I had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Jolie Guillebeau recently in celebration of the release of her new book Beauty Everywhere. I am on her mailing list, and receive her daily emails that share a new painting and a story about the painting. I love these little snippets and am so grateful for her generosity!
Give us the elevator pitch for your book:
Beauty Everywhere is a collection of 100 of my favorite stories and paintings. It's like a portable gallery. I've been painting daily since January 2010, and that means I've painted more than 500 paintings. This is the first time I've ever combined the paintings and stories in any form other than the daily email that I send out each morning. They're archived on my blog, but seeing them curated in this form all in one place is kind of awesome for me. We designed the book with an easel back and the intention that it could be displayed on your nightstand or as a way to bring a little more beauty in to your cubicle at work.
When did you first start creating stories to go with your paintings? Do you create a story and then paint or do you paint intuitively and then create the story from that?
I started creating stories almost from the very beginning of the daily painting project. It just seemed like a natural fit. Many other painters discouraged me, saying the painting should be able to speak for itself. And I think that's true. The viewer brings their own experience to the image. But I don't think that sharing my story inhibits the viewer's experience. I think it creates a foundation that the viewer builds on. And one of the things that inspires me as a painter is sharing the story, and hearing from my readers. That relationship is incredibly important to me.
As for my process, it varies. Usually with still-life paintings, I choose an object and then build the story as I paint. I think about my memories with the object and why I've chosen to paint it. Often, I know that a painting is finished when I have the story complete.
But with the abstract paintings, I found myself working "backwards"-- at least backwards for me. I didn't have the tangible object as an anchor, so I usually started with a story and let my brush float on the canvas until I carved out a clear direction. It was a bit of a stretch for me, but I found it freeing to reverse engineer my usual process.
What is a story you would like to tell through your painting that you haven't yet?
Oooh... good question. My next painting series begins March 1, and for the first time, I'm not limiting myself to a particular type of painting. So I'm going to paint abstracts or still-lifes or portraits or landscapes as long as they have a story. I think these will be my most personal stories yet, and may take awhile to evolve. For example, I think it's time to confess that I didn't learn to tie my shoes until I was 30, and then tell the story behind that. It's a long story, so it may continue over more than one daily painting.
What inspired you to put 100 of your favorite stories + paintings in a book?
I realized back in October that I was nearing 500 completed paintings. It felt like a big thing to accomplish, and I wanted to do something that allowed me to commemorate that. But it was about more than just me. Many people have been reading and opening emails from me everyday for two years. And not everyone can afford to buy a painting. So I wanted to create another way for people to connect with the paintings and stories. Partly, it's the power of story-telling, but it's also very much about the idea that Beauty is Everywhere, and it's simply about noticing. I hope that this book inspires other people to start noticing.
What does the word LEAP mean to you in 2012?
LEAP is my word of the year. In 2010, I chose STRETCH, because it seemed gentle, but required a little bit of reaching beyond my comfort zone. That was the year I started daily painting, and really started stretching toward my goals as an artist. In 2011, I chose WORTH, and it led me towards acceptance of myself and my work, as well as recognizing my own strengths and significance. This year seems to be about putting that in to practice. LEAP is about being confident in myself enough to trust that I'm going to jump in to my goal. One thing I've realized is that LEAPing requires really strong core muscles, so I'm learning to trust my gut more and listen to my own intuition. Also, a LEAP is not a hop or a bounce-- it's a big intentional movement, not a small step. So I've been putting that in to practice this year by speaking in front of 600 people at Ignite Portland, and of course with this book.