Caloosa Belle

Local artist shares his talents

On of Joel Conner's paintings - Submitted photo

Joel Connerand his family. Submitted photo

Joel Conner is a man who wears many hats. He’s a website designer and he’s an up-and-coming artist. He’s a teacher by trade who still enjoys offering tips and lessons to those learning to paint. He’s a humble Christian man who enjoys giving to others through mission work. However, above all, he’s always a husband to his wife, Stephanie, and a father to his four children, Eli, Madeline, Giddeon and Meizi.

After spending the first four years of his life in Clewiston, Joel and his parents moved to LaBelle. He graduated from LaBelle High School in 1991, and then attended Georgia College to play basketball. Even though he originally thought he wanted to be an art major, Joel changed career paths and later graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.

He moved to Charleston, S.C. were he taught 4th and 5th grade for a private Christian school for seven years. During this time, a spark was ignited when Joel spent countless hours around his many friends who were painters. He felt like he fit right in. As an added creative outlet, he also played in an instrumental rock band.

When Joel got married, he and Stephanie made the move to Satellite Beach in Florida where he taught 3rd grade for one year. When the opportunity arose for them to make a move to Mexico and do mission work, they were both on board to go. While there for three years, they worked with abused and abandoned children. Joel stated that “to this day we still stay in touch with many of these kids through Facebook.”
Joel and Stephanie were instrumental in finding forever homes for several of these neglected children. Watching these children bond with their new families inspired the couple to adopt their first child, Eli. Although Eli has special needs, there was no doubt that he was meant to be theirs.

With little Eli in tow, the young couple moved back to LaBelle in order to be closer to family. Joel sold art on ebay while he taught Government and Economics at his old alma mater. Stephanie soon learned that she was pregnant, and they were blessed with a daughter, Madeline, who was also born with special needs.

When a position to teach art and music arose at Upthegrove Elementary School, he transferred to a classroom full of creative promise. Although he loved his job and all of the young minds he was teaching, Joel felt a strong pull to follow his artistic dreams.

After three years of teaching, Joel was ready for a career change. He took a job as a web designer to help supplement his family’s income while he slowly began setting the stage for getting his artwork on the market. Working as a web designer opened up more time for Joel to focus on painting, traveling and his family.

Recently, the Conner’s welcomed the addition of their last two children, Giddeon and Meizi, who they adopted from China. Joel admits that “it can be a challenge to paint with four young children at home”, but he usually finds time at night while they are asleep.

For years, Joel studied mostly textbook techniques, dvd courses, and occasionally a local art class. However, he struggled to find a teacher that he could connect with until he found Australian painter and teacher Robert Bosler. Bosler explained his philosophy of creating a painting in great detail and then meticulously taught the same techniques that were used by old masters. Joel stated that “he brought me out of what I would now call ‘flat painting’ and into a world of rich texture and luminous glowing mediums.”

Joel feels that his works “most closely resemble the post-impressionists (1886 and 1905) such as Cezanne or van Ghoh, but also often pushes into expressionism as well”. He likes his works to be “interesting with bits of mystery that draw you in”. After observing Joel’s style, it is easy to see that he enjoys experimenting with contrast, luminous glazing, and emphasis.

When asked what inspired him to paint, Joel gives a great deal of credit to a friend from Arizona who he met in Mexico about ten years ago while doing mission work together. William “Paco” Hawkins is a landscape painter and successful professional artist, known for painting clouds. He inspired Joel to “consider taking my art more seriously.”

Although he can paint a variety of things, Joel loves to paint trees because he sees so many connections between them and life. In his words, “A tree has a story of gnarled branches reaching for the light – reaching and struggling. There are setbacks that shape the tree. This is the same for life.” We face struggles but we persevere and continue to reach for what we need.

Joel has sold his paintings all over Western Europe, Canada and the United States. He is looking forward to building local relationships with art communities. His work will soon be shown at the Barron House Park Gallery in LaBelle. As a fellow artist, Joel is always willing to assist if someone is looking for direction or tips regarding their own artwork. He will do commissioned work (check out his website for more info) as well.

Joel is looking forward to connecting with other local artists from those just getting started to those who are well seasoned. He believes everyone can learn from each other. He has a vision of hosting a painting or drawing night to allow artists to share their talents and stories.

For more information about Joel Conner, please call 863-517-0615, email joelc@embroco.com or visit his website at www.joelconner.com.