Onions, by Jewell Willhite

Meet Lawrence artist Jewell Willhite

Artists don’t retire – they get better

Onions, by Jewell Willhite

Onions, by Jewell Willhite

Lawrence artist Jewell Willhite didn’t have the opportunity to take art classes growing up. They weren’t offered in her high school or at Iowa State College. Instead, she got her degree in “applied art,” a course of study in the home economics department.

Jewell learned about design and illustration as it applied to homemaking — think sewing and décor. But she also found a way to try painting for the first time. Many years later, once her children were grown, Jewell became a prolific painter, creating a couple dozen pictures a year.

Her painting “Onions” took the Best in Show ribbon in last year’s Art is Ageless competition at Lawrence Presbyterian Manor.

Jewell tried oil painting early on, but once she discovered acrylics, she never looked back. “If you’re painting outdoors, it dries very fast. Oil does not,” Jewell said.

Landscapes and flowers are two of her favorite subjects, so Jewell paints outdoors as often as possible. Fortunately, she’s friends with artists who have perfect spots for setting up her canvas – including one whose son raises fields of sunflowers, which attract scores of sightseers. “I like to do landscapes on site if possible. I have a couple of artist friends out in country around Lawrence, and I paint on their land a lot,” she said. She also took along her art supplies to a family reunion in Colorado last year and captured some of the scenes there.

Jewell is an active member of the art guilds in Lawrence and Topeka, and she exhibits her work regularly in their shows, as well as other events in both communities. We’re pleased that she has become a regular Art is Ageless participant as well, and we look forward to seeing what she has to show us this year!

“I think that artists don’t really retire,” Jewell said. “They may change what they do a little, or do less, but it’s not something you suddenly stop. People keep going, and they don’t get worse — they get better.”

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