CD: What inspired you to Paint “That’s What She Said?
KJ: My initial inspiration for painting the That's What She Said portrait and quote series came post-election night. I was really distraught, mainly by the misogynist rhetoric I heard during the election process, and stunned to realize our country could elect a president who so blatantly disrespected women. I knew we had much progress to make as a society in achieving equality and equity for women - but this still broke my heart to witness. I had been painting personal and commissioned projects for a year and a half before that so turning to watercolor painting was my natural coping mechanism. I thought about what my deceased mom would say to me now, then other powerful women throughout history, like Frida Kahlo and Maya Angelou. They were my first paintings. Inspired by the use of gold leaf to show religious reverence at an exhibition at the Denver Art Museum on 14th century Venetian art, I wanted to incorporate a gold decorative element show reverence and a sacredness for each of the women I painted so I started using a gold leaf border.
From there, I painted a few portraits a week - usually with a candle lit, a glass of wine, and while listening to podcasts about their lives. I was stunned to realize I knew so little about each of these women and how we barely scratch the surface of their histories. Each of these women lived their lives in remarkable ways and usually in the face of extreme adversity that it frustrated me to realize their names, faces, and stories weren't common knowledge the way much of their male counterparts had become.
When a literary agent contacted me about putting together a book proposal to share this portrait series, I was convinced it needed to be a book and to be shared with the world in print format.
CD: How did you choose the 50 female leaders in the book? Was there a common thread or did each resonate with you differently?
KJ: It was so hard to narrow it down to only 50 women! I wanted to create a diverse, dynamic line up of individuals spanning different ages, countries of origin, ethnicities, religions, and industries. In the final stages of the selection process, I focused on what quotes stood out to me and resonated with me. In the end, I wanted it to be a delightful, thought-provoking experience for the reader as they flip through each page - some quotes are meant to delight and make you smile while others are challenging and inspiring.
CD: This is your first book! What have you learned in the process? Advice you’d give to others who are considering writing a book?
Yes! And I've learned so much about the journey from the initial book idea to working with a literary agent, finding the right publisher, then actually creating the book. It is a sometimes arduous journey and very personal labor of love but an absolute privilege. There's a lot of technical, detailed advice I have for the process but in general - start with an idea that you're truly inspired and that lights you up. Not an idea that you think is marketable and will sell. That mindset should come after. I think that's the main ingredient for creating something special that will attract attention from others in a genuine way. Also, choose to work with people and a publisher who share your similar mission, ethics and values. It makes the entire experience more synergistic and aligned.
CD: What do you hope this book accomplishes? What would you like the reader to take-away?
KJ: I hope this book serves as a memento bursting with inspiration that can be gifted from one woman to another during any season in her life - a memento that shouts "Look what she did! You can do it, too!" It is an invitation to get to know each of these women as well as a call to arms to live and speak your own truth.
CD: You are about to have a baby girl. Has that impacted your work on this book and if so, how?
KJ: I know! I can't wait to meet her. This pregnancy has definitely impacted my work and perspective. It has solidified and reaffirmed my belief in this book and in the power of women. I feel like I'm receiving two incredible gifts come April and feel overwhelmed with gratitude. Also, as women are continuing to come forward in solidarity and in sharing their truths whether it be about sexual misconduct, gender parity, etc. - I have so much hope that she will get to witness a lot of positive change in her lifetime. So now I have a new focus on creating work that has lasting impact for her and her generation.
The book release date is April 3, 2018 and will be available at Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, and wherever books are sold. You can now pre-order it directly here.
Signing at Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver in June 2018 will be announced soon!
Baby Luca Joy is due April 12!