Today we’d like to introduce you to Jill Woyt.
Hi Jill, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was 11 years old when I first started oil painting and my first painting was of a Tiger. Little did I know at the time that the tiger is a powerful symbol of passion and that this would be the beginning of a lifelong journey painting animals of symbolic meaning. Art had always been a big part of my life even as a little girl, but once I started oil painting, I became fiercely passionate about painting. In college, I reconnected with painting again and worked with a company called “Forever Stoked” which was a group of mainly surf artists. Through this connection, I realized that you can follow your dreams and forge your own path to do what you truly love. It was time for me to forge mine.
In 2009 I moved to Big Sur as I became deeply interested in nature and animal symbolism. Right before I moved to Big Sur, I came across mating snakes. When I looked up the meaning, I found a long history of the symbol the caduceus, which represents healing. I lived alone in a cabin with no cell service, no internet, surrounded by redwood trees. There were torrential rains that year as I learned to adapt to building my own fires for warmth and changing small propane cans for my stove and hot water. This is when art became more important to me than ever. All of my darkness and fears were inescapable alone in my cabin, and I began painting images of what I wanted to call into my life. I put all my prayers into my paintings and devoted myself to the pursuit of the things I wished for. On the top of my list was to call in a partner. I painted two trees, stable and strong, with their roots interwoven. Soon after, I bumped into a friend and another person I hardly knew while I was getting drinking water from a fresh spring. They invited me to hang with them while they surfed. Afterward, Ehren, the guy I didn’t know as well, invited me over for dinner. I accepted and followed him to his house for the first time. On the way there, Ehren pulled over in a pull-out and asked me if I had seen the pet store-looking domestic bunny. I had no idea what he was talking about so we turned around and sure enough found a domestic bunny on the side of the highway in the middle of Big Sur. Being a total animal lover, I couldn’t just leave it there, so I caught it. When I looked up at Ehren to ask if I could keep it, I was struck by the magic of the moment. I then hopped back into my truck and followed him with a new bunny on my lap. As I drove, I thought, “wow, bunny is a symbol of love, luck, abundance, rebirth, and so much more.” I knew it was an amazing sign, and now, 11 years later, I can say that it was a magical beginning to our love story.
After Ehren and I got married, I stumbled on a workshop happening at the Esalen Institute on Mandala painting. As I read about Mandalas, I realized there was an ancient rich history of painting your prayers that has been done throughout time, across the globe. This was something I was already doing, so I signed up to learn more. The class opened a floodgate of new imagery for me and new knowledge of an ancient practice. I was hooked and very passionate. I approached Post Ranch with the idea of teaching Mandala Painting to guests and after a few practice rounds, they agreed. Soon after, I was talking to a teacher of mine at Esalen about my exciting new project at Post Ranch and was invited to teach Mandala Painting at Esalen as well. This was an incredible opportunity and was deeply satisfying for me.
Around this same time, we had a sweat lodge ceremony at our house. We prepared the spot the night before and set up an altar. The next day, right before the sweat, we found that a monarch butterfly had died on our altar! It was a beautiful offering and felt very profound. Soon after, in the following week, I had the idea of painting recycled leather to look like butterfly wings. This turned into a full-time business as the demand grew and grew and people fell in love with the lightweight realistic hand-painted wings I had created. It is something I still do to this day.
Now, after becoming a mother and being immersed in the magic of Big Sur for over a decade, I continue to be amazed with the amount of animals I have encountered at times when the coincidence could not be ignored. I am devoted to creating art for the rest of my life to show this magical connection we all have with nature and animals.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I don’t think life is meant to be a smooth road. It is the struggles and the obstacles that have taught me the greatest lessons. Big Sur is gorgeous and absolutely magical, but living here brings many challenges and seems to test everyone’s spirit who lives here. Mud slides, fires, living remotely and off grid can make day to day life feel arduous. Although I have had many struggles along the way, I have also had enough affirmation along my path to keep going.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
My work centers around nature. I also love symbols and using imagery for calling in strength or vision or whatever I might need at the time. I am known for my animal paintings, mandalas and the hand-painted leather earrings I make. I am most proud of my symbolic paintings especially when others feel that same connection to a symbol as I do.
Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
My life feels like it has always had divine messengers sent to me when I needed them. I don’t feel that I am special in this way, I just recognize it and trust the process. I believe anyone who is following their path will be met with mentors along the way. They seem to present themselves. I couldn’t say it better than Joseph Campbell who said, “Follow your bliss. If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.” I agree.
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.JillWoyt.com
- Instagram: @bigsurbutterfly
My portrait photo is by Evynn LeValley