Hauser’s paintings have names like “Joys of Summer,” “Rocket Feathers” and “Desert Waves.”
By day, Jessica Hauser is a dynamic nonprofit leader doing everything in her power to ensure Detroit students have the tools they need to succeed. As executive director of the Downtown Boxing Gym, her days are filled with nonstop Zoom meetings and tackling significant concerns like funding, staffing and getting emergency food to families as well as overseeing the free after-school academic and athletic program’s operations alongside Khali Sweeney, DBG’s founder and CEO. It was a big job before COVID-19 and the pandemic amplified everything.
“We were working 20-hour days,” says Hauser, a former member with her family of Temple Emanu-El in Oak Park. “It’s been a super stressful year.”
Enter Joy Doodles, the one thing Hauser says helped her get through some of the toughest times. Joy Doodles is her name for a free-form style of drawing and painting that she first recalls doing as a young child with her late father, Joel Hauser. Sadly, he was hit and killed by a drunk driver when Jessica was just 10 years old, changing her family and the course of her life forever.
“He would sit and draw these squiggly lines and tell me to just be as creative as possible to fill them in,” she recalls. “Something about it was just really calming. My favorite thing about it is there are no boundaries. You can create your own thing; you can really express yourself.”
Decades after drawing with her dad, Hauser started painting doodles again as a way to relax and de-stress during the height of the pandemic. Today, her home art studio is filled with colorful canvases including dozens of finished paintings and many works in progress. Her process always begins by painting the background first and drawing free-form swirls and designs on top of it. As she decorates the designs and fills them in, each painting takes on a life and personality of its own. No two are ever the same.
“I love working with different textures and mediums — glitter, sequins, paint markers, acrylic paint,” she says. “Something about all the different colors and just being able to let my mind wander is really relaxing.”
Hauser is not a trained artist, but she does teach knitting classes. She says that longtime hobby is similar because knitting is methodical and follows a pattern. When she started to paint, she had no intention of launching a business, but the more she painted, the more family members encouraged her to share her artwork with the world. So, she put up a page on the e-commerce website Etsy, which focuses on handmade or vintage items and craft supplies, and people started buying.
“We tell the kids [at the Downtown Boxing Gym] all the time you have to put yourself out there and pursue your passions and dreams,” she says. “I want to be a role model and practice what I preach.”
Her bright, whimsical paintings come in various sizes and range in price from $50 to $250. They have names like “Joys of Summer,” “Rocket Feathers” and “Desert Waves.” As you look, you start to see different things in each of them — a shape that looks like a beach ball, falling leaves and trees, ocean waves, a dreamy blue sky.
Hauser says when she starts each painting, she doesn’t have a pre-determined thought, she just lets the paint take her where it wants to go. Somewhere among the brush strokes and embellishments, her worries melt away and she’s connected, if only for a moment, to her carefree days as a little girl with her dad — before the realities, stresses and disappointments of adult life — when all that mattered was which color or design she would choose.
“Art and creativity just do magical things with old pain and wounds,” she says. “These paintings come from a really heartfelt place and I hope they bring people joy.”
To see or purchase Jessica’s Joy Doodles, visit etsy.com/shop/joydoodles.