Tag Archives: Chicago magazine artist

Look Ma! I’m Famous!

22 Mar

Just published in a Chicago Magazine! Cool beans.

Meet Janet Balboa in North West Chicago

VOYAGECHICAGO STAFF

 

Today we’d like to introduce you to Janet Balboa.

Janet, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
When I was seven, I watched my mom wallpaper my room. She covered the walls with lovely little Laura Ashley roses. Within days I had filled in quite a lot of the spaces between the delicate pink roses with dark green lily pads and bright green frogs. My mom was devastated. I felt like mini Michelangelo. What do you do with that?

I drew everywhere, on everything. My mom and grandma constantly read to me and my younger brother, filling our childhood with Raggedy Ann and Andy, fairy tales, stories of ancient forests, knights, ladies and adventure. It was incredibly rich fodder for our imaginations. My dad had a workshop in our basement- we spent hours building model trains, WWII planes, dollhouse furniture – I still have the scar in my thigh where the Exacto knife I dropped embedded itself ($100 if you don’t tell your mother…). I bought my first set of Prisma color pencils with that money.

My dad’s passionate attempt to save an ancient oak stand from developers meant that I spent a great deal of time wandering around in forest preserves as a kid. The profound stillness and the seasonal rhythms of the forest floor filled me with a deep sense of wonder. I sensed my belonging and inclusion in everything around me.

My work today is an expression of my seeing that every life, all life, reveals the interconnectedness, beauty and mystery that is the ground of our being. We all belong to each other and to our beautiful planet. This implies a sense of responsibility and caring for each other and our Earth. My heart and hands communicate this inherent community through the bright colors of markers and colored pencils.

Has it been a smooth road?
As a kid I just knew what I loved. I didn’t feel a need to be anything other than who I was, but I was acutely aware that I didn’t fit in at all. I was not a ‘normal’ kid. All I wanted was my solitude and some pencils. I didn’t know what to do with myself – being ‘an artist’ wasn’t seen as a viable career path. You know, get a real job, all that pressure… I wandered around for many years trying to figure out ‘what I should be when I grew up’. It took me a long, long time to accept that all I had to do was keep walking and my path would just keep unfolding.

It’s funny how life works these things out, as I look back, I was in exactly the right place at the right time to acquire the skillset I needed for the life I have now. I studied in Kansas City, lived in England, traveled, raised wonderful kids, learned to cook, sailed, suffered many dark nights of the Soul, got famous with a line of greeting cards, was told I would be the next Mary Englebreit. Years of worry, disillusionment, accomplishments, failure, success – coalesced suddenly and became the shape of my current life.

Was my life smooth? No- but if it had been without difficulty, I doubt I would have grown as much or have opened to so many different perspectives. I have a lot of compassion for my younger students, I see them struggling to become themselves in a society that judges them harshly. They too realize that they just don’t fit in in the same way other kids do. It’s tough. Sometimes they just get sucked under. I think any positive form of self-expression can help pull them through. When you have a craft, something that is yours, it can sustain you. I know a lot of artists and poets who will readily admit that their talent has become their blessing instead of a curse. The trick is to realize that your belonging, your worth, wells up from within, and how you choose to express that becomes your unique gift to the world.

So, let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Janet Balboa story. Tell us more about the business.
I work in colored pencil and markers. I start with a sketch where I try to express what I hold in my imagination. Most pictures work themselves out along the way. Isn’t that why it’s called ‘art ‘work’? It is work to pull it down; to bring something imagined into reality.

In my current work in progress, Mary Magdalene, I initially envisioned her with a very busy Celtic knot background. As I work on her, and she becomes more real to me, I find the background disappearing completely. It’s become irrelevant. So, there is this conversation, this back and forth that happens when I create. I call this presence The Muse; the soul that playfully participates with me.

I see this with my students as well. The relationship that develops when you are creating work, whether a painting or a cathedral, is always teamwork. You, the creator, show up with a skillset, and ideally, you also create an environment, an attitude, where The Muse can’t help but be present. Your job is to show up at the drawing board. Her job is to inspire you. When this relationship is cultivated, something can happen.

I’m really invested with helping others realize this dynamic flow where life can suddenly become art. I work with Andreas Mannal from Wisdom Point, teaching workshops and seminars designed to reveal the unique masterpiece that each one of us is creating through the ups and downs of our daily life. We are working with what we call the Soul Navigator. It is a beautiful tool for understanding and relating to the Sacred, opening a space for allowing, connecting, and exploring the capacities we have as human beings. We’ve done several workshops already and I’m amazed by the sea changes that are happening in my life as well as those who have attended. In our hearts, we all know that we have everything we need inside us. It’s all about what you put your attention on.

Is everything forever rosy? No. But paying attention to the presence of the Soul opens out a space where things aren’t so crowded together. The sense of overwhelm is gone because there is room to breathe, time to heal and more clarity than panic. Life becomes a meaningful work in progress.

There is nothing more beautiful than looking into the eyes of another person and seeing light and life there. Too often the windows to our Soul appear dull because we have lost sight of our own beauty. When the vision of our true self is restored, we can begin to consciously create a masterpiece; the work of our lifetime.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?

Traditionally it has been the artists and poets who have helped society reveal its highest truths and its most devastating lows. We need the clear vision provided by those who have cultivated their creative imagination. Can we see a world vision that honors cooperation, relationship and the sacredness of all life? As in each individual life, so it is for humanity. There are no wasted steps, no wasted moments. Everything matters. Everything is connected. For me it took some personal tragedies to see this, and the perspective that comes with getting older. It really is all about love. I love myself deeply, and that allows me to love others deeply. It’s hard learning to love yourself. To care for yourself. Love is the thread that weaves us into the tapestry of life. Without it, we have those lifeless eyes. With it, we become essentially, deliciously ourselves. I think our future depends on each one of us taking responsibility for our thoughts words and actions. We are all creators. If we create with love, well, I think the world would be lovely.

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