A few months ago I stumbled upon this amazing, colorful and abstract art that reminded me of my own passion for painting and creating art with my hands. Naturally I was curious about the artist and wanted to learn more...so I interviewed her. I discovered we both started out as hairstylists - an experience where we both developed our communication skills and perspective on color. Here's what the warm and inspired artist Jennifer Flannigan had to say.
AN INTERVIEW WITH JENNIFER FLANNIGAN | VISUAL ARTIST & PAINTER
How did you get started as an artist and painter? I have always been drawn to art, especially abstract paintings. My grandmother introduced me to the artwork of some of my favorite artists at an early age. Jackson Pollack, Dale Chihuly, Salvador Dali, and many others. As long as I can remember I've always been inspired by art museums, and interested in learning about modern art. It fascinates me to learn how they create and what inspires them. What I guess really motivated me to create more artwork is buying a new home. I was looking to buy some large abstract pieces for my home and decided I would attempt to create some of my own. I had experimented and painted on a smaller scale but became excited about the challenge of doing larger work. Realizing how much fun it was to have such a creative outlet I became hooked. Since then I have been painting and always experimenting with different styles and mediums to keep my work fresh and original. I am constantly challenging myself to try new ideas and to never stop learning.
Looking back at your childhood, did you have any creative talents that eluded to a successful career as a artist? I'm not sure if I had any real talent at any of the artistic things I tried as a child, but I was always experimenting in drawing, pottery, and paper mâché. I remember always making crafts and working on little creative projects that I took very seriously. My mother was very creative and loved doing these things with me which is probably what encouraged my creativity. What do you believe is one of the most important things you've done to successfully grow your business as an artist? The decision and the ability to sell my paintings online was key to expanding my business, and has allowed me to promote my work all over the world. Since I mostly sell and market my work online being able to photograph my paintings myself became very important. It took a long time to learn how to accurately capture the colors and textures of my work on camera. Without a greatphoto of your paintings selling online becomes impossible.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments? I’m probably the most proud of being able to get past the insecurity of venturing out into a new area of work. I have always loved to paint, but considered it to be a personal passion; one which I wasn’t ready to share with others. Through the process of educating myself on how to become a better artist, I’ve gained the confidence to not only show my work online, but I’ve also begun to challenge myself in other areas such as textile design.
How do you make the transition from providing a service that's always in demand to creating artwork? Being a hairstylist and painting are really similar in the fact that both are creative and deal with color. Being a stylist taught me a new perspective on color and sharpened my communication skills, which helps me when creating custom pieces for clients. I have found that doing commission paintings is a lot like creating a new look for someone. You must feel out their personal style and really listen to what they are looking for by asking the right questions. The client must really trust your artistic abilities and you must work together to create that special piece they have envisioned. Someone loving your work so much they want to look at it everyday is to me, the ultimate compliment as an artist.
What's one challenge you've encountered as an artist and how did you overcome it? Every creative venture can become stale at some point. When you are creating commissioned work and have to push past deadlines, it can be very challenging to keep the designs fresh and truly original. I started doing these three-minute painting exercises. It’s similar to breaking through writers’ block- this approach forces you to work quickly and really helps you let go and use your instincts. Being able to tap into your creative mind on-demand and consistently staying true to your personal artistic vision are challenges that all artists face; having these tools at my disposal has helped me overcome them.
Any words of advice for other artists looking to take the leap and get paid doing what they love?
Really take the time to make a strong online presence. Put together a website that you are really proud of and that you update often with your latest work. Social
media is such a great tool to promote your artwork. Whether it's Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or starting your own blog, dedicate the time to connect with others and to consistently put yourself out there. I cannot believe how many wonderful people and connections I have made through social media. Also, make the effort to promote and encourage other fellow artists. It's good karma and it will come back to you in your business. As hard as it may seem try not to compare yourself with other artists online. There are so many talented artists out there but each of us has unique talents. I've learned to try to only be competitive with myself and concentrate on how much I've learned or improved over the years. Doing this you are always growing and moving forward towards becoming better at your craft. Comparison only discourages and takes away the enjoyment and freedom that creating art can give.
If you had 5 minutes to pack a bag and move, where would you go and what would you bring? I took a girls trip two years ago with one of my closest friends, my sister, and cousin all through France and Florence, Italy. I would definitely want to go back to Florence. Such an inspiring city, especially as an artist. So much amazing art and food. I don't think I could ever get tired of all the beautiful architecture and art museums. I am terrible at packing light, usually bring twice as much clothes as necessary. Would be sure to bring my camera, ipad, and really good walking shoes. Learned the hard way how important good shoes are on that kind of a trip.
What's the first and last thing you did today? First thing I did today was cook pancakes for breakfast. It's a Sunday tradition in our home and one of my husbands favorites. The last thing I did was play with my two Bengal cats. They won't let us sleep without playing fetch for at least thirty minutes before bedtime. Probably, one of my favorite parts of the day is spending time with them.
If your friend was asked to describe you in one sentence, what would they say? Probably, that I am talkative, a planner, nurturing, and really passionate about animals, especially cats.
What's the last music you listened to? Led Zeppelin and Dave Mathews, both I listen to often while painting
Last book you read? Wild written by Cheryl Strayed, great book but I'm much more likely to be reading interior design or trashy magazines
Coffee or tea? Being from the south I would have to say sweet tea.
Photo credits to Anna Aycock and Jena Smith