She lays her baby in the cradle and hangs her apron around her neck. Natural light floods in from the windows in the 1980s whitewashed studio, White Whale. Easels with unfinished paintings line the walls and paintbrushes lie scattered on the tables.
This is a typical day at work for Emily Jeffords, a local painter and mother of three.
“I don’t know if I’d actually be an artist had I not had kids,” Jeffords says. “Which is probably a little weird; no one says that but it’s true.”
With the intention of working as a graphic designer, Jeffords’ career path changed when she had her first child. She then decided to stay home with her daughter and pursue art as her 9-to-5 job.
“I really did treat it like a job,” she says. “I painted at least five hours a day, which is a long time to paint.”
Thus, the beginning of Jeffords’ work as an abstract impressionist painter. Now she allows 15 hours a week to paint without her children around, but she paints with them at other times, as well. “They’re used to it,” she says. “They’ve grown up in the studio.”
Realizing her love for art at age 18 and majoring in art at Bob Jones University, Jeffords knew she wanted to become a full-time artist after graduation. And that she did. “I just jumped into it and did it,” she says excitedly. “So, here we are!”
Jeffords is most known for her oil landscape paintings but works with a variety of media. “I have a hard time pinning myself down to one category,” she says. “So, I do whatever feels best.” Lately she finds herself mostly painting in oil, watercolor, and mixed media.
Jeffords explains that art has two sides to it. “You have the finished work where you can step back and look at it and put it on the wall, and it’s hopefully beautiful and speaks to the viewer.”
But she describes the other side of art as a magical experience, a “creative process where you engage in almost like a meditative, worshipful experience.”
This experience is something that yields beautiful pieces of art when Jeffords feels connected to the process. “That is what inspires me the most, and hopefully the painting works out and it looks great. But if it feels disingenuous while I’m making it, it doesn’t seem successful to me.”
Jeffords wishes that everyone could experience the creation of a painting that not only looks beautiful at the end but also feels beautiful in the process.
“My painting hours are really selfish,” she says. “I really treat this as sacred times where I don’t distract myself.” Usually her laptop remains closed; coffee dates are not allowed; and distractions are kept to a minimum, except for some music or a podcast playing in the background.
Inspiration for her artwork comes in a variety of forms. “One painting might be inspired by a couple of splatters on my palette, but the next painting might be inspired by something that I really thought through and have a big vision for,” Jeffords says.
No matter where her inspiration comes from, Jeffords wants the pieces to feel a certain way while she’s painting them. That extra spark needs to come through in the end. “I want it to feel exciting, and I want it to feel peaceful,” Jeffords explains, “but also something in my brain needs to be ignited.”
Jeffords also draws artistic inspiration from the works of impressionist painter Claude Monet. Walking into a museum in Paris with an exhibit full of Monet’s paintings, Jeffords was overwhelmed with the beauty of his work and his dedication to his art.
“Traveling is also very important to me,” she says. “It awakens my mind and lets me see different parts of the world, different landscapes, different modes of inspiration.”
Jeffords combines her love of travel and art by holding workshops in France. This year’s creative retreat will be hosted in a large chateau and working farm an hour south of Paris from Sept. 10-14.
“I think people who pursue creativity and put that out into the world are a barometer for a healthy human race,” Jeffords says.
She adds that artists of all kinds are important to a culture and to a city. This creativity could be in a variety of forms such as a new bridge, cityscape, or painting. People must continue to pursue this creativity that society thrives on, according to Jeffords.
She describes Greenville’s rich, growing arts community as having an open energy with people exploring and collaborating. “If you go to a bigger city, then it’s harder to do collaborative things. It’s harder to put partnerships in place or just do fun little events.”
In addition to selling paintings and prints out of her studio, Jeffords has also worked with several companies. She is currently working with Anthropologie. The boho-chic retail company initially reached out to Jeffords requesting a giant wall mural, which led to them wanting more of her artwork.
Seeing her art on merchandise such as curtains or pants in a store never fails to excite Jeffords. She says she’s over the moon with the whole process. By the time the products hit the stores, she gets excited all over again. “So, it has this renewed energy with it which is a lot of fun to walk into something like that,” Jeffords says.
Follow Jeffords’ work on Instagram via @emily_jeffords, or visit emilyjeffords.com.