Hi Jennifer, thank you so much for participating in my first "Friday Feature" where I will be featuring a different artist weekly and asking them questions about their Art Journey. So let's get started.....
When did you know you were an artist?
I came into this realization slowly....While I knew I wanted to be an artist long ago, I didn't actually claim or give myself permission to realize this until about a year into my first ever art "studies". After the birth of my third child, Jack, I began taking art lesson with my mentor, Deborah Meyer. She opened up this whole world of creative expression that I so desperately was seeking and needing. As a stay at home mom I was needing to nurture myself as much as I was nurturing everyone around me. On the day I hung my first art show in a coffee shop it felt like a dream come true. To see pieces of myself, my creations on display was an incredible feeling...it was on that day that I felt like and called myself an "artist".
How have you paid your bills while staying committed to the art?
I feel a little ashamed to say this when I know so many people are struggling to both live and create....I am very fortunate to now be able to stay at home full time as a mother and nurture the artist within. My husband is able to support our family and encourages me to nurture my love of art. Happy wife, happy mama, happy life ;) I give myself permission to purchase new supplies when I have made a sale....most recently I purchased an encaustic set after an art sale...that was a splurge.
How do you balance working with family/friends/errands/health?
I wish I had more balance. It is a constant struggle both internally and literally. At this time of my life I realize there are so many demands with raising 4 children. Right now at this time in my life my little ones, my family, always comes first. That is a choice. I want to be present with them when we are together. I have found the best way for me to give myself time to focus on my art is to dedicate a certain day of the week. Right now I have my two youngest children going to childcare all day on Fridays while the older ones are at school. This is my designated day to work and really is the only way to get things accomplished in the art studio with any regularity. I will often find myself going up to the studio during nap time, or when it is quiet at night. There are even times I bring the kids up into the studio (and ignore them) so I can work and they can play (rip up the studio)...often with markers and cardboard boxes. Of' course, the inherent problem with having an art studio in your home is that it is in your home, and constantly requires attention of some sort. At times, I will leave the dishes, the mess, the Legos on the floor and allow myself to escape to my studio.
Last June I had a surgery to repair my ruptured spinal disk. This was painful and all of my art just had to go on hold which was frustrating. It felt great to get back in the studio when I was feeling better. I felt inspired as my body began healing, but it continues to recover and need attention. Focusing on recovering (with yoga, exercises, acupuncture) leaves less time for art. Right now that is where I have to be. Like the airlines always say, "Put on your mask first"....I need to take care of my body first before I am fully present in my life as a wife, mother and artist. I am hopeful that with time I will create more balance within my body and with time as an artist. I Will!!
How do you deal with your inner critic?
The inner critic.....is insecure and doubtful, harsh and disappointed. I try to remind this inner critic that the expression and the process is often the most important journey in creating. That every piece isn't going to be a masterpiece, but still has value. I enjoy taking one of those paintings "that just didn't go anywhere" and covering it with a fresh layer of paint and making it something new. Knowing that there aren't mistakes, that it is all apart of the process makes me feel empowered to continue creating!
Have you had any life challenges that art helped you to get through? If so, how did art help you?
Simply, art has helped me become more of myself. It has helped me to express my joys, the gratitude I feel, my pain, my angst. Art was particularly therapeutic to me as I returned from my journey to AIDS Walk Africa in 2008 for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Coming home from that journey in Swaziland left me with a felling that I need to do more, that I need to share what I had witnessed. From this the art series "Message from Swaziland" was created (works on my website www.jenniferrikkers.com). Each piece was a true expression of a moment or a person I had encountered. While I created these pieces tears flowed as I felt the pain of the circumstances in Swaziland (33% of the population is infected with the AIDS virus.) At the same time I came away from AWA with enormous hope and such inspiration to share the message from this journey.
What is a "typical" daily schedule that includes art?
I wish there were more typical days! I would say on my (Friday) art day, that I carve out a slow morning. A little peace and quiet after the kids are out of the house, some tea and stretching out my back with some yoga poses. Then I head up to my art studio, which we built above our garage. I have a warm cup of tea on hand with my favorite playlist in the background. I often am working on several paintings at once and have those laying around the studio, going from painting to painting and letting things evolve. Usually Bob the Bulldog and Cecil (my 15 yr. old cat) follow me up there and keep me company. I relish in the space, the quiet of just doing what feels good in the moment. On these days I usually "lose time", it goes way too fast and this is the only time I will forget to eat in my excitement to paint.
Where do you hope to see yourself and your art in 5 yrs?
In five years....all of my children will be in school full time and I will have more time for creating. I am hopeful that in 5 years I will have established more daily balance in my schedule and physical health so that I will have a regular practice time for my art. I will have branched into some new mediums (I would like to explore encaustic and pottery). In the next 5 years I hope to have been able to travel to new places and be influenced by their cultural vibes. It is incredibly important to me to find a way to travel to Ethiopia to both share art and create art to benefit the children of my daughter's country, Ethiopia. In 5 years....it is my hope that my art will be even more inspired and inspiring to others.
Deep breath...here is our final question:
What do you know to be true?
"Your live is happening right now and this is the only moment you can control. This is the only minute that really matters. If you are constantly dwelling on something that happened in the past or feeling anxious about the future, you are missing out on YOUR LIFE. Do what makes you happy in this moment and your life will be full."-Jill Costello
Well this has been SO eye opening and you have already been inspiring to me. Thank you again for putting so much time and thought into these questions. By giving us a sneak peek into your life as an artist and mom and wife (and the many other roles we all play) it helps us to feel a sense of community and lets us know that we are not alone in all that we are trying to accomplish in this lifetime.
Thank you Jennifer and thank you readers for following along. Please leave a note in the comments to let us know that you were here!!!
To learn more about Jennifer Rikkers work please visit her websites and blog: