In studio interview with Jo Myers-Walker:Jo Myers-Walker has been a lifelong artist and teacher for most of her adult life. Jo works primarily in watercolors but enjoys trying new techniques and materials. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa and uses what she sees around her for inspiration.
IAG - From what I have read, you were born an artist, or it was very instinctual thing for you do as a child. Did you have memories of how this came about and developed?
Jo - As long as I remember, I have been making things. My Mom and Dad did the same: it seemed normal to me. I made doll clothes and my own creations to wear, repurposing clothing. I tore up cloth to make those cotton potholders on the loom, and little villages out of cardboard with lights inside for Christmas. I still do that with my grandchildren.
IAG- You were able to make a living as a watercolorist; can you explain how you did this? What was your process?
Jo- I started going to art fairs with my watercolors taking my girls along to help me set up, so it was a family affair and outing. I noticed what other artists were selling and they seemed to have a personal theme or niche. I started painting birds that had a likeness to my friends and family, so I gave them names. They even came with short descriptions. I noticed people like to know what motivates an artist. What is the story behind the work? My larger watercolors had the same soft technique and colors. The birds were an introduction to my work without spending a lot of money. I am in many a bathroom across the US.
When I sell my work, I talk about my technique and my subject matter. I think you must let people in without being pushy.
I always had something new when I came back to a show and people came to see what I was doing.
I did branch out into papermaking, fiber puppets, and acrylic sculptures. I always painted watercolors. I think I did this because my degree was in art education and I knew the materials. However, many of the old masters did the same.
IAG - I love the quote you have made about artists having to go though experiences to be the “storytellers of life”. Can you expand on this concept?
Jo- The story is how the viewer relates and gives a glimpse into our lives. Otherwise, I am just a craftsperson with beautiful techniques. I think we need both. When someone says they keep seeing more in my work, I take it as a compliment and they will enjoy it for a long time.
IAG-Your work and teaching philosophy involves taking people on an “inward journey”. I would like to know how this realization happened for you.
Jo- When I am painting, I go into my work, allowing it to show me another way, another color, another perspective. I think a painting needs to have a life of its own. I paint memories, feelings, from my point of view, and I am always right. This works well when I teach others to honor and respect their point of view. I love it when we don’t all look alike.
IAG - Your work has spiritual influences, particularly your most recent work, The Canticle sculpture (see Jo Myer-Walkers most recent blog for more about this work https://theleftbankstudio.com/blog/ )
Has this always been the case?
Jo - For me the spiritual piece has always been there in my work. It is what grounds me and makes the experience worthwhile. I always learn something new about myself and the world. It is like letting God have his or her way with you, showing a new perspective or approach. Painting and making things is very healing. I do spiritual retreats helping myself and others to go deeper. It is like meditation.
I am a Franciscan Associate and follow the life of St Francis and St Clare. The Canticles of Creation are symbols of the legends of St. Francis. I tell a bit of his story and then reflect on how that fits into my life, usually giving me new insights into my relationships.
IAG - what do you see yourself doing over the next few years?
Jo - What I hope for the future…I am enjoying the retreats because it gets me out of myself and I meet new people and see new places and ideas. I am painting larger watercolors and scenes. I am doing more teaching but have plans to travel. I am retired so I have more freedom to enjoy my family and friends and to be of service.