by Cori Hilsgen
Local artist Jo Schwalboski’s creativity is fueled by constant change from her travels and life experiences. Much of her success has come as a result of her mixing up her media when she lost interest in one project and moved on to work on another one. Schwalboski is constantly exploring different kinds of pencils and paints, as well as different settings because much of her creativity is affected by what is going on around her.
“Constant contact and constant change is really important to me,” Schwalboski said.
Schwalboski was recently chosen by Cream City Tattoo in St. Cloud to be the featured artist for the month of November and was part of the Downtown Art Crawl. She said this was a new location for her to display her art.
The Crawl was a good experience for her. Many of the people who came to see her work had also never been in a tattoo place before and told her it was not at all what they expected. Schwalboski said Cream City is located in downtown historic St. Cloud and is well-designed.
Owner Ryan Schepp said he wanted to do something different for the November Art Crawl. He met Schwalboski through his girlfriend and decided he wanted her to be the featured artist.
Her art on display at Cream City is a series of portraits. The portraits are of her husband, daughter and her family, son and his family and of herself.
Schwalboski has been painting since high school and is a lifelong student of the arts. Throughout the years she has realized how important art and creativity have become for her.
“If you ask anyone, they will tell you I’m always involved in something artsy,” Schwalboski said.
Throughout the years, she has tried many art-and-craft trends. Some of them include sketching, painting, macramé, dough art, scrapbooking, quilting and others.
Schwalboski, 60, took her first art class at a Pleasanton, Kan. workshop in 2002 with an artist from Zhostovo, Russia and has been dabbling in classes ever since. She is certified as a level two instructor in the Zhostovo style, a beautiful floral style of painting usually done on metal trays in oils.
She said the Zhostovo workshop classes fueled her passion for painting, the arts and her desire to share her knowledge with other people.
Schwalboski became a certified “Traditions” painting instructor in 2008 and finds rewards in teaching students the color theory that is the basis of that type of painting. Her classes are for the beginner to intermediate artist experience.
Although she has been painting since high school, she had not previously done any drawing.
This might sound contradictory, but Schwalboski said you don’t have to have great drawing ability to be a great painter. There are other means of getting a good end result with painting.
She took her first drawing class from St. Joseph artist Anne Meyer in February. This is her first experience with drawing and she has seen a great deal of improvement in her ability.
Schwalboski is currently working with pencil-sketch portraits where she had worked with oils and acrylics in the past.
“I love doing the portraits,” she said.
Schwalboski has also started wire wrapping, which is wrapping stones in wire. She started doing that in June and has many pieces displayed at Cream City.
“I am a woman possessed with drawing and wire-wrapping, and of course any other type of art,” Schwalboski said.
Since that first workshop, she has traveled across the United States and has learned many new techniques she shares with her students. Schwalboski has painted with artists from England, Australia, Japan, Russia, Canada and many others from the states.
She is very active in organizing and attending events, seeking new and existing artists and in producing art. Schwalboski is the Avon Area Arts President and has been a member of the AAArts since its beginning in 2005. She is also a member of the Society of Decorative Painters and the Central Minnesota Watercolor Society.
Schwalboski teaches art classes at her St. Joseph studio and through various painting groups to which she belongs. Her primary art passion and stress reliever is creating on canvas, paper, wood and metal with color pencils, acrylics, water colors and oils. Currently, she is working on pencil, acrylic and oil portraits.
Schwalboski recently hosted a color-pencil class at the St. Stephen City Hall. The instructor was from Seattle and people from throughout the United States attended.
“Fantastic weekend, fantastic fun,” Schwalboski said.
She and a group of about five meet weekly to work on art. They currently are drawing but have painted in the past.
“Art is an earned skill,” she said. “The more time you spend on it the better you become.”
Schwalboski grew up in Sartell and has lived in the area all of her life. She and her husband, Ralph, have been St. Joseph residents for 22 years. They have a son, Eric; a daughter, Tracy; and five grandchildren.
Schwalboski says she has the most understanding husband in the world.
“He has to be ‘the best’ to put up with my painting passion and wanderlust when it comes to visiting grandchildren and attending painting workshops,” Schwalboski said.
She works for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Schwalboski nonchalantly states she has a couple of college degrees, none of which are in art-related fields. She has a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and communication and an associate’s degree in mechanical drafting and design.
Schwalboski has made a conscious choice not to make art her career but rather to keep it a hobby.
“When you are forced to do something, it takes away from the fun,” Schwalboski said.
Located at 11 6th Ave. N., Cream City is open from noon-8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays.
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.