804. A Day in the Life–What's It Really Like to Be an Artist?
Jennifer J L Jones
“But the biggest gift in it for me is to see how it helps people. It either is making them happy or it’s helping to heal them. I have paintings in different hospitals and I’ve heard from numerous people that have seen the work and eventually contacted me, telling me that was the only thing that made them feel better. And in fact, it’s actually, it’s 9/11 today. So the fact that when 9/11 actually happened, I had people that I had never met before emailing me, telling me that looking at my art, even on the web, was the only thing that made them feel better during that time.”
Jennifer J L Jones is an American artist known for her elegant multi-layered glazed abstract paintings inspired by nature. Her work is exhibited and sought after worldwide by private and public collectors. Jones was born in 1971 in Alexandria, Virginia, and received her BFA from the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She works full time as an exhibiting artist going on 21 years. After living in cities growing her career, Jones now resides in Port Royal, S.C. She is working on her second coffee table book, memoir and preparing for several upcoming shows.
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
“I was 28 and living back in Chicago. To pay the bills, while I painted on the side, I worked in the HR department of a national company. After a long day I’d go home and paint into the wee hours of the morning. I realized that I couldn’t continue to do this, so I called my parents and asked them for a little money. My parents are generous people and had even dipped into their pension to help me pay for school at The Art Institute of Chicago a few years earlier. At this point, however, they were simply not able to help me, not even a little bit.
“That was my wake up call. I realized I did not have a back up plan. There’s nobody else, just me. So I decided that if I didn’t put 110% into my work as an artist, it’s not going to happen. I quit my job in Chicago, moved to Atlanta and lived with my brother while I put together a small body of my work. I sold it all, and ever since then the work flow has been consistently growing—for 21 straight years.”
The Most Powerful Lessons Learned?
1. Listen to your instincts, your heart.
By the time I was in the 9th grade, I knew I wanted to be an artist.
It’s the one thing in my life I’ve never doubted about myself.
2. Seek out mentors. They are always there.
There were so many teachers along my journey who spent time encouraging my talent and also sharing resources and introducing me to opportunities such as art competitions that I would never have found on my own.
3. Get as much formal training as you can.
My time at The Art Institute of Chicago gave me a broad and deep foundation in all the arts. I experienced sculpture, ceramics, fiber, drawing, collage, paper making and even film. I’ve incorporated all of these modalities into my painting.
4. Your career never follows a straight line.
The journey to being a professional artist always follows a winding path. After art school I took several kinds of jobs to pay the bills while I continued to hone my painting skills. I always kept my eye on my ultimate goal because I knew that it would happen when the time was right. And it did.
5. Learn practical skills in addition to artistic ones.
Working in other jobs gave me an invaluable foundation in how to be more organized, manage money, work with all kinds of people and manage my schedule. These real-world skills have been invaluable in growing my business and allow me more time to focus on my art.
6. Be open to unexpected opportunities to grow your audience.
When the Olympics came to Atlanta in July of 1996, a photographer friend of mine was offered a space to curate her own show. She asked me and a few other artists to exhibit as well. I created 13 new works in the span of a month after my day job in a frame shop. I sold all my paintings and that launched my art career in Atlanta.
7. Always remember the impact your work can have on the lives of others.
The biggest gift for me of being an artist is how it helps people—to bring joy to their lives or even help them heal. After 9/11, I had scores of people from around the country reach out to say that looking at and experiencing my art was a great relief during those trying days.
Connecting With Jennifer J L Jones
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