When Cindy Jacobs was in sixth grade, she lived on a farm three miles north of Axtell.
“The summers lasted forever,” she recalls.
So when her aunt gave her a calligraphy set, she sat down at the kitchen table and learned how to use it.
“My mom loved it when I was sitting at the kitchen table doing art projects. She knew where I was. I wasn’t hurting or fighting with my brothers,” Jacobs said.
A few years later, she got hold of a wood burning kit and started making wooden pieces and decorating them with fluorescent paint. “They were awful, but my aunts and uncles bought some,” she laughed.
“Sometimes it seems futile, the things we make and then throw away, but you can’t ignore the process. Every little thing you did, you always created something lasting in them,” she said.
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Now a mother of four and grandmother of nine, Jacobs has become an accomplished artist whose watercolors and acrylic paintings hang on the walls of galleries and businesses. Some are sold in Hobby Lobby, Target and other stores.
His works also appear on pillows, placemats, flags and mugs. Several of his paintings can currently be seen at the Brickwalk Gallery at 2008 A Ave.
“I love to paint,” she said.
After graduating from Axtell High School, Jacobs got an art scholarship to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, but she put her brushes away when she left school to get married. She had three babies in three years and art came back into her life. She drew when her babies were napping.
In 1980, she exhibited calligraphy and a few chisel-cut pieces at a craft fair in Orléans. There they caught the eye of Betty Streff, an exhibitor at the show who eventually opened a boutique, Betty Jane’s, in downtown Kearney.
“Cindy is an extremely talented calligrapher and watercolourist,” Streff said. “When I saw Cindy’s work at this craft show, I immediately recognized her talent and the quality of her work.”
Streff took a suitcase full of samples — including some of Jacobs’ work — while vacationing in Colorado Springs. There, Streff met a woman who had a showroom in Denver. One thing leads to another.
“I encouraged Cindy to take her business to the next level by doing wholesaling. She took the ball and ran,” Streff said. far exceeded mine.
In 1988, Jacobs began making scissor-cut artwork, which is created by cutting paper with sharp scissors. It has been matted, framed and shipped all over the USA, Germany and Japan. In a single year, she sold $1.7 million worth of artwork to four retail stores.
She opened Cindy Jacobs galleries in Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island and Kearney. Jacobs recalls that her fourth child, born in 1989, “grew up in a playpen in the factory on our farm.”
But in 2008, she closed her galleries. A recession threatened. Her marriage fell apart. Her mother died of stomach cancer.
Jacobs moved from Axtell’s farm to his late mother’s house in Kearney. Through it all, she continued to paint.
His projects included painting a large 1955 Kearney mural on the walls of Master’s Transportation in Kearney to match the restored 1955 van owned by the father of company chairman John Goodbrake. The photo includes the Platte River Bridge south of Kearney, Grandpa’s Steakhouse and the old Buffalo Motel.
“I did it for two years on scaffolding. I felt like Leonardo da Vinci, staring at the ceiling. They would like me to do more, but I don’t know how to find the time,” she says.
Four years ago, Jacobs began submitting his artwork to Penny Lane Publishing in New Carlisle, Ohio, which produces canvas prints and framed artwork for stores including Hobby Lobby, Home Goods, Target and Walmart. .
She had “four or five” rejections from other companies before being accepted by Penny Lane. “It’s tough. You put your heart and soul into something, you’ve looked at trends and colors, and you think you submitted what they wanted, but then you get rejected,” she said “Then one day the planets aligned.”
Today, Jacobs is one of 80 artists selected to work with Penny Lane Publishing, which sells artists’ work to manufacturers.
“Artwork sold online is so competitive, but once a business selects about three creations from the top 20 artists, they come back for more of those artists,” she said.
A subdivision of Penny Lane, Penny Lane Fine Art Licensing, sells prints of the artwork to manufacturers who sell the framed prints or canvases to retailers. Makers also place selected artwork on cards, garden tools, mailboxes and more.
Jacobs handles the company’s tight deadlines because she has proven to be reliable. “Sometimes a business will like the artwork but want a blue background or some other type of flower,” she said.
Some artists can do hand painting or computer graphics, “but I’m an anomaly. I can do both,” she said. She keeps all of her artwork in the computer “so I can cut out the background, or just put flowers or the pot, or match everything as needed,” she said.
“Penny Lane knows I can work fast, so if they get a request for a framed artwork for Hobby Lobby, for example, they know I can do it. They know I can create artwork in a day and a half. It puts me above other artists,” she said.
It keeps her busy — sometimes too busy, she confessed.
Jacobs also renovates homes. She has lived in five houses since 2009. She has renovated each of them and is also doing so on her current house, which she bought last November. When she’s done, her whole family will be sleeping — four children, their spouses and nine grandchildren.
“This house is just a big canvas for me,” she said.
While she hires plumbers, electricians and contractors for major construction jobs, she does the painting herself, as well as light construction and plastering. “Generally I paint all the woodwork and walls and I do faux paint in every house I renovate. I live in the house while I do all of this. It can be a little crazy,” she said.
The bubbly and effervescent Jacobs also makes jewelry and renovates furniture and cabinets. “The greatest joy you can feel is when other people enjoy your artwork, when something resonates with other people,” she said.
Last Friday, at a reception at the Brickwalk Gallery, she presented an original watercolor, “Community Love,” to lifelong friend Wendy Larson. When her husband died nearly two years ago in the fall, neighboring farmers finished Larson’s harvest.
“I was so touched by the farmers who sacrificed and served the Larson family, and I wanted Wendy to have something to remember that by. Giving and making others happy fills my heart,” Jacobs said.
In painting, she is inspired by Proverbs 31:31. “I prayed that the Lord would give me the work of my hands. Being able to do what I love in life is the best blessing I can think of,” she said.