Living Her Best Life in Layers

Joy. Jill Lawrence at work.
Photo by Luke Van Hine

Her parents and grandparents were all artists, her father taught her how to use various artistic tools at a young age, and she grew up in and near metropolitan New York, “surrounded by art” in one of the world’s most cultural cities. 

Jill Lawrence was studying at the Art Students League of New York while she was still in high school, and later went to the University of Oklahoma, where she earned a BFA in art education and ceramics. This set in motion her dual careers of making and teaching pottery that she pursued for many years, in Miami and later in Asheville. 

Into the Light

Her early pieces were functional stoneware and porcelain ware, and later included large, wheel-thrown decorative pieces. But working with these larger pieces eventually took its physical toll on her, and Lawrence ended up having shoulder surgery. It was then she decided it was time to shift directions.

She took a painting class at A-B Tech and got hooked. For the next ten years, Lawrence painted using a variety of media, beginning with acrylic, and then charcoal, pastel, ink, and oil. It was when she took an oil and cold-wax workshop with internationally recognized artist Rebecca Crowell at Western Carolina University, however, that she finally knew what direction she wanted to follow. 

Finding Your Way

“This new media stimulated my insatiable appetite. Oil and cold wax felt the most natural to me. It has similar qualities to clay — the creaminess, varied dimensional aspects, movement, and flexibility. I enjoy moving the paint around on the canvas as I used to enjoy moving the clay through my fingers.”

She says she finds inspiration for her paintings from the various cultures and traditions of places she has visited. “And, as an animal lover and avid hiker with my Golden Retrievers, I am inspired and motivated by nature.”

Early Light

Lawrence begins with a palette in mind, but says she lets the painting direct her, developing a scheme as colors mingle and shapes emerge. “As I layer the paint, my interpretation often changes. Every shift of color and shape becomes unique in determining each next transition.” As the canvas progresses, she scratches and dissolves the pigmented medium to create textural variety and a sense of depth.

“Each layer,” she says, “continues building on the previous one, creating a history — or footprint — of the painting. I feel a deep sense of calm and excitement as each layer begins to surface.”


While her paintings are most often described as abstract (she prefers “atmospheric”), many of them show hints of realism that cause the viewer to linger a bit longer. “Viewing art,” observes Lawrence, “is a personal journey.”

Jill Lawrence, Beaverdam Valley (North Asheville). The artist sets studio visits by appointment: For more information and to view the artist’s work online, see

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