Creating whimsical paintings of people, places and pets


Jen Niles at the Beacon Hill Art Walk in Boston

By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor

Paxton – Artists such as Jen Niles of Paxton are often inspired by a muse. The self-taught artist has been drawing all her life, and for many years concentrated on creating pen and ink illustrations including commissioned house portraits. Craving a change in 2001, she began experimenting with acrylics and found the muse to help develop what has become her signature art style.

“I had no real training in painting and got inspired by what my two cats were doing – lying around and being cute,” she relayed. “My style is very whimsical, bold and fun; I’m not going for museum realism.”

Rather than pursuing an art education, Niles satisfied her parents by earning a business degree at Northeastern University and worked a career in the tradeshow industry. A self-described late bloomer, she met and married her husband at age 38 and gave birth to their child at 43.

“All the work that I’ve been doing art-wise has been done while simultaneously parenting and/or homeschooling our wonderful son,” she noted. “

Her career as an artist began in 2001 when she displayed artwork at a small gallery in Worcester owned by Donna Vayo. There, Niles sold three acrylic paintings on wooden panels.

“It was shocking and thrilling that someone would want to buy my art,” she exclaimed. “I realized that I needed to start painting more to fill the blank space on the gallery wall.”

Now a self-employed artist, her mission is to help others celebrate the pets and places they love. To accomplish that mission, she teaches painting classes and has integrated her innate art skills into community projects.

“My painting classes are not like what you’d expect from a formal art teacher,” she explained. “My approach is, ‘I can do this and want to show you how easy it is for you to create a fun painting, too.’”

With a strong following of animal lovers, Niles offers Paint Your Pet classes as private in-home parties and fundraisers. Some of these classes are held in conjunction with the Worcester Animal Rescue League, which receives a portion of the registration fee. She also conducts painting programs at libraries for children, and at the Spring Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Worcester.

Niles continued displaying artwork at venues such as Worcester’s stART on the Street festival in 2004 and several of the organization’s subsequent events through 2010. Since 2006, she has participated regularly in Boston’s Beacon Hill Art Walk, held annually the first Sunday in June.

“The Beacon Hill Art Walk is my favorite show,” she declared. “They only accept original art. The organizers are professional and very nice. It’s a fun, delightful show.”

As her work and name becomes known in the community, she’s approached by organizations with grants needing an artist. Niles assisted Edward Street Child Services create murals with preschoolers at five Worcester daycare centers, culminating at the city’s annual Day of Play at Elm Park in June 2016. During the spring of 2017, she helped young patrons of the Paxton Public Library paint pickets to identify plants in a butterfly garden. Later in 2017, she painted cutouts of animal images reading books that are displayed on walls at the Rutland Public Library children’s room.

“I’m always happy to bring art to kids’ lives,” she noted.

Her prints, cards and gift items are available for sale at locally-owned businesses including Serendipity in Hudson, Petersham Art Center, Magic Fingers in Westborough, Noa in West Concord and Framed in Tatnuck in Worcester.

“I’ve always wanted to be an artist,” she said. “Now, I’m realizing my lifelong dream.”

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