By Natasha Anderson
There are many ways to tell a story and Greenville, SC native Jennifer Mills has tried, and succeeded, at just about all of them. Though she was fully immersed in academic, athletic and extracurricular activities as a student, with a list of awards and honors too long to list here, she considers her English class with teacher Marty Matilda Mathis to be the true highlight of her J.L. Mann High School career. “Mrs. Mathis tapped a creativity deep inside me and ignited a passion for writing and storytelling,” says Mills.
During her junior year, Mills honed in on broadcasting when she was profiled by Channel 13/WLOS as student athlete of the month. “After spending a day with a crew, I was in utter disbelief that something so fun and creative could actually lead to a paycheck,” she says. “I landed an internship with WLOS for the following summer and my career decision was cemented.”
Mills was so sure of her path that she turned down an appointment—the first for a female from South Carolina— to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, in order to pursue a degree in Speech, Communication and Theater Arts at Wake Forest University. She worked for NBC affiliate WXII/Channel 12 shooting news and sports during her junior and senior years and, upon graduating, spent the next three decades traversing six continents as a host, writer, interviewer and producer. During her time with various networks including The Travel Channel, CBS, NBC and Golf Channel, which she partnered with Arnold Palmer to launch in 1995, she interviewed five presidents and hundreds of celebrities, musicians and sports figures.
“Working alongside Jennifer every day was as much fun as I’ve had in my career,” says former Golf Central host Brian Hammons. “She was as talented as anybody in television and as prepared for every broadcast as anybody I’ve worked with.”
Mills retired from broadcasting in 2013 in order to spend more time with her two children, but it didn’t take long for her to find a second calling, this time by chance. Her mother-in-law, Marie, a talented oil painter, became a widow in 2014, and Mills devoted time to keeping her company. Marie soon suggested they paint together and this became a regular activity for them. “When she passed away two years later, two things struck me,” says Mills. “First, every time we give, we receive tenfold. I thought I was helping her fight loneliness, but, in fact, she was sharing the gift of a lifetime. And secondly, painting is really no different than broadcasting. It’s storytelling with a paintbrush instead of a microphone.”
Mills works in oils and acrylics, with subject matter ranging from landscapes and cityscapes to people and animals. She creates dynamic paintings that capture the energy of a particular moment, whether it’s a fly fisherman’s perfect cast, a child splashing in a puddle or a horse and rider just clearing an obstacle. Of late, she has been inspired by the upcoming World Equestrian Games in Tryon.
A self-described workshop student and all-around sponge, Mills studied under several instructors, including Jim Carson of Saluda, George Scribner of Disney, in California, and Jane Slivka of Florida. Over time, she has developed a loose style involving splashing, splatting, stroking and scumbling multiple layers of acrylics, varnishes, oils and glazes. This technique adds to the sense of motion that Mills strives to convey in her work. “In video, there are 30 frames per second,” she says. “I’m trying to capture that one single frame and make people feel the spontaneity in what they see.”
She is currently represented by several galleries in the Carolinas. The Wrinkled Egg (Flat Rock) will feature her work at its booth at the World Equestrian Games Village from Tuesday, September 11, through Sunday, September 23. She is also a participating artist in For the Love of Horses, an exhibit taking place at Tryon Painters and Sculptors Gallery from Saturday, September 15, through October 13, and she will paint on-site at The Nest Artisan Market in Tryon on Friday, September 28. “I worked alongside Jennifer for many years and I never knew she could paint,” says Hammons. “But nothing surprises me about her.”
Learn more at jenniferspots.com or on Facebook at Jennifer’s Paintings.