Jaime Derringer

10/11/13

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Most of you know Jaime Derringer from her wildly popular blog Design Milk. But what you might not know about Jaime is that she is also a prolific and talented fine artist, who renders mostly abstract works, both on canvas and paper. Jaime and I have been friends for several years, and I was so excited when she began painting and drawing again in 2011 after a long hiatus. Her portfolio is both extensive and impressive. I am so impressed by Jaime’s constant creative prowess (at minimum she draws every single day, and paints as often as she can muster the energy) that I wanted to know both more about her process and how she manages her time. Jaime is also one of the warmest, smartest and most down-to-earth women I know. In the second of my interviews with people I admire, I present to you: Jaime Derringer!

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Lisa: You are the founder and editor of Design Milk, a mom to a toddler and a very prolific artist. How do you make time to make art each day?

Jaime: My time is very limited most days so making time for art every day is not easy. I challenged myself this year to draw A Shape A Day, which has kind of morphed into a drawing a day. I think I will be sad when it’s over, but also a little relieved. There are some days when I am tired and don’t want to draw. I have a drawing routine most evenings while I watch TV with my husband. Now that Breaking Bad and Dexter are over, we’ve caught up on Orange is The New Black and are now watching House of Cards in between our regular sitcoms and shows. Sometimes we watch terrible reality TV. Most of my drawings are somewhat repetitious, so there is room in my brain to absorb what’s going on with my shows and still pay attention to what my hands are doing but without the need to focus 100% on either.

When it comes to painting, I am very bad about fitting it in. Sometimes I will paint three paintings in one day and then not touch any paint for weeks, other times I lazily approach it painting a little bit here and a little there. Painting feels like much more of an effort to me and sometimes I think I’d rather be drawing… but every once in a while I get a spark. However, I have a feeling that I need to gain a better understanding of how to make paintings. I think there’s a process that I’ve yet to discover. Still waiting for my “ah-ha” moment.

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Lisa: You work in two different mediums and styles (and sometimes mix them): one is intricate line work and one is more painterly abstract painting. What do you get from the experience of working in each style? Are there days you crave one more than the other?

Jaime: Drawing is my first love. There is something about the control I get with a marker or pen in my hand that I just don’t get with a paintbrush. However, I am a bit of a perfectionist, so the messiness of paint is sometimes just what I need to push me out of my comfort zone. I have yet to find the perfect way to bring them together, but I have been playing around with watercolor and drawing together, which seems to be a happy marriage.

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Lisa: You took a break from painting and drawing for a few years and then after your daughter was born, you had a strong desire to start creating again. Tell us about that experience and how you got back into making art after abandoning it for so long.

Jaime: I don’t know where the desire to create again came from but it was like a fever. Sometime in 2011, it hit me that I wanted to draw all day. I would spend the day working, fantasizing about the quality time I could spend with my sketchbook that evening. Between a house, a new baby, a website redesign, and no maternity leave or vacation, I think my brain decided to force me to take a break. The problem I have now is that I am on fast forward—I’ve become very athletic about it, which has made me quite prolific, but there is a downside. It’s like I am trying to cram years and years of not making anything into a short period of time; it’s very hard to focus and not always feel the need to quickly finish up one thing on order to try something new. However, I am trying to use this desire to experiment to help me work through some buried psychological issues—lots of fun stuff is happening inside this brain of mine!

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Lisa: What advice do you have for people who can’t seem to get into the groove of making art on a regular basis? Do you have any tips for breaking through anxiety or self doubt?

Jaime: I think the best thing I did was to start my Shape A Day project. It was one small thing I could commit to doing every day. It gave me the opportunity to be as simplistic or as complicated as I wanted. In other words, if I only had time to draw a simple circle one day, it would still be OK. But that doesn’t mean that you have to do something EVERY DAY. You could commit to making art every week. Or commit to doing a number of works like my friend Megan, who is doing 100 paintings. It’s the small things that lead to more. For example, I’d discover a shape or pattern from my shape series and that would spawn a whole new set of shapes and end up working its way into my larger pieces. Forcing yourself to make something is actually very good for you—not only does it prevent procrastination but also it allows you to make art without too much need for inspiration or thinking. Sometimes we get way too caught up in looking for inspiration, so much so that we don’t produce quantity and quantity is a more effective way to move past perfectionism and ultimately produce your best work. One of my favorite quotes from Chuck Close is “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” I often do my best work when I’m not thinking about it at all.

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I constantly struggle with anxiety and self-doubt. The way I moved past it was to put everything out there on the internet with no regrets but that’s not to say I am no longer feel self-critical. This isn’t the first time I’ve had a website with my art on it. Previously, I pulled it down because I wasn’t proud of it. However, I have discovered that the healthiest part of being an artist is being able to put it all out there, even my sketchbooks and my mistakes. This might not be right for everyone, but it has certainly helped me embrace my process. Moreover, I feel like it’s also starting to help with my perfectionist issues… only time will tell! I am glad I digitized all of it because I get a lot of joy in going back to older work and seeing how I have changed or noticing small nuances in my work that are still present today.

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If you love Jaime’s work as much as I do, you can purchase it here in her Etsy Shop or here in her Webshop. She also has work available on Art.com and on Society6. Jaime posts most of her paintings and drawings here on her Instagram feed. You can read her fabulous design blog here.

Happy Friday, and thank you to Jaime.

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