How did you get started and then develop your career?
Jill Banks: After running a successful business for 16 years, I found a passion for oil painting through classes at the Art League in Alexandria, Virginia. Inspiring teachers passed on not just the how-to’s but also their love for all things art. I was totally hooked. Soon painting seemed as important as breathing (except the latter helps me paint some more).
A huge boost in mastering the business side of building an art career was dreaming big and being willing to dig in to make good stuff happen. While taking classes back in 2003 with still SO much to learn, my goal was to create this beautiful life full of travel, joy and discovery, supported by sales of my work. Honing my skills happened right alongside building my career and growing a tribe of students, collectors, enthusiasts and art friends.
I have found the whole journey exhilarating. Your art needs to be “out there” to be noticed and purchased … and I love being out there with you. Giving public demos, teaching, writing about life as an artist (newsletter and articles), participating in fine art festivals, opening up my home and group studio regularly, exhibiting regionally and nationally, painting in plein air competitions, gaining awards and press, and enthusiastically being an ambassador for art wherever I am, has been the foundation for building a thriving, full career.
One spectacular stepping stone along the way was my 100 Faces in 100 Days Project. Read up on it on my website.
How do you describe success?
This life I’m living fits my definition of success. To be able to make people happy (including oneself) doing what you love is the ultimate blessing. I’ve stood on the streets of Paris, the South of France, Italy, Spain and lots of places in the US soaking it all in, capturing it live in paint and then seen those pieces go off to loving homes, often with the owners becoming great friends.
How do you find inspiration?
It truly is everywhere, but I did dig deep to find out what speaks loudest to me. Grabbing my easel and heading to the farm or a market or urban street to capture life as it happens is a sure bet. I love color, challenges, changes, atmosphere, people and activity. Personal painting trips in the US and abroad shake things up and keep me exploring fresh ideas with a smile on my face.
While working on location, the initial scene in front of me is not nearly as interesting as I trust it will be as the hours pass. Inevitably, the coolest things happen. Subjects wander in, the light pours brilliance into the scene, the canvas fills with all those movements and moments that can now be appreciated because I took the time to stand still and see. I find inspiration by showing up.
What is the best thing about being an artist?
Not sure I can pick just one. Perhaps the best thing is that by doing this thing I love most — painting — I am inspiring so many people: students, visitors at my easel, collectors, admirers.
Who do you collect?
Tim Kelly, James Crandall, Derek Penix, Mo Teeuw, Kim English, Qiang Huang, Julian Merrow-Smith and many more. In addition to paintings, I have a large, wonderful collection of handmade pottery. Having pieces made by someone you know — painted or built — as a regular part of life is like being surrounded by friends every day.