Not a day without line
Inspired by the movie Julie and Julia, painter Johanna Spinks embarked on a challenge to execute a drawing every day for a year. The challenge, selfprescribed by the London native as a means to improve her skills, recently crossed the nine-month threshold, overcoming such barriers as illness, travel, holidays and family celebrations. “You don’t really understand how many days are in a year until you do something every single day, no matter what,” says Spinks.

A shift in intention
From the day of its inception, Jan. 2, Spinks has documented the progress of her challenge, to unpredictable and profound results. The first few months of excitement over the “entertainment” aspect of her challenge gave way to an eye-opening understanding of her vulnerability. After several months of drawings aimed to please her audience, the realization set in — along with fatigue — that she had committed herself to something much deeper. Her daughter’s trip to South Africa marked a turning point for Spinks. She drew her portrait upon her departure, knowing that it would be five months before she saw her again; five months of consecutive drawing for the artist. Spinks’ frivolous drawings of Chanel bottles and parasols evolved into more inspired and dedicated imagery. Deservingly, visits to her blog and Facebook page dramatically increased, as did the positive feedback.

Learning to see
Spinks was recuperating from a viral illness that forced her to quit her career as a make-up artist with a top L.A. agency when she decided to take painting classes for the first time. Shortly after taking naturally to color, she began to slowly build a career in portrait painting. She traveled back and forth to New York to attend the Portrait Society of America’s conferences, where she met her mentor, renowned portrait painter Everett Raymond Kinstler, N.A., (National Academy of Design). “He gave me the confidence to pursue my dream,” shares Spinks. Kinstler inculcated Spinks with the attention to the line. His message, “practice will not make you draw better; it will make you learn to see things better,” became pivotal for Spinks as she became a teacher herself.

Every portrait tells a story
Today, Spinks feels very privileged to work as a full-time portrait artist. With such noteworthy jobs as drawing the portrait of Bishop Joseph Jon Bruno of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, and a portrait of illustrator Norman Rockwell for the famed Players Club of New York, Spinks’ speaking likeness, her trademark style of capturing the resemblance of her subjects, is highly appealing. Her process requires that she paint her subjects live. “It’s important that the client is aware of the artist in the room,” she offers. For her, live interaction with her clients is crucial in capturing their likeness; it allows for a connection that she wouldn’t otherwise have, working from a photograph.

Faces of Ventura
With an upcoming exhibit at Vita Art Center in April, an exhibit in New York and the possibility of a book, Spinks will quit the challenge once the year is up. However, she’s witnessed a profound impact in all aspects of her life and intends to make statements with new creative challenges. The Faces of Ventura, her next endeavor, will dispel the notion that portrait painting is solely a privilege of the elite; the process will focus on an open invitation to any resident of Ventura to have his/her portrait painted for free, live in the artist’s studio.   

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