Headwaters Inspired Profile: Deborah Jolly


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“Painting is like breathing, I have to do it.”

To hear Deborah Jolly talk about how she paints, you sense that she is just as mystified about the process as anyone. “I just paint,” said Jolly. “I work very quickly, without an articulated plan, perhaps drawing upon an idea or a feeling that I want to express and give voice to. I am not thinking about the process when I paint. It’s natural. It just happens.”

She’s seen people cry in front of her paintings

Yes, actual tears! Jolly’s paintings have revealed deep emotions in viewers. “My art has always been about connections,” said Jolly. “My works reflect meaningful moments and often when people tell me what my painting means to them, I hear that they have captured the exact emotion I have painted. How does that even happen?”

Inspired by the land, rivers and lakes

For Jolly, living in Caledon keeps her connected to nature, to the earth itself. “Come once and you will find it is very easy to see why people from surrounding cities return again and again. Aside from its beauty, Caledon has a treasure trove of artists and makers,” said Jolly. “There is a distinct sense of community here that I have not seen anywhere else in Ontario, and I have travelled much of it. Caledon allows me to flow, to be closer to my artistic truth. Even when I travel, I’m always happy to come back home.”

Started painting about nine years ago

One day Jolly picked up a palette knife and started painting. “For the first year I didn’t share my creative outlet with anyone other than family,” said Jolly. “And then a friend visited and saw some of my paintings, and I gave her one. Others asked about my work and, soon after, I was invited to join an art exhibition. Just like that, I began selling.”

Jolly sells her works through galleries and also directly, participating in group and solo exhibitions, including numerous philanthropic endeavours. She’s also had great sales success through her social media. Jolly notes that the majority of her patrons have become repeat clients, taking advantage of her progressive and ever-changing style.

Jolly is happy that art fuels her livelihood, yet she is quick to point out that, whether she was selling or not, she’d still be painting. “I have to paint; it’s who I am.”