How does one parlay a rebellious, misunderstood adolescence into a successful career in early adulthood, in the midst of a troubled economy?
Hillary Jones is trying to figure that out right now.
It was just a few years ago that the 21-year-old from Bellflower was bumping heads with the faculty at what she calls the “prim and preppy private school” she’d attended. From complaints about her altered uniforms and her multicolored hair to being called into the guidance counselor’s office because of the “dark and frightening” drawings on her binder (turns out it was only the skull logo for the punk band The Misfits), Jones was a bit of a misfit herself, until she graduated from Valley Christian High School in 2008 and entered a make-up academy.
After completing training in that field, she began to freelance around the Long Beach and Los Angeles areas, doing photo shoots, fashion shows and student films. “After almost a year of freelancing, work became stagnant and clients were few and far between,” Jones says. “And my creative needs were not being fulfilled.”
With extra time on her hands, she started sketching again. She designed her own tattoo that she now sports on her shoulder, as well as tattoos for friends. She then reimagined her sketches onto canvas and started painting.
“With dark things like the economic slump and turbulent relationships, painting became an escape for me,” she says. “A place where no rules applied– where it was only me and my creative thoughts that existed, and I could run with them wherever they would take me.”
One creative opportunity arose at the sushi restaurant where she worked as a server– Gatten Sushi, where freshly prepared dishes are displayed on a conveyor belt for customers to take. Jones would often create the signs that sat on the moving belt to identify the sushi dishes. The restaurant owner took note of her work and decided he wanted more illustrations and paintings of hers around his stores. “If you visit any Gatten Sushi location, in Cerritos, Irvine, Monterey Park or Rowland Heights, you will see my painted sushi signs on the revolving conveyor belt,” Jones says. “Also, in some locations, you will see 24 x 24 canvas paintings of Tonkotsu Ramen and other sushi items on the walls of the restaurant.”
Outside the realm of raw fish and wasabi, Jones frequents the Second Saturday Art Walk in downtown Long Beach, and she says she has been blessed with success in her painting sales there. “I absolutely love it when people walk by and have to take a second look at my work– try to make sense of it, try to figure out what the paintings are trying to say to them,” Jones says. “I enjoy people being intrigued by the gloomy penguins and ducks and the toxic cupcakes that call out to passersby. They can feel the darkness of my work at first glance, but as they study the pieces, they see a glimmer of hope that shines through, suggesting that one day, everything is going to be alright.”
To see more of Jones’s work, visit her website at DesignedbyHillary.com, which also includes what she calls her “quirky blogs about art and everyday life.”