Jennifer Parris moved to Winter Garden from Fort Lauderdale after Hurricane Irma destroyed her beachside home. Being away from the ocean — her greatest inspiration — has not stopped her from painting.
Whenever Jennifer Parris free-dives in the ocean, her mind goes blank as she takes in the scenery around her. As she floats under water surrounded by sea life and coral reefs, she gets inspired.
“That’s my meditation,” Parris said. “A lot of my creative process is just being in the right frame of mind and being in a positive flow. I think that’s what the ocean does for me. … There’s life to the reef. You hear it. It crackles.”
Parris, 31, is originally from Fort Lauderdale and currently lives in Winter Garden. She is a lifelong painter who enjoys painting ocean and marine life and scenes. Although she had spent her life painting as a hobby, she only has been painting as a full-time career for about a year.
“It took me a year before I left corporate America,” Parris said. “I was working for Marriott on the beach. … I realized you’re either working for someone else’s dream or you’re working for your own. So, I left there, and for the past year, I’ve been painting and building my whole collection and figuring out my whole style.”
FORCE OF NATURE
Although Parris left her job about a year ago, she did not move to Winter Garden until after Hurricane Irma because of damage to her beachside home. Parris had been in Winter Garden about a week prior to the hurricane to visit family but ended up staying until it ended.
“They had evacuated everything … so I couldn’t be there anyway.” Parris said. “I knew if I went south, I wasn’t going to get back up here.”
Parris said after the hurricane, her friend checked on her home and discovered water on the floors. Originally, she thought the water came from underneath the door of her home. She later found out that the hurricane ripped up the roof of her upstairs neighbor’s home.
“My mom went to go check things out,” Parris said. “My mom walks into (my upstairs neighbor’s) house, and you could see outside. The roof ripped off, so that’s where the water came from. When it was raining in (my neighbor’s) apartment, it all came down the walls. … Everything was drenched. It was horrible. I got lucky I didn’t lose everything.”
Despite the life-altering circumstances, Parris remains positive.
“I’m an eternal optimist,” Parris said. “It took me a second to really sit and process it, but it also made me feel really fortunate because, immediately, I had a place to come. My parents had just built a house here (in Winter Garden). My sister is here. My family is here. They all wanted me to move here, anyway. I joke that my sister caused the hurricane (because) she always gets what she wants. … I joke that it took an act of God to get me to leave the beach. I would have never, never left on my own.”
Parris added moving away from her home was bittersweet. She might have had to leave the ocean — her greatest inspiration — but that only made her evolve as an artist. In addition to her sea-life paintings, she experiments with paint pouring — also known as fluid art — as one of her latest artistic ventures.
“My work evolved,” Parris said. “I needed that (move). In a sense, life kind of brought me here. … I didn’t start pouring until I came here, and that’s a huge part of my work now.”
The move brought about new ventures for Parris. Prior to the hurricane and moving to Winter Garden, she met officials involved with the Windermere Art Affair. They invited her to feature her work at the event, which was her first art show.
“It was kind of funny because I knew I was doing the show before I moved here,” Parris said. “If that wasn’t meant to be, I don’t know what was.”
Parris added she learned at the Windermere Art Affair that her paintings are popular among children. She recently branched out to painting murals in children’s bedrooms.
“Children love my stuff,” Parris said. “I started doing children’s rooms … painting murals.”