Have you ever been introduced to someone and felt like ‘why haven’t I met you before’? Jeri Hauth and I have our daughter’s friendship in common, and they thought we should meet — they were right! Jeri’s illustrations remind me of my quilts – her whimsical and happy style. I knew I wanted to highlight her on Create Whimsy! And I look forward to continuing to follow her work as inspiration for my own creativity!
You’ve been an artist all of your life. How has your work changed over time?
Proclaiming yourself an artist can sound pretentious and haughty. I’ve always been aware of that and was insecure about being an artist.
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When I was younger, the art I created was more about being accepted so I conformed my art to what I felt was safe and acceptable. As I’ve matured, I’ve found that I can be more sincere to the work in my heart and create work that I feel inspired to create.
My art is always uplifting and positive because I think there is enough darkness in the world, but I choose the subject matter because it’s something I’m drawn to instead of because I think it will be accepted.
How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?
I believe creativity is something everyone possesses but needs to be continuously fed and nurtured. Often times creativity is associated with forms of artistic expression but it can also be a way of viewing the world or solving a problem.
Every piece of art I created when I was a child was celebrated by my parents so they encouraged me to keep creating. I loved the way it felt to be acknowledged for something I made of my own two hands. I think their encouragement helped me look at the world through a unique lens and allowed me to express myself through art.
Throughout my life I have continued to develop and grow my skills. I follow other artists that I admire, take classes to help develop skills and techniques, and try to surround myself with creativity in every form whether that be music, writing, architecture, dance, art or nature.
What different creative mediums do you play around with?
I love learning and surround myself with all types of art materials so I can experiment. Sometimes that leads to some happy accidents and sometimes it leads to the garbage can, but I can honestly say I learn something new from every mistake.
I have always loved pen & ink and colored pencils and about 4 years ago I took a collage class and fell in love with it. The technique allows me to rip and tear the paper and get into the work in a new way. It’s very therapeutic and because the layers of paper react in ways I don’t expect, it forces me to lose a bit of control and trust the magic of the process.
I’ve also been experimenting with gouache paint and watercolor, sometimes in the same piece of work. I love calligraphy and all things hand lettering so I often apply this to my illustrations. And a couple of years ago I invested in an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil and have been creating a lot of computer illustrations, where I’ve been learning how to create surface pattern designs and apply texture to my illustrations.
Do you plan your work out all ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
Typically I need to have some type of inspiration to start down the path of creating something new. I really like to create series where there a number of similar designs that are complementary and can go together. Once I have a concept of what to work on then I start rough sketching. I usually know what medium I will use after sketching but there’s no real rhyme or reason for the type of medium I select.
Tell us a bit more about your journey to license your illustrations.
Almost 20 years ago I started looking into ways that I could sell my art. I had no formal background in business so I went to the library and checked out as many books as I could find about marketing artwork. I found a number of great references, including the Artist Market, published annually, which lists all the companies that purchase art, including the type of art they are seeking.
After developing a portfolio, I sent it out to a number of businesses. I received many rejection letters, which was very discouraging, but I understood that it would take time so I persisted. I sold a couple of pieces of art to a magazine and was really excited to see my name in the credits.
Then I received a call from a local business woman who manufactured rubber stamps. We met and agreed on a royalty payment structure and I created many pieces of art for her over the course of a few years. Since I was raising a young family, I decided to go back to work to have a more stable income. I had always intended to return to the licensing work but my career ended up taking off and there was not enough free time to continue to pursue it.
After my kids left home a few years ago, I decided that I really wanted to pursue licensing my work again. I am developing a new portfolio and am looking to market my work for licensing once again.
When is your most productive creative time?
I’m a night owl. I often find myself starting a project on the weekend and losing track of time. Sometimes it will be 3 A.M. before I realize that I should have put myself to bed hours before. There’s something magical that happens in the quiet of the night when everyone else is asleep and I have a blank slate to work on.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? What does it look like? Where does the magic happen?
Yes. I am very blessed to have a studio space where I keep all my supplies and finished work. I have 3 main stations: 1) an Apple computer with printers, scanners, and all the Adobe Creative Suite software. 2) a cutting table where I have a Cricut cutter, a mat cutter, a large cutting board and cutting supplies. 3) an artist station with all my paper, pencils, pens, erasers, brushes and paints as well as a tracing table and an easel.
I have collected art supplies since I was a little girl and still have some of those original supplies so you can imagine how full my space is.
I also love to surround myself with things that make me smile or bring back happy memories so there are a lot of whimsical things in my studio: a box of funny toys collected from attending far too many tradeshows, favorite quotes, a stuffed black & white Steamboat Willy Mickey Mouse I purchased on my family’s last visit to Disneyland, and a battery-powered flying pig, among others.
My husband affectionately refers to my studio as a “hoarder’s den”. But it is cluttered just the right amount with tools for me to have all my supplies at the ready when I’m inspired to create.
What inspires you to create? Are there recurring themes in your work? Do you do series work? How does that affect your approach?
An emotional connection to something usually inspires me to create. It may be the way the light hits a flower, a random smile from a baby, or stumbling on a good piece of writing. The interaction stirs something inside me and I need to capture the moment so I can express it visually.
Sometimes I write something in the notes on my iPhone or make a quick sketch so I won’t forget or sometimes I can file it away in my mind for safe keeping. I find that I have a capacity for how much I can rely on my memory so I try to capture my thoughts in other ways as I get older.
The recurring themes in my work are animals, children, and nature. I also love whimsy so I try to create images that are positive, quirky and fun. I like to work in series because as an artist I need focus more than anything. Series tell a bigger story. For instance, I created a series of endangered animals, something near and dear to my heart. I find I can create more art when I work in series because there are typically common design elements that carry through and once I have a path to go on, I can design more art in a faster time frame.
How do you make time for creating?
I am very committed to creating art because it truly is good for my soul. When I force myself to spend time in my studio I find my brain, my heart and my soul are all aligned and I am more balanced. So I make creating a priority and create discipline in my day. My husband knows how important it is for me to spend time in my studio. He expects that I’ll spend time there every evening after work while he’s catching up on his sports.
You balance a full time job and your creative work. What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
I’m very lucky to have a full-time job as a Creative Director so my work has an element of creativity to it on a daily basis. But it’s not work I create for myself so I spend time in my home studio to fulfill that desire.
I think it’s really important to have discipline to follow anything your heart points you to. I dedicate one hour a day to my creative business. Sometimes that means sketching some ideas that I’ve had bouncing around in my head for days. Sometimes that means researching potential companies that might be interested in my art. And sometimes it means creating social media posts. But I commit to an hour a day regardless of my other commitments so that I keep moving things forward.
It’s important for me to have a clear space to create. When my office is messy it’s harder to clear my mind to get started. I also find that being in nature is the best way for me to find inspiration. I take walks in the neighborhood around my office on breaks and really pay attention to the life that happens all around me in the midst of my work day. Sometimes I take my lunch and head to the park where I can watch young families playing. I listen to the interactions of the neighborhood. All these types of interactions help keep me interested in creating.
How do you think one can expand one’s creative mind and abilities?
I believe the most important thing you can do to exercise your creative mind is to continually expose yourself to new things. I believe that at our core we are supposed to continue to learn and grow throughout our lifetime. Here are a few ideas:
- Challenge yourself to learn a new skill, any new skill.
- Travel to a new country.
- Learn a different language.
- Read to children.
- Be child-like, lay on your back and watch an airplane fly overhead or look at the clouds or night sky.
- Visit an antique or thrift store.
- Go on a hike or do anything to surround yourself with nature.
- Truly listen to the sounds around you.
- Disconnect from electronics and pay attention to something, anything else.
- Visit the ocean.
What is your signature? That little bit about your work that identifies you as the artist before the viewer sees the label?
I’m not sure if I know the answer to this one. 🙁
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
My favorite book on creativity is “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. My favorite quote from the book is:
“Fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates the battle must be fought anew every day.”
In the book, he talks a lot about the courage it takes to be creative and how fear and resistance can keep artists from achieving their purpose. I like that he compares art with being a warrior; it does seem to be an internal battle to create. I spent many years being a “conforming creative”, trying to create art that I think would make other people happy. I’ve since made peace with this. So I try to create art that I feel inspired to create and a yearning to make.
What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
The licensing work I created for the rubber stamp market was the most commercially successful to date. It is great fun to see your art on rubber stamps. To see how other people use your art to express themselves creatively is a bonus.
Where can people see your work?
I have two websites that showcase my work.
Illustrations by Jeri is my illustration website that has some of my computer and hand-illustrations. I keep my Facebook and Instagram pages up-to-date with my latest work.
Interview published June 2018
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