He fled the stress of corporate finance to become an artist. It actually works.

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Joseph “JP” Weber was living the dream.

He played basketball at Conestoga High School on the main line, graduated from Penn State, married his high school girlfriend, got a high paying job in finance, bought a nice house along a tree-lined street in Berwyn and had three wonderful little daughters. .

Outside, his life was perfect. Inside, he was collapsing.

There was the relentless unhappiness he felt when trying to please everyone. Emerging addiction to Percocet, which had been prescribed for debilitating neck pain exacerbated by stress. And growing dissatisfaction with a demanding career as a bank loan officer which prevented him from being with his family.

“I was really miserable,” said JP, 44. “The weight of the world was on me and I needed a withdrawal.”

He entered an outpatient rehabilitation program to quit opioids. He quit drinking, started yoga, and lost about 50 pounds. Her emotions started to stabilize, but it still wasn’t enough.

On June 3, 2016, after a conflict at work, he broke up.

“I went out and never came back,” JP said.

He took family sick leave from work, sought therapy for his mental health, and was diagnosed with general anxiety. Short and long term disability followed. To deal with his feelings, including depression, he turned to art.

“The only place I could go was my basement, to paint,” said JP, who began to fill canvas after canvas with wild colors. The place was his safe zone.

His wife, Lindsey, was shocked by the abrupt change in his life.

For years she had kept her part of the “deal” between them: JP was struggling with her corporate job, and she would take on the demanding role of suburban mum – bringing the kids to activities, making plans for a life. kitchen renovation, and household management.

“I was stressed out, not knowing what was going on,” said Lindsey, who was confused, panicked and trying to be patient as JP made one trip after another to Michaels for art supplies, to disappear into the basement upon his return. “I was waiting for things to go back to their way,” she said.

JP, on the other hand, embraced the uncertainty.

Without formal training, he dove into art, using brilliant paints of electric color to fill in geometric patterns or to splash a canvas in a way reminiscent of artists Piet Mondrian and Jackson Pollock. The paintings began to pile up by the hundreds.

When he took over the playroom he had renovated for his daughters, JP vowed not to paint the walls or floors. It didn’t last.

“You can’t paint and have rules,” he said on a recent weekday afternoon, squirting orange paint on a job in progress – and on the now paint-stained carpet.

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He and Lindsey each went to therapy to better understand what the other was going through.

“We had to understand that, approach it as a family,” Lindsey said. Throughout all of this, JP encouraged his wife, who was a grant maker before having children, to think about what she would prefer to do as well.

JP’s corporate look has given way to old T-shirts, jeans and ponytails. He started posting his work on Instagram, where his handle was @JohnHamster, a name he once used to organize a bachelor party for his brother. The stuttering he had since childhood was gone and he started coaching his daughters’ basketball teams. The family took their first real vacation together to Florida and loved it.

He was going to “be ‘that daddy’ to my daughters,” JP vowed. Before, even when he was “present” with his family, he was always preoccupied with his work. The daughters – Emma, ​​14, Lucy, 11 and Jane, 8 – asked about the changes in their father, but took charge.

After Lindsey’s brother casually remarked that JP’s paintings were “good enough,” Lindsey showed a few of them to an acquaintance who owned a fiber art business. JP’s disability benefits had ended and the couple were now living off their savings. They needed to see if art could pay the bills.

The positive feedback JP received from the artist broadened his sense of what to do, commercially, with his art. He began creating computer designs, which Lindsey then transferred to fabrics for tote bags and clutch bags that the couple began selling through a website. The Chicago-based “You are Beautiful” project chose one of their designs for their motivational stickers.

And the momentum has continued to rise.

Lindsey, now her husband’s manager, approached Chrissy Piombino Bennett, owner of Berwyn’s StudioFlora – a full-service flower shop, gift shop and gallery – about how to sell Weber’s paintings. Bennett, a collector of “outdoor art” – works by self-taught artists – visited Weber’s studio and was “blown away.”

“The feeling and the vibe were different from room to room,” said Piombino Bennett. “It was so invigorating.”

In September, JP presented his first exhibition at StudioFlora and sold nine paintings for approximately $ 7,000. (The studio is now showing more of their pieces.)

Weber also presented shows at Christopher’s A Neighborhood Place restaurant in Wayne and Malvern, Aneu Kitchen in Rosemont and at the Township Library of Tredyffrin. A private collector ordered three pieces, and a designer recently purchased a piece that was part of Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital’s Art Ability program, which features works by people facing physical or mental challenges. Others are also starting to get hold of his work, for $ 100 to $ 1,500 apiece; more complex jobs cost up to $ 5,000. An increasing number of them now adorn commercial establishments in the region.

Financially, JP and his wife are still adjusting to the loss of his healthy bank salary. They dipped into their savings and used the money they had set aside for home renovations – which they decided they didn’t need after all – for living expenses.

While it was obviously important for the couple to pay their bills, Lindsey said, their public promotion of the message that talking about and dealing with mental health is vital has been equally important. Yet this confirms that more and more of her husband’s works of art are now hung in homes and offices.

She believes in JP.

“He’s always been the one to say he’ll do something, and he’ll do it,” Lindsey said.

JP dreams of a future career that combines his art with speaking in public about the mental health issues he has faced.

“It’s going to work,” he said. “I just have faith, a ton of faith.”

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