Imagine: you’re an attorney in New York, dealing with brutal cases and people — some of whom are your colleagues.
One day, out of the blue, you discover a love for painting. At first, it’s only stress-relief. Then onlookers start reacting. It seems you may have some talent.
A wife and mother of two young children, JJ did her best to ‘leave the work at work’. But two years ago, she felt her frustration growing.
“Being a Black woman in the legal profession in New York City can be brutal. I have been bullied countless times by my White adversaries.”
Worse, she came to realize: “There is nothing fair about the justice system in America”. That was a heart-breaker; JJ had attended law school because she thought she could make “real change”.
Then she started to read news stories about another woman of colour being bullied — very publicly — in newspapers and online. JJ felt immediate empathy for her.
“Seeing a hardworking, passionate, intelligent, go-getter woman of colour being demonized, dehumanized on a daily basis by a segment of the media not because of anything she has done, but because of her Blackness” triggered both a realization and an awakening.
“The world will not change much as long as there are closed-minded people who would rather dwell on negativity than shedding light on the good in this world. It won’t change as long as people with public platforms continue to use their platforms to spread lies and half-truths. Some people have been suppressing their hate, waiting for the right moment to strike.”
During this time of growing frustration, JJ attended a friend’s bridal shower and was invited to take an art class there with other women.
Before it was over, she was hooked.
“Until that class, I never painted a day in my life.
“I got married immediately after law school, had my first baby within that year. I never even thought about taking a painting class until my friend’s bridal shower. I was suddenly hit with a realization that I probably missed my calling.”
She started to post her early paintings on social media.
Encouragement turned into admiration. Admiration turned into purchases.
Stephanie, a Canadian buyer of one of JJ’s paintings says:
“I feel blessed to have watched and encouraged her growth as an artist. What inspires me is her expression of life with passion, strength and such beauty it literally hits me in the belly when I look at them. Whether it’s on social media or at my home where I have two gorgeous paintings, I smile with great pride for a sister of the soul.”
JJ says painting allows her freedom.
“I can be brutally honest, and a lot of people don’t like honesty. Painting allows me to use my creativity as well as my honesty. Through my painting, I express myself freely without the constraint society places on women, especially a Black woman like myself.”
JJ’s paintings arouse different emotions in the people who have purchased them or encouraged her to turn her hobby into her dream.
Ava, who lives in Texas, says JJ’s paintings give her “instant peace and joy”.
“I like her paintings because they make me feel serenity and they have an effortless effulgence to them. I think her work is professional and more than just a hobby. She has talent, the kind you are born with and the kind you have to work hard to achieve.”
JJ paints almost every day, and has recently launched her website myhobbyturns2dream.com .
POSTSCRIPT: JJ didn’t want to identify the woman who helped inspire her art “because so many use her name for the wrong reasons.”
She then revealed: “I confess that without the hateful media campaign against Duchess (of Sussex) Meghan, I am not sure I would have looked for a hobby to channel my anger and frustration against racism.”
Quoting Michael Jackson’s lyric “Man in the Mirror”, JJ says that, with her paintings, “I’m starting with the woman in the mirror. I’m asking her to change her ways. And no message could have been clearer.”
But her greatest realization was inspired by the duchess herself, who has persevered and succeeded, in spite of the hate against her.
“It made me realize I should not settle for anything less than greatness.”
*The paintings above may not be replicated. Property of the artist.*