JoAnn Wilmot Interview
Tell us a little about yourself:
I was born and grew up in Dubuque, Iowa – a beautiful town on the Mississippi River in the heartland of the USA. Iowa was a great place to grow up as there was time to play in the woods, sing around campfires and lay in the dry grass on a warm summer day. I would doodle with sticks in the dirt and dream seeing the ocean and palm trees.
When did you first begin to make art?
From a very young age I was always drawing. When there was no paper I drew on the blank pages inside our books. In school I always loved art class the best. By college I knew I would never be a great painter so I went onto to be an art teacher which I loved.
When did you first start using Photoshop and how did you learn?
By the time I had married and moved to New Jersey I found a job in graphic design for a college. I really felt I’d found my niche bringing other people’s ideas to life. When Photoshop came to the design office, we basically had to teach ourselves.
It was really a challenge! It seems however, that after 25 years I am still learning how to tame that application!
What inspires you?
I love color and pattern, faces and stories, realism and the abstract. I love the serendipity of combining elements and overlays. I’ve always been an idea collector (journals upon journals of them) which helps when I’m at a loss. The excitement for me as an artist is in the surprise as a piece comes together.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Whenever I get to visit a museum I go mad trying to find works by my favorite artists. I’ve always loved John Singer Sargent for his portraiture, Georgia O’Keefe for her oversized flowers and all the Dutch masters particularly Vermeer. One day in New York City I was able to run from The Frick to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw nine Vermeers in one day staring with Girl with a Pearl Earring (it’s small like the Mona Lisa!).
What is your typical process when creating a piece of art?
I’m at my workspace everyday from about 9 a.m. until one. I never have an idea in mind before I begin a piece. It just doesn’t work that way for me ever. If I try to force it my Muse just walks out! So mostly I troll through my image collection until I see one I like. My work most often features a central female figure within a world of intangible color and form. My quest is to build a unique mood and story using ephemera and overlaid elements. I hope to entice the viewer along the same journey as my main character. Ingredients frequently seen in my work are those that evoke growth and evolution such as birds, butterflies, flowers, wings, stars and clouds. Sometimes the figure or bird morphs into a flower or tree – just a message to the viewer to look closely at everything along their daily path just in case magic appears.
Where do you get your source materials from?
I’m not a brilliant photographer so I mostly take photos of flowers and textures. My main model photos come from Sebastian Michael’s Awake class content or some I’ve purchased from Colorbox.com. And in a pinch Pixabay has free images for use without attribution.
What is your favorite Photoshop trick/method at the moment?
Hmmm…lately my trick seems to be inverting images (command/control + I) and running them through the blend modes. I also like to doing The Move (command/control + option/alt + shift + e) to make a composite of all the layers and run the Camera Raw filter to make some final adjustments when I just feel it needs something but I don’t know what.
What is your favorite Photoshop tool or plugin at the moment?
My personal favorite is the Accented Edges filter. I can make a copy of my masked figure and run that filter then blend it with the original for a more painterly look.
What work of your own are you most proud of?
I’m always most proud of my latest piece as it uses the newest techniques and ideas I’ve learned. But the ones I’ve printed out and framed for my own home are La Mariposa and Born of Water – both combine an underwater figure with flower and texture overlays. To me they just seem mysteriously peaceful.
What are you currently working on?
I just finished a 20-piece collaboration with Gabriel Olude from Nigeria in which he provided a group of artists over fifty model images taken in his studio. I just let myself go freely in any direction the Muse took me. It was eye-opening to break out of my usual style and not be so serious about the outcome. From posting those to my Facebook page a good friend asked me to collaborate using her travel photos. This has taken me in a whole new direction as there are no models involved.
What would you tell someone who is starting out making Photoshop art?
Concentrate on what’s good for your piece and not with trying to fit every technique you know into it every time. Oh, and masking is the hardest thing – I’m still struggling with that!