Flowers find their way to the light. Up through concrete, next to busy interstates, in patches of weeds—they grow. And in the same way that flowers are drawn to the sun, artist Jean Wilson Freeman is drawn to flowers. Their joyful resilience has been a magnet, pulling her first to a love of gardening and later to botanical art. “I love the seasonal pattern of things you can depend on coming back every year, the relentless survival nature of flowers that grow up out of cracks and concrete,” Freeman says.
But before she started drawing flowers, she painted walls. A Furman graduate, Freeman taught art to schoolchildren for five years and then began painting walls and furniture part-time. In the ’90s, she partnered with local decorators to paint custom alternatives to high-end wallpaper for their clients, making a successful career out of it for 20 years. Her canvas—and her eventual career—expanded dramatically in 2016 when Freeman was asked to paint her first mural on Greenville’s Stone Avenue. The mural was commissioned by the Stone Mural Project, an effort founded by neighborhood residents Stephanie Burnette and Freeman to beautify the street through public art.
Set against a gray-blue background, Freeman’s “midnight garden” concept paid tribute to the United Building’s midcentury-modern architecture with a poppy, modern floral landscape. “That mural was an epiphany moment for me.
I decided, ‘I’m just going to work on flowers because that’s what I’m interested in,” says Freeman. Leaving walls largely behind, Freeman retreated to her light-filled home studio to draw flowers. Over time, her style evolved organically as her botanicals began to look less “mid-mod and funky” and more realistic.
Most of Freeman’s works are graphite drawings on paper, often layered with watercolor, pastel, ink, or crayon. Organic and energetic, her botanicals capture the tension between nature’s ephemeral fragility and spirited life. Other elements of the natural world—clouds, trees, butterflies—have found a place in Freeman’s body of work, but flowers remain her primary focus as she paints her way through the year. “I paint very seasonally. When it’s January, I’m going to be painting quince, and when it’s February, I’m looking at forsythia and camellias and so on,” she explains.
Freeman brings those seasonal rhythms—and the art they produce—to a tiny pop-up shop called Wilson Girls, where she and her sister Cathleen Wilson Seay offer curated home décor, vintage finds, and art in special sales a few times a year. “It’s fantastic to have a place to sell my art where I have total creative control over how it’s presented,” says Freeman. “Even though I’m not a decorator, I’ve always been interested in interiors and how a home feels. At Wilson Girls, I get to construct how I think my work might fit into that.” Like nature itself, life comes full circle: Freeman’s artistic journey began with walls, and now fills walls with joy.