Jan Donley, Author of The Side Door

Happy to Be in This Company!

29 March 17

I am so thrilled that Linda Epstein of Emerald City Literary Agency has signed me as one of her clients.
Her belief in my newest manuscript is a gift.
And look at the wonderful company I am keeping now with Linda’s impressive clients:
The Blabbermouth Blog

Imagine

12 March 17

Imagine

"I hope someday you'll join us..."

“I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.” —John Lennon

Gallery Show!

22 September 16

Stewart Clifford Gallery Show

So excited that Stewart Clifford has chosen some of my Provincetown Art to show at his gallery October 7-31, 2016, with an opening reception Oct 7 from 6-9 p.m.

I Can Draw

17 August 16

Top 100 MDAC

I attended my second Mobile Digital Art and Creativity Summit (MDAC) in Palo Alto, California August 12-14, 2016. On Saturday night, August 13, Sumit Vishwakarma—one of the cofounders—passed around a microphone for people to talk about what the conference and mobile art meant to them. I thought, “What will I say?” I thought, “I have so much to say.” I thought, “I cannot find the words.” In any case, I never got the chance—or never took the chance. I let my uncertainty keep me from speaking.

But since that night, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the experience of making art on my iPad has completely changed my world.

When I was a kid—maybe 10 or 11—an art teacher told me, point blank, “You cannot draw.” Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, or maybe he was nicer than that. But that’s the memory. I carried that belief from that moment even though I really wanted to draw. I wanted to make pictures. But I didn’t.

Over the years, I turned my creativity to songwriting, then poetry writing, then playwriting, and fiction writing. My graduate degrees are in literature and theatre. I had plays produced. I have many unpublished manuscripts (as writers do) and a published novel. I have a successful teaching career as a professor of writing and literature.

One day, almost 20 years ago, when I was teaching at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, I got into a conversation with Gilbert Church, the art teacher there. We called him Geebo. I said, “I’ve always wanted to draw.” And he invited me into his class. Geebo encouraged me. He never once said, “You cannot draw.” Even though my work was crude and tight and young—he encouraged me.

I was 41 years old—a long way from that 10 year old who believed she couldn’t draw.

Geebo’s encouragement kept me going. I enrolled in art classes at the Community College of Vermont and worked with some stellar artists. They all encouraged me.

I moved to Boston and I started taking art classes at the MFA. None of my work was great, but I was getting better. I was learning to see through an artist’s eyes.

Oh—I keep forgetting to say that I have always dreamed of writing and illustrating a story, but I never believed I could—you know—because of that art teacher way back when.

One day, maybe five or six years ago, I went to the Apple Store thinking I was going to buy a new laptop. But this Apple Store worker named Katherine Lupah, a woman around my age, said, “Have you considered an iPad?”

I said, “Why would I want an iPad?” I meant it. I thought the iPad was a strange contraption. I already had an iPhone. Wasn’t an iPad just a bigger version of that?

“I’m a writer and a teacher. I need a computer,” I said.

“You can use your iPad for your writing,” she insisted. “You can attach a keyboard to it. You can use the Pages app.”

I listened.

“And,” she said, “You can make art on it.”

I don’t know how Katherine did it, but she convinced me, and I haven’t turned back since. My iPad became my main tool. I used it to collect my students’ papers. I used it to write. And then one day, I read about an app called Paper. I downloaded it. I drew a cat. Just like that. With my finger. I wrote next to it: “This is my new thing.” I had found my medium.

Over the days, I just kept drawing on Paper (now called Paperby53). There was a way you could upload directly from the app to tumblr. So I did. And suddenly, hearts began appearing next to my drawings.

There were many Paper artists on Tumblr. Great ones like adoodlinby (Jay Yount from the United States) and roav (Rosi Avelar from Portugal) and sylvialynch (Sylvia Lynch from Great Britain) and june-bm (June Rydgren from Sweden)—and that’s just a tiny sampling. Their art—what they were doing on Paper—stunned me in its intricacies and power. And all of them took the time to comment on my work.

Such encouragement kept me going. I drew and drew. I realized I had joined a classroom and had become a student to all of these brilliant artists.

And then one day, I happened upon a painting, made with Paper, on tumblr by a user named carolinemustard. I followed her. I found out she, along with Sumit Vishwakarma, were the cofounders of something called MDAC.

Which brought me to the conference in 2015 and again in 2016.

Which brought me to more brilliant artists, more drawing apps, more room to grow.

I turned 60 this year. And I am proud to say, “I can draw.”

My work was featured in the top MDAC 200 in 2015 and in the top 100 in MDAC 2016.

And even better—my dream of combining words and pictures is coming true. I finished an illustrated novel manuscript—a series of vignettes about a girl trying to cope with her mother’s death and her father’s grief. At the end of every vignette, there is a small black and white drawing. Made on my iPad.

My dreams are coming true because, instead of being told I couldn’t, I was told I could.

By artists from around the world, many of whom I have never met in person.

But I have met their spirits in the art they create, in the generosity they convey.

I can draw.

End of the semester with my students.

19 May 16

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All writings © Jan Donley 1985-2017
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