Jamee Varda is the very definition of artist. She absorbs life like a sponge, and pours it into her paintings and drawings. I was fortunate enough to meet Jamee while visiting a mutual friend in Minneapolis a few years ago. She is incredibly sweet and I have been lucky enough to remain in touch with her through Facebook. This week I saw a photo album she posted of her art work and I was instantly inspired. She is the kind of person that the world would benefit from knowing. Her art work is fun, spunky, and eccentric. I wanted to help in some way- and was suddenly inspired to share her story. Because of Jamee, I have found a new path on my creative journey. I will share the stories of others so that we can all inspire and become inspired by those around us. Thank you, Jamee, for being an inspiration to me, and to my readers!
What’s your story?
I was born in California in a family of 3 girls and my mom and dad. We moved to northeastern Minnesota, where I had to go through a lot of changes moving into a small town and having no friends when I was going through rough adolescent times.
My sisters were 7 and 8 years older than me, they were moving out when I was in middle school. I learned to love my own company, and use my imagination, often creating whole worlds out of twigs in a forest or a blanket and a stuffed animal. I’ve always been in love with nature, with animals, and with the spirituality of the outdoors. I’m a deeply introspective and sensitive person, pretty much always worrying about the people I love, but I’m on a personal mission to change that and embrace the magic in our universe. The small things.
When did you start painting?
I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a very small child. I don’t really remember a time I wasn’t drawing or making art. I had a daycare teacher that I always loved that got me into drawing, and since then it’s what I just have to do.
How long have you been painting for?
Painting seriously? Probably since I was 14. (I’m 25 now) I had a few high school art teachers that saw something in me and encouraged me to try new mediums, and since I started, I love finding new ways to make something out of nothing.
What are your creative dreams?
Do we mean life dreams or nightly dreams? I have tons of both! I dream of (and will!) being able to live comfortably off my freelance work, and travel the world gathering new inspiration and new friends! I have also been plagued/blessed (depending on how you look at it) by powerful dreams and sleep issues all my life. I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from my dreams, and sometimes you can see them in my stuff. I was once told by a shaman in Arizona “of course you’re a dreamer, you are an artist. It’s in your being.” which was pretty intense stuff. This guy read me like a book, and since then I’ve never been unhappy with my dreams, even the scary ones. They still teach me something.
Do you have any other talents?
I’ve been told I can sing, and I used to sing in all kinds of choirs and in my church. I really get a lot of enjoyment out of it, especially screaming R&B ballads by myself in the car! It’s a great release.
What inspires you?
Personal interactions. Quiet moments in solitude, especially the outdoors. History- I constantly read about the past, particularly the turn-of-the-century/victorian/civil war eras. Life was so full of turmoil and passion, and hard times but intense passions. Like I said, nature really is the substance that fills my belly. Since I was a kid I’ve had a knack for random animal facts and a deep passion for conservation and environmental awareness.
What motivates you?
The people in my life! I work at a group home, and my clients give me so much in life lessons and food for thought. My supportive family (with my millions of nieces and nephews, my funny sisters and my AMAZING parents who never stop making me feel strong). I have a boyfriend who is my rock and my partner, and a small group of amazing friends who are such creative and passionate people.
What discourages you?
Life! I’ve always been a sensitive person, always analyzing my place in the world and worrying about the people in my life. I worry about the environment, and hate the ugliness of some human nature but I celebrate people. I get down about world issues and turmoil, but I release a lot of that in my work.
How do you get past it?
Well, it’s cliche but my biggest release is my art. When life is chaotic, my best pieces come out. I’m also working on myself, and learning about the laws of attraction and manifesting the things you want in life. I’m working on positivity, and finding all the magic in my life.
Do you have support from your family?
DEFINITELY! My parents don’t always get my imagery or subject matter; my mom always jokes about my “tentacle phases” and such, but they have never waivered in support. In everything I do- they drive to my functions, they help me in whatever ways they can, and always cheer me on. I’m a lot different from my two sisters, but they’ve always supported me as well, even sending design business my way!
Do you have support from your friends?
For sure! I have a very small circle of close friends, and each one of them is positive, creative, and encouraging. I feel like I’m coming into a great stage of my life, where I no longer feel the need to chase down friendships that don’t feed my soul. I’ll take a great talk at a coffeeshop over clubbing every weekend anytime (although I’ll raise a little hell with the best of ‘em sometimes!)
Is this your full time gig?
Well, since I work full-time, I guess I’d say no. But do I act like it’s a full-time gig? You bet! I’m always sketching, working on ideas, working on my web stuff, or brainstorming! I’m a major daydreamer, but wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s how I get my ideas!
Would you like to make this your full time gig?
Oh definitely. There’s no other way. I manage a group home in St. Paul, and I’ve done this work for 6-7 years now, and it wears down the soul and the mind. I love what I do, but making a lifetime career out of it isn’t an option, if I want to be truly happy and fulfilled. I have a hard time not taking work home with me, and being so intuitive can be a stressor in this field at times.
What are your hopes and goals for the future?
To have great success with my freelance art, working with other artists and being in galleries all over the world. I am going to all sorts of places- Southeast Asia to bathe with an elephant, the French countryside to paint where the impressionists did, and I’m going to walk through the Amazon rainforest (among other things)! I am going to have loving, supportive, exciting relationships, and I am going to be the captain of my own ship- that is, be my own boss and make my own career path. I am going to help raise awareness about environmentalist issues and human rights issues, and I will soak up everything I learn from every being I encounter.
Do you have a plan to reach these goals?
I have made both an Etsy shop and a website as a starting point to spread the word of my art. I have had a booth at a Minneapolis art festival, and plan to have another at an indie music festival in Wisconsin (SoundTown in Summerset, WI), and plan on doing murals all over Minneapolis. I’ve had a couple art gallery shows and shows at restaurants and coffeeshops, and I will make that a big priority over the next couple months as well. I want to take over the world!
Do you network? How and where do you find the most productive networking?
Um, well as you may know, artists aren’t always the most social butterflies, so sometimes it’s hard to contact or meet new local artists. I know the more famous ones of the Minneapolis art scene, but I’m always eager and willing to meet more!
How important do you find networking?
It’s very important to get your name out there- it’s a lot like being in a band (which I am, I do live art for the band GAHEDiNDIE) wgere you have to meet and schmooze and leave an impression. That can be tough without a manager or art dealer, (which I’d like to get within the next year or two) so you just have to find ways to run into people at shows and events and get to talking! Always having a business card available, of course, is a handy tool!
What has your path been like? Positive, negative, neutral?
Positive, positive, positive! I don’t really pay attention to negative comments, and honestly I don’t get very many. I have been encouraged by friends, relatives, and even strangers, that I have something worth sharing with the world, and I’m not going to fight that! I still am baffled when someone compliments the hell out of my stuff (you made me blush like hell, lady!) but I am loving every minute of it.
Is there anything you would have done differently? I don’t think so!
What does the phrase “leap of faith” mean to you, and do you feel you’ve made one?
It means listening to the calling you have inside yourself, and against all odds, answering that call! Yes, I did venture off from what I thought my life path would be, but the bigger one will be when I decide to leave the “working world” and support myself fully. That scares me to death of course, but just the thought of having time be all my own and not stressing so much is uplifting! I can’t wait.
What is your definition of “Success”?
Having tried with all the fibers of your being, and living an authentic life.
What is your definition of “Failure”?
The opposite- having never tried, allowing others to put out your light.
Do you find creative gifts or forward movement in “failure”?
Of course! Any blunder offers a lesson, and those are the most valuable. You learn far more from “losing” than from “winning”.
Do you ever have creative lulls? How do you move through them?
Oh definitely! Those are the times I’m most stressed with life stuff, or right after I crank out a ton of art for a gallery or festival showing. Then I’ve spent all my juices and need time to recharge!
What are some tools for motivation/ creativity/ inspiration that you could suggest to artists who are feeling stuck? Whatever lights them up! I try working on myself, such as going to yoga or eating well, along with being outside and finding new adventures with friends. Whatever makes me happy and excited about life, gets me painting and drawing!
If you could do anything, regardless of the price tag attached, what would you do?
TRAVEL! I’d go everywhere. I always watch nature shows and documentaries, and there’s nothing more I’d love than to be right where that camera goes. I’d love to ride in a long wooden boat down some river in China, paint a picture in an old Swedish bedroom, be right there in Alaska when the whales are gorging themselves on krill. And it’s gonna happen! I’ve made it my mission.
How do you make the time for your art?Whenever I have time, that’s when I do it! I love painting in the mornings or the late evenings. I always have to be looking out or near a window, and have lots of natural light.
What is a leap of faith that you have taken? What happened? How did the outcome benefit your artist self & creative dream? Well, I originally was studying to be a Marine Biologist and went as far as being accepted to UCSD. But I had a constant pull to be an artist, and I had a powerful dream that made me feel that art was the priority. I chose a different school (ASU) and moved to Phoenix, and coming from a town of 4500 in Northern Minnesota, that was a huge change. I learned so much about myself, and went through a major emotional growth spurt, finding my independence and swimming with the sharks. I don’t regret it at all, but I’d still love to get a degree in Marine Biology and help with field studies someday. It’s still my passion.
What is one major fear you have about your creative dream? That I will end up not being successful with my work, or that I will not live my dreams as an artist and a person, but I refuse to entertain those thoughts! Positive affirmations, baby!
Challenges have solutions, while fears are illusions without possible resolution. How might you turn this fear into a challenge? I am trying to do that every day- I want to prove that little voice wrong in the worst (and best) way! I am going to be authentic and remember that even if I don’t sell paintings for $300,000 a piece, they’re me and they’re beautiful!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Exploring this fast-changing world before we lose everything that makes the earth beautiful, painting and drawing my butt off, and surrounded by great friends! Being rich would be a nice touch
What advice would you give for someone chasing their creative dreams?
GO FOR IT. You deserve the life you want, come hell or high water. I just can’t relate to people who don’t want to be happy, who would rather doggy-paddle in place instead of riding the waves so-to-speak! Why not make life your own? Develop your craft, ask LOTS of questions, put in the work and the time, and place your order with the universe and let things happen!
I would also advise that although degrees and letters after your name may be what you think the world wants from you- experience, originality, tenacity, and hard work go much farther. So many art-school-dropouts kill it in the “real world”!
Jamee’s Art can be purchased at her Etsy site