Alec DeJesus


Project 1612: How would you describe the art you make?

Alec: Initially I would describe my art as a combination of abstract and surreal figurative; however, as many artists would say it tends to be more than that. More often than not my work is very intuitive even to the point that I don't always know what I’m going to paint, nor what it will become. I try to just turn off and clear my mind when I paint and let the subject flow through me. It’s very meditative in that way. My figures and the objects around them tend to include a lot of hidden symbolism as of late, so the longer you look at my work the more you are rewarded. The subjects themselves all display a sort of pride and power through struggle; which is something myself and many others relate to.

Project 1612: What drives your practice?

Alec: In short: A view of a better life. I  started to use art at an early age as a way to escape a rough upbringing and in doing so I was granted this fulfillment that I couldn't get anywhere else, and that's a feeling that's always stuck with me. In the good times along with the bad, art is something I've always been able to turn to. I’ve never had things easy so I built up this “fiery” sort of ambition and luckily that has been key in helping me take this escape and turn it into my “better” life.

Project 1612: You recently moved your studio to your apartment, which has a very bohemian feel I must say, and are painting in the kitchen. Was this an easy transition for you?


Alec: It’s definitely a move someone should REALLY consider if they have a studio and are wanting to fully immerse themselves in their art by means of bringing their creative workspace into their home. I tend to work big so at times it can be a struggle to fit in all the ideas into a smaller space, but at the same time, it creates a lot more opportunity to paint without having to commute. While I have drastically reduced my space I have been able to eliminate a lot of the excuses and distractions that would keep me from making the trek to my former studio. This works for me, but I know for some it’s almost like going to the gym in the sense of needing a designated space away from home in order to “work out”.

Project 1612: Can you talk a little about the meaning behind your work? I notice that imagery of children show up often and am curious if there a reason for this?

Alec: Something I mentioned previously is using art to escape a rough childhood, and it certainly has shown in my adult work. In a way lately, I have been reclaiming my childhood through my paintings by using a childlike figure to show a power in youth who strive for great things. I had to grow up really fast and wasn't able to enjoy being a kid for very long. This in a manner of speaking allows me to revisit the wonder of being a kid and celebrate the importance of allowing creativity to flourish at a young age. Another common theme in my work is showing figures who have an air of strength and pride. Souls that have had to work hard and have had to really earn their place in life through overcoming their obstacles and persevering have always seemed to hold more meaning to me and I try to relay my appreciation for that strength in my paintings. It’s something I can relate to, and I really think that those things are important to take a long look at.


Project 1612: I know you just completed a public art project with a few other Peoria artists. Tell me about that project and how has public art has influenced your work?

Alec: I won't speak for everyone in the group, but I know for me it was chock-full of learning experiences. It was different from working on my previous murals because I was working with other artists, and not students. We all have our pros and cons which is important to consider when joining a group project, along with all of us having different skills and styles. It really pushed me to think more as a whole and less as an individual. When I’m working on public art I have noticed how in small ways my method and style has changed. When you're in a studio painting away, the piece doesn't have to look “good” until it gets hung on a gallery wall. When you’re creating something that's out in the open world you almost have to put on a show and try to leave it aesthetically pleasing by the end of each session, because the general public will look at it every day and you want to give them eye candy and not an eyesore.

Project 1612: What problems do you face in the studio? How do you overcome them?

Alec: My biggest problem is getting a good block of time to work on paintings. With having a full-time job, being heavily involved with multiple art organizations and life in general; my life is hectic, to say the least. Sometimes I have to edit my plans or meetings just to try to get time to work on my own practice. Something that I am currently working on is balancing my community efforts with my own personal ventures and making it so I prioritize my own art career more often. I tend to try to take on most projects that get sent my way, but more and more I am learning to not spread myself too thin and be ok with turning down opportunities that might push me away from my personal goals.

Project 1612: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Alec: At all times you need to feed the fire that drives your passion. You really have to love what you do and remind yourself why you do it in the first place. Those things can be forgotten and neglected way easier than one may think, and you can fall out of love with your chosen path and be driven to give it up. I’ve been there, and it's incredibly hard to come back from. If even in those low moments you push through, you can reignite that drive and accomplish way more than your doubtful mind may lead you to believe.

 Hank, the best studio buddy ever.

Hank, the best studio buddy ever.

Project 1612: Do you have anything coming up you would like everyone to know about?

Alec: Currently I am working on what will be my last local show in Peoria; which will be at Ear In the Envelope for their September First Friday. I am really trying to throw myself into this one so I encourage everyone who can make it to come out.

Project 1612: My last question is typically “What are your thoughts on the art community in Central IL?” But it is my understanding that you are moving to Texas in the next few months. So I’ll ask instead, what do you think you miss most about the art community in Central IL?

Alec: I think what I will miss the most will be some of the people I have met through this journey as an artist. This is where I decided to become an artist and will always be a defining chapter in my life. This ride hasn’t always been good or easy, but I owe everything I am to the experiences I have had here and to walk away from a community that I put so much of myself into will be a big yet necessary move in order to further my career as an artist.


Alec DeJesus is an artist working in Peoria, IL. More of his work can be found on here

John Boylan - aka Artjeb

Project 1612: How would you describe the art you make?


John:  The easiest way to describe my art is to say its Mixed Media and be done. However, saying that does a disservice to the question and myself. I’d say there are two key parts to this question, the content and the process. 

My content these days tends to focus on elements from my childhood, such as big wheels, old TV shows, and coloring books to name just a few examples. I enjoy exploring “vintage” concepts and bringing them forward in time, so people can connect and reminisce and also to introduce them to younger people who are often unaware. A lot of the content has personal meaning to me, but sometimes it’s as simple as just making me laugh or smile. 

My process and/or technique is varied depending on the project at hand, but it’s usually some combination of acrylic and enamel paint, edited-images (mine and others) mixed with paper, glitter and anything else I find appealing at the moment. I use several different methods to transfer images to my canvas and wood panels. I primarily use an acrylic gel medium, but I’ll also experiment with other mediums and solvents to achieve specific effects.

Project 1612: What drives your practice?


John: Practice. Why are we talking about practice? Why aren’t we talking about the game?! I give my heart and soul to the game! HA-HA. I’m kidding, but I’ve been driven to be creative since I was young. I’ve always had this “bug” to present myself or situations in unique ways and I recall always going the extra mile when I was younger to make my playtime creative. Perhaps being a latch-key child played a key role in this development for me?

Over the years, my creativity has been split over many mediums due to work, life, and balance. When I left art school, my kids, life, and financial security took priority over many of my artistic ambitions. It’s only been over the past two years that I’ve been able to carve out the necessary time to begin producing physical art again. Before that, my creativity was primarily targeted to photography, computer graphics, video games and being extra goofy.

What drives my current practice is my ambition to be relevant before death. It sounds a bit morbid, but as you get older you begin to realize the things that are important to you and you begin to focus on prioritizing those things and eliminating the waste of everyday life. As you gain wisdom through life, you also learn how much you’ve been sweating the small stuff instead of focusing more on the big picture. A lot of small things can add up to big things, so don’t take that the wrong way. I was more referring to those type of situations where you stressed out way too much about giving a speech or taking a risk.

Project 1612: Your studio is full of artwork, finished and in-progress paintings. Can you talk about the number of pieces you have going and why so many at once? 


John: I often have fifty or more works in progress at any given time, plus finished pieces that line my walls and spill into other spaces outside my studio. I work on a lot of pieces at one time for several reasons. My process can often be intensive with the layering and removal of paint which calls for multiple applications and drying sessions and leaves me plenty of time to start another piece. I also feel having so many pieces in progress at one time helps my creativity stay rampant and provides many avenues to detour from plan or experiment with new techniques or styles. Occasionally, I find that mixing an older painting in progress with more recent techniques can result in unplanned happiness for me and I dig that. 

Project 1612: The color is your work is pretty vibrant, lots of neons. What influences these color choices?

John: Color choices for me are often influenced by things I see in day to day life like road signs, safety cones, fire hydrants and graffiti. I’m also a child of the 70’s and 80’s so there certainly was no shortage of color in my upbringing. I enjoy the pop of neon and the assault it can have on our brains, but I’m definitely guilty of overusing it. Recently, I feel that I’ve found a better balance with it and have been using it more strategically verse in your face.


Project 1612: Explain the role pop culture has in your work.

John: I find inspiration from many things, but there is no denying my love for pop culture. Perhaps this was partially due to my MTV upbringing and that need to be in the NOW. The pop culture most often represented in my work would be vintage pop culture, although I do some work based on current events. I’ll often find inspiration looking through old vintage magazines, coloring books and watching old TV shows. You’ll be able to see some of this style in my MR.T series coming this summer. 

Project 1612: What problems do you face in the studio? How do you overcome them?

John: I don’t think we covered this yet, but my studio is an old bedroom in my house. Having a studio in your house is amazing, but at the same time it’s disastrous since the bathroom next to it is full of dirty paint brushes, paint splatters and the hallway leading to it is full of paint tracks.

The number one problem with my studio is not having an adequate ventilation system for the work I love to do. I’m 100% guilty of working in unsafe conditions and absolutely don’t recommend this to anyone. When I’m smart, I try to do the dangerous work outside, but in the winter months or rainy days, it just isn’t possible. I have many heart-to-heart talks with myself about how stupid I’m being and my kids are also great at letting me know. Perhaps, writing this out now will help me think more about the harm I’m causing myself.


The number two issue I have is space, which I’m assuming almost all artists encounter. For now, I just deal with it and overflow my work into the hallways, other rooms in my house, the garage and outside. I tend to produce a lot of work these days and all that work needs to go somewhere while it’s being made or not on display. I’d highly recommend reaching out to me to purchase said artwork, so we can clear more space for my kids to play.  

Project 1612: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

John: I probably have a few things to say about this, but the number one thing would be to make work, more work and then more work on top of that. Even when you don’t want to make work, make work. I believe the more you create, the more you learn, the more mistakes you make, the more you grow and the more you’ll find your true self over time. I also know there is a balance and it’s good to take small breaks from the physical creation, but don’t ever stop studying other artists, art forms and the world around you for inspiration. 

Be Professional. I’m not saying that you need to lose your persona, but instead to be accountable and follow through on your commitments. Don’t let being an artist be a copout for doing things haphazardly or at 10% effort. People who buy your art, hire you to make art or let you show your work deserve your best effort. I’ve seen many artists lose a lot of great opportunities based on their poor efforts. Remember, it’s a faster path to the bottom than it is to the top.

Be Business. Price your work so that’s it’s fair to you and other artists. This is something I still struggle with today and I’m constantly working on. There are lots of different formulas out there and I won’t get into those now, but you absolutely must learn to not sell yourself short. Despite what the general public says or thinks, they don’t have a clue about the time, effort, and money that goes into producing your original artwork. When artists sell things well below value, then people expect all artists to do the same. 

Be Friendly and LOVE. It’s okay to embrace other local artists and to support them. Try and look at the local art community as your family and build from that. Sure, there will be times when you’ll be competing for space, shows, and admiration, but do your best to be supportive and respectful throughout the process. Learn to compete only with yourself. ☺

Trust yourself. Trust your style, direction, concepts, and ability. There will always be people who try to bring you down or plant seeds of doubt. Believe in yourself and don’t focus on being someone else. You don’t have to make works like the masters you see in museums, books, and magazines to be successful. You don’t have to sell work to be relevant. You just have to be the best YOU that YOU can be that makes YOU HAPPY and FULFILLED.

Project 1612: Do you have anything coming up you would like everyone to know about?

John: Heck yes I do!!! There are two upcoming events I’d love to see you at. Please join me at Tannins & Hops on Wednesday, June 27th starting at 6 PM as they begin their journey to support local art. I’m super excited to be the first artist ever to show at their popular venue. They’re a modern-day speakeasy located at 619 SW Water Street in Peoria, located right between Kelleher’s and 8-bit arcade. I’ll have about 20 new pieces for this show.


I also have a special themed MR.T show at One World Café beginning July 16th and running through August 13th. I’ll be doing something special on their outdoor patio for First Friday on August 3rd. One World Café is located at 1245 W Main in Peoria across from Bradley University.

You can also find my work represented by Dog & Pony Art Gallery inside the Sunbeam building. They’re located at 925 N Sheridan Rd, Peoria across from Pitch Bar which also houses some of my work. ☺

You can find me on social media on Facebook at Artjeb and on Instagram and Snapchat at PeoriaSpitfire. I’m always open to chatter and collaboration ideas, so feel free to hit me up on any platform. If you want sneak peeks at what I’m working on or to learn more about what inspires me, you’ll definitely want to follow my snaps.

Project 1612: What are your thoughts on the art community in Central IL?

John: I’ve seen a lot of growth in the Peoria area over the past couple of years, but I see potential for so much more and that’s what exciting. I think there are untapped opportunities to connect deeper with other communities in Central, IL. I’d like to see some type of artist or city art exchange with other communities such as Bloomington, Morton, Champaign, Urbana, etc. to name just a few.  

Within our community, I love the work going on with the 1612 project and Emerging Artists Collective. The community seems to be growing with artists, venues, and observers. The next step now is figuring out how we turn more observers into consumers and get more local venues to see the value in partnering with local artists. Chelsie Tamms of Lettering Works and Jessica McGhee of Hey Lola are just two examples of local artists and making a huge impact in our community. 

Last, the talent located in Central, IL is phenomenal and never ceases to amaze me. LOVE.


John Boylan is an artist working in Peoria, IL. More of his work can be found on here

Jan Brandt

Project 1612: How would you describe the art you make?


Jan: My work no matter which media I’ve chosen, tends to have a dense, multi-layered quality with color and texture being major components. I tend to think of disrupting an expected environment.  This could be accomplished with a  traditionally flat, two-dimensional canvas or print collage by added layers or a site-specific installation that might erase traditional corners of a space by growing out into the allotted space. 

Project 1612: When did you start taking yourself seriously as an artist?

Jan: Going back to Illinois State University (my alma mater, with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1985) to gain a Fine Arts degree certainly helped me on the road to taking myself seriously. I definitely had a feeling I wanted to “earn” the title of artist and took that very seriously. I had to get some exhibitions and experience under my belt. It seems somehow fraudulent to me for people to toss around the title of artist without achieving a level of both self-critique and self-acceptance. I felt that it was disrespectful to those artists who have worked so hard to achieve a high standard of skill and originality to prematurely call myself an artist.  I gradually came to the opinion that I spend so much of my time immersed in making art, thinking about art, talking about art and exhibiting other’s art that I now consider my work as having merit. It also helps that some well-respected professionals in the Arts have shared their appreciation of my work and my gallery practice. At this point, I realize this feeling comes from within in me and I feel honest and not shallow about my own work. 


Project 1612: What drives your practice?

Jan: Love of creating. The drive to experiment and grow. The need to evolve. I never have wanted to stick with the exact type of artwork I have done in the past, I am excited to see what will evolve from previous work.  I love the opportunities to exhibit and those timelines definitely keep me on track. There is a sense of magic and wonderment to me that is quite satisfying as I create new work. 

Project 1612: How has being a curator and gallery director influenced your artwork? 


Jan: Being able to “live” with Artist’s work for the run of a show allows me to revisit pieces many times. Something that isn’t always possible with a quick gallery or museum visit. Keeping abreast of exciting work by artists keeps me fresh. Working with artist’s to prepare their artist statements or reading what they already have opens new avenues of artistic thought for me. Having to be the one to decide who gets into shows and who doesn’t has trained me to be less emotional and more honest with myself about my own artwork. I guess my eye has become more trained. And in a way, less judgmental. I may really enjoy an artist’s work, but I have shown something similar and don’t want to overdose on a certain style. As I plan my exhibition schedule, I look to provide an overall arc within the shows that provides a rhythm of surprise, contrast, excitement, subtlety, an ebb of flow of exhibitions that form the whole of a Jan Brandt Gallery experience. I feel that these same elements are good to remember in my own artistic practice, and also helps me when I propose my own work to galleries. 

Project 1612: What problems do you face in the studio? How do you overcome them?

Jan: I get tired and sore sometimes. My studio is in a cute little house with great amenities, air conditioning, a place to relax, a fridge for snacks, etc. I have to remind myself it is alright, in fact beneficial to take a break and remember to relax. I can get pretty obsessive and want to keep going until I’ve worn myself out. Recently I have admitted to myself that while I enjoy getting a great deal accomplished, it isn’t always going to be my best work or good decision making if I’m exhausted. I have been going to a trainer in The Alexander Technique for about a year and a half now. This has helped me change my life with self-acceptance and especially reminding me it’s important to take a mental and physical break. Plus I bring my dogs to work and they are the best, that is all!

Project 1612: Can you talk about some of your older work? How does it relate to the work you are making now?


Jan: My work seems to have always been fairly intuitive. I would start a project with a fairly open-minded idea of an outcome. I may have source material I look at for inspiration, but this type of start always has morphed into something quite different. Usually, I would describe my art in the past and present as additive until it becomes too dense, and I might then add something on top to obscure visibility of part of what is underneath. I might also tear away and wash out elements that become too much for the composition. I have started to recognize themes of 1) family relationships, especially my personal relationships with my now deceased Mother and maternal Grandmother and my role as the storyteller in my family, and 2) Growth and movement using organic, abstracted biological motifs.  I am especially interested in the micro/macro sense of cells and organisms, and how patterns in nature are duplicated. I suppose there could be an argument that 1 and 2 are related as in the cycle of life. 

Project 1612: You recently introduced vinyl into your installations? What was your thought process behind that decision? Jan: I liked the idea of a different finish, the slickness next to the fuzzy textiles used. Also, the flatness of the vinyl seemed to create a contrast in depth next to the bulkier, three-dimensional textile pieces. The vinyl seemed to me to be a bit unexpected, but a welcome addition. I also have started adding wire and pipe cleaner hand woven clusters, which also adds a different element -more airy than the denseness of the fabric pieces and more sculptural than the vinyl additions. 

Project 1612: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?


Jan: Go to galleries, museums, check out public art and street art. Follow Artists on social media whose work speaks to you in some way. Ask yourself questions about why some art triggers a strong reaction, positive or negative. Sometimes you may find an initial negative response may change to an appreciation. Be a sponge, soak it up. Tell yourself every piece you work on is another piece in the puzzle. Don’t expect to ever have this all figured out. It would be boring. Find a job that will pay for food, rent and art supplies until or if your art becomes your sole means of support. While it is great to sell art, I personally think if you want to make something truly honest it is hard to do if you are making it to please others. Unless that is what you want to do, then that is okay too. 

Project 1612: What are your thoughts on the art community in Central IL?

Jan: Helping each other helps ourselves. I think it is important to support “local” artists, but I think if we change the definition of local to surrounding communities or even states, we are only going to be better served and have more opportunities to see and be involved in cutting-edge exhibitions. I don’t think artists are served well by not being exposed to new artists that may be from outside of their hometown. Connections can be made and community can grow, which offers more opportunities for artists. Those that are not artists may be influenced to contribute as patrons and collectors. Seeing new art from different areas can help artist’s to stay fresh and “Up their game”.  I personally have seen the good that can happen with alternative exhibition spaces and the engaging artwork that has been shown. I also know from experience that it takes money, time, and a great passion. Working together in marketing and as a support system could be a very welcome addition to independently run spaces. I believe bricks and mortar spaces offer a valuable space for artists to see their works transform a space and online, digital galleries can further the audience for these types of exhibition spaces and the artists whose work is shown. 


Jan Brandt is an artist working in Bloomington, IL. More work and information about her gallery can be found on her website here

Steph Van Doren

Project 1612: How would you describe the art you make?

 Various finished and in-progress oil paintings. 

Various finished and in-progress oil paintings. 

Steph: I consider my current paintings abstractions of Midwest nature. I shoot photos of plants and trees that I can see in my immediate environment. Using cropped areas of branches, leaves and shadows, as reference, I reduce each to the bare essentials of line, color, shape and light, independent of visual reference to the real.  

Project 1612: What drives your practice

Steph: An absolute passion for the process.  

Project 1612: What role does photography play in your process?

Steph: Photography has always been an integral part of my life.  My grandfather was a photographer and I grew up with a camera in my hand.  Until recently, photography and painting were separate processes in my artistic practice. With this current body of work, I am using my own photographs to inspire my paintings, merging the two for the first time.

Project 1612: Tell us about the connection between your sculptural pieces and your paintings?

Steph: My earlier sculptural work was also inspired by local nature. They were based on seed pods and regional colors.

Project 1612: How do you factor color into your works, and what influences the color choices?  

 Steph showing an older painting that has been stored behind her painting station. She explains how her past work has influenced her current body of work. 

Steph showing an older painting that has been stored behind her painting station. She explains how her past work has influenced her current body of work. 

Steph: I reference colors I see around me. I love the play of light on objects during different seasons. 

Project 1612: Explain the role shadows play in your work.

Steph: Shadows can be evidence of an object, without actually seeing the source. I love that it is an additional step away from the reference to the real.  

Project 1612: What problems do you face in the studio? How do you overcome them?

Steph: The biggest problem I face in the studio is time. I recently left one of the many jobs I worked to support my practice, to focus more on my art.  

Project 1612: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Steph: My advice to aspiring artists is:  If you can do anything else, do it.  But if art is who you are and there isn’t anything else you can/want to do, then make art.  It may not always be great art (some of it will be really bad), but make it anyway.  

 Many plants hang in Steph's studio right beside the huge windows in The Mill. Her plants often show up abstracted in her paintings. 

Many plants hang in Steph's studio right beside the huge windows in The Mill. Her plants often show up abstracted in her paintings. 

Project 1612: Do you have anything coming up you would like everyone to know about?

Steph: I will be exhibiting at Ear in the Envelope (Peoria, IL) in August 2018.

Project 1612: What are your thoughts on the art community in Central IL?

Steph: The art community in Central Illinois is more diverse and larger than most people realize.  I am constantly amazed at the depth of creativity, the quality of artistic practice and collaboration opportunities available in Central Illinois.

 Steph sitting on her studio table surrounded by paintings and plants. 

Steph sitting on her studio table surrounded by paintings and plants. 

Steph Van Doren is an artist working in Peoria, IL. More work can be found on her website here

Jaci Musec

Project 1612: How would you describe the art you make?

 Jaci's studio wall filled with various abstract paintings. 

Jaci's studio wall filled with various abstract paintings. 

Jaci: My work is abstract, intuitive, colorful and bold. The focus shifts and bends naturally with the rhythm of my life. As I live I create. My process is an exploration and expression of my emotions. I choose to work with acrylic paint and mixed media to explore themes of Infertility, Mental Health, Depression, Anxiety, Human Connection and Self- love. There is a portion of my work that focuses on conveying specific messages, whether that be a  storytelling abstract, or a piece in my “I AM ENOUGH” series. All of my work comes from a deep longing to connect, to be understood and to express myself.

Project 1612: When did you start taking yourself seriously as an artist?

Jaci: The shift began in 2014. I started actively working on the way I thought about myself. I would say that I fully embraced my identity as an artist early in 2015. However, there are still days I find myself needing validation.

Project 1612: What drives your practice?

Jaci: Some days, I wake up and I feel in my bones the need to create. The need to paint and sing and write and make and move. Other days it is further from my grasp. My practice is really at its core, for me. I am not working to produce, or to “succeed”, I do it because it makes me feel alive. And I have found that using my artistic expression touches lives, empowers others, brings joy and healing, which helps me to recognize that I am exactly where and who I need to be. Who I was created to be.  And it’s fun, I really enjoy what I do.

 A view of Jaci's studio table with watercolor paintings and canvas paintings stacked. 

A view of Jaci's studio table with watercolor paintings and canvas paintings stacked. 

Project 1612: What problems do you face in the studio? How do you overcome them?

Jaci: My problems in the studio stem from my humanity. It’s too hot, I arrive and I am hungry, I need a nap, I have more stuff than space to put it or they are things that are out of my control... a seeping wall that leaks when it rains. I try my best to shift my perspective so that these issues become opportunities.

A year ago, when I took a leap of faith and moved in, I worried that the cost associated with having a studio outside of my home would be a huge issue, luckily that hasn’t been a problem. But I am human, so I worry and I don’t enjoy being uncomfortable. I try to adapt. I bought a love seat for a cozy place to rest and reflect. I bring fans in and adjust my studio hours when the heat is too much. I clear the area near the seeping wall. I try not to put too much pressure on myself if depression or anxiety has me away from the studio too long. I actively work to be gentle with myself and to remember that it is a joy and a privilege to do what I do.

Project 1612: Can you talk about your first series, Healing Collection?

Jaci: The Healing Collection is a compilation of work that I created from the beginning of my art journey up until my first solo exhibit in fall of 2016.  It was during this time of my life that my husband and I were several years into our Infertility journey and I had come to a point where I needed to actively work on ways to pull myself out of a despair. I was struggling to cope, dealing with depression, anxiety and the trauma of undergoing treatment.  Each of the paintings created space for healing. Painting became a new path of coping with the struggles I was navigating. It was a safe place for me to allow myself to explore all of my emotions. It was also a safe place for me to have a reprieve from the stress and uncertainty of my life. When preparing for my first art exhibit at The Art Garage, I reflected on the work I had been creating. As I looked back on that period of time that I created these pieces they were truly all little lifeboats of healing for me. I didn’t intend for them to become a collection, but they were so obviously a documentation of my healing journey that they took on the name.

Project 1612: You recently started a new collaborative project, can you tell us more about that?

 Jaci's studio is located in Studio's on Sheridan. This window is a view into her studio where she hangs smaller works for passers-by to see. 

Jaci's studio is located in Studio's on Sheridan. This window is a view into her studio where she hangs smaller works for passers-by to see. 

Jaci: I am so excited about this experimental project. It is a live/recorded video collaboration series called “In the Company of Mavens”.  I have a core team of local female artists that are working with me to launch this idea. Our goal is to collaborate with one another and other local artists to create a community of female-led creative content that will inspire and connect the community of emerging local artists and the community of Peoria. Each episode will be a combination of recorded content and live video streaming from my studio in The Sunbeam Building.  The idea is to invite viewers behind the scenes of our creative collaboration, allowing the viewer to see the ways we each express ourselves, our creative process and how we interact with one another. The first episode will be released early April 2018. It will feature myself and Sarah Nesbit as well as, two local female musicians Sarah Marie (Dillard) Mooberry and Jessica Wilson. We intend to release no less than 8 videos with the hope of having a special art exhibit featuring the work created during the filming of the series later in 2018.   

Project 1612: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

 Her studio door is fantastic. Jaci painted it in the style of her paintings. 

Her studio door is fantastic. Jaci painted it in the style of her paintings. 

Jaci: Start. Do. Create. Work to quiet the voice of self-judgment. Explore. Remember that you are in charge of how you feel and think about the work you create. Be patient. Things may not fall into place as quickly as you hope, but working on the things that make you feel alive and energized will, over time, become a body of work that will speak to your authentic self. The act of creating, the process of it… will change and lead and shape you, let it. And when you feel scared, lean into that, life is so scary and putting yourself out there is a risk, but it is the only way worth living.  Lastly, believe in your voice, your unique perspective, your story… only you can tell it.

Project 1612: What are your thoughts on the art community in Central IL?

Jaci: I am thrilled to be a part of the art community in Central Il.  It has been so welcoming and encouraging to me to take my biggest leaps here.  I am amazed and encouraged by the sheer number of talented artists living and working here. I feel like the community is growing and I hope to see it become an even MORE valued, vital and vibrant asset to the region.

 Jaci sitting in her studio with her dog Ellie. Behind them is a wall full of abstract paintings. 

Jaci sitting in her studio with her dog Ellie. Behind them is a wall full of abstract paintings. 

Jack Musec is an artist based in Peoria, IL.

Yonni - aka Infinity

  Unravel Me  - Tempera and Acrylic on Drywall, 2017

Unravel Me - Tempera and Acrylic on Drywall, 2017

Project 1612/Hanna Offutt: How would you describe the art you make?

Infinity:  I would say it’s feminine and edgy, Abstract and Surreal.

Project 1612/HO: What is your medium?

Infinity: I paint on drywall, and I use acrylic paint and Tempera paint. I use a lot of mixed media to make my abstract pieces.

Project 1612/HO:  What drives your practice? 

Infinity: My emotions, how I'm feeling at that time and music are a key factor, but my family and goals also drive me. When I have creative blocks my daughter and I will create some pieces together.

Project 1612/HO: Do you have a favorite artist(s)? Why are they your favorite?

  Dead or Alive  - Tempera and Acrylic on Drywall, 2017

Dead or Alive - Tempera and Acrylic on Drywall, 2017

Infinity: An artist I admire is my friend Tiff also know as Teedeecreations. She has given me great advice since day one. And our visions are kind of similar. She's also a great artist. Very feminine and sexy. She lives in Texas and she has her own black-owned shop called Art Body and Soul. Check it out. 

Project 1612/HO: What are your artistic goals?

Infinity: I want to be a well-known artist. I want people to see a piece of my art and say “Yea, that's a Yonni piece.” Or “I know her work.” I also want to give back to the youth. I have goals to someday have a business that reaches out to high schools through the arts. But, that's all still in the works. 

Project 1612/HO: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Infinity: Don't stop. There will be days where your creative juices aren't flowing like they were the day before and that's okay. Take breaks and go in at it again the next day. Don't forget it's about doing what you love and this isn't a race. It's about accomplishing your goals and doing what you love no matter how long it takes to get there. Ride your own wave. Constantly, trying to keep up with the next can be stressful and divert you from your actual goal: winning and being you.

Project 1612/HO: Do you have any thoughts on the art community in Central IL?

Infinity: While I was here I wanted to help Illinois grow in the art world and I did by being with a group of wonderful artist in a group exhibition called February Flowers. The diversity is starting to grow in the art community and I am overall excited about that and being able to be apart of that is amazing.

  Mixed Thoughts  - Tempera and Acrylic on Drywall, 2017

Mixed Thoughts - Tempera and Acrylic on Drywall, 2017

  Recieve  - Tempera and Acrylic on Drywall, 2017

Recieve - Tempera and Acrylic on Drywall, 2017

Yoni is an artist based in Peoria, IL.

This interview was conducted by Project 1612 and Hannah Offutt