Living the dream.
Where do you find the inspiration to make the leap from barely having any time for your art, to making art the priority in your life? Life as an artist becomes the driving force of how you live. Your day-to-day schedule revolves around creativity. You live, breathe and dream art. We would like you to meet an artist who took that very leap and made her life become something exceptional and out of the ordinary. If that sounds impressive, we should add that she leapt clear across the Atlantic and now lives and makes her livelihood as an artist in Paris.
Jill is a multi-award-winning American abstract expressionist and impressionist painter who is living and painting in Paris, France. Since she began to focus on Europe as a potential place to live she has been gathering a loyal following. She has also been featured in several French and Italian art publications. Before embarking on painting Jill was a musician, a talented singer with a degree in Music. This is reflected in her work where rhythm and movement are guiding elements in every composition she creates.
Jill Dowell’s Story
Jill Dowell was living in the Los Angeles area of California. We got to know her when Jill signed up to paint at an art retreat with Workshops in France. After the retreat Jill took off to explore Paris. We stayed in touch and her story continues to inspire Julie and everyone at Workshopsinfrance.com. We need to share this inspiring story because living as an artist in Paris is a dream that we’ve all considered at least once, right? We thought you’d like to hear about it from Jill, so we interviewed her.
Jill remembered her first meeting with Julie at La Galeria Gitana in San Fernando, California. At the time Julie was co-hosting the ‘Art of Selling Art’ workshop with art rep and curator, Margaret Danielak.
WIF: Do you remember our first meeting?
Jill: At the end of the presentation, Julie spoke of Workshops in France and about the chateau-based art retreats in the south of France, and the timing was just right! I knew that day that I would attend one of her retreats.
Jill arrived at one of our Art Retreats in Provence back in 2016 and it was on that trip she made a decision that changed her life forever! As an abstract painter who also does some impressionistic work, Jill had never painted landscapes from life before and it was her first time painting en plein air and she recalled,
“I did capture some scenes, but in my abstract style. I found the experience very liberating, and one that I would continue.”
Paris: Physical, Visceral, Emotional.
It takes courage to try something new and we tipped our hats to Jill for coming to a plein-air art retreat. However, it didn’t stop there. After the retreat, she had the courage to continue her journey to Paris and pursue her dream.
WIF: Paris must have made an impression on you on that first visit. What happened?
Jill: I went to Paris for a short stay, and something happened to me there! I had that same kind of feeling you get when you fall in love. It was physical, visceral, emotional, and undeniable.
WIF: Honestly, we get it. There is an exhilaration in finding a place that opens your senses and your heart. That’s why we return to France to make art year after year.
Jill developed a relationship with Paris and decided to move there. And it actually happened, but who says pursuing your dream is always easy? It’s not, but it doesn’t feel like hard work because the rewards outweigh the effort of achieving the goal. However, Jill’s target to move coincided with a global pandemic! Did that stop her? Non.
WIF: How on earth did you arrive at a time when the world was doing just the opposite and closing down?
Jill: I moved to France in May 2020 and I was lucky to find a travel window that made it possible to arrive during the pandemic.
She now lives in Paris in the quinzième arrondissement (15th Arrondissement), called the Vaugirard, an eclectic neighborhood on the left bank of the River Seine in sight of the Eiffel Tower.
WIF: It takes courage and determination to follow a dream, so we have to ask you, did you ever have doubts that you could make the leap.
Jill: I have always been pretty risk-tolerant. For me, it was clear that I had to be in France. I felt that once I got here, things would develop for me. I had made numerous trips here and had been making connections over time.
WIF: What prompted you to make this radical change in life?
Jill: A change was in order. I was just at the point where I wanted this different lifestyle. For me, it was almost a way of downsizing, or at least that’s how I viewed it. I had already determined that I would make the move after considering it for years.
Then I met my sweetheart who is fluent in French, though he is German. And it made even more sense for us to be here in France. We had been traveling back-and-forth for a few years and wanted to be settled in Paris.
Paris and Los Angeles
WIF: Well, that’s really romantic and wonderful. And it all happens in Paris! Compared to the massive sprawling city of Los Angeles, what’s the biggest change in your day-to-day life now that you are in Paris?
Jill: Walking places and not spending lots of time in a car to get anywhere. Going to the markets and usually shopping for just a day or two. Living here is a way to live more in-the-moment.
WIF: What is life like for an artist there?
Jill: It is very inspiring. I find inspiration is much more accessible to me here than in other places. Artists are not so immersed in online galleries, though that has increased due to the restrictions with the health situation. In more normal times there are often gallery events, fairs and expositions, and artists get to see each other at these events. It has been fun to build a social network that includes lots of working artists here, and not only French artists, but artists from other countries. The art scene is changing here though, and it will be interesting to see how the dynamic evolves.
WIF: As an artist in Paris – is it different from being an artist in LA?
Jill: For me, yes. I am energized and take more risks here. I find that the art scene in LA is diverse and has a certain sensibility that I enjoy but don’t connect with as easily. That may be partially due to the kind of painting I do, however.
WIF: Do you find that Europeans view artists in a different light than Americans?
Jill: I find that being an artist is valued and esteemed in Europe. Perhaps the idea of being an artist is more romanticized and more of a remote concept in America. Not to generalize, but here I go…. it seems that Americans are more geared toward achievement and that in Europe, people tend to embrace the value of your life’s experiences more. And this appreciation definitely includes the arts.
We loved that response and do find it to be true. Owning original art is part of the European culture and many people in France and definitely in the UK enjoy collecting and owning original art.
We wondered if Jill had any advice for artists and we loved her reply,
WIF: What would you say to an artist who wants to live a creative life?
Jill: Immerse yourself in the work without judgment and if necessary, evaluate it later. Lose yourself in the process whenever possible. Allow yourself to make your creative time a priority. And stay creative with regards to avenues to promote yourself.
We asked her if she spoke much French. We learned that at first, she was shy about trying to speak French, however, she had learned it at college while earning her Music degree and Jill had also sung in French.
Jill: I’m getting a little better all the time, but it’s still a work in progress.
Taking Steps to Make a Dream Real
We admire those who take that leap into the unknown and encourage you all to do it. Even small things can have a huge impact — like dedicating a set amount of time each day or each week to your art where you get to have uninterrupted time at your easel! Yes, it may seem tough to make that time, but once you do you will not regret it! If you are already doing this, how can you increase the amount of easel time and make it more meaningful?
You don’t have to move your whole life to France (although wouldn’t that be amazing?) but take steps toward your goal. If you haven’t already, you could sign up for studio time with a local art group, take drawing lessons, or attend a workshop with one of your favorite artists. If you need the inspiration to get started, join us in France and you’ll see a difference in your art career.
To see what we have happening in 2021 and 2022, go here and don’t be afraid to start putting that dream into action!
Advice from Jill regarding what was her most successful action as an artist.
“The most successful action that I have taken as an artist, was to stay to true to the way I saw my career unfolding. I knew I wanted to be in France. There were times when I was tempted to put my time and attention into working my art career in California, and the US. But in my heart-of-hearts, I knew I wanted to be in France. So I focused my energy on participating in Europe, and stayed true to my personal vision for my life. And I am so glad that I did. I am really loving the adventure of exhibiting here, and getting acquainted with artists, gallerists, event organizers, etc… . I find a lot of joy and inspiration in such a culturally invigorating environment.”
Jill Dowell’s Abstract Art
Blogger: Julie Snyder
Julie Snyder is a professional artist and also the programs director of Workshops In France. A native of Scotland, she is a seasoned traveler who splits her time between California and France. You can learn more about her role with Workshops in France here and about her painting on her website.
We interviewed with other artists we met through Workshops in France and you can find out about these remarkable women artists; like Anne Wickham Smith who aids women in Guatemala, funded through her art, and we wrote about an inspiring Canadian artist, Brenda Sleightholme.
Check out more blogs about art workshops, tips and hacks for artists traveling in France and Scotland.
This year at Les Carrières des Lumières, the famous underground quarry is once again transformed into a theater of mind-blowing proportions through the wizardry of technology, showing projected masterworks from Venice as well as the work of Yves Klein in Infinite Blue onto its limestone walls.
Occasionally we meet a non-painting partner whose own work inspires the rest of us. The photographs by George Howard are immediately identifiable for their graphic color and beautiful light, the same qualities that artists seek in our work.
Yellow ochre is a naturally mined pigment used by artists everywhere. One of the must-see villages in Provence is Rousillon, where this multi-hued pigment was mined. You see it as orange, pink, and red on the walls of all houses and the red rock faces for the surrounding hills.