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Meet Joan Geary of Joan Geary Studio in Burr Ridge

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joan Geary.

Joan, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Where did my interest in art come from, growing up in a family that had no artists? There was no art to speak of in my blue collar family home, nor were there ever any cultural outings or discussions of any kind. Perhaps it arrived as some sort of genetic memory from my Dutch ancestry. Could I be a descendant of some famous Dutch painter? One can only hope!

Fast forward to today: After many years of studying and practicing art while owning and operating a business and raising a family, studio time was rare, but I always knew there would come a day when I could immerse myself in art making.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has been a bumpy one, lots of starts and stops, beginning with the discouragement of a drawing teacher at age 15. During that summer, I enrolled in a drawing class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This was my first formal art class ever, but unknown to me, all the other kids were quite accomplished already, having had art classes and private art lessons for years.

At the end of each session, the instructor would hold up my work as the “worst example of the day”! Hah! Well, that only made me more determined to try harder. I often wonder what that teacher would say now if he could see my current work.

The usual college path was not in the cards for me, so following high school, I left home and worked an assortment of jobs including restaurants and retail until I trained as a dental technician. Along the way, I married and had two children. For the past 18 years I have been running a business in the medical field. My current studio is housed at my medical business location, so I do double duty every day, however I am now in a position to paint most of the time while there.

I’ve pursued a non-traditional art education, beginning with private painting teachers and self-teaching in my twenties, but eventually enrolling in night art classes in my late forties at the College of Du Page, studying only what I was interested in, credit or not.  Art history, drawing, painting, sculpture, humanities, even drafting: these were the things I wanted to know. I met amazing teachers and students and really began to understand “what was worth doing”. While it took courage to enroll in college so late in life, I found that I brought so much more to it in life experience than I would have when I was young. It was an exhilarating ride.

In 2013, I began taking workshops with internationally known artists. These mentors have been instrumental in my development and also have become friends. I am filled with gratitude for their generosity. Last year, I traveled to Italy for a workshop and I’ve applied for a residency in France for next year. These experiences, to me, have been as rich as I imagine a BFA program could be. I do not feel that I am lacking in education and intend to continue to be a lifetime learner.

I almost cannot believe that I am now living a life I only fantasized about when I was young. This is one of the most productive and enjoyable stages of my life. My advice to young people is to persevere no matter what the obstacle, believe in yourself and your vision, and that it is never too late to accomplish dreams!

Tell us about your business/company. What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of as a company? What sets you apart from others?
Joan Geary Studio was incorporated in 2015 as a result of an answer to this question from my husband: “Are you going to do this, or not? If so, let’s make it official.” Paintings began to stack up and I realized I needed to get them out there so that other people could enjoy them. Incorporating also gave me the push I needed to seek representation. This year, I obtained representation at Woodwalk Gallery in Door County, Wisconsin, and am working on many other opportunities.

My paintings are primarily abstraction in oil and mixed media. Right now, my work is going through a transitional phase, to more color field painting as I experiment with pouring paint techniques and explore color and spatial relationship. It’s a very exciting time in the studio.

I am most proud of the tenacity it took to get to this point and the tough hide I have had to have in order to face the inevitable rejections that we all get as artists.

Also, I think people don’t realize how many tasks an artist faces other than painting in order to succeed. I would say only about 25 percent of my time is spent creating. The rest of the time is spent creating and marketing your brand, scouting out and applying for opportunities, managing social media, attending events, in addition to daily chores of maintaining the studio. It’s a seven day a week job.

What were you like growing up?
Shy. Loner. Independent.

Who lets their 12 year old child go to downtown Chicago on the bus by herself? Growing up in my childhood home necessitated finding things out for oneself, so by the age of 12, I was hopping on the bus and traveling to the Art Institute of Chicago. I would spend long afternoons there, soaking up the richness of all that beauty.  Sometimes I would visit an art supply store downtown and buy things I really didn’t know how to use, but would take them home and play.

My second passion was horses.  At the age of 9, I began riding English Hunt seat at a nearby stable weekly, and often spent Saturdays there helping out with grooming the boarded horses and cleaning out stalls in exchange for lessons.

I also shared my father’s interest in horse racing, spending countless days at the track from the time I was 10 years old. He would say to his friends, “Hey, do you want to have my kid chart your card?” because I had such a gift for picking winners.  It was a colorful, Damon Runyonesque environment that I am so glad to have experienced.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Tom Van Eynde, Kristen Lorenzen and Eve Ozer

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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