Lake Forest-raised artist Jill Jeannides’ talent for creating landscape paintings has earned her recognition in the art world and, more recently, caught the attention of the Chicago mayor’s office.
When Jill Jeannides’s mural paintings were chosen by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to grace his downtown office, Jill was immensely flattered. “It was better than anything I could have dreamed for my work,” she says. “It was one of the highest honors I’ve experienced in my life.”
Jill painted the two murals, which depict views from Chicago’s Grant Park, when she was a student at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) in 2000. At the time, AIC had a “corporate creativity in the workplace” initiative that placed students’ artwork in local businesses. After presenting her proposal of two murals of Grant Park—one facing north and one facing south—Jill’s idea was approved. She set to work quickly, working on two custom-made canvases, which spanned approximately 16 feet by 5 feet each. With only one month to complete her paintings, Jill worked around the clock to finish her work. Her reward was seeing her city murals hung in the Corner Bakery across the street from AIC. Though the paintings were supposed to hang there for only two years, they were so well liked that the restaurant displayed them for 12 years.
The murals arrived at their current home in the Chicago mayor’s office when the Corner Bakery decided to remodel last year, and a new location for the paintings was being sought. After the mayor chose them, they were moved—one to the mayor’s press conference room and the other to his staff’s hallway. Jill even had the privilege of visiting the mayor’s office to view her paintings in their new setting.
Growing up in Lake Forest, Jill’s love of art was inspired by both the beautiful local architecture and the schools’ emphasis on fine arts. “The old fashioned architectural heritage that we have here is deep rooted in my idea of what I like [in terms of art]. There is a lot of formality, fine craftsmanship, and high culture in the architecture, ” she says. “And the fine arts are very well supported in the community. Even in third grade, we had classes on the Renaissance, and that’s when I was first introduced to painting.”
While at Lake Forest High School, Jill took her first art classes with Richard Hjortness, who helped foster her talent. She also took a painting class with Lars-Birger Sponberg at Gorton Community Center before she went to AIC. These two teachers were especially inspirational as Jill began to understand and explore her artistic style. Her first landscape painting experience was in France, where she went to a school in Aix-en-Provence and studied in the same place where renowned 19th century artist Paul Cézanne painted. A year later, Jill went to Chautauqua Fine Arts School in New York, where she continued painting landscapes.
Though she has created portraitures, still life paintings, genre paintings, and more, landscapes remain Jill’s true passion. “If I was going to describe my painting style, I would say it’s a mixture of French and Dutch art,” she says. “I really like French paintings—especially from the Impressionist Era. And, while in Chicago, because of the lighting and climate we have, I was fascinated by the Dutch 16th century paintings.”
Jill currently lives in Los Angeles, where she uses her artistic flair for landscapes while working for a Hollywood landscape set design firm. “Landscape drawing and painting has given me a solid foundation for being able to record and understand higher levels of art and construction,” she says. She still makes time to return to Lake Forest several times a year, where she can revisit the places that first inspired her artwork. From the trains to the forest preserve to a friend’s home, some of Jill’s first paintings were created in her hometown. “Lake Forest is picturesque,” she says. “And the town does a good job of keeping it that way.”
To learn more about Jill Jeannides’ art, visit jilljeannides.com.
—Jenna Schubert // Photography by Jim Prisching