longtime patron has described Fox Point artist Jill Schwartz
as wildly imaginative and strikingly original.
When art patrons call on Jill Schwartz
to create a personal masterpiece for them, they know that they can
expect creativity, talent and more than just a little magic.
Just ask Brian and Kaare Lotz, who
approached Schwartz with the hope that she could create a family
portrait for them. A simple enough request, until you realize just how
big the Lotz family is. Add in the fact that the Lotzes also requested
that Schwartz include their family cabin in the piece.
"They gave me a stack of
photos," remembers Schwartz. "I stopped counting when I
discovered there were more than 30 people in the photos. I realized
there was no way I could do a family portrait with that many
Taking a cue from the
when-life-hands-you-lemons playbook, in a spark of creative genius —
or madness, admits Schwartz in hindsight — she did the next best
thing: She cut up the photos and made a one-of-a-kind family
"I had all the elements I needed,
that was the given," she says of the process. "The solution
wasn’t so apparent, but it was there. As the artist, I had to find
The view Schwartz created was from the
windows of their cabin out onto the lake. The montage of family photos
created the landscape of the sky and trees. Viewed from far away, the
individual images knit together. Up close, they represent years of
"They didn’t know what I had
done until they picked it up," says Schwartz. "Now that I
think about it, they could have been quite upset."
Instead, they absolutely loved their
new family heirloom.
The Lotz family installed the piece in
a high-traffic, second floor walkway in their home. "We purposely
placed it there so we could look at it every time we walked by,"
says Kaare Lotz. "Each time I pass it, I notice something
But the Lotzes, as well as all the
others who have discovered this Fox Point artist’s work, also
receive a little piece of this reluctant artist in each of her works.
"I didn’t actually realize I had
any sort of art talent until my senior class night when the art
teacher presented me with a design award," Schwartz says. "I
actually went to college to study psychology. That’s when I realized
that my entire family was crazy, and I switched to art."
Along with innate talent, she also
brought to her easel lessons learned during childhood. "I grew up
poor along the Mississippi River," she says. "I could swim
before I could walk and I would spend my entire summers
She developed a deep appreciation for
nature. "I learned to appreciate little things that other people
took for granted," she remembers. "I was the kid who would
stop and smell the flowers or hug a tree. I still do that, too."
While at UW-Milwaukee, she began
submitting work to galleries and was accepted to shows as a student.
"At one point I was offered a show in New York, but I turned it
Schwartz got married before she
finished her degree and left school, though she did eventually finish
her final coursework. She worked as a designer and manager for Phoenix
Design, and became the owner of a small retail shop. During the past
few years, though, her focus has been on being a good single parent
and a great mom to her middle-school age daughter.
"I realized that my priority has
been to help my daughter to be a good person," she says.
"Parenthood is a 24-hour job if you want to do it right."
After she rearranged her priorities,
she had little time left for her creative passions. But she has over
time been able to create, and occasionally people discover and snap up
Longtime patron Barbara Stein says that
there are many things that appeal to her in Schwartz’s work.
"Jill is wildly imaginative and strikingly original," she
says. "She uses vibrant colors, which makes her work very hard to
"She has a real willingness to be
herself," says longtime friend and collector Carol Dietrich.
"Her free spirit comes out in her work. She’s not afraid to
express that part of her. At the same time, she’s very
Part of that is because Schwartz’s
creations also leave room for her audience. "Though I did try in
the past, I never do complete faces in my work," Schwartz says.
"To me, that’s too restrictive. When I paint or draw, I want
people to be able to fill in the blanks for themselves. I want them to
have the opportunity to relate to the work."
Though much of her work is a
combination of painting and drawing, Schwartz also works in other
mediums. "I realized a long time ago that I need to create or I’ll
go crazy," Schwartz laughs. "My kitchen is currently seven
She continues to create, both for
herself and on a commissioned basis. Her work continues to attract
attention, both from longtime patrons and new eyes.
"I have quite a few ‘Schwartzes’
in my collection and I show them often," laughs Stein. "In
fact, I’d have more if I had the room. That’s how much I love her