Luck of the Draw: Artist Jocelyn Lillpop

Article by Marcia Darnell

Local Arts – February 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

SOME PEOPLE are lucky and discover early on what they want to do. Some are very lucky, and get to do it. Then there are the extraordinarily lucky few, those who get paid for doing it.

Jocelyn Lillpop is extraordinarily lucky, and she knows it. She’s been a professional artist since she sold her first painting, of a horse, at age 8. Lillpop was thrilled to be able to buy back that painting a couple of years ago.

She’s been painting animals ever since, and for several years, has done bronze sculpture as well. This makes her somewhat of an oddity in the art world.

“There are not a lot [of artists] who are doing flat work and 3-D,” she says.

Her work — in acrylics, oils, prints and bronze — sell well enough for her to support her “habit,” as she refers to her artistic life.

“Since I was a little girl, that’s all I’ve liked,” she says. Except for a job with a veterinarian, it’s the only paying work she’s done. She credits her mother, artist Phoebe DiCamillo, with getting her started. DiCamillo routinely took her youngest child to work in the studio with her. The two have a show at Adams State College every winter, celebrating their mother-daughter talent.

Lillpop now lives on a working ranch outside Alamosa with her husband and two sons. It’s an artist’s home — filled with light and space and lots of walls for displays. The backyard is a duck pond, with the porch serving as a dock for the kids’ boat. Lillpop’s studio is on the property.

“I’m somewhat isolated, living in the San Luis Valley” she says. “There aren’t any big shows within a 500-mile radius. On the other hand, I’m centrally located, so I can get to shows.”

Lillpop’s work will be on display May 14-16 in Denver, at Exposition Hall in the Denver Merchandise Mart. She’ll show with a group called Studio 4, which has pooled resources for marketing and showing their work in the West.

On her own, Lillpop just finished a commission for a group in Tulsa. It’s a larger-than-life bronze of an elk, called “Royal Descent,” a smaller version of which she’s kept. The big one will be donated to the city of Tulsa. Miniatures of the work will be sold to finance the sculpture. When Lillpop finished the project last summer, she threw a party to celebrate, inviting everyone in the Valley.

She was also the regional winner of Arts in the Parks last year, with an acrylic called “The Ties that Bind.” The national competition draws about 2,000 entrants each year to honor the national parks.

Born and raised in the San Luis Valley, Lillpop feels a strong connection to the place and the wildlife that have given her a career. She works — and paints and sculpts — to support wildlife organizations, including Ducks Unlimited, the Elks Foundation, and a group that preserves elk trails. She’s a member of the organizations, and donates the proceeds of certain prints to their causes.

Closer to home, she supports the artistic efforts of her family. Her husband, Jim, is learning to do the bronze casting for her sculpture, and her 10-year-old, Dane, just finished his first work. Proceeds from that sculpture, of a dolphin rising from water, will go toward the young artist’s college fund. He’s sold several editions of it already, and earned the respect of his mother.

“He did a really nice job,” Lillpop says. “It looks nicer than some pieces I see at national art shows.”

Lillpop herself is now working on an unusual project — a two-piece bronze of a pronghorn antelope buck and doe. The pieces will be separate, and owners can arrange them into different poses.

After that, Lillpop intends to do whatever catches her imagination, and keep feeling gratitude for the people who enjoy her art enough to pay for it.

“I’m going to do what I enjoy doing and hopefully continue making enough sales to support my habit,” she says.

“I have to keep selling because there’s nothing else I want to do.”

Marcia Darnell lives in the San Luis Valley, earning only enough from Colorado Central to buy beans from a co-op.