By Shayda Windle

As a former business executive turned art consultant, coach, and writer, Jill Perla fell into her profession through an unusual path. She grew up with a sister, who was both hard of hearing and aphasic, and a bipolar mother, which came with its own set of challenges. 

“It was through these experiences I learned coping skills and how to think creatively in all aspects of my life,” Perla says. “My mentality was always keep running forward and don’t look back.”

In her 40s, Perla’s father passed away from dementia. Before his passing, he created art as part of his therapy. It was then Perla took up painting as a way to cope. “[It] spurred my creative journey into a self-sustaining and profitable business,” she says.

Her philosophy on life is one of pure optimism. “Our cups are not half empty or half full, but instead they are overflowing and often we simply fail to recognize it,” she says. “By harnessing our inner creativity, I believe we can break free of preconceptions and old habits or mindsets, embrace the present, express gratitude, and re-energize the everyday.” 

Jill Perla, photographed by Jennifer Gray. 

During these times of uncertainty and unrest, her sense of gratitude for the present is something we should all exemplify. Her creative business has been nothing but a thriving staple to Loudoun County’s economy. She has received multiple accolades for her art, including her most recent award as Loudoun Now’s Favorite Artist of 2020.

“Creativity is the most in-demand soft skill, according to a recent LinkedIn study,” she says. “Adaptability is on the short list too. That’s because both skills help you overcome obstacles by imagining new solutions and being open to new ways of thinking.” 

Her courses focus on harnessing the power of creativity, from team building events in the boardroom to paint-and-sip parties with friends. 

“Patience,” 30” X 40.”

In addition to her courses, Perla works on a commissioned basis and creates original work to support the causes she’s most passionate about. She recently joined the #artistssupportpledge, a movement that began for artists in need of help during the pandemic. As exhibitions have been canceled, commissions put on hold, and income has all but disappeared for many artists, the pledge states that for every $1,000 reached in sales, $200 will be spent on another artist’s work. 

“No Fly Aways,” 18” X 24.” 

“[I] purchased some pieces during the pandemic and hope that offering some works at a heavily reduced rate will allow me to continue that support,” she says.

Most recently, she worked on a piece to pay homage to the Black Lives Matter Movement, as a part of her “Ladies Series.” All pieces in the series have sold aside from “Patience” (shown above). 

“I wanted to do something, but it felt like everything I was about to say seemed trite,” she says. “So, I decided to use my brushes instead of written words. I have painted women from behind for years now and have painted all sorts of skin tones and hair colors to showcase all women. For this particular piece, I chose gold leaf accents as a way to elevate her even more than my typical women. She is painted in lilac to symbolize tranquility and happiness. This is what I want for her.” 

For almost 40 years, Perla has given back to Childfund, an organization that aids deprived, excluded, and vulnerable children in 30 countries, and she announced that the proceeds of Inner Strength would go to Childfund. “Collectively, we can make a difference,” she says.  

Left: “My Turn,” 16” X 20.” Middle: “Faith,” 8” X 10.” Right: “Inner Strength,” 10” X 20.”

Perla’s dedication to making a difference prompted the Women’s Speakers Association to invite her to co-author the book, “Voices of the 21st Century,” a collection of inspiring stories from women of all walks of life sharing the common trait of resiliency.

“Everyone has a story, and one day I woke up with the urge to tell mine,” she says. “My dad was the one who kicked off my art career and I think of him every time I paint. Before he passed away, he wrote down his life’s memories — and it ended up being 500 pages. It’s amazing to have his memories in written form now that he’s gone. With that, I just started writing, and the more I wrote, I realized how cathartic it was and that I had my own story to tell.”

She says the book has “been a whirlwind of activity,” but has enjoyed every minute. “The stories from the other women are so impactful and I’ve learned so much about resilience from these ladies. I’m sure you would find some of their stories, some harrowing, some uplifting, and some just downright empowering.” 

The book is currently the No. 1 international bestseller in the “Women and Business” category on Amazon. 

Perla is empowering others through her art, her writing, and her activism, prompting change reverberating across Loudoun County and the country. ML

To learn more, visit jillperlaart.com.

This article was first published in the August 2020 issue of Middleburg Life.