Today we’d like to introduce you to Jill-Ann Mark.
Jill-Ann, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I started out as a young adult planning to be a painter. I wanted to illustrate children’s books and to teach elementary school art. Life tends to take a lot of twists and turns, though, and I left college to marry my high school sweetheart, who was in the Army. I enrolled at a college in the town where he was stationed, but they did not offer an art major. I ended up transitioning to Creative Writing, which had always been a component of my creative spirit anyway. I found my way back to painting, however, over a decade later when I was divorced and planning to remarry. I designed our wedding invitations with a watercolor illustration of various places that were important to us. I made the realization that I could design invitations with my illustrations as a side-business (at the time I was working in IT). When my IT job started to cause serious stress-induced disruptions to my physical and mental health, my husband encouraged me to consider pursuing illustration full-time. I enrolled in a business plan mentorship program and fleshed out my idea. Ultimately, wedding stationery did not become the crux of my business. Instead, I sell my greeting cards, notepads, and other paper goods to retail customers and wholesale partners across the country. Paper products seemed such a natural pairing for my work, especially considering my lifelong love of snail mail. That will likely always be at the core of what I do, but I hope to explore illustrating for many other types of projects in the future.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Oh heavens no! There have been so many different challenges. Early on I was selling a lot at craft shows and artisan markets. Venues that I was counting on for revenue would close suddenly, I received many rejections from shows that were the best attended in the region and was really disheartened when it felt like I couldn’t get my work in front of the large numbers of people that I knew attended this events. I spent a lot of time and money on shows that ended up being big flops. I briefly had a retail space in a historic tourist-heavy area which started out really well and then I made the decision to transition to a slightly different situation in the same area. That turned out to be a bad decision, as the partnership fell through and I no longer had representation in that shopping district. Then, as my business became more grounded in the wholesale realm, a new set of challenges arose, especially now with supply shortages and rapidly increasing costs. It’s always something, but honestly, I’ve never been one to choose the easy road so I figure it’s par for the course! I think that entrepreneurs just tend to be built that way.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
At the core, I am an illustrator. My company, The Lavender Whim, offers greeting cards and paper gift items featuring my paintings but my goals include book illustration and licensing to other product manufacturers. My painting style is playful and vibrant with many layers of intense watercolor pigment. I don’t use watercolor traditionally and instead, rely on very heavyweight papers to accept the gradual building of color on the page. I often add opaque white back in as a final step, whereas traditional watercolor depends on preserving all of the white spaces early in the process. I am proud of my unique style that has really evolved over the years. It is now definitively “me”, which I think is something that mosts artists can appreciate. We spend years trying to find that groove–the confidence in knowing that we’re truly in sync with what we’re creating. While I’m always growing and experimenting, the inner harmony that comes from knowing that this is truly mine is something that I relish.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
In the very beginning, I was extremely fortunate to have had my creativity encouraged as a child. My parents never steered me away from the arts in favor of “better” pursuits or careers. I can’t express enough how important I feel that was to the development of my imagination and artistic drive. There are also many people who have been encouragers and believers along the way; unfortunately, far too many to mention. The absolute number one, though, has been my husband, Rob. He was the one who encouraged me to leave my “day job” in IT and pursue The Lavender Whim full time. He has been my sounding board as I navigate business challenges. He’s the one I bounce new ideas off of, and he’s always happy to talk someone’s ear off about my work. He’s been known to find discarded drawings and paintings in the recycling bin and squirrel them away for his own personal collection. When your spouse really, truly believes in you and your abilities it goes a very long way to combatting the fear and imposter syndrome that can creep in. That leaves space for forging ahead and growing as an artist and a businesswoman.
- Greeting cards $5.00
- Notepads $9.00-$12.00
- Art prints $22.00-$34.00
- Original artwork $45.00 and up
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: http://www.thelavenderwhim.com
- Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/thelavenderwhim
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thelavenderwhim