Artist Interview with Jennifer Taves
Jennifer Taves is a multidisciplinary artist and full time mother of three living and working in Powell River, British Columbia.
Stephanie: What kind of art did you first start making?
Jennifer: I've always made art, and when I was a kid I did a lot of things that would be considered crafts, like
making jewellery and decorating clothes and making books, etc. The first "fine art" I can remember doing was figure studies. I used to get home from school, open the Sears catalogue to the swimsuit or
underwear section and draw people for hours every day. I also did a lot of painting and pencil crayon illustrations. I've always done a bit of everything, never being able to commit to any one
S: Where did you go for your
post-‐secondary education and what did you go in for?
J: I went to Langara College in Vancouver, and took the Display +
Design program, a 2-‐year diploma
program focusing on event design,
merchandising, graphic design and interior design.
S: When you first entered college
what were your goals in terms of
your art and career?
J: When I started college I wanted to find a way of making a living off of art. I found that I was good at a lot of the things that we studied, but my biggest problem was that I couldn't bear to commit to any one of them. My Interior Design
instructor really encouraged me to
pursue that, and I really enjoyed it and
did well, but if I were to spend 6 more
years in school on that path, how could I rationalize jumping from medium to
medium all the time? That is what really inspires me, the constant novelty. When
the Display + Design program was over I realized that I couldn't get an "art job" and be happy unless it was several art jobs and I never had to pick one. So, here I am, making art products, drawing and painting, teaching, doing the odd
commissioned piece or project, getting
ready for my first art show, and also thinking about all the other things I want to pursue. Like a kids' room mural
business, since I get so many compliments on my kids' rooms.
I have had to learn not to feel so anxious and pressured to make a
living off of my art; since I can't afford the time that it takes to do this yet. But, of
course it seems like the more I produce and put out there, the more it pays. I just keep plugging along, making what
I feel like making and then putting it out there for people to see, in one sense or another.
S: Do you feel that going to post-‐secondary was a worthwhile
experience in your development as
an artist? How so or how not?
J: I really liked the D+D program, I
wanted to study things that I hadn't
studied on my own, and I wanted to work on commercially marketable skills
as an artist. I had some very cool
opportunities, we created very large scale installation pieces, did the decor
for the interior design show and for an
events industry network event where we completely turned a large lighting
warehouse into an art deco street scape with store facades and even a 12 foot tall Trojan horse! It was a lot of fun and I got to hone skills I hadn't even played
S: How has your art changed between college and now in terms of medium, style, ideas/themes, etc.?
J: I have always been most interested in constantly changing mediums and themes and genres. I've gone through periods when I made jewellery out of beads and old copper wire, created a collection of nude drawings and sketches. I have created many watercolour and acrylic paintings; I've worked as an event designer, graphic designer, and merchandiser. I've done murals and wedding invitations, and designed logos. I also re-design clothes, quilt, embroider, and make things that I sell. The concepts that I pretty consistently have always explored tend to be women (I love drawing women!), the cosmos and its similarities to the micro-cosmos (the sun being the "Nucleus" of solar systems?) and the natural patterns and shapes and forms that exist and repeat in nature. I gave a speech in one of my final communications classes on the similarities between math, science, and art. I find these concepts so beautiful and inspiring.
S: Since you finished college what has your artistic career been like in terms of exhibitions and sales?
J: Since college I haven't really done any "exhibitions", I've done a lot of drawing and I have a selection of fair-sized paintings, but I'll be having my first show in June. I started painting again after a years-long hiatus last May when I set up an easel on the deck off of my bedroom. I just went out there each night after the kids were in bed and painted until dark. Then I'd put a light on and keep painting. I got a lot done and only stopped after a fall windstorm knocked my easel down one day and I had to admit en-plein-air season was over. I'm excited to pursue this kind of art
again. My "Fine Art" work has been purely personal since high school (other than a few classes, jobs and projects). My show will be a collection of never-shown works spanning about 15 years. It'll be strange to have them all up on display, but I suppose it's about time.
S: You spent some time in Japan, how long were you there and did it influence your art at all?
J: I went to Japan for a year in 2000/2001 and taught English to kids in an "English through Drama" program. I had so much fun, and would encourage anyone who was considering it to do the same! If you like paper and fabric this is a very tempting and inspiring place to be, and there are beautiful patterns on everything! One of the strengths of the Japanese people is their reverence for beauty and style, and this is apparent in so much of their culture. I did some painting there, drawing, and did a lot of clothing decorating and art journaling. It definitely affected my art, and learning to write some Japanese has influenced me as well.
S: What influences or causes you to create
your art? What inspires you?
J: I love colour. I love combinations of colour and skilful gradations. I love patterns. I love natural things like seashells and feathers and stones and leaves, but I also love industrial things, and metallic things. I love books and poetry and paper. I love ethereal concepts and old-fashioned design. I love architecture. I love costumes. I love elaborate jewellery. I love intricate details. I love exotic things. I feel inspired constantly, and the hardest thing is not being able to drop everything to launch a new idea.
“The most inspiring people to me are the science-minded ones.”
S: What artists influence your work?
J: I love Edward Gorey, Gustav Klimt, Yelena James, Meghan Hildebrandt, but the most inspiring people to me are the science-minded ones. My brother, my best friend, I am inspired by them because they see the same things from a very different angle, and that helps me see in new ways as well.
S: What kind of art are you attracted to?
J: Variety, unexpected compositions and skilful stylization. The part of me that draws still lifes and portraits is critical of the technical quality of other artists' work. I pride myself on accuracy and value "the economy of line" and when I can see in a piece that the artist really knows his/her stuff that wins points with me. This doesn't mean that I don't like abstract or stylized art, but you can tell the difference between an artist distorting a figure on purpose or distorting it to detract from the fact that he or she doesn't know how to draw it realistically. I also love colour theory and am critical of the use of colour in other people's work. Beautiful colour combos leave me mesmerized, but poor colour choices irk me. These problems often seem to arise from people not considering the warm or cool tones of the colours they are using.
S: What is the artistic community like where you live and how has it influenced your work?
J: The artistic community in Powell River is amazing. Because this is a beautiful, temperate place and also remote and difficult to access, a
really interesting selection of people seem to end up here. There are a huge number of artists, including successful and renowned fine art and commercial artists. There are lots of people who had larger-than-life, fast-paced, city or jet-set lives and decided to go the opposite direction and hide away with other like-minded people and make art and garden and get to know everyone and be outside, and be creative in the way life is lived. I love this town, it's full of creative people making and sharing opportunities. There are also beautiful, unconventionally constructed homes and hundred year old heritage homes. It's a very inspiring place.
S: Do you feel that belonging to and being involved in an artistic community is beneficial to your art practice?
J: Absolutely, I get really inspired by what other people are doing, and I've been invited to work on things with other people and have then gotten opportunities that I wouldn't have gone looking for myself, necessarily.
S: How are you involved in your artistic community?
J: I'm somewhat involved, but being a parent and living 20 minutes outside of town means I have to be selective about what I do. I don't have time to do as much as I'd like, so I do what I can.
S: How hard is it to raise a family and be an artist? How does it affect and/or influence your work?
J: Having young children means that you get very little time to do things for yourself, so artwork (along with exercising, socializing, teams/clubs/groups, etc.) has to be squeezed in when I find time. I'm usually busy with the house and kids until 9pm, so I have a few hours a day that I can choose to spend on art. Sometimes I'll get an hour or two in other spots a few times during the week, and Tuesdays I usually get a block of about 4 hours during the day, although I'm usually running errands then too.
S: What does an average week look like for you in terms of family/home life, work, and art?
J: My life is incredibly scheduled, which doesn't come naturally for me. My girls go to school Monday to Friday, and I'm home with my son
during the week. We also have a man with special needs living with us, although he's moving in February. Up until then taking care of him and helping him is also on my list of responsibilities. I work at a very cool store on Friday and Saturday, and in February I'm going to be starting a new position doing the marketing for the store, and the store's sister business. I've kind of become the store's resident artist, making signs and doing the displays, along with making stuff that I sell there and selling re-purposed and salvaged materials as art supplies.
Each day starts around 6 or 6:30 when the kids wake me up, then it's helping people and feeding people and cleaning things and running errands until 2:30 when school's over. Then it's more of the same once the kids are all home, and after 8 or 8:30
when everyone's in bed I finish up the dishes and make the next day's lunches and then there's time to do art. Although sometimes there are other things I have to do with that time. On Sundays we have family day, and we try to go for walks, go swimming, go grocery shopping, anything where all of us can spend the day together. My husband and I also trade sleeping in, so on Saturday and Sunday we trade off, each of us having one day when we can sleep in until about 9 or 9:30, which always feels like a treat. It's a busy life, but it's never lonely or boring!
S: What kind of art are you making now?
J: Actually, right now I'm not really making any art (which means that I'm constantly having "inspirations" that I have to strain to put on the back burner) because I've been preparing for the Art Journaling classes I'm giving starting this week. I'm teaching a class to grade 6-7 girls and it's all about empowerment and self-esteem. I've created these journal pages that the girls fill in and paint and collage and then we turn them into a book with ribbon and beads and charms at the end. I'm so excited about it;
it's an idea I've been thinking about in one sense or another for more than a decade. Then once the classes are rolling the next thing I'll be working on is my submission for Expose Yourself, the erotic art show that my dear friend produces and I help with. I've got a bunch of ideas and it'll be hard to pick, or hard to do so many, we'll see. I've also been tattooing. Only myself so far, but I've spent almost 10 hours on my tattoo, and I think I’m ready to work on one for a friend. I've had a lot of people request one from me, but I haven't felt ready up until now. I love tattoos, and I only wish I'd thought to get a tattoo machine a long time ago. Luckily the one I'm doing on myself is quite detailed and will probably take me years to finish.
S: What are your plans for future art works? What ideas/themes and styles would you like to deal with/explore?
J: I've got so many ideas that this is hard to say. I think for me it's more mediums that I want to explore. I've wanted to work with resin for a long time now, and I've been collecting tiny objects and I have these old silver pendant frames that I'd like to fill with
resin and then layer the objects into. I also want to turn my Art Journaling class into a workbook and pursue getting it published, but that is going to take years since I've got lots more I want to put into the concept. And more painting. And I've got a bunch of styles of jewellery I want to do, I've had supplies to make these thick beaded bracelets sitting on my desk for more than a month now, so I'd like to do those soon. I have so many things I want to work on I could go on and on...
S: What advice do you have for emerging artists?
J: Do what you are inspired to do. Art isn't like learning a trade, it's only as valuable as you present it to be, and when it really comes down to it, you are creating it for yourself,
and if it sells, yahtzee! I have always had a hard time parting with my originals, which is one of the things that I fight myself on, but I think it's more important to me to keep my work and create things for myself than it is for me to make money off of them. I'd say take your time, do what you love to do, try to feel inspired as often as possible, don't criticize
“Art isn’t an activity, it’s a calling”
yourself if you're not instantly an art star rolling in dough. The term "starving artist" exists for a reason, although I know several successful full-time painters (who don't have kids, mind you). I just keep working on my projects, I make my
beautiful little objects that I love so much, and opportunities seem to arise, or I create them myself. Art isn't an activity, it's a calling, and I just try to be true to my own heart and create what I'm inspired to create, regardless of where it'll go when I'm done. It's been hard, but I've gotten to the point where that's enough.