Jolie Guillebeau

Archive for February, 2013


Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Since I created more space in my life earlier this year, I’ve been able to really focus on the things that matter to me. That means more teaching and more painting in public.

For example, this week I’ve been teaching art to Kindergarten through Fifth grade at a local public school. I go one week each month, and the kids are really funny and creative.

And exhausting.

Today I’m doing a painting demonstration for a few hours at a retirement facility. Tomorrow– more teaching and a planning meeting about another gig coming up soon.

And Saturday, I’m going for my next belt in TaeKwonDo, so I’ve also been cramming a few extra practices in this week– I need all the practice I can get if I’m going to promote to a higher belt.

Today someone asked me, “Jolie, since you’re so busy, why are you still doing the daily painting? It’s been three years– you don’t have anything to prove anymore.”

And they’re right. I don’t. But I’m still driven to tell these stories and do this work. I’m still excited about working with parts and pieces of a larger whole. And in all the busyness, I still love that hour of quiet when I’m pushing paint on to a canvas.

I love knowing that there are 10 layers of color on this canvas. Alizarin, Ultramarine, Sap Green, Violet, more Ultramarine. Repeating that process again to build a strong dark solid square.

Visually, this may be a boring square compared to the other eight. But it was the most fulfilling to work on. And if painting a black square is fulfilling, then I know I’m doing the right thing.

What drives you these days?

(Whole painting tomorrow!)


Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

So much of this story is about the girl that I was. The one who learned to drive on the back roads of Alabama, and the one who sang “Lemon Tree” while memorizing counties and eating Cheetos.

Driving those roads a few weeks ago, I was reminded over and over of that girl that I was.

And yet. Occasionally, I got glimpses of who I am becoming, too. And I’m pretty excited about seeing that person. I think she could be kind of awesome.

And while I love nostalgia as much as (or perhaps more) than the average person, it’s better to look at the road ahead. It’s better to find yourself looking forward than back. The road ahead is much more exciting.


Monday, February 25th, 2013

Though I try, I can’t seem to tell a story without a tangent. This is true in conversation as well, so I guess I’m being authentic here. Cue tangent:

My studio looks very bare today. Since November, I’ve had a large canvas at my easel. First it was next to the cloud painting, and since then it’s been near the story pieces, so now things seem a little empty.

It was a painting for the March Music Moderne festival, which is  a contemporary music festival in Portland that spans the month of March.

24 Preludes and Fugues for Painters features 24 paintings by 24 artists, each work inspired by a prelude and fugue from “24 Preludes and Fugues for Piano, op.87″ by Dmitri Shostakovich.


You can see the painting from now until March 31 at Muse Art and Design, and I’ll be there for the reception on March 14 at 6:30.


Or you can see it on Instagram.

See the dark squares? That’s how the tangent connects to today’s painting. I was worried that painting a square so dark would be boring and flat in the painting. So I adapted the same idea that I used in that painting. Instead of just painting with black or gray, I built the darks using many layers of blue, red and green. Now it looks as dark as I need it to, but without turning flat.


Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

I think I like driving so much because I have so many good memories of road trips as a kid.

My mom and I drove Interstate 65 from Mobile to Huntsville and back dozens of times before I turned five. Somewhere along the way, I learned all 67 counties in Alabama by their license plate numbers, how to read a map, and I could sing all the words to every song on The Greatest Hits album by Peter, Paul and Mary.

I also learned to cry when we were pulled over for speeding. Sometimes it even worked.

It’s funny how things that seemed to go past in a blur, suddenly appear again and you realize you’ve never forgotten them. I use my map skills all the time, and I have the Peter, Paul and Mary album downloaded to my phone, but other than that I’d forgotten most of the details from those trips.

But then the other day here in Portland a car drove past with an Alabama license plate. I immediately knew it was from Baldwin County, because the plate number began with a five.

And suddenly I was back in a maroon station wagon, with orange Cheetos dust stuck to my fingers, watching the white line of the road go past in a blur.


Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Most of my learning to drive happened on backroads in Madison County, Alabama. Growing up there, I didn’t think much of names like Butter & Egg Road, or places like Lickskillet. Now, of course, I think they’re a little funny.

But a few weeks ago, I was visiting my family and driving on roads with more familiar names. Roads named after my family. As much as Portland feels like home, there are no roads names after my relatives here.

I can drive north on Highway 431 and see names that are unequivocally tied to my identity. I’m such a long way (literally and metaphorically) from that uptight girl that I used to be, but I’m starting to realize that there’s still a tiny bit of that Alabama girl in this Oregon woman.

And I’m okay with that. (Even if there are places named Lickskillet.)


Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Other than my occasional need for speed, I’m pretty much a rule follower. I get a little anxious if I find myself on the other side of the rules somehow.

Now with years of influence from a certain non-conformist, I’m a little more relaxed. But at sixteen, I was positively uptight.

Something about driving made me feel a little freer. And now when I get behind the wheel I remember that uptight girl and think about how far I’ve come.


Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

That first Toyota Corolla was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was my own space. And while I can’t say I was a very good driver those first few months, there was something incredible about zooming down back country roads singing as loud as I could all by myself.

The women in my family are known for having a heavy foot on the gas pedal, and I was no exception. When my little brother and sisters were in the car, I was cautious and careful. But when I was alone, I loved going fast.

Somewhere along the way that changed. Maybe it was that first speeding ticket, or maybe it was realizing that I’d have more time to myself if I slowed down a bit. But I started taking those roads a little slower.

I still sing (loudly) if I’m in the car by myself even though I’m on city streets instead of quiet country roads, but now I have time to finish the song.


Monday, February 18th, 2013

I’ve only owned one kind of car. My first car was a blue Toyota Corolla that I drove for eight years. When she met her untimely demise, I replaced her with another blue Toyota Corolla.

We sold that Corolla when we left for Africa. And when we returned, we chose to live without a car. So other than a few rental cars, or an occasional Land Rover, I’ve really only driven Toyotas.

It doesn’t matter how long it’s been, every time I get behind the wheel of a Toyota I feel a little like I’m coming home.


Sunday, February 17th, 2013

As I was making space, I took a trip out to the Oregon coast. And I remembered something.

I love to drive.

We’ve been car-free for more than six years, and I’ve never regretted that decision. It’s freeing and simplifies our life in so many ways.

But I love to drive. It clears my head. And my third story is about driving.


Thursday, February 14th, 2013


The story of how I came to be under this umbrella continues today. I realized that I was needing more space in my life and figured out ways to make that happen.

So once I did all this work to make space in my world, I had to figure out how to keep it. So I set up reminders. The biggest one was putting this photo of the umbrella as my lock screen on my phone.

I look at it at least twenty times a day. Before I answer a call, when I’m referring to my calendar, all the times that I need to remember space. I can see this umbrella and remember the restful and quiet feeling that came from sitting there by that pool and feeling so grateful for my life.

That moment is magic.

See you tomorrow with the whole image!