Illustration, Graphic Design, Mixed Media, My Journey to Finding My Niche.
When I was very young, I remember watching my mother draw a little angel with colored pencil and immediately knew that I wanted to do what she did with such ease. Fast forward to my high school graduation and my parents gave me three choices: I could join the military, find a full-time job or attend college or trade school. I chose college and was fortunate enough to be able to go to an art college near my home.
My youngest brother Patrick
I have a brother who is several years younger than me and I remember loving the bright, colorful artwork in his picture books; therefore, I thought I wanted to be an illustrator. What I learned along the way surprised me.
Figure drawing study.
The first year at the art college was all about the foundation of making art. I started from scratch, working on drawing, composition, value, color theory, perspective and studying the great artists’ works that thread history with valuable contributions. I struggled to keep up, but I loved all of it.
My second year I needed to declare a major and I chose Illustration. During this year my struggle with drawing became glaringly apparent to me. Most often I would miss the mark of bringing the current piece to life with my lack of skill.
My roommate and I decided to transfer to another school where I hoped to get the classes I needed to make me a better illustrator. I continued toward my degree in illustration knowing that I would need more time in college if I decided to switch majors.
However, computers were beginning to flood the graphic design world as well as our school. I found myself drawn to the beautiful projects by the graphic design students with their clean lines, flow of type, and strong compositions. I wanted to venture into that world but was out of time and finances. I graduated with a degree in Illustration.
However, once I graduated, I feared the prospect of being hired as an illustrator. Not only was I painfully slow when illustrating, but I also wasn’t confident I could continue creating multiple pieces in a similar style.
This bigger-than-life fear kept me from applying for illustration jobs which were more readily available in that day. The one or two times I accepted freelance work, I expected that I would fail at them—so I did. This led me to take on other jobs that were creative but not in illustration. I floundered for several years but ended up finding a job doing desktop publishing.
I figured out how to use the computer programs on the job and took courses to learn as much as possible via the internet. I barged my way into the graphic design field hoping my art foundation would be strong enough to keep me employed and it was.
Exploring our new location through family hikes
After a few years, my husband and I decided to move our young family to another state. Since we had three girls to raise, and I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, I left the graphic design world and opted for part-time work that coincided with the girls’ schedules.
Once my daughters were in high school, I began to think about what I was going to do when they left our home.
I had set aside my art practices for the most part because my husband and I chose to be parents that were available to our girls. We knew our time with them was finite. Now the girls were taking on more responsibilities and it freed my time somewhat and I could start practicing art again.
A mono print from my last college course..
As I began exploring the possibilities of what to do next, I discovered the Gelli Arts printing plate and I was super excited. I had loved making mono prints in school but no longer had access to a press once I graduated.
This Gelli Arts plate makes the mono printing process possible without a press. I got one and was hooked. There were so many options on how to use this printing plate. I also started painting again with acrylics. Exploring the combination of these two techniques has led me down an exciting new path in the mixed media genre.
MJ using the Gelli Arts printing plate
The road to where I want to be has had its twists and turns over the years. I have gone from wanting to be an illustrator, to being a graphic designer to now being a mixed media artist.
I have found that the jobs I’ve held in the past have only enhanced my skills even when the work seemed unrelated to the creative world.
I am ever so grateful for the time I’ve been home with our girls because it has been a sweet season.
I have found that renewing my mind through God’s word has refuted the fear and lies I once believed about this calling.
My Artwork on display at main branch Huntsville/Madison County Public Library
November through December 2022
Now the potential to be working full-time as an artist has validity for me. With my youngest daughter graduating in May of 2023 this new adventure is beginning. My heart is to be a life-long student so have grace for me as I navigate this new path.