If you’ve finished hand-lettering your inspirational quote for our Lamy fountain pen giveaway, or you need a break from doing that, meet your new teacher, Jill Weber. You know that artist fantasy we all have, of living in a beautiful place surrounded by flowers and trees, and a studio to paint all the gorgeous things around you? Well, Jill kind of lives that dream, and she’s inviting you over this week in Expressing! Here, she talks about how she started making books, her favorite art materials, and going back to school in her fifties.
When did you first start drawing? As a child, like most people, or later?
Jill: I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember. I made my first illustrated book at seven, about a family made out of candy; I think it was a spin-off of the game Candyland. I guess I never stopped drawing. By high school I knew this was a passion I would pursue.
You went to art school in your fifties! What an inspiring story; can you tell us what led up to that?
I went to Rhode Island School of Design right after high school, but only for two years; I had my first job in New York at the age of 20. There is no question that I felt like I had unfinished business, even with a career as an illustrator and designer. Throughout the years, I continued taking drawing classes whenever I had the chance, especially after our move to New Hampshire. The studio can be a lonely place, and it was great to hone my skills in a classroom community. I had one teacher I loved and followed her to the New Hampshire Institute of Art. It was the right place at the right time. After I got my BFA, I taught Children’s Book Illustration there.
Was it ever intimidating for you?
Oh, sometimes it was very intimidating! But at the same time, I felt a bit like a vampire sucking up young blood and fresh ideas. So much had changed since my first go-round in art school and I just couldn’t learn enough. There are so many new ways to make art! But I did discover the universal fears and challenges were the same for all of us, no matter age or experience.
What are your favorite tools for making art—pen, watercolors, color pencils?
Gouache—Winsor & Newton Designer’s Gouache are my favorites. They’re great when working on a piece that will be printed, as the colors stay true.
Rotring Pen EF—My favorite drawing pen, which sadly is not water-resistant. I’m still looking for the waterproof equivalent.
Acrylics—Golden Fluid Acrylics
Gesso—I use this mixed with Gouache or Acrylics. I often use this instead of white.
Acrylic gouache is my new find—waterproof, but still matte finish.
Print maker’s brayer—This helps create layers of color and texture.
Caran d’Ache Crayons—Water-resistant, good for layering, and they give texture.
Soft lead pencils—8B or 9B, but I use HB when applying my sketch to the “good” paper.
Paper—Strathmore 400 or 500 series, vellum finish.
How did you start making your own books?
I made books as kid, and when my son was little, we made handmade books together. But he took this to a new art form as an adult artist, and I got a little intimidated. While I was teaching at the NHIA, I signed up for a book-making class with a young woman who turns out to have taken Sketchbook Skool’s first on-line class, Beginning, and was a huge fan of Danny! I just heard from her when she received the sign-up email for this class. Small world!
Tell us about Frajil Farms, and how that magical-looking place inspires your art.
This could be a novel. Frajil (Frank & Jill) Farms grew out of a romantic dream of leaving New York and living in the country. We saw a “For Sale” sign, and there at the end of a dirt road was a falling down red house in the middle of five acres. Apple trees and daffodils were in bloom. Sometimes I think it was a mirage. That fall, when we actually packed up our loft and moved in, the reality of what we had done was a bit of a shock. Project by project, we fixed our house and planted our gardens and pruned the old trees and learned you can make beauty out of anything. Finally, after all these years, there is time to paint the flowers while the tomato sauce simmers on the stove. Some would say it’s a high maintenance way of life, but for us it’s a hand-made way of life. My home, my animals and my husband are all the subjects of my work.
Where is your favorite place to draw?
So much of my drawing is for work, which keeps me in my studio. But another wonderful benefit of school was being able to work outside of my studio. I still love to sit in my garden and draw, though the next thing I find myself doing is pulling weeds.
Have you ever been shy about drawing in public?
Oh, I’m still very shy about drawing in public! That’s one of the reasons I said yes to Danny about doing a klass for Expressing. I try to always face my fears. I know too many people who have a list of things they “can’t” do—when in fact it’s because they won’t do them. I hate restrictions. One thing that helped immensely was teaching. The thing that helped me during my Sketchbook Skool shoot was cooking for us in between each segment.
How do you feel when you draw?
There is nothing that makes me happier than making things. That’s not to say I don’t have terrible blank paper anxiety. And after working on a book for the better part of year, it is glorious and terrifying to be done. That middle place of being “in it” is blissful.
What’s your favorite place to draw–at home, at cafes, someplace else? Start the discussion by leaving a comment here!