Today we’d like to introduce you to Jill Williams.
Jill, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I can remember drawing from an early age, and the idea that thoughts and feelings could come out as images has always been with me. I don’t think I really knew what being an artist even meant at the time, but once I understood more about my own process, I’ve continued to embrace and nurture my creative growth.
I was pretty much self-taught until I had a few art classes in high school, and then knew that I wanted to pursue art as my vocation and ultimately earned my BFA in Painting in 1991 from The State University of West Georgia in Carrollton. Like many young artists, I struggled to find my way in terms of style and purpose during my college years, and likewise in the field once I’d graduated. I came through the art school era that lacked training in helping artists understand the business aspect of their work and struggled a fair amount.
After doing murals, outdoor shows and occasional commissions, I gave in to the lure of a steady job. I worked for the next decade as a designer, illustrator and pre-press tech for a variety of commercial printers. At that point in life, I had started a family and began to transition into freelance design work from home while also exploring a variety of creative pursuits including working in stained glass for about five years. I had three glass pattern books published during that time, but my true heart’s desire was to get back to drawing and painting.
As a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of 2 boys, I had so little time to devote to my craft, but I dreamed. I finally challenged myself around 2006 to carve out time to just work a little each day on painting, and it was the beginning of a foundation of discipline that I still build on today.
I purposed in 2014 to make my passion for painting a vocation. I felt relatively accomplished as an artist by that time, but I knew that I needed to continue to strengthen my skills and my craft to compete in the market. More importantly, I realized that defining my voice as a painter would take more serious dedication. No artist should feel they have arrived, but always be willing to grow. I trained with other skilled painters, began to focus more on exhibiting, network and selling more work. Several doors have opened for me in the last six years as a result, and I’ve begun to teach others to paint. Having worked with hundreds of people to grow and achieve their artistic goals has been a privilege. Through these experiences, I’m understanding my voice as a painter more clearly and I look forward to the next year of painting and what it will bring.
In addition to producing work from my home studio, I teach multiple classes and workshops locally, as well as weekend workshops at The Gathering of Artisans, which is a large international conference held annually near Asheville. I’ve also been networking overseas, and have been invited to teach an 8-day painting workshop in Italy in the Spring of 2021. I really cannot imagine my life without painting. I’m very grateful to simply participate in the act of creating something unique and inspired as a working artist. It’s truly an honor to see the world every day through artists’ eyes.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
During my time in college, I had small successes with sales and commissions, but it was during a time when schools didn’t really help young artists prepare for the business side of being an artist. After graduation, I had some hard realizations that I wasn’t going to make it as an artist just because I had a degree. Part-time jobs don’t go a long way to cover festival fees and supplies. After a few months, I hesitantly took a job as an illustrator for a screen print shop. I’d just entered the world of commercial art and graphic design, and it seemed like a huge hit to my ego. This wasn’t what I wanted at all. But I took solace in knowing that I had regular income, and I was learning a lot about an industry that still wanted my skills since the computer-aided design was just coming to the forefront.
After three years, I left design work for a year to teach high school art… another disappointment. I discovered they just wanted me to teach computer graphics. I took the job reluctantly, hoping it would lead to a chance at teaching painting. I just wanted to be close to painting again. Disillusioned with the process of the public education system, I went back to graphic design and prepress work for another four years. What I didn’t fully see at the time was that I discovered that was good at teaching and, I was learning the business side of art. After returning back to commercial design, I started freelancing on the side and built up a small company out of my home that could sustain itself after two years, and I quit my full-time job. For three more years, I created 1000’s of T-shirt designs and color separations, until my first son was born.
We’d love to hear more about your art.
I’m the founder and CEO of Jill Williams Watercolor, and I currently work full time as an abstract landscape painter and painting instructor. When I’m not in the studio, I teach adult watercolor on a weekly basis online through my annual watercolor subscription, called Watercolor With Jill. I also share tips and demos for free each month with my ever expanding watercolor community via Facebook and Youtube. The paintings I produce attract viewers who enjoy a peaceful, pensive mood that reconnects them to many childhood memories of growing up exploring a rural landscape. I enjoy knowing that my work communicates restfulness, infused with excitement for simplicity and wonder.
As for my teaching, it’s been an interesting and exciting path that I never really expected. I’m humbled when students tell me that I can deliver complex techniques in a simplistic way that enables them to develop much quicker than with other instruction they’ve tried. New students and repeat students alike, come to me with the expectation of growth, and I enjoy seeing the quick progress that they make. I believe it comes out of my love for painting and my desire to help others grow in this worthy pursuit.
My latest adventure as a professional artist includes traveling full time around the US in a self-converted shuttlebus. My husband and I have combined our desire for downsizing with our sense of adventure, and are taking to the road for full time travel and painting. Being able to share my various destinations with my students and patrons will be a fun and exciting way to connect and share my passion for watercolor on a whole new level.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Something I always had modeled for me growing up is perseverance. There are so many moving parts to growth and reaching goals, but perseverance is at the core of both. Perseverance ensured that I didn’t give up when I felt like it; when things weren’t going like I thought they should. It has kept me focused on growing and developing my craft and to keep learning and networking. Perseverance had encouraged me to innovate and try new things even when I didn’t want to, or feel capable. Most importantly, it’s allowed me to look beyond disappointments and setbacks and acknowledge them as part of my process.
- Website: www.jillwilliamswatercolor.com
- Email: jill@jillwilliamswatercolor.
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/
- Other: www.linkedin.com/
Laura Schillinger of Moments Matter Photography (portrait photo)