ART BEAT: JILL BASHAM
A full-time mother of 4 discovers and develops her talent
Jill Basham in her studio in front of her painting, “Overhead,” 60x72 inches, oil on linen.
By Manning Lee // Photos by Val Calvaheri
It was July 2012, and all the artists and onlookers gathered together at the award ceremony to hear the winners of the year’s Plein Air Easton competition. Even though Easton is a small town, Plein Air Easton is the premier event of its kind in the country. Being chosen to compete at all is an accomplishment.
Among those gathered was a first-time entrant named Jill Basham. She chatted as some of the volunteers paraded by her carrying the concealed winning paintings. She recognized one painting’s frame from behind as her own. Her painting took third place.
Basham recalled, “I was like, ‘Are you sure?’”
Of course, they were sure.
“I’d only been painting since 2009. I hadn’t expected to get into the competition, let alone take third place,” she continued.
Since that competition eight years ago, Basham’s name has become well regarded across the country. She’s competed in and won major awards in over a dozen Plein Air competitions, has been lauded and honorably mentioned for her work times too numerous to count.
Basham’s work once even hung in the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka as part of U.S. Department of State’s Art in Embassies program. Her work hangs in private and corporate collections throughout the United States and abroad.
A native Marylander, Basham grew up in Columbia. Artistic abilities are not uncommon in her family tree. Her mother, Isobel Tascher, was a painter and her uncle, J. Reginald Taylor, was a talented etcher. She considers her talent to be God given, but never as a viable career choice. Instead she chose to work in transportation planning in Howard County and was just shy of earning an advanced degree when her daughter came along.
It wasn’t until 2009, when the youngest of her four children was in elementary school, that she thought about taking an art class. Her husband encouraged her to go ahead and give painting a shot.
She started by enrolling in a drawing class at the Academy Art Museum in Easton under Katie Cassidy, whom she says gave her a wonderful foundation for her painting. Next, she took a painting class at the Dorchester Center for the Arts with Mary Egeli Ekroos, who is nationally renowned and part of the Egeli family of artists from New England.
Top: Jill displays her pochade box;
Fire Drill, Atlanta, 2019, 30x24” oil
Basham recalled, “I signed up for my first painting class, got the supplies and I showed up. I had no idea what I was doing, and Ekroos had no idea I’d never painted before. I didn’t even know how to put the paints on the palette. She even had to tell me how to do that. Ekroos quickly realized that I had never painted before.” Then she continued on painting under the guidance of impressionist Roberta Seger at the Academy Art Museum.
Basham works best when painting outdoors in wide-open spaces. In exploring each new expansive scene — whether field, waterfront, or beach — it’s as if she happens upon the scenes unexpectedly, unnoticed, like an uninvited guest who quietly observes and imbibes. Overwhelmed and delighted with place, she paints simultaneously both what her eyes see and what her heart feels, emitting variations of mood and energy in her work.
“Each painting brings about a different emotion depending upon the scene I’m depicting. It’s up to the viewer to decide how they feel about the painting,” she explained.
Through the years of competing, Basham learned a valuable lesson relevant to her own life, but coincidentally a universal principle that she shares.
“I realized I wasn’t painting for me. I was trying to fill the canvas with a painting that might please others,” she explained. “I began to dive back into my work, painting exclusively for myself with my original passion, unencumbered. Three words: Paint for myself. PFM. It’s now written on the inside of my pochade box with a sharpie.”
From the painter, we learn it’s never too late to explore what direction your heart takes you, and that it’s okay to do it for yourself. Once you find the right direction, dive in unencumbered with all the passion you can find. And do it with all of your heart.
To see more Jill Basham’s amazing work please visit www.jillbasham.com.