The ART Beat of Forsyth Woman – A Monthly Column That Keeps its Finger on the Pulse of Forsyth’s Artists and Their Inspiring Stories

This month’s featured creator, Jennifer Willard, is a passionate educator and artist. With an authentic spirit and undeniable talent, Jennifer advocates for the integration of art into everyone’s life, making creativity an essential part of our human journey.

Jennifer Willard | Art Educator and Mixed Media

How would you describe your work?

I am an art educator first, and I am so lucky that I get to create art using all kinds of media in my classroom. I love creating art with acrylic paint and colored pencils and enjoy making portraits of people and their pets. Most of my commissions are portraits from people who want to create a memory or to celebrate an event or a life. When I am not working on commissions or making project examples with my classes, I frequently experiment in my sketchbook or create visual journals.

What influences your art?

Most of my art is influenced by moments in my life and my family, though I find inspiration in everyday moments. If I am working on my visual journal, the page can be inspired by a magazine image, an old card or product packaging. I’m also influenced as I’m creating projects with my students and discussing our ideas together. I get to see their creative process, and I think it is good for them to see mine as well as we all learn from one another.

How have you evolved, personally, as an artist?

I have realized that you can’t create alone. You need a community to support you, like an art family. Through the process of developing my AP Art curriculum, I’ve grown immensely as I’ve found new ways to grow alongside my students. It’s been really rewarding to watch them connect with each other while simultaneously connecting their art to the real world. I have enjoyed bringing in artists from the community to work with my students and giving them a platform for their voices, both of which have broadened the impact that art can have in the community.

Tell us about your passion for teaching art? Did you always want to teach? 

I have wanted to be an art teacher since elementary school. This is my 17th year teaching in WSFCS with additional educator roles within the youth programs at Sawtooth School for Visual Arts and several private art students of all ages. Over the years, I’ve hosted art-making events and paint nights with my friends and colleagues simply because I’m addicted to that feeling of hearing someone share how proud they are of what they made. Last year, I began an Advanced Placement (AP) 2D Art class at my school, and the 14 students had a 100% pass rate. We created this little community of support where amazing work was being made, and everyone grew as an artist and as a person. I feel this has been one of my biggest accomplishments as a teacher. I love my job and I always tell my students, if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, BE an art teacher! I feel so lucky that I have this life.

As a mother and teacher, how do you carve out time for yourself to be creative? 

Since becoming a mom, finding time for my own art has been a challenge, but that fight for creative time for myself has actually helped me grow. My intention for 2024 is to carve out more time for my personal art. In the past, I only created during my work hours at school, but now I’m adding in time after I put the kids to bed and on the weekends during their naps to work in my home studio. My goal is to work on my art for 40 minutes a day, and I am trying to post more on Instagram. I believe there’s power in sharing our art because you never know who needs it. 

Do you have a favorite story behind one of your pieces?

I honestly love drawing my family. I treasure those works because it is my creative way to keep a record of how fast my kids are growing and a lot of the fun things we get into. I always enjoy the commissions that I make because of how happy it makes my clients to get the artwork of their loved one or their pet. It’s the best when my client sends me videos of the special moment of giving the art to a loved one. The joy that art brings to them creates an indescribable feeling for me and lets me know it’s what I’m meant to do!

What is one piece of advice you’d like to share with fellow artists, especially those at the start of their careers?

Just make the art! You are in control; don’t let doubt beat you. Just try. My biggest hope for my students is always that they find their paths in the arts and will develop practices that stay with them no matter their day jobs. Every one of us will always need art.

If you are interested in learning more about this month’s artist, Jennifer, you can follow her on Instagram @jenrwillard.



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