by Abby Brill
Sometimes you can see an artist in her work. While this may not always hold true, this phenomenon is certainly perceptible in the work of painter Jill Crowley. Her use of bold colors splashed generously across her usually large pieces reflect the enthusiastic and bright personality of this recent transplant to Prescott.
I visited Jill at her home in Coyote Springs, where she moved with her mother last year after a lifetime in California. Here she has room to paint and room for her two horses and enormous dogs, who welcomed me loudly. Jill has generally five to 15 pieces in the pipeline at any given time. She finds it good to step away from a piece and come back to it later with fresh eyes, so she’ll work on many pieces in the same time period.
Jill’s paintings tend to be large, and right away you notice her use of color. She paints mostly on cradle board (fine plywood on frames) because if she paints on canvas her oils are too subject to gravity. Her process always starts with taking the board outside and splattering it with numerous colors of acrylic paint, determined at the time by her mood. She says she can always tell what she was feeling when she started a piece because it reflects what her mood was. After the splattering, done safely on the grass, she brings the piece in and determines what the subject matter will be. It may be a pair of koi, maybe a bear, or sometimes some honeybees. Often there are flower blossoms and butterflies floating in the painting.
This painting of the subject is then done in oils. Jill likes the contrast between the acrylic backgrounds and oil foregrounds, which give it another pop, because the oils are so much richer. When she feels a piece is finished she glazes it to make it pop even more. Jill’s pieces make bright, bold statements and cheer up any room.
“I thought I was a purist, but when I blended the right negative with its lover, I fell in love and saw them as one.”
Painting since high school, Jill got her BFA at Cal State Long Beach, after which she got a degree in art education at Cal State San Bernardino. She feels she got a great start in oil painting at Long Beach, as they still had live figure drawing there, which she valued greatly. She takes inspiration from abstractism, surrealism and most especially from Zen painting; she greatly values its simplicity and connection to nature.
For new or non-painters, using strong color can be really scary, but Jill never went through that phase in her development. She remembers doing an exercise in college where the teacher forbade the students from using purple because with their limited skills it would just turn to mud. Jill paid the teacher no mind and dove into the purple paint, and when the teacher saw how she worked, he restated the pronouncement, saying that no one was allowed to use purple except Jill. She uses bold color almost with abandon, and revels in brightness.
From top left to bottom left: Against All Odds, Trust In Me, All This and Heaven Too, All I Have to Do Is Dream
Jill describes herself as an introvert, which makes sense in a way for most artists, as they mostly work alone and so are happy alone. She would paint in her free time and participate in various art fairs, but when she moved up to management at Barnes and Noble she had to step back from doing shows. Last year she quit her job and moved to Arizona, where she has a lot of family. Now she has plenty of time to paint, and has joined the Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery. Her introverted nature doesn’t seem to be a problem there, as she is known for her cheerful attitude and willingness to help with anything.
Find Jill’s work at the Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery, 134 S Montezuma St on Whiskey Row in Prescott; she will also be participating in the Laguna Art Affair in Laguna Beach CA from late June till early September.
Abby Brill is Associate Editor of 5enses.