Part II of the Jennifer Bothast interview details Jennifer’s vision and process as an artist, and provides other artists with insight to jumpstart their own careers.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hmm … that’s a loaded question to pose to someone like me that rambles so easily. I have always been one that boxed myself into a corner based on being a people pleaser. I hate conflict. I want everyone to be happy. As I’ve gotten older, I am learning to look more inward to figure out what makes me happy. Over the past three years I started a lot of self-reflection, which led to an outpouring of expression, which led to more discovery and so forth. It’s all sort of snowballed for me and led to completely changing gears in respecting who I am and what I want and need. I am learning to look out more for myself and worry less how others perceive it. I’ve come a long way from the painfully shy perfectionist I used to be.
Unfortunately, that also meant a shift away from the only family and way of life I’d ever known. My children and I are starting over. A newer me, a fresh start. Of course, like my painting, I am a work in progress.
What are your near and long term goals as an artist?
Of course, at some point, I would love to be recognized as a creative success by my peers and be able to earn even a modest living simply doing what I love to do. But, for now I am content to pay my dues, walk through it, apply to various galleries and exhibitions, and keep painting for my own enjoyment.
Describe your creative process.
I get a lot of my ideas when I am doing something else rote and relatively mundane like driving the car or taking a shower and getting ready for work. For whatever reason, an idea will pop into my head, and I’ll begin working out a sketch as the imagery of that idea takes shape. I’ll get it down in pencil, pen, and colored pencil on paper and then work toward giving birth to it on canvas on a larger scale. Once the basic image is penciled in on the canvas, the colors start to block in like a dance and the journey has officially begun.
What inspires you to paint and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?
I haven’t actually ever felt things get “tough” in the studio yet. Once I am really involved in a painting, it is the most amazing thing. My kids think I’m insane, but it’s like a party I have all by myself. I lock myself in, I’ve got my iPod turned all the way up and I am singing along and dancing and moving around the canvas. It’s a complete emotional release and yet I get so wired at the same time. There have been times I am so keyed my hand trembles too much to continue and I have to literally force myself to back away from it until I can settle down a bit. It’s a very passionate experience and so addicting that it’s usually only a few days now between when I finish one piece and then start “jonesing” to begin a new one. The hardest part is balancing how much I want to paint full time with the very real obligations of my family and my career in healthcare.
Unfortunately, the bills don’t get paid and the kids don’t eat dinner and do their homework fueled by my desire to create. I can dream and play in my own world, but I have to be practical and reasonable in the real world I exist in.
What do you think is the hardest aspect of being an artist?
For me, I think it’s the vulnerability I still feel when someone sees my work. It’s not easy to be that naked in front of strangers and share something that is so intensely personal. I think that’s why I’ve been so hesitant in showing my work until now. Now, it feels like I have given birth to these paintings in a way that is nearly as physical and emotional as with my own children. I have to let them stand up on their own and just see what happens.
What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Well, that’s weird for me to answer since I am really just starting out myself, but I guess if I have any advice at all I would say to not take it so seriously that you feel imprisoned by what you think it’s supposed to be. I think its better to back off and let your work take on a life of its own, being true to your soul.