Our Artist Spotlight this month is Virginia based artist Juniper Briggs. Her new series, "In The Company of Beasts" is all about facing our fears. "By turning towards the qualities represented by each animal in the collection, we are able to befriend, nourish and even harness our fears, transforming them into fuel for personal growth." We love the energy and spirit of her work and are so excited to share her talent with you.
SGD: Can you briefly walk us through your story? How did you get started and how did you get to where you are today?
JB: It’s interesting for me to look back and connect the various influences and experiences that have led to the type of work I make today.
I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina in a community filled with artists. My friend’s parents included glassblowers, potters and painters. I learned a lot from them including how to incorporate creativity into my everyday life. I took painting lessons as a kid and always kept a journal with drawings and sketches in it.
When I was seven my family moved to Bali, Indonesia for a few months. We lived on a Hindu Ashram in a hut overlooking the Indian ocean. I can remember being totally enthralled by our surroundings. The colorfully patterned sarongs, golden headdresses and tropical flowers were magical to me. Years later, those same elements found their way into my work. It wasn’t until recently that I even realized the connection.
In college I studied abroad in Mexico, again falling in love with the colors and bold simplicity of Mexican folk art there. I then moved to Barcelona, Spain for a short time, working as an ESL teacher. I loved visiting museums there. I was especially drawn to the paintings of Pablo Picasso, who remains a huge influence over my work to this day.
After college I thought I wanted to be a writer. I found an internship writing for a Fine Arts magazine in Southern California. This allowed me to interview and learn from a spectrum of contemporary artists as well as gallery owners and museum curators. It was during this same period that I first began experimenting and developing my own voice as a painter. I didn’t share my work though or even consider myself to be an artist. I started having these vivid dreams of different colors and compositions. I would wake up and try to paint these ideas that were literally swirling around in my head.
It wasn’t until after moving back to the east coast and having my second daughter in 2013 that I started painting every day. There’s something about motherhood that seems to draw out that type of creative yearning. I needed something for myself and I turned to art. I began sharing my paintings on Instagram. I was humbled and encouraged by the reaction of others to my work. Slowly but surely I found myself here, as a full time working artist.
SGD: Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
JB: Once I finally figured out that I was an artist, things slowly but surely started to fall into place. It took me a long time to get here though. I felt pretty lost in my twenties. I did a slew of meaningless jobs that left me feeling really powerless. I’ve always been creative person but I didn’t know how to channel that creativity into a career. I was in my early thirties and a mother of two before I started seriously pursuing my art. That’s when I began painting every day and sharing my work. There was a lot of trial and error in the beginning, a lot of exploring and finding my voice. Sometimes it felt like I was going into battle with a brush and canvas. On the other hand it was incredibly empowering. Painting has always been an intuitive process for me. My mind is at its clearest when I’m working. It allows me to get out of my own way, which is a rare and beautiful thing. I feel like art gave me a voice that had been dormant for a long time.
SGD: What are you most proud of and what sets you apart from other artist?
JB: I think I’m most proud of the fact that I am a working artist. I don’t ever want to lose sight of the fact that this life I’ve managed to carve out for myself is a dream come true. Literally. When I first started out, I looked at other successful artists and thought, if only I could make a living at painting. It seemed so far off and unattainable. I kept that idea in mind though and kept going. Eventually I looked up and realized I had done it. I had achieved my dream. That’s an amazing feeling. There’s a quote that says something like, “Remember when you wished for the things you have now.” I remind myself of that whenever I get overwhelmed or stressed out with the business side of things. It helps put everything into perspective. I get to play around and make things with my hands for a living. It doesn’t get better than that!
SGD: What advice would you give to someone at the start of his or her career?
JB: Make lots and lots of art. Stick with it. Find your voice and be consistent without being redundant. Make sure you have a website where you can show your portfolio and where collectors can acquire your art. Tell your story through social media. Collaborate with other creatives. Give yourself permission to succeed! Write down your goals and visualize them coming true. Work hard, stay curious and keep going.
SGD: If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
JB: I don’t know… I would probably be a writer or an interior designer. (Basically I would be Shauna, lol) I love storytelling in every form. I think that is one reason that painting works for me. It feels like I’m telling a story on canvas. I have a half written novel that I may or may not ever get back to one day. I view interior design as a type of storytelling too. The way we connect to our surroundings tells the story of who we are.