Artist Spotlight: Jillian Downs

Sophomore Jillian Down’s artistic spirit and creativity have been apparent since she was a child. 

“When I was younger, during middle school especially, I spent a ton of time reading young adult fantasy books, like “Eragon” and “Harry Potter”...from that, I wanted to create my own stories. But, of course, you can’t make a book without illustrations.” 

As an English and secondary education double major with an art minor, Downs spoke about learning how to improve her own art when she was first starting out and how it pushed her. 

“When I was younger, it was obvious to me that my middle school art was bad. I’d fuss with these drawings forever trying to get them right. I still wouldn’t get them right, but it got me a little bit of momentum in trying to improve. And then I started taking classes in high school.”

“When it comes to traditional art, I’m most comfortable with acrylic painting and that’s what I did my senior concentration in [in high school]. I’m also pretty open to branching out when it comes to physical art. Just recently, we did an ink wash drawing in my drawing class and I enjoyed that quite a lot,” Downs said. “Ink pen is definitely not my style. Where I prefer to do stuff like acrylic where I can lay down some color and then zone in on the detail.” I

Downs also had some thoughts on the title of “artist” and finding her own place within the label. 

“When I started college, I got so busy that art got pushed aside for a while and I’m only just now finding it again. In my drawing class, when we did a critique recently, I made a comment that before I started taking drawing classes again, I had totally fallen out of it and could I even call myself an artist at that point,” Downs said. 

Downs continued, “And Barlow, the professor, said ‘don’t say that about yourself, there’s going to be points in your life when you’re not going to be making art but that doesn’t mean you’re not an artist.’ And between that and a few other things, I’ve felt more comfortable with realizing that no, maybe I’m not making as much as I’d like to, and I’m out of practice, but that doesn’t mean I’m not an artist.” 

In regards to her artistic inspirations, Downs commented, “Just seeing other people being passionate about their art is inspiring to me. There’s also my boyfriend, he’s super creative and takes the time to come up with ideas.” Downs said. “There was also a Wordfest speaker recently, Kate Polak, and I went to her comic workshop and I’d like to try my hand at that a little bit. It was really cool to see someone in my primary field of English finding this place where you can still study art as I know it. Visual art, I mean. She creates her own comics and I think that’s awesome.” 

For her advice for new artists, she suggested to not be afraid to do it for other people, “I’m not always confident in looking at something I made and saying, ‘This is a great piece of work’ and that’s okay. Do it because you enjoy it and keep working at improving just because you love it.” 

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