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Susan Elizabeth Jones
I grew up living a charmed life alternating many weekends between Milan and Paris. And I knew from an early age I was destined to be a great artist like my Granddaddy. Life was sweet.
Little did I know my grandparents' homes in Milan, Tennessee, and their fishing cabin in Paris Landing were not in the world capitals of lovers, dreamers, and artists. But I did learn early the hard work and sacrifices required of a young artist. I remember with vivid clarity the afternoons spent drawing and painting numerous works of art with my markers, crayons, and watercolors at the dining room table. Then without hesitation, promptly pricing each piece in the upper, right-hand corner. 5¢. 10¢. 25¢. 50¢. And for the pièce de résistance $1. These pieces I sold to complete strangers passing by the house, in the fashion of the more recognizable lemon-aide stands other kids used to earn a little extra spending money.
I remember creating and hosting neighborhood art shows and personally assembling the blue, red, and yellow award ribbons out of construction paper and paste, and talking my parents into judging the submitted works and awarding the 'ribbons' to the top three paintings. Silly? Maybe. But I have a Girl Scout badge that says otherwise.
It didn't take long to earn the reputation of being 'an artist' with all its glory and benefits, like the Paint By Numbers kit from Duane Dunnevant who drew my name for Secret Santa in the 4th grade, or being chosen to appear on the local PBS art show "Hey Look!" with Billy Simington in the 5th grade, or the tiny trophy I won for art in the 9th grade talent show for sketches of Rita Coolidge and Les McKeown, the lead singer and unquestionable cutest member of the Bay City Rollers.
Did I mention life was sweet?
In addition to taking Art for four years in High School, my parents supported me by allowing me to take private lessons from Ann Caruthers and Mary McDaniel. It never occurred to me that my life's profession would be anything other than fine art. That is, until my senior year of High School and decisions had to be made about college.
My sweet parents listened to my ideas about a career in Fine Art with sincerity and respect, and then suggested that I continue painting but choose a major in business as a fall-back plan, especially if I was expecting them to pay for my education. Dad strongly suggested I study accounting .
Well, the accounting major lasted until I took my first accounting class. And then was changed immediately to business.... merchandising, marketing, and management. I even took it a step further, earning an MBA in marketing before embarking on a career as a marketing professional specializing in the marketing of professional services in the healthcare arena.
Spring forward twenty years and I'm a Business Development and Marketing Manager for a national malpractice insurance company traveling the country educating chiropractors and chiropractic students on the importance of understanding the difference in Claims Made and Occurrence malpractice insurance and the questions to ask prospective providers when making an informed decision that could potentially impact their financial security.
I loved my job. I loved working with the people in the office and in the field. I loved the creativity and spirituality of the philosophy of chiropractic. I loved teaching at chiropractic colleges and chiropractic state association meetings. I loved working with the agents, my staff and my boss to develop marketing strategies for increased market share. I loved working with the creative agencies to develop marketing campaigns. I loved traveling the country. And for fun I spent a semester teaching at MTSU as an adjunct instructor starting at 6:30am so that I could keep my full-time job and still mark off "College Instructor" from the bucket list. And I taught Bible classes to girls in the local juvenile detention center on Saturday morning, once or twice a month, for seven years. I still love taking classes and I love teaching classes. My job closely aligned with my goals, passions, and values. Life was sweet. Though I missed painting, but there was hardly any time for sleep, let alone art.
On a daily basis I had more than an hours commute both to and from the office. And though I worked in a beautiful office in one of the most beautiful towns in America, much of my time was spent traveling the country to meet with agents, chiropractic leaders, chiropractic national and state conventions, and to chiropractic colleges. It's difficult to paint on a plane.
Since I worked out of town for several weekends per month, the company I worked for exchanged "comp time" for each day worked on the weekend. I had built up quite a few days of comp time in addition to three weeks vacation when I approached my boss to request 10 Tuesdays off in a row during the fall of 2009 in order to take a painting class from Hazel King, a beloved and highly respected, 90 year old art instructor. Nearly every successful professional artist in Nashville had taken classes from Ms. Hazel. And I wanted to be one of them.
The events that happened over the next few months can only be attributed to divine intervention. What I failed to mention was the company I had worked for for 10 years was purchased by a larger company. Shortly after my painting classes ended in December 2009, my boss accepted the "Golden Parachute" along with the other members of the executive team and retired to Fort Myers. Other managers were leaving as well. The writing was on the wall. My days were numbered and I knew it. But how do you leave a wonderful job with wonderful salary and benefits? Especially during the "Great Recession" when there were no good jobs to be found anyway?
I likened my situation to going to a fabulous party and at a certain point in the evening, it was apparent the time to leave had arrived. But you don't want to leave because you are having so much fun, so disregarding your better judgement, you stay. And then the time comes where the party isn't so much fun anymore and it gets awkward. You want to leave but you're not sure how to best slip out unnoticed.
Luckily for me, the decision was made for me. The party ended. I was asked to leave in 2010 after ten years of service. I was ready for a change and a new challenge and ready to enjoy my job again. It just wasn't fun anymore, and it hadn't been fun for a long time. So I left on amicable terms, gave thanks for the opportunity, slapped my envelope purse under one arm and headed for the door. One chapter had closed and I wasn't sure what the next chapter would be, but I knew it would entail something totally different. I had done the corporate thing and got the t-shirt. As much as I love "marketing and business," I'm not really a corporate person. Boardroom powwows, power suits, and three martini lunches are so NOT me.
Two things happened that allowed me the time to reflect on the direction of the next chapter. First, I received a modest severance package. Second, I came home to numerous messages from business associates offering me independent contracting work, and I will be forever grateful. Meanwhile I had developed new relationships with students from my art class, and we went to area Art Crawls and joined art associations, and subscribed to art publications and took additional classes and workshops and painted and painted, and started entering art shows and exhibiting in art festivals, and painted and painted. And painted.
Even though I was working from home for various companies during the week at this time, I started teaching plein air painting classes at a historic home where I served on the Board of Directors, Rippavilla Plantation. I also served on the Board of Directors for my county's historical society and on the Board of our local children's museum, and wanted to utilize these classes as fundraisers for the non-profits.
While I was trying to decide on the next chapter, it opened without me. By mid-2012 the independent contracting gigs had come to an end and my income was solely earned from painting sales and teaching painting classes and workshops to both adults and children at non-profits and other venues in seven counties. It took 25 years, but I finally found the courage to do what God intended for me all along. I found my center, and couldn't be happier.
Life is sweet, my friend, especially now that I've learned without a doubt to hold all things in divine order.
Susan's style of painting has been described as impressionistic, loose, and charming, capturing subjects near her home in middle Tennessee in simple settings, very fluid and intuitive, and full of color! Although she has experimented with several mediums over the years, she now concentrates mostly in oils, acrylics, and watercolors. And Alla Prima (painting in one session) is her style preference.
"Born into a family of artists and being a child of the divine Creator, it is impossible to deny the spirit of artistic and creative stirrings within me. We are all artists. It's our nature. We just choose different mediums. Mine is paint. Transparent oils, mostly. And I will forever be a student, inspired with unending natural beauty and limitless talent of other artists that surround me in rural middle Tennessee.
Keeping things simple and letting the details work out by themselves is my life's philosophy, and this shows in my work... simple subjects, uncluttered backgrounds, and lack of details are the recurring characteristics of my paintings. Life is full of many blessings, big and small. Embrace them. Count them...a game-winning touchdown, the yawn of a puppy, the smell of bacon frying and freshly brewed coffee, Elvis' Trilogy playing on the radio, the charms of a secondhand bookstore, a new white canvas and a paintbrush between your fingers. May you live your whole life fully engaged, fully appreciating all the beauty and blessings around you, creating happiness, fulfilling your dreams, and building a legacy of love."
Susan resides in a century-old Craftsman cottage in middle Tennessee where she can be found capturing free moments sipping sweet tea on the front porch with numerous well-loved and misbehaved, rescued fur babies and being inspired by every day objects and the beautiful seasons around her home. She may be contacted by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.