Looking for artistic inspiration? Feel the need to make something with your hands? How about a studio tour and some advice from a fine artist for those of us who want to try our hand at painting? I first found out about fine artist Emily Jeffords (and blogger) through Minted – I was shopping their site for work to install in my home and came across these. And swoon. It was love at first sight.
Then a funny thing happened. Out of the blue, Emily contacted me about possibly appearing on my blog. Fate? I’m not sure how many of you know this about me, but I grew up on the coast in South Carolina, just south of Myrtle Beach. Finding out Emily was a SC girl too (she’s in Greenville) sealed the deal – I had to learn more! So I asked her for an interview and studio tour and well, that’s exactly what I’m about to share. I found this interview particularly inspiring for mothers with careers and aspiring painters. Let’s get started.
1. Hi Emily! First, a little about yourself…
I am an artist and mother of two, working in a 100-year-old light-drenched studio & gallery called the White Whale in Greenville, SC. I create impressionistic landscape oil paintings on canvas featuring lively colors and slightly abstract skies. My desire is for viewers to be reminded of sweet times past while bringing some beauty to life in the present. I began painting as a child and never stopped! Something about the creative process lets me say things that I cannot say with words – expressing feelings and emotions is so exciting to me.
2. Were you classically trained or self-taught?
I graduated with a BFA in 2D fine art, which was so helpful and gave me the confidence to officially call myself an “artist”. However, one of the most helpful things for my artistic career has been doing painting-a-day challenges. The discipline and challenge of creating consistently has taught me SO much about myself and about art.
3. What was an advantage of studying fine art and what is your advice for those who didn’t study but want to become a working artist?
It helped me think about creativity in a whole new way. However, I really don’t think you have to go to college to achieve that. In a way, all artists are self-taught. No one can train your eyes or your hands. That’s all on you. If you’re interested in becoming an artist (sans school) here is what I would do: try everything, test out new tools and materials, study the masters, attend workshops taught be professional artists, and soak up as much inspiration as you can!
4. What do you love about being a mother and also working as a painter?
Having my girls in my studio brings life and joy to my space and to my work. I can see their influence on my color pallete, subject matter, everything. They make me stop, notice, and enjoy life a little more.
5. What do you find challenging about having kids and a career?
My girls have grown up in my studio and around artwork, so they understand the ebb and flow of the creative process. But, they are young, and they are normal kids! When I create, it is so easy to slip into a wonderful focused “headspace”: I block out the world, getting lost in the movement and motion of the process. That’s a little hard to do while also parenting.
6. How did you handle that challenge?
When I moved into a studio outside of our home I really wanted to be sure that my girls felt like this is their space to learn and create as well. When they feel involved in the creative process they’re on my side. I talk with them about my ideas and deadlines and in return they tell me about theirs! — we have “mini art” shows pretty frequently and they’re always working on a painting for someone special. ;)
7. How do you balance family/work –what is a day in your life like?
Oh goodness, no day is the same … but, if I were to mash them together and come up with an average: mornings spent with my girls at home, some days their tutor comes to the house, others they come with me to the studio, but either way, I head to the studio around 11 am where I spend about 2-3 hours painting. In the afternoon my intern and studio manager might join me, we’ll package prints, mail goodness, send emails, keep all the wheels turning… We have dinner together as a family as often as possible, the girls go to bed and my husband and I relax and do a little more work. Work/life balance is a myth. It’s more of a juggle. The key is communicating with the people in my life, coordinating our needs and finding ways to support each other as often as possible.
8. How have you marketed your work?
My “marketing strategy” feels incredibly natural and organic. I simply make an effort to share my artwork and process consistently. I’ve found that people want to take part in creativity – even if they cannot create it themselves every day.
9. What is your greatest achievement so far as a painter and what goals do you have for your work going forward?
I think the process; the days all stacked together are my greatest achievement. There are highs and lows and many days in between, but maintaining my passion throughout the journey is something I am super proud of. I would love to collaborate on some more artistic collaborations with some dreamy brands and fashion designers over the next couple years to create products that mix fine art with everyday objects. Having people interact with art in every day ways is super exciting to me.
10. What advice can you give those who want to paint but are too scared to “mess up”?
The scariest thing is to start a painting, or anything, really, telling yourself that this thing must be Perfect. It won’t be. Every painting is a practice. Some are going to please you more than others, but the process is the art. Giving yourself space to practice and to try new things is so healthy for your creativity.
Beautiful! Inspiring! Now I want to paint! That’s what a great interview and studio tour does I guess. Motivates.
(images: emily jeffords // paige french)