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Creative Corner: Finding a career through a new attitude on art

Jillian Benedict has a no-consequence mindset when creating art.

Jillian Benedict, a Longmont artist who owns Studio Benedict, has always loved art; her childhood dream was to be an artist. As happens with many people as they grow up, she started hearing "you can't make any money at that" and similar comments. She still knew art was her passion and intended to make a career out of it. That's when she learned about graphic design.

A trip to Alaska brought her to The Gem Gallery, where her graphic design and product photography career took off.

The trip reignited her interest in photography. 

"They were interested in me because my husband and I had gone on a trip to Alaska and that was really where I started photographing things," Benedict said.

One of her coworkers opened her eyes to graphic design and product photography ideas she hadn't thought of in the past.

"I had a co-worker who was just amazing and opened my eyes to different props and items and color schemes that you can use with a medium or a subject that's super simple, jewelry for example," Benedict said.

That coworker made suggestions Benedict liked and used in her work as she moved forward into her career.

"My coworker said, 'let's use this bright green background, and throw some elements in, like contrasting colors like flowers.' He used a lot of flowers. Once, he used candy, which was so much fun," she said. My old coworker was a big source of inspiration behind my product photography," she said

She had taken a couple of photography courses in college but hadn't fallen in love with that type of art yet.

"I ...  kind of struggled because I wasn't able to purely focus on photography. So, that trip to Alaska was really where I thought 'there's nothing riding on this. I don't have to submit this for a grade. This isn't anything that I'm going to be trying to put into a competition or gallery by any means,' Benedict said. “So, I let myself have fun with it. Alaska is really where my photography started."

That no-consequence mindset serves her in her current work as well.

Benedict said, "I'm not thinking too much about whether or not somebody is going to like it. Initially, I started off by doing it for myself."

Last Christmas, she received gouache paint as a present. That got her started working with painting as a medium.

"We'll see where it takes us. It was through friends and family encouraging me that I started Studio Benedict and started making products to sell," Benedict said.

 Benedict began painting birth flowers as a result. As she began painting each month, she received several requests to turn them into calendars. But, by the time she completed the paintings, it was March 2021 so it was a bit too late to sell them. 

"Unfortunately, by the time I finished painting all of the birth flowers, I knew it was kind of too late to make a calendar, not only to photograph everything but also make it digital and format it into a calendar format. But also, it was too late to sell a calendar because I think it was March by the time I finished. These two months have gone by and that's two months that people wouldn't be able to use my calendar," Benedict said.

She didn't let them go to waste, though. She sold them as greeting cards last year and is now able to sell her postcard-style calendar with an additional option to buy a small easel to hold each month.

When she hit a snafu, she found ways to adjust. She considers that an investment in her art and her passion.

Benedict encourages aspiring artists to just go for it, too. She said, "see yourself as an investment. If doing this makes you happy, then investing in your happiness is going to make it so worthwhile.