“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”
Jill Brabant was born and raised in Endicott, New York where early on she had a love for art. As a child, she would drive the other neighborhood kids nuts by answering their question of “What shall we do today?” with the same reply, “Let’s draw!” Her joy for art as a child has turned to a passion as an adult.
“Oil painting brings me such joy and is an expression of who I am. The color of light, the smile of a child and the beauty of nature are a constant source of inspiration for me. I enjoy the richness and viscosity of the paint–the variations achieved from thick impasto applied with a palette knife to thin delicate layers of color.”
Jill Brabant is a representational oil painter who prefers the alla prima method of classical painting. Alla Prima by definition or translation (all, first) is a method of painting in which pigments are laid on in a single application instead of being built up by repeated paintings, it may also be referred to as direct painting or the French term au premier coup (at first stroke). Oils are her favorite medium. As is the alla prima method, but at times she uses glazes to enhance her paintings.
Jill received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Rochester Institute of Technology and was a graphic designer for, over 25 years for Marriott, American Bankers Association and National Association of Financial Advisors. Her many years as a graphic designer have influenced her compositions. When composing a painting, she looks for ways to simplify, to present a strong graphic statement and to really hone in on the focal point of what inspired me to paint. Also, the quality of light and how it flows through the composition is extremely important to her. Her process of simplifying involves directing what she wants the viewer to see. Her paintings evolve with each brushstroke—starting with the design of the composition and capturing the essence of light on soft petals.
Jill’s subject matter can be varied, but she has an affinity for floral still lifes. She started painting flowers because of their beauty and their ability to be available at 10 o’clock at night! As a Mom, I don’t want to miss out on family time or my son’s activities so I often paint at night, while the rest of the household is asleep, Jill says. After losing both my parents, the flowers I paint have a deeper meaning and convey the fragility and fleeting nature of life.
“My floral compositions have a deeper meaning to me. The rose symbolizes love and beauty–our lives opening like petals, among the thorns of pain, hard work and challenges. They represent how God can bring good out of misery. Flowers have the power to lift our spirits, touch our hearts and for a moment take away our worries. The teacups and pots are a special nod to my grandmother who was sweet and worked in a china factory. My paintings evolve with each brushstroke, starting with the composition and capturing the essence of light on each petal.”
Jill derives the most inspiration from her garden and her family. “I love a floppy, English Garden!” she joyfully divulges. “When my son was little, we would plant a surprise garden with seeds. It was fun to see what sprouts!” Her favorite painting to date is a portrait of her son in the garden. “My two loves!”
Jill’s paintings have been described as elegant, with classical qualities and soft brushwork. Her work has appeared in numerous exhibits and can be found in private art collections, both in the United States and abroad. Her Florals have been featured in the 2014 and 2015 Richeson75 Still Life and Floral Exhibit Book. In 2008, she was the recipient of the Shirl Smithson Scholarship from Oil Painters of America. Her favorite exhibitions have been the “17th Anniversary Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction,” in Rist Canyon, Colorado, September 2012. “It was an auction for a great cause (the volunteer fire department of Rist Canyon),” she remembers, “and an honor to be juried in.” Also the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club, (CLWAC) 2016 120th Open Juried Exhibition,” National Arts Club, New York, New York, November 2016 and The Salmagundi Art Club of NY New Member show in December, 2016. Jill’s professional affiliations include Oil Painters of America, The Salmagundi Art Club along with our Loudoun Sketch Club.
Jill’s early art was watercolor. She switched to oils about 16 years ago. She credits the workshops she has attended with helping her to grow, with artists such as Robert Johnson, Danni Dawson, and Michael Klein. Other artists who have inspired her are Fantin LaTour, Robert Johnson, David Leffel, Richard Schmid, and Helen M. Turner Most of all, she says, time at the easel and never being satisfied with my work has helped me to progress (and hopefully continue to progress.) Jill also likes to challenge herself to paint landscapes and portraits. She feels that each genre helps her to grow as an artist. Painting portraits helps to hone your drawing skills and accuracy, and painting landscapes helps you to achieve the illusion of depth in a still life and in the floral arrangement as well.
Often starting a still life with a wash of transparent oxide red and ultramarine blue and the knock out a highlight with either a brush or a rag with gamsol on it, creates a nice neutral to start her compositions. This can be pushed more on the cool side or more on the warm side depending on the amount of red or blue added. Jill says she can’t live without her palette knife. “I love how it can create fine lines for stems or leaves and add interesting texture.” David Leffel in his book, The Artist Teaches, describes how the best representational art should have an abstract quality to it. Jill says she loves the polarity of thick and thin paint that can be achieved with a palette knife. “This tool frees me up and allows me to have a looser, more impressionistic feel to my paintings when I use it.”
Jill resides in Manassas, Va. where she enjoys teaching art and drawing to children and adults. Her workshops for adults allow her to present advanced topics and, she says, it is exciting to see how they progress. Her favorite classes to teach are floral still life and the use of the palette knife.
“I enjoy teaching to children because they are spontaneous and not afraid to make mistakes. Teaching helps me to grow as an artist by thinking about and presenting things I might do intuitively.”
Jill has taught still life and palette knife painting workshop at The Workhouse Arts Center, through the Manassas Art Guild and the Prince William Arts Society. Last summer she went back to school and obtained her teaching credentials and was recently hired as the new art teacher for Signal Hill Elementary School in Manassas starting this Fall.
Jill converted the guest bedroom of her home into her studio. She has an Ikea picture rail that runs the length of the room for her works in progress. As she describes it, “There is often floral debris on my still life table from the fleeting beauties I like to paint.” Like a favorite quote of hers from Emma Goldberg; “I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.”
Finding clients from shows and references from other happy clients and social media, Jill deals with the stress of deadlines with set priorities. She asserts that family comes first.
“If I have a deadline, I will meet it by working late at night—getting enough sleep can sometimes be a challenge! My former career as a graphic designer taught me how to manage my time, push through deadlines and to under promise and over deliver to a client.”
Jill’s goals are to inspire the next generation of artists and to keep challenging herself to improve in her art. To keep learning and to push herself and keep progressing. “I find that the more I learn, the more there is to learn!” she says. “Painting is like peeling an onion, the more you learn the more layers you uncover.” When she retires she says she would love to open a gallery of her own. For now she is working on studies from her garden and many lesson plans for the almost 800 elementary students she will be teaching in the Fall!
Some books from Jill Brabant’s reading list are: Alla Prima by Richard Schmid, Richard Schmid Paints Landscapes by Richard Schmid, Problem Solving for Painters by Greg Kreutz, Landscape Painting with a Knife by Colton Waugh, An Artist Teaches by David Leffel. and How to Make a Watercolor Paint Itself by Nita Engle.