I was standing in the emergency room at the hospital, waiting to speak with the hospital's financial advisor. I was back to a place that only a few months before I was admitted to, with a high heart rate and a very low blood count due to what we later found was a blood clot in my lungs.
It's always very surreal when you step back into a physical space that created a lot of anxiety, fear and pain for you. I had worked extremely hard to feel back to my "normal self". I also had raised money through two art sales in my shop to pay off my hospital stay. I felt so grateful to be there, feeling strong and having had so much support for me to be free from this burden. It was hard knowing that a large chunk of my years income, as a freelancer, was going to pay these bills. But I also knew, that I had my health and the support of so many helping me feel like it was all going to be okay. I thought to myself, "Jessica...money comes and goes. And you have your life and your dreams ahead of you. You'll be doing jobs you dream of in no time". I took a breath, and continued to wait, while surrounded by people in the emergency room awaiting to see a doctor. I kept thinking about myself sitting there last time and how scary it was. But I felt comforted in that moment. I checked my email, since I had to wait for a bit.
I received two emails, that floored me. One was from a job I had done with Lancome, wanting to possibly have it reprinted in the September issue of Vogue. And another from Starbucks telling me that they loved my work and were interested in having me paint custom large watercolors for one of their stores in NYC. In that small moment, the timing felt so serendipitous to me. It reminded me, that just as I told myself moments ago....you're going to continue to pursue your dreams. That what I am doing is important, and needed. I spoke with the team at Starbucks, Daniella & Lara soon after and it was like a breath of fresh air to work with a client I had dreamed of working with for years and years. The artwork for Vogue didn't get published, but I am determined to keep making the best work I can and I will hopefully get published in that magazine one day.
The most amazing part of working with Starbucks was they told me, to just be me. They told me they had found themselves in my work. And that I didn't need to think of this job as me trying to find myself in Starbucks. I was astounded. It's what every artist wants to hear. And so we just started off on be the best note. They asked me to come up with some concept watercolors for 2 large paintings for one of their stores in the Upper West Side. One of the paintings would need to be 7 feet long....so I knew that this was going to be a new, exciting challenge for me. Also a bit terrifying. But hey...no risk, no reward right?! They loved my work combining nature and portraits. Which is my favorite as well, so coming up with the concepts was super fun. I had a few days to just find inspiration, and just paint some ideas.
During the process of creating concepts, as an artist you always feel vulnerable. Once you send your ideas off to your client, you think "Will they love it? Will they hate it?". And you await the reply. The collaboration process can take a few days, or weeks depending on the project scale and time. I worked with the team for a few weeks as we finalized the look of each painting, and the exact sizing and placement in the store design. Each day was super exciting, and they were so encouraging and trusting. Once again...dream client.
So, after those weeks, the new challenge began. Painting on the largest scale I have ever done. How would I approach it? I had a paper roll and a larger studio of my friend's I could crash at night to work on this. I kinda went into it head first. Mainly because I think it's how we all learn best. We just go into it, thinking....well I'll either get it right or not. But I gotta do this! It's worth it! So I channeled my inner Jackson Pollock and set up the painting on the floor. There was a lot of dancing by myself in between waiting for paint to dry. I love to dance and paint at the same time! I also have to amp myself up for projects like this. If you remember Dwight getting ready for an interview on The Office, he grabs the wall and screams, "I'm AWESOME!". That's basically what I have to do. Adrenaline and self affirmations are my best friends when I work on high pressure jobs.
The other huge challenge, was figuring out how to get this painting up to NYC safely. In the back of my mind I knew it might be smartest to just fly up there with the painting in tow, and drop it off. But I kept trying to talk myself out of it. I worked with Fedex to try to package it as safely and securely as possible. We did a box, inside a box with bubble wrap and insured it to the max. And guess what happened....IT GOT DAMAGED!!! My worst nightmare came true! And we did not have a lot of time left in our deadlines for the store opening for me to make new paintings. I was so stressed, but I knew that I would prob get all the insurance coverage on it, and if I gave myself 3 days...I could make 2 new giant paintings. Mind you, the first paintings I did took a few weeks. I knew I needed to fly to NY and stay in a studio big enough that I could paint in. I really didn't have time to overreact to the situation. I just had to get it done. I did not want to disappoint anyone. And I thought, maybe the next version will be better because I won't have time to overthink, ha!
I reminded myself, any great project I have done, has been hard. And in the end, I remember the process more then the end result. For me, art is truly about the process. It excites me, scares me, and energizes me. So I used that energy to making 2 large paintings in 3 days. I took a few breaks to my favorite NYC spots...but other than that...I drank A LOT of Starbucks coffee, listened to a lot of rock music and kept my head down. I had the constant support and encouragement from the team. Daniella was amazing to work with.
The last morning, I worked on the painting until it was time to get into a cab and hand deliver it in person. Which honestly was such a great thing. I rarely get those chances to meet people I work so hard with, in person. And it felt so significant to finish just in the nick of time for a job that was a dream.
I will have professional shots of the paintings to share, in the next couple of months. But the store is now open, so if you're in the area just head to 86th St. & Columbus Starbucks and you'll see these puppies in beautiful frames, by Big Apple Art Gallery.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and it encouages you to just keep being yourself and take those risks for yourself and your dreams.