Bryce Weblog

Greensboro artist ‘antithesis of ordinary’

By Bryce Little

by Bryce Little
October 15, 2008

Red paint hits the canvas and smears a brilliant orange as it glides over the deep yellows that already fill the painting. The artist’s fingers grasp a small bit of plastic wrap to further maneuver the wet paint across the canvas.

Jill Troutman is the antithesis of ordinary. She is the most talented painter who never dreamed of actually being a painter. This 70-year-old, multiple-hip-replacement recipient, has never missed a beat. Below her fiery red hair and long black eye lashes, there is a personality that would make any mixture of oranges, yellows, purples and blues seem a dull shade of gray.

Accepting change has been a powerful theme in Troutman’s life.

Orange Daisy Hanging in Troutmans Living Room

She is originally from Newton, Iowa, a town that was home to a little fewer than 1,600 people in 1938.

“If you’re not into corn and hogs, there is very little there for you,” Troutman said.

Troutman graduated high school in 1956 with scholarships to Iowa colleges in performing arts and speech. She had no inclination to paint, or even knew she could, when she decided to drop her scholarships and move to Denver.

Troutman later moved from Denver to Greensboro, N.C., where she pursued a career in the salon industry. She did everything from managing a national salon chain to training in beauty schools.

During this time in her life, Troutman wanted more. While she had a good job that kept her somewhat fulfilled, there was a part of her personality that needed a change. She began painting, but it still did not occurr to her that she could do it for the rest of her life. Throughout her 30s, her passion for art grew, and by her 45th birthday, she was seriously considering dropping everything and taking up painting.

After multiple conversations with her mentors about what she should do, Troutman finally decided to head to Minnesota. She took a $1,000 week-long art class and decided for herself whether she had what it took to be a professional artist.

“I had to say to my teacher, ‘Do you think I have what it takes to be a successful artist?’” Troutman said. “And the answer to that question was, ‘concentrate on your strengths and forget what your weaknesses are.’”

Piece Hanging in the Mebane Library

Troutman, since becoming a full-time painter, has created paintings that hang all over the world. She has pieces in Florence, Paris, Seattle and New York. These paintings range from brightly colored floral paintings, which she is most known for, to Japanese geishas painted in cool hues of green and blue.

While Troutman is now an accomplished painter, she is still scared of not being able to develop as an artist. She continually looks back on old paintings she did when she had no formal education.

These old paintings have recently become an inspiration to Troutman as she tries to mesh old and new techniques for her show coming up at Harrison’s Restaurant in Burlington this December.

“I don’t want to paint like I did two years ago; I don’t want to paint like I did a year ago,” Troutman said. “It’s about growing. It’s not changing for change’s sake. You gotta want to do it.”

After three knee replacements and a hip replacement it would be physically easier for Troutman if she didn’t wake up at 5:30 a.m. and paint for eight hours each day. Emotionally, she would have a hard time not doing what she loves.

“She has a way when you’re with her that you can leap tall buildings in a single bound,” Terri Kirchen, one of Troutman’s closest friends, said. “It’s like a nice fire in a fireplace on a cold day. You just want to get close to it.”

Troutman’s engaging personality is also represented in her love of teaching. In 2001, she began teaching adult students and has taught more than 150. She has 56 regular students who she has been teaching for seven years and considers part of her extended family.

Troutman has stopped teaching to focus on her work, but the bond between student and teacher remains strong.

“Those of us who were fortunate enough to be students under Jill have just become very good friends,”

Lorraine Allen, one of Troutman’s former students, said. “Folks came from different walks of life, and all different personalities but we had a very unique bond and I think that was created and precipitated by Jill’s teaching style.”

Troutman’s impact on the people around her is undeniable. She has made an effort in her life to experience new things and not be afraid to change.

“I think that fearlessness, that encouragement to explore, to just be free with what you were doing is not only with art,” Allen said. “But I think that carries over into other aspects of life and I think Jill lives her life with that kind of perspective.”

For more pictures and information visit Jill Troutman’s Website

One Response to 'Greensboro artist ‘antithesis of ordinary’'

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  1. Janna said,

    Very exciting package of images and writing. Get the possessive apostrophe inserted into the word Troutmans in the first photo caption. You also need to attribute the last quotation – I assume it is from Allen? Put attribution inside the quote at the first natural pause. You can just use Allen said. When you write a profile like this, it’s best if you end with the person you are profiling getting the last word. As we discussed when we met in my office, I REALLY love the reporting and writing you did on this assignment. Adding the quotes from people she knows was good. To perfect this, you might want to weave those other quotes into the narrative in a way that allows Jill to come back in at the ending and wrap it all up for you. She kind of does that in the video, but the story has to stand on its own, too. Great work.

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