Artist Spotlight – Emma Jane Kimmell
Emma Jane Kimmell is a Seattle based artist and children’s art instructor. She makes art for those who see old things as a part of something new, for those who see black and white as distinctly colorful, for those who see magic in reality, and she produces art for the sake of art.
Born and raised on a farm in Northern Idaho, Emma Jane began her artistic career in high school with a simple sketchbook and camera. As her interest in art grew, she received a sketch-a-day sketchbook from her father containing a page for each day of the year and hasn’t stopped sketching daily since then. She attended the University of Idaho for her undergraduate degree in Art with an emphasis in painting and moved to Seattle to pursue her artistic endeavors in 2012. Early in 2015 she launched her business “Emma Jane Art” selling prints, cards and custom pieces.
Emma Jane had her first art show at Barilli Cellars winery in Spokane in 2010. In 2011 she won the People’s Choice Award for a community sculpture contest at the Moscow Recycling Center where she built a giant model of the state from all recycled materials. In November of 2013 she had a solo show at Café Artemis in Seattle where she was commissioned to do pieces for a few private buyers. She is currently teaching aspiring young artists at Thrive Art School in Seattle and continues to make freelance pieces and run her business. Once upon a time when asked why a farm kid would choose such a career path, Emma Jane replied, “for the sake of art.”
- What drew you to a career in art?
I was always interested in art and all things creative. I considered studying interior design, architecture and even fashion design but I remember my first week in college as art major was when I realized it was exactly where I wanted to be.
- What’s it like teaching the children in Seattle?
I love it. But just like all teaching goes it can be a struggle some days. But seeing my students let their uninhibited creativity run wild and free is one of the best feelings in the world. It’s my goal to create more confident children that can use their creativity and apply it to the rest of their lives. I feel as though children lose that as they grow older and it’s my job to not let that happen.
- What inspired the Sketch a Day project and how long do you plan on keeping it up for?
I began the Sketch a Day project back in 2011 when my dad gave me my very first sketch a day sketchbook as a gift. I was so nervous to start it because I wasn’t sure that I could keep it up for a whole year. But I started and the creative juices started to flow! After a year had gone by I had seen so much growth in myself that I decided to start another year. Almost 7 years later and still going strong. It’s become such an integrated part of my life that I plan to continue it for as long as I possibly can.
- What has been the biggest challenge there?
I’d say that the biggest challenge at first was learning the discipline to do it daily and getting over the fear of having an end product that I wasn’t always proud of. And even now, 7 years later I struggle some days with deciding what to draw or even finding the time to draw! But I find ways to make the time for it when I set my mind to it. Some days it’s during lunch break, late at night in bed, at 6am after the gym, or even while stuck in traffic. I always keep sharpies and paper with me with me so that I can always get it done.
- What do you think sketching everyday has given you as an artist?
Sketching daily has given me so much! Mostly the discipline of practicing my craft and pushing myself to improve. It’s helped me learn to control my creativity rather than letting it control me. I’ve put myself into new situations and environments and have pushed myself to draw even when I’m not feeling creative or inspired. I also feel like it’s really strengthened my voice as an artist. It’s helped me find my strengths and my weaknesses and really define my style.
- Naturally, all your work is precious to you, but which project are you the most proud of when you reflect back?
That’s a hard one! Some pieces I have a strong emotional attachment to while others I want to rip up and never set eyes on again. I’d say that I’m most proud of one of my biggest pen and ink floral pieces that says “I’m going to make everything around me beautiful, that will be my life.” It took about 30 some hours, hundreds of sharpies, some tears, some frustration, and more coffee than one should consume. But I think the message behind it is what makes it so special to me. My goal as an artist is to leave the world a more beautiful place with everything I touch.
- On the flip side, hindsight is 20-20. What would you change about your past if you could?
Looking back I wish I would have learned the business and marketing side of art earlier on. That’s one of my biggest struggles as an artist is being both the artist and the entrepreneur. Being such a creative mind it’s hard to operate with the business mind at the same time.
- What other mediums do you enjoy?
I love to paint! My emphasis in college was in painting and sadly I don’t do it as often as I’d like. Since I’m more often than not sketching on the run I don’t get to sit down and paint as often as I’d like to.
- Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
5 years from now I see myself living as a full time artist. My goal is to publish a set of coloring books, a greeting card line, calendars, children’s book illustrations, fabric and then starting up my own art studio where I can teach.
- What advice would you pass on to aspiring artists?
Don’t stop. It can be overwhelming unchartered territory and the path is very often unclear for artists but push through, set goals and don’t stop. My biggest piece of advice would be to learn the business side as early on as possible. Artists very often struggle because they don’t know how to market themselves and I’ve found that to be my biggest obstacle.
“Emma is an inspiration to any creative individual who struggles with daily inspiration and sheer motivation to continue to turn what you love into a career. I have personally seen quite a few creative individuals put aside pen and ink for a regular 9 to 5 when they lose their passion and drive.
Emma I want to personally thank you for sharing your struggles and success with us at Apprentice Studios! We can’t wait to visit your own studio in next few years!!”
Apprentice Studios is a graphic design studio focused on the training and education of the next generation of creatives.
Content By: Anni Lubiens
Interview By: Alex Reich
Photo Credit: Emma Jane Kimmell – follow her on Instagram