A Closer Look

Murals of Janesville

Part 1

The Artists Behind the Scenes

Story and Interviews by Teresa Nguyen

September, 2020

I want to give them a prominent place, a chance to be recognized, to be respected. This is a way I can do that, to bring them into the conversation and make the mural thought-provoking. ~ Jeff Henriquez

"Waves of Giving" mural by Jaime Brown with Karim Jabbari - Photo by Marsha Mood Photography
Read Part 2 - A Historical Tour of Public Art !

In a year of multilayered challenges, we could easily fall victim to emotional drain caused by the disruption of normalcy, stresses and hardship and a stealthy darkness that has snuck in like a burlar, eveloping our spirits, since the coronavirus pandemic reached the shores of America. Yet, there are those among us who hold onto hope, to the idea that shining a light, a positive pathway, might lift this fog of gloom from our own community. They act with determination and selfless generosity toward the goal of bringing a brighter clarity through beauty in our downtown.

As in Picasso’s quote on the value of art, sometimes it is more than dust that we need to wash away. This year if feels like a thick layer of dirt, grime and mud, gathered from the heaviness of this global health crisis, economic instability and social isolation. And what better way to cleanse our souls than through public art? With splashes of vibrant color, sparks of joy are ignited, washing away the murkiness and fanning the flames of hope for all who view these enchanting creations.

The Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau wanted to build on the success of the Black Hawk wall mural painted in 2019 by artist Jeff Henriquez.

 

Art Infusion usually features a professional chalk artist and opportunities for the public to create sidewalk chalk art, but this year also included a spectacular and wonderful Mural Festival. A committee began a fundraising drive, with a $50,000 goal, to bring a 2020 Mural Festival to downtown Janesville. 

The Art Infusion committee worked with Wallpapered City, a Milwaukee company, specializing in mural events. They then reached out to building owners who were interested in letting mural artists paint on an exterior wall and received submissions of designs from a variety of artists.

Stained Light

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

Local philanthropist, Nigella Ryan, was instrumental in leading the event and in bringing back Jeff Henriquez as this year’s featured artist. His chance to continue making a difference with his art emerged.
The week of art brought a variety of people out of their homes, pouring into the downtown streets. There was an almost electric energy and a warm, community spirit we haven't seen since before the pandemic. It was the kind of joyful atmosphere we've all been craving.
Christine Rebout of the JACVB and Nigella Ryan on WCLO  in 2019
In an interview with Frank Schultz of The Gazette, Nigella stated, “We thought it would be nice to have something positive and a reason to have people outside.”
 
During this year of social distancing and increased anxiety, we have truly needed these beautiful and colorful creations to lift our spirits.
 
Five new murals were painted in about a week’s time, from Aug. 30 through Sept. 6, beautifying our downtown area. The following interviews give us the chance to know these talented artists behind the scenes as they discuss such topics as their favorite mediums, talent versus training, painting in Janesville and the meaning behind their fascinating designs. 

David Mark Zimmerman (Bigshot Robot)

 

Bigshot Robot is an artist & designer based in Milwaukee. His work explores curiosity, vibrancy, humor and movement. In his illustrations, paintings, and collaborations, there is always a sense of imagination at play with colorful palettes full of energy. 

Art in the Early Years

I grew up in Milwaukee. In third grade I made a t-shirt which was my version of a Vincent van Gogh painting. It was an iron-on and my interpretation of impressionism. That was neat. 

My mom was the one who encouraged me in art. She was a quilter, pretty crafty and played instruments in high school. Early on, I played a lot of music and that helped me. My mom and I relate in those areas.

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David Mark Zimmerman - a.k.a. Bigshot Robot

I attended UW Milwaukee with a degree in Graphic Design and Mixed Media.

Natural Gift vs. Training

Some people have that natural talent. For me, it’s just a lot of hard work. I’m very interested in learning. That’s what I get out of it…constantly being challenged.

Art Inspiration and Murals

There are definitely a couple of people in the art world that stand out to me. A guy, who goes by the name of Ornamental Conifer, who is a mix between a sign painter and graphic artist. He does a lot of really intricate lettering and painting. I like his stuff.

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I also follow a lot of graphic designers. There are two guys, Dan and Dan, who go by Young Jerks. They do a lot of branding and lettering. I’m really inspired by graphic work, like the styles of the 70s, too.

The first big outdoor mural I did was in 2017. That was in the Black Cat Alley, in Milwaukee. I did that with Wallpapered City. I feel like I’m getting into a bit of a stride.

Recently, I worked on a project up at Bayshore Mall in Milwaukee. My friend Emma Daisy curated it. It was with a new color pallet I don’t normally use, so it was a cool boundary push.


This design - it’s like hiding a big animal somewhere in the city. It’s kind of fun! The texture of the wall is tough, so I had to spray paint a lot of this.

Blue Dog mural by David Mark Zimmerman - a.k.a. Bigshot Robot
Behind 215 W Milwaukee Street - Photo by Kim Hoholek

There’s something fun about murals because it’s such a different scale. I’m really interested in moving into sculpture. It’s something I haven’t worked in a lot, but some of my characters could really come into the world in a fun way with 3D. I did a lot of pottery in college. Some of my friends do 3D printing and I’ve had a lot of architect friends. It’s always been part of how I think, but it’s kind of funny because I work in a 2D style.

The Pandemic

It’s given me a healthy dose of anxiety, to start with. I’m sure a lot of people have experienced that. I’ve been lucky to stay busy with my work. I was expecting worse…it seems like art is always the first thing to go when people tighten their budget. A lot of us really lucked out with some fun work.

It’s essentially construction, in that regard. Even in the early stages, during the ‘stay at home’ order, I was technically allowed to work, as much of it is outdoors.

Supporting Artists

Obviously, it’s cool to have a big projects and big budgets and stuff like that, but it’s as simple as asking someone to do a portrait of your dog or your kids. That’s a simple way to start. You get a portrait and don't break your bank, but you’re still helping that person to keep working.

 

Farther than that, if you have a small business, maybe you have them do your logo or sell someone’s painting in a coffee shop.

It’s more about changing the notion of the “starving, struggling artist” That really is more of a disservice because then people think, "Well, they’re used to that, so we don’t have to pay them.” 

Art is a very valuable cultural thing, a wonderful thing not only for cities, but even in your own house. To put a beautiful piece of art into your home, instead of commercial art, you’re bringing that person into your world a little bit.

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Bayshore Mall mural, Milwaukee
by David Mark Zimmerman - a.k.a. Bigshot Robot
 

Coming to Janesville

I had never visited Janesville, but had some friends who grew up here so was interested to see their hometown.

Janesville’s been great!

One of the nights I had a family and a crowd of about 7 kids and their parents. They were just hanging out and I let them do a little spray painting. That was a nice warm welcome. I went on a ten-mile bike ride one of the mornings to explore Janesville a little bit. I found some of the trail. I’m having fun!

To see more of Bigshot Robot’s work, visit his website: Bigshot-Robot.com   
Or visit his Facebook page.
Find him on Instagram

Jaime Brown & Karim Jabbari

Jaime, originally from Kenosha, creates eye-popping murals of shapes, color and meaning all rolled into one. Her street art includes a variety of works from “Cotton Candy Stairs” in Halifax, Nova Scotia, “Unified” in Dubai, to additional work in Morocco, Canada and the United Arab Emirates. A recent mural, “Kindred” was completed in Milwaukee earlier this year. Jaime also strives to inspire girls and women to become involved in street art careers. She has partnered with Karim Jabbari to complete the Janesville mural.  

Karim, originally from Tunisia, is a world-renowned Light Calligraphy artist who helped pioneer this art medium from its beginning stages. His other specialties include large-scale murals around the world, calligraffiti designs (a fusion of calligraphy and graffiti), international public art installations and teaching various calligraphy and light painting workshops. He has hosted a TED Talk, given classes and workshops in Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Tunisia, Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Morocco, Russia, and the USA.

 
Karim Jabbari and Jaime Brown

Art in the Early Years

Jaime: My mother is also an artist. As a young child, I didn’t spend my afternoons watching TV. She had a big fishing tackle box full of, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, construction paper and tape and scissors. So, I started at a young age, inspired by my mom. 

Karim: My work is based on calligraphy and very detailed. I do what is called “Urban Scriptures”


Karim: I learned calligraphy at a young age. Originally from North Africa, Tunisia, I developed this passion for calligraphy around 11 years old. My story is very deep. My father was a political prisoner and imprisoned for 13 years, starting around this time when I was 11 and away at a boarding school. I was extremely sad when I heard the news.

He had a book collection of handwritten books, some of them hundreds of years old, handed down from generation to generation in the family. That was the connection to my father. I started digging into those books to try and find him, in a way, his smile, his smell.
I would spend long summers just writing and writing.

Finding Art Across the Ocean

Karim: I moved to Canada when I was 20 years old and I wanted to give back to calligraphy and that type of art, because calligraphy was there for me and gave me definition to my childhood.

The young people don’t really write anymore, so my mission, as a professional artist, was to connect people to writing through the ancient art of calligraphy. Using gigantic walls, I use a brush, line by line, sometimes it takes me days or weeks! Then people can see the process.

I always have translations with my murals. One of my favorites was up in Montreal, when there was a lot of racism going on.

Karim Jabbari in a 2018 CNN interview about his art.
I wrote a big poem by a Tunisian artist that says, “I would love to comprehend the universe, but sometimes I struggle to understand myself.” This is for people who love to judge and position themselves higher than others. They better cross that barrier of hate and only then you can learn who the other person is.
On Meeting Jaime
Karim: We first met by just appreciating each other’s work on social media. Then, she ended up being my manager and eventually my wife! We’ve traveled together all over the world, in Malaysia, Australia, Dubai and the Gulf region and other places.

 

We did a little dual mural together in Kenosha during the protests there recently. The translation on that one is, “We are all equal.”

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"Waves of Giving" mural by Jaime Brown working with Karim Jabbari
21 S. Jackson Street - Photo by Marsha Mood Photography

The Janesville Mural

 

Jaime: For this particular piece, I did the design. We work together, and the project depends on who answers the call. Sometimes we submit to the same project, sometimes only one of us does.

This mural, given to the sweet people of Janesville, is called "Waves of Giving" and it represents how the earth gave back to the city and also how the people give back to the community.

Meaning


•    The arrows on the top represent the forward thinking of the city of Janesville. This Mural Festival is a great example of that.
•    The zigzags represent the Rock River running through downtown and how important it has been to the city.

•    The diamonds on the right are a stalk of wheat, from its earlier days establishing itself as an agricultural community.
•    The horizontal bars on the bottom are for the fallen tree trunks during the lumber/industrial part of the city.
•    The vertical lines are the train tracks for when the city became connected by rail, which was a huge move for exportation of goods, obviously.

•    The two purple circles that intersect show a woman looking down and working on something. The small circle is her head, the big one is her body and the mango color is her face. She could be making a quilt; she could be making dinner. But generally speaking, the woman is the heartbeat of the home. Those homes and families are the heartbeat of the community.

It’s not just a bunch of pretty colors and shapes. Once you understand the meaning behind it, it gives you a lot more depth to the mural. You feel a bigger connection to it.

Natural Talent vs. Training & Practice

Karim: I went from a little child, learning how to mimic ancient scriptures, to being in a position where I was lecturing at Yale and Harvard and major universities and I shared my passion on the five continents. I always say one thing: I do not believe in talent. I believe in hard work. You can be talented, but by not working hard and ignoring that talent, you lose it. If you think “I don’t know how…” then work hard and learn it.

I’m inspired by everything that surrounds me…anything I see that affects me; I wonder how I can translate that into art. I am one of the leaders in the world who is doing light calligraphy, using light to create it. It’s a newer art form.

Favorite Pieces 

Jaime: My favorite piece that Karim has done is at Curtain University in Australia, hands down. It is the most beautiful piece of art you’ll ever see on a building. It’s matte black with gloss black calligraphy over it. The center part is rose gold metallic poetry. It’s an outdoor piece on a staircase.

 

Karim: I love a lot of Jaime’s work. The last mural she did in Milwaukee is just a masterpiece. It’s in downtown Milwaukee, near the old Grand Avenue Mall.

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A mural by Karim Jabbari at Curtain University in Australia

The Pandemic

Jaime: It’s given us a lot more time to be creative in the studio. We’ve been able to focus more locally, in the U.S. Whereas before, we were traveling a lot. It’s a different kind of focus. And working in the studio together, we feed off each other’s energy.

Karim: A mural is just a part of the artist. It’s a result of an entire lifetime of art and her being able to put a piece of her here in this community…it’s interesting.

Supporting Artists

Jaime: Deposit gold bricks directly into my bank account (laughs).

Karim: The artists need a flow of income, so purchase what artists have to offer whether prints, clothing or whatever they’re making.

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Coming to Janesville

Karim: Jaime actually applied for it. As much as we like working in big cities, we love working in small communities. Why? Because of the exchange we have we have with people. We could be working on a big mural in, say, Malaysia, hanging four stories high with no connection to people. 

Jaime: It’s nice when we’re closer to ground level. Also, people in smaller communities appreciate this more. You could do a mural in Chicago and they’ll say, “Oh great, another mural. So?” But, here, this is not really a mural town, and now that you’re adding all these five pieces to what’s already been done, there’s a greater appreciation.

Karim: Janesville has been treating us well. We love it, we love it so much! I appreciate the landscape around here on our drive in from Milwaukee and we like the local coffee shops.

Jaime: Everyone has been kind and warm and welcoming. Especially Nigella. She was so kind, she even baked us homemade, made from scratch, chocolate chip cookies. Oh, my goodness, those were the BEST chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had! They were moist and thick and perfect. The best I’ve ever had!

Jaime and Karim at work - Photo by Kim Hoholek

This is the difference, you know? Welcome to Wisconsin! Where the event organizer comes and says, “Hey, I baked you cookies.”

 

On her Instagram, Jaime writes: Thank you to everyone who passed by, waved hello, chatted with us, brought us coffee, lunch, and cookies, and to all the wonderful citizens who were so expressively thankful for this art. ❤️

See more of Jaime Brown's work on Instagram:  @JaimenotJamie

See Karim's work on Instagram: @karim_jab 

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Jeff Henriquez

Jeff Henriquez

Photorealist Painter/ Mural Artist

Jeff Henriquez is a Brooklyn, NY based full-time artist specializing in the photorealist painting style. He has a BA in Art (1999) from Bradford College in Bradford, Massachusetts. He works in a wide range of mediums, from ceramics to oil on canvas, silk screen to murals. One of Jeff’s missions is to recognize and honor indigenous people and people of color through his works of art. He captures deep emotion in the faces of his subjects, creating meaningful, stunning and profound pieces.

Art in the Early Years

As a kid, I used to draw Dungeons & Dragons things. My cousin Gringo (yes, that’s we call him) was a talented artist. I copied a lot of things he did and he was cool with it.  

Of course, my mother and my sister were the most encouraging. But anyone I showed my art to, all my friends, they’d be like, “Hey, that’s cool, Jeff.”  So, I liked it. My father was a painter, so I think I got it from him.

Natural Gift vs. Training

Practice is everything. If you have talent and don’t do anything with it, you may as well not have the talent to begin with. Practice is everything, doing the same thing over and over again is critical. It’s absolutely key.

Favorite Medium

I really enjoy oil and canvas. Spray painting is a lot of fun, and I love it, but oil and canvas is my favorite.

Inspirations in the Art World

My favorite graffiti artist is SUCHOwen Dippie is another really good one, I like his work a lot. Chuck Close was an early inspiration.There are too many to mention!

Developing as a Muralist

I did my first mural when I was 15 at a military recruitment office, where I painted a helicopter. It was the biggest surface I had ever worked on at the time, and not something I was used to (a relatively very small wall compared to the latest mural!) It was neat to be asked.

Then I did a few murals in high school. Then I did them off and on here and there. But I didn’t start a career out of it until about 6 or 7 years ago.

Chief Black Hawk Mural by Jeff Henriquez
South Main Street, Janesville, WI - Photo by Mike Kohlbauer

The whole mural gig jumped off in Brooklyn, NY. The first several were all in Brooklyn. The Chief Black Hawk wall was one of my favorites. It was my biggest wall that I had done…until I got this one in 2020! This is going to be the next favorite. 

Watch a Drywater Productions timelapse video of the creation of the Black Hawk Mural: 

When I saw the size of it, I decided I wouldn’t paint the whole thing, but rather wanted to leave the negative space on the wall to serve a purpose, instead of just an area that I didn’t paint.


Recently I was in Baltimore, just before coming to Janesville. It was a three-story building, but kind of a corner so the wall went in two different directions. It was cumbersome work. Not like here, where it’s not bad and I drive the lift, deal with some wind and rain, but not much. In Baltimore, the sidewalk was not level! I had to stick shims under the lift. That was a pain.

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Jeff Henriquez working on the Black Hawk mural
Video capture by Drywater Productions

The Pandemic

One of my close buddies almost died from it. He’s one of the best painters in the world, Tim Okamura. He is a Smithsonian level artist.

The pandemic delayed some of my work, a mural I was supposed to do back in May was postponed. But, otherwise, I do a lot of my art at home, so I’m one of the safest guys because of the nature of the work.

New York was the first to be hit hard, but now, it is a “green state”. We had Governor Cuomo ready to slap anybody backhanded. He doesn’t want that s*** coming into town. Cuomo’s got a pair. He was leading the way with the mandates and making sure everyone was doing the right thing to get it under control.

People were seeing refrigerator trucks full of bodies and people said, “F*** that! We’re gonna’ get careful.” That’s how that went.
Just cover yourself up, be patient and give people 6 frickin’ feet. Just because you’re in a group, doesn’t mean you have to be a foot away from each other. There’s no need to get that close. When people are in a group, they forget how to think like an individual. I don’t understand why people act like they do in groups.

Supporting Artists

It’s not always in monetary ways. You can share their work, talk about it. If there are any attainable points of sale, like t-shirts and that sort of thing, buy them. Supporting the value of art is important. And Janesville is doing that by bringing these muralists down here.

Theme of the Mural

For this second Janesville mural, there was a collaboration between Nigella and myself. We wanted to talk about some social issues and get into the history of women, especially this being the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. But, as we know, women of color did not get that right until decades later. This all motivated me to create this mural.


I feel that women of color, especially indigenous women, are rarely seen.

How many times do you see a portrait of an indigenous woman? They are too often ignored. I want to give them a prominent place, a chance to be recognized, to be respected. This is a way I can do that, to bring them into the conversation and make the mural thought provoking.

I composed it using other relevant elements, as well, like the Wisconsin state flower - the wood violet.

See more of Jeff Henriquez's work on his website at jeffhenriquez.com

 

Instagram: @jeffhenriquezart_   

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Mural by Jeff Henriquez
Main Street near the Parking Ramp - Photo by Kim Hoholek
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Jessie Willyerd & Tim Cahill

Jessie Willyerd & Tim Cahill

Janesville native, Jessie Willyerd, has been drawing since she could hold a pencil. Her main subject matter has always been horses but she is not limited to them. Jessie has a bachelor's degree in Art from the University of Wisconsin River Falls.


Janesville native, Tim Cahill, does a variety of art - mostly pencils, color pencils, graphite, some painting, oils and watercolor. He has collaborated on murals with Jessie since they were art students in Mrs. Barry’s class at Craig High School. They painted a few murals at the high school as well as one at Monterey Stadium.

Art Encouragement and Inspiration

Jessie: When I was young, my whole family encouraged me. They saw the kinds of things that I loved, so they allowed me those opportunities. There was a local artist, Ellie Conway, who put some of my work in 4-H. Ellie also guided me in my pet portrait business, when I was younger.

Tim: Looking at other artists’ work and online, I get inspired from art that kind of “speaks to you.” For painting class at Craig High School, we both had Mrs. Barry, who let us do whatever we wanted senior year. As our art teacher, she saw the potential in us. We did a couple of murals at Craig together and then another one down at Monterey Stadium. 

Jessie: Both Tim and I were 2003 Craig High School grads and in art classes together. We’ve been friends since high school and enjoy collaborating. In high school, I did the most murals, then a couple local murals for my horseback riding friends.


Talent vs. Training

Jessie: I taught art for five years and the curriculum at the Janesville district focused on the seven elements of art, starting with the very basics and building from there. As an art teacher, I saw kids who were really gifted and kids who could learn based on what we were teaching them. 

Tim: I think a big part of it is kind of natural. But, obviously, you would need to work on it to grow and try different things.

Downtown Mural Design

Tim: I was definitely interested and glad we got the opportunity! Jessie texted me, inviting me to paint with her. We collaborated on this design when we submitted it. Then we got the separate panels. 

Being noticeable from a distance, you want something that pops out. We like the contrasting colors, something primary and a way to carry through the different colors from one side to the other.

Jessie: As long as I can remember, I’ve always loved drawing horses. When I was 3 or 4, I received small toy horses, and that was “it” for me. That’s all I wanted to play with! My uncle had horses and my mom had me in riding lessons. She mucked out stalls so that I could have that opportunity. 

Mural by Jessie Willyerd & Tim Cahill
East Court Street & Main - Photo by Marsha Mood Photography
I was really excited to do this, because last year, when Jeff Henriquez painted the Black Hawk mural, I was in North Carolina at an equestrian center doing some fine art there. I thought, “Well, it would be nice to get involved in the Janesville community if they’re going to have murals to paint!” I think I’ll enjoy driving by this mural, for sure.

 

It’s been fun, kind of noisy with all the traffic. But, that’s part of the job.

Tim: It’s been really great; a lot of people stopping by and being really encouraging. I’m excited and looking forward to seeing all the artwork finished and everyone coming downtown.

Favorite Medium

Jessie: I enjoy them all, to be honest, and think variety is the spice of life and can’t get stuck on one. I always want to try new things. As far as a favorite piece goes, it’s kind of like ‘the next best thing’ is always my favorite. I like to make something and then move on. 

Tim: My favorite mediums are mostly pencils, color pencils, graphite, some painting, oils and watercolor. I couldn’t pick just one favorite piece I’ve done. I enjoy illustration and being able to tell a story with pictures.

The Pandemic

Jessie: I focused more on my current job at a vet clinic in Milton because I put art off to the side. People were worried about buying toilet paper, not necessarily art. So, I had put it off until the future.

Find more of Jessie's work on Instagram: @jessiewillyerd  

Jessie's design on her downtown mural includes a raven, which Jessie says is a nod to Raven's Wish Art Gallery and the variety of art in Janesville. Raven's Wish owner, Alicia Reid had this to say about the 2020 Mural Festival:

I LOVE all of the art activity, this past week and in general. It is encouraging to see so many folks out enjoying all the creativity. I saw tons of families, older couples, young people on bicycles, and interested bystanders enjoying both the murals and the sidewalk chalk art. Hooray for Janesville! ~ Alicia Reid

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Stephanie Krellwitz

Stephanie Krellwitz

Stephanie is a Milwaukee freelance artist and yoga instructor. She has a background in special education, deaf education and holds a lifelong art education license (K-12) in the state of WI from Concordia University's, plus a minor in visual fine art from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She specializes in commissioned artworks including portraits and logo design. ranging from miniatures to mural designs through mediums of watercolor, acrylic, ink, and colored pencil. Stephanie uses vibrant colors and light, hoping to offer the viewer little worlds that provide a sense of joy and mindfulness.

Art Encouragement and Inspiration

I used to draw and color at home with my mom and grandma. My grandma would save up old cards and cut out the pictures so we could collage them. My family and my parents, encouraged me in my art.

 

I studied at various schools, mostly at UW Milwaukee. I worked as a teacher in schools in the areas of deaf education, special education, and art education for nearly ten years. Art has always been my first love. I paint nearly every day.

Talent vs. Training

Like with everything, it’s perseverance and effort. You have to want to do it. You have to keep pushing. It’s like in the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. You have to put in the time, to put in so many hours before you become good at something. 

Favorite Medium

I do a lot of 2-D work. Lately, I am doing a lot in watercolor, due to living in a very small home. And I have a little two-year-old and don’t have a lot of space, so my studio is my dining room. Watercolor is very conducive to small spaces, and I like that there’s no waste! It dries and I just keep reusing it! I love that, because I also don’t have a lot of money. So, mainly I work with watercolor and I enjoy working with pencils.

Inspirations in Art 

There’s a woman out in Washington named Khara Ledonne who does miniatures, these tiny, amazing little pictures. And that’s what made me get back into art after teaching Special Ed, working with deaf and hard of hearing students.

 

The Pandemic

I was working part time in Special Ed. But part time in education is full-time. I put I had been wanting to get out of education since I’d had my daughter. The demand was too much and I was unhappy. 

My husband is independently employed as a musician and guitar teacher. I asked my husband one day, “How do you feel about us both being independent.” He said, “Go for it!”

Initially, I put all of my investment into yoga. I’d been teaching yoga for about eight years. That seemed like the avenue to take, that if I had a good class, I could make enough to sustain it. It was going well, I had about 12 classes a week, and then COVID-19 happened and everything got shut down.
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Diving into Art

I’d been painting little commissioned portraits on the side. So, I started to push my business in that direction, so I painted a lot of house portraits for realters, custom portraits, like parent/child portraits of people, all in watercolor. I had a few office spaces and businesses paint larger things for their office. On the side I do illustrations on the side. And now this!

So, the art aspect of my business picked up in March! So, this is new. It’s the happiest I’ve ever been!

I’m always looking for something else I can do. I live near a mural district on North Avenue and I thought, “God, that’d be cool.” So, I applied.

Favorite Piece

I really like a portrait I did of myself and my daughter. It was one of the more time-consuming things that I did. 

 

Supporting Artists

 

Commission them. Buy their stuff. It’s as simple as that. Get the word out and share their work on social media. I must have been the last Millennial to get Instagram. I thought, “I guess people should know I exist.” So, it’s very new.

The Janesville Mural

This is my first mural! I was super excited to be coming here, but also nervous because I’m pregnant and had a rough first trimester. This project came along when I started to feel horrible and I needed a lot of naps. My husband was a little worried about me taking it on. But it’s been fine.

Watercolor by Stephanie Krellwitz

Years ago, during one summer, I was very anxious and made around 100 tiny origami cranes, in many colors and stuck them on a tree branch. My two-year-old loves it and waves to the cranes. I always pictured them flying away. So, I wanted to draw that.

 

When I got the name of the place, Lark, I thought, “How perfect. I like the name, the colors of the building.” Then after I got the spot, I zoomed in on the storefront and saw that they had the sculpture of the paper cranes! So, I didn’t even know that!

I love it here. Everyone is so kind, warm and welcoming. I have really enjoyed it. Everyone’s wonderful!

I’m thrilled! This is a dream come true.

To view more of Stephanie’s art at novazenmke.com

 

Visit her Instagram: @novazenmke

Lark mural by Stephanie.jpg
Mural by Stephanie Krellwitz
60 S. Main Street - Photo by Kim Hoholek
Stephanie's mural.jpg
Mural by Stephanie Krellwitz
60 S. Main Street - Photo by Kim Hoholek
Watch a Short Video of the Artists in the 2020 Janesville Mural Festival