Joan Fraser believes she might have been born with a pencil and paper in hand.
Fraser has incorporated artistry into a variety of jobs throughout her life, but now the 66-year-old has turned her passion for art into a business. After beginning to receive commissions for watercolor portraits, Fraser created Illustrations by Joan Fraser in May 2020.
In her early life, Fraser could often be found sketching on her living room floor, replicating the fashion illustrations she saw in advertisements for department stores Schultz and deJong’s. After graduating from Benjamin Bosse High School, Fraser worked as an executive secretary, then as a pharmacy technician at Deaconess Hospital to support her growing family. It was during this time she began to take commercial art classes at Ivy Tech Community College in Evansville.
To pay for the art classes, Fraser created advertisements for small dress shops to run in the Evansville Courier & Press. She then went on to freelance for several area ad agencies and did visual merchandising for Lazarus and Elder-Beerman.
In the early 1990s, Fraser began a career at Lea Matthews Furniture and Interiors, serving in various roles such as the marketing director, visual merchandiser, and merchandise buyer. In 2007, she started her own interior design business, Joan Fraser Interiors, and continues to work with clients today.
Fraser always looks for groupings of art to hang on walls for some of the rooms she designs, but they prove difficult to find. To solve this problem, she began to create her own. Fraser has painted several collections of women revolving around a similar theme, such as The Caribbean Collection and The Jeans Collection. Fraser enjoys painting people because she can highlight small details, like faces and clothes, by using watercolors.
She says she has learned countless lessons through all of her jobs, but she loves not having the stress of a traditional 9-to-5 job. Slowing down and traveling has been the perfect opportunity for Fraser’s creativity to flow into the creation of a business.
How did you decide to pursue art as a viable career?
By accident! My husband Bruce had retired and we’d been traveling a lot. I would always bring my sketchpad and art supplies along, but seldom take the time to use them. I always thought someday I’ll paint but never did.
Then one day in October my husband and I went to Lake Malone, and he encouraged me to paint while we were there. He said, “Whatever you do, don’t paint landscapes. That’s what everybody does. Paint people. That’s what you love, that’s what you’re good at.”
And that’s what I did. I started with a collection of little girls and I called it The Bubblegum Collection.
How did Illustration by Joan Fraser become a business?
Well, every time I did a painting, I would post it on my personal Facebook account. And I started to pay attention to the comments. It seems with every post, I’d get a request from friends to do paintings.
And then I got some business cards made and had some of my paintings framed. Then I worked my way to joining the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana in November.
A month ago I decided to open Illustrations by Joan Fraser on Facebook.
How would you describe your art style?
Fashion illustration. I mean, to me, it’s fashion. Even when I’m painting little kids, I’m thinking about the fashion. When I was little, I thought I’d be a fashion illustrator, and so this is an artistic spin on it.
My mother used to draw pretty girls, and when I went through her keepsakes, I’d always get so excited about her drawings. I thought, “I can do that.” I think I got my art talents from her.
What is your art influenced by?
I think it’s my mom’s illustrations, and Marilyn Henry’s (fashion illustrator and Joan’s art instructor at Ivy Tech Community College) illustrations. Those two women are why I do this, honestly. I was lucky to have such great teachers.
What style of painting are you most passionate about?
I like watercolor painting. I’ve never painted with watercolors before, I always used oil or acrylic. I can get the fine detail results from watercolors. I like to get really detailed, I like painting small and tight.
That’s just where I’m comfortable. Someday I may expand, but I’ll take it one step at a time.
What do you hope to accomplish next with Illustrations by Joan Fraser?
Next year I would love to do the circuit of taking my art to shows and First Fridays at Haynie’s Corner Arts District.
And I would like to create collections for different businesses or buildings, special collections just for them. Say if you had a wine place, I would paint a girl drinking wine, and I could help the restaurant refresh their art and hopefully sell the paintings.
I would also love to coordinate some of my illustrations with a book of poems I have been writing.