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Check out Jo Ann Briseño’s Artwork

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jo Ann Briseño.

Jo Ann, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
Art has been an integral part of my life since I was fourteen years old. I discovered photography and completely fell in love with it. Since then I have added illustration and painting to my preferred media.

While finishing my Master in Fine Arts from ASU, I worked as a multimedia designer for over twelve years. The birth of my daughter changed my life in more ways than one. Finding out that she had special needs, I decided to dedicate time to helping her get a good start and took a break from making art and my creative employment.

It wasn’t until Maya went to school that I began to redefine my artwork. I began to use her routine as a way to practice my art by creating napkin drawings for her lunch box. Over the years, I built a collection of work that many followed and cherished.

After having a solo art show with a collection of my drawings, I realized I wanted to make my art accessible to a larger community. Using my art as a medium to express Maya’s voice, I created the first of a series of books called Maya’s Adventures. It is my hope that this work can bring social awareness, inspiration, and happiness to the world.

We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
While my first love is photography, I love drawing with a pen. It’s unforgiving and pushes me to let go of my fears about not being perfect. My drawings aren’t perfect just like my life isn’t. In recent years, I’ve merged my passion for art with parenting my daughter, who has Down syndrome. When Maya began school, I started putting drawings in her lunch box each day. At first, the sketches were simply a way for Maya to know that I was thinking about her while she was at school, as well as an opportunity for me to work on my art each day.

Parenting Maya has reinforced my philosophy that beauty and fulfillment are to be sought in each moment and that being present and positive, no matter what abilities a person has, leads to richness in life. As an artist, I challenge myself to produce work that is thought-provoking. I also believe that art can bring awareness and happiness to the viewer.

A primary reason for developing my work into a book is to share Maya’s life with the world. I believe sharing Maya’s accomplishments and adventures will speak to others and hopefully open their eyes to seeing her as a genuine person who wants to interact with society and have a happy, meaningful life. People look at Maya differently simply because they don’t know how to approach her, but if they learn that she, as with all children who have special needs, feels the same emotions they do, they can accept her differences while appreciating what we all have in common.

My goal is to break down the social barriers that keep special needs children from being fully accepted in society by sharing Maya’s stories so that others can see she’s just a girl who wants to be included and loved, just as we all do. My work is deeply rooted in bringing people together and creating connections. Many can find inspiration through this art regardless of their abilities.

The sterotype of a starving artist scares away many potentially talented artists from pursuing art – any advice or thoughts about how to deal with the financial concerns an aspiring artist might be concerned about?
One of the greatest lessons I learned was when I was in grad school. My mentor and teacher asked us what we would do with our art once we graduate. He asked us to be honest and think about how we could make our artwork fit in the real world. I started thinking about where art is in the world and how it effects people. I think making art can be a part of daily life. Perhaps choosing a career where you can be creative is a way to make art. it’s OK to be practical. If your career isn’t art centered, make time for your creative outlet. Set aside time to be an artist. Even if that’s only fifteen minutes each day, be the artist you’ve always wanted to be.

I think having art shows is good, but making art accessible to all walks of life speaks volumes. Luckily, we can spread the word with the internet. There are so many ways to share your work nowadays. Finding a community that supports your passion is also essential. Exchanging ideas and brainstorming with people who are on the same path revitalizes you and keeps you going.

Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
At present my work can be found on social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram. I have a website that also links to the publisher that currently produced my first book. I sell my work at various conferences and venues geared towards the Special needs community as well. Of late I have lectured about my work and share Maya’s story with local schools. My presentation is not only about Maya’s life and how my work has evolved but also an interactive art class allowing each participate to create their own “napkin drawing”.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
All photos copyright Jo Ann Briseño.

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