Jennifer Keeney-Bleeg is a contemporary artist and freelance writer living in Bristol, England. This is her first installment in a four-part series as Artist Strong’s Artist in Residence.
You can view more of her art on Instagram or Facebook @jkbleeg, or visit her website at jkbleeg.com and join her monthly mailing list to be the first to get access to new releases of art.
Hi, everyone! I am an acrylic painter – born and raised in the US and now living in the UK. While I cover a variety of subject material – from landscapes to colorful florals to more abstract representations of both – I am drawn to capturing fleeting moments or memories and making them permanent on canvas. That’s probably the thread that weaves through everything I paint.
While I have always loved painting and drawing and I have taken classes in both throughout my life (that’s how I got to know Carrie), I never really allowed myself to think about art as a career until my early 30s. At that point, I began a more serious painting practice with the intention of selling my work and making art my full-time job at some point.
It probably wasn’t a great time to launch something totally new: I was pregnant with my first child and had an established freelance writing business that I was trying to fit around life with a new baby. Art was yet another thing I had to squeeze in around everything else.
But painting brought me so much joy that I couldn’t ignore it. I set up an easel, first in the corner of my bedroom in New Hampshire, then later in the corner of my kitchen when my husband and I moved to the U.K. in 2015, with two young children in tow by that point.
Having an art business has been an emotional workout for me. My art, more than anything else I do in my life, is a mirror of my state of mind.
Emotions good, bad and ugly all come out on the canvas. I feel I can still be a good mom, write a coherent article or cook a decent meal at times when I have anxiety, stress, insecurity or other unsettling thoughts swirling around in my head. But it really messes with my painting!
Being able to reboot my brain before a painting session has been critical. I can’t wait for a good mood or for inspiration – I would never paint!
On days when I feel pressure to churn out something beautiful to sell, I force myself to spend time playing at the start of a session – playing upbeat music, making some marks on paper without any rules, or maybe trying out a new medium or tool as an experiment. That generally puts me in a state where I am ready to shut out the rest of the world and paint.
This year, I rented a studio space dedicated to painting. It’s small (is there ever really enough space for art supplies?) but having my own studio has been liberating – I don’t need to put anything away and there is space to dip in an out of several projects at once. Even more importantly, I know that on a day when I need a boost, I can spend a few hours in the studio and come out feeling like I have pushed a reset button on my mindset and mood.
In my next few blog posts, I will share a bit about my journey as an artist and some of the challenges that I continue to wrestle with. More than other work I have pursued in my life so far, developing an art business has been a nonlinear path of peaks and valleys for me. Hearing other artists share some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that isn’t pretty enough for social media has helped me to trust the process and has reminded me that I still love making the work.
Every month, 1-3 artists show up in our Artist Strong community to share their artistic process, journey, explorations with us over the course of a month.
The goal is to normalize the MANY, VARIED experiences of being an artist.
And if YOU want to apply to be an Artist Strong Artist Resident, subscribe to our weekly updates to hear about the next time applications are open.