Interview with Jennifer Gauthier
You know what's always simultaneously humbling and flattering? When an artist you admire and support, mutually supports your own work! I've been watching Jennifer's journey for a bit now, in extreme awe of course. So I'm very excited to have gotten a chance to chat with her. Let's dive right in!
Grace Gulley: When someone asks you what you 'do', how do you respond?
Jennifer Gauthier: Ohhh! I love this question... It is so difficult to identify oneself as just one thing. For about the last six months I have developed enough courage to tell people that I AM AN ARTIST. For the longest time saying, 'I am an artist', was probably the most terrifying thing to admit. I don't know why that is. But once I really thought about what 'I do' as being who I am, I started to realize that I want to tell people about the things that excite me, the things that light my fire. I now forget to tell people about my day job because such a small part of me identifies with that part of my life. I do, however, also waitress in a sports bar!
GG: I didn't even realize you had a 'day job'! And oh boy, what a contrast to your artist self. Curious how you balance the day job with being an artist? And also curious if you find your day job identity in conflict with your artist identity? Since many people may be in similar situations and possibly trying to sort these things out themselves!
JG: I have to say that having a day job is so difficult right now. It is a very delicate balance between the time I can paint, the time I can thoroughly think about the projects I am working on, time I require to recharge and then the time I actually step out of the studio and into the 'real world'. As difficult as it is to find a balance, I love that I can make rat with no strings attached. I make it because it is a part of me. I don't put pressure on my work to support me, I make sure to support it.
I would say that the one thing that I need to work more into the balance is more quality time with my loved ones. Friends and family are my biggest cheerleaders and I definitely want to slow a bit down to spend more time with them.
GG: You bring up an excellent point! Having a day job certainly does take the pressure off of your art. I imagine it's easy to lose some of the passion when your art has to take on the role of provider. Where as clearly you make it work and are sure to support your art so that it can remain pure passion. Not to say everyone who has turned their craft into a business loses the fire, but even I have days where it's hard to see the forest through the trees.
Time is a funny thing, because I feel that on the flip side, we almost seem to manage ourselves better when we have less time available! That precious bit of time we do have becomes almost gold. Although I have to agree that finding time for self-care, our well-being, and nurturing our relationships often gets put low on the totem pole as artists.
Moving backwards one step! I know many, MANY people struggle with calling themselves an artist, for whatever reason! What happened in your life when you made that switch of identifying as an artist, of being able to think of what you 'do' as who you are?
JG: I honestly could not agree more! And great question!
For me it was when I started to paint daily. Even when it was difficult and especially when I didn't feel like painting. I pushed through all the doubt in my mind because I repeated an idea that an art instructor said to me. She told me to never take more than a couple days away from painting. She said that by taking breaks, the beautiful conversation that had begun with your work would essentially be lost forever. It's true, if I am away from the studio for only four days, my art begins to go down a different path. And I can feel it. I began to call myself an artist when I finally understood that each piece I make feeds into the next and continues to 'speak' with all the pieces to come after.
GG: What a beautiful way to put it! And I think you just inspired me to be more diligent about my studio time. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the business side of things, or whatever else life is giving you and to put off creating. Which makes you smack yourself on the head, because we all know the many benefits (for our work and our well-being!) of creating daily. And let's go further back still! Did you find yourself creating things since you were a child? Or did art enter your life at a later stage? And if it entered later, what brought you to art?
JG: My mom will tell you I was always an artist. I think she's just supposed to say that, though. I knew I was intensely drawn to art when I was sixteen. I had an amazing art teacher in high school, but even then I thought there was no career in art for me. I also had never believed that I would be capable of running my own business. I started going to college for interior design. Within that field of study I was required to take architectural drawing classes. I loved the visual language of architectural drawings. With all the hard edges and exact meeting points, I wanted a more humanistic feel to my drawings. I then took a watercolor class, so that I could render the architectural drawings at the community college. And oh boy, I fell in love. Harder than I could have ever planned. I knew I was not on the right path with interior design or architecture, but I started painting. So many terrible but awesome paintings.
GG: What an extraordinary bit of serendipity that you did take that class! And maybe we can have a little peek at some of these terribly awesome paintings! On the subject of art and business, do you think there can be a happy marriage between the two? Perhaps are some people hard-wired to function in both modes? Or should there be a clear demarcation?
JG: Yes, it was totally serendipitous! I've never looked at it that way before. You know, I think there are some people that can function well in both art and business. I believe that in the beginning, all the creatives have to put themselves out there. I think they will learn something from promoting their own art, from doing the work and finally by being able to talk about their process. I think, for me, it is more of an intuitive approach, rather than hard-wiring for business. I know my strengths, but I also know that I can not be the whole enchilada all of the time. With that said, I think that every business owner could benefit from a partner that balances in the areas they may be lacking. I think that every person and every (art) business is different. So the most important thing is to listen to yourself and make the difficult decisions as they come up. Reflect on everything that got you this far and know that you have the ability to build something great on your own.
GG: Great advice! Is there any other singular piece of advice you would like to offer to the artist, business owners and makers reading?
JG: I think the most important piece of advice would be to keep your eyes forward and to never compare your work to another maker, you are headed toward your truth, while they are headed towards their own. Celebrate others, but know that you have something valuable that is your own. Leave your own mark.
GG: Perfect! And lastly, since we are talking big important things! The most important question...
If you could be a super hero, what would be your super power?
JG: OHH MY GOODNESS! Such a fun question!
If I were a super hero, my super power would be to snap my fingers and have food prepared. I'm talking, gourmet food. This would solve many of my problems. HA!
GG: Yes please! I'll take the same power.