyDelete
Ashlee, my dear! Right back at ya' girl. I'm so glad we're friends and that you own some of my artwork. Thank you for being a pregnancy inspiration for my painting to you! Mwah!Delete
Wow I adore your vibrant and bold work and your process that brought you to where you are today. I am glad you bloomed and develoed deep rootsof trust in yourself. xoxReplyDelete
Corrine--Thank you! "Developed deep roots of trust in yourself"--that's the nail on the head--beautifully put! I love the name of your website...I'm off to check it out now. Thank you for your lovely comments. (-:Delete
Jill, It was great to hear your story, so similar in many ways to my own. It has been interesting to meet other late bloomers here and to know we are finally getting our time to share our art. Love your expressive faces, such a joy!ReplyDelete
Oh, thank you, Sue, for taking the time to read it. It's wonderful when we realize we are not alone...that others have had a similar journey. It makes me happy that you like my whacked out little faces. (-:Delete
Wow Jill, this is a wonderful story. I can relate so well to how you never felt satisfaction in your work. So happy for you that you've heard and answered your calling. Your style is playful and fun and wonderfully expressive. Your style also reminds me a little bit of my brother in-law. We recently did an art show together. Here is his web site if you want to see his stuff too.ReplyDelete
Looking forward to seeing your new websites at the end of the year! Best of luck to you Jill!
Thank you so much, Lisa!! I checked out both your and your brother-in-laws artwork (10/27-combined show post). I love both of your artwork! How fun to be able to share your creativity together and to have a "comrade-in-arms" in your own family. (-: Good luck to you as well, Lisa! Thank you for commenting.Delete
Jill welcome to the Late Bloomers club. I'm thrilled to see that you recognize that you are an artist. Your art work is so much fun to look at. I especially love the faces and how expressive they are. I'm so happy to see that you are doing what is pleasing and filling your heART with so much joy!ReplyDelete
Thank you, Suzanne! I am very honored to be a part of the club.(-: Your wonderful compliments mean more to me than you know. (-:Delete
That is a great story, Jill. I am a lot like you. In fact, just tonight I was sewing and having such fun and I realized that I just love sewing. I had gone many years without doing any art. I have three sisters (no brothers) and all of them are very amazing artists, but I never really considered myself to be one. Then, tonight, as I was sewing, it occurred to me that sewing is definitely one of my mediums. I love the brilliant colors of the fat quarters and it is so fun to put the colors together and make stuff!ReplyDelete
Thanks for your inspiring story!
You know, Amy, my mom is great at sewing and making quilts (and floral design and decorating). She tells me she could never paint; but then again, I could not make quilts. I have the utmost patience for painting, but if I had to line up the quilting blocks, I couldn't do it, whereas she can. Isn't it wonderful how we are all different and how we have each been given different talents? I think sewing is ABSOLUTELY an art--you are a fiber artist! That means there are FOUR very amazing artists in your family! Whatever contains that much fun and enjoyment for me is something you absolutely should keep pursuing! (-:Delete
Jill, I enjoyed reading your story. How great that you finally were able to hear what your heart was telling you! Your style is so cute and congrats on that ribbon I see in your picture!ReplyDelete
Thank you very much, Robyn. I actually got "Best in Show" that day. I can't tell you how thrilled I was! It was such a validation for my style of art. (-:Delete