We had the good fortune of connecting with Jan Riggins and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jan, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
One of the first things people tend to say to me when they see my work is “you’re so talented.” While I take this as the compliment that it is, I tend to feel that non-artists don’t fully understand everything involved in what it took to get me to the point that I could create that one piece of work. True, I am not a traditionally trained artist; I didn’t go to art school and I have only taken a handful of workshops. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t study and practice…a lot. Over the past five years I have spent almost all of my free time reading articles, following and communicating with artists on social media, researching different techniques, looking at as much art as I can to understand what appeals to me as a viewer…and creating my own art. It’s a lot of work. But, if I’m not creating, I’m also not satisfied. Over the past several months, I have focused much of my time on creating chalk art. This is a pretty niche field with, what I feel, has the sole purpose of making people happy. There aren’t a lot of tutorials available available to get started in this field at a serious level. I really had to jump in, experiment, and slowly build my technique. Every surface I chalk on has a new set of challenges, and every piece I create is a new learning experience. It has been one of the most rewarding mediums that I have used.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Pre-COVID, I focused mainly on animal art using watercolors, oils, and acrylics. Early on, I took on a lot of commissioned pieces, but quickly realized I lost my passion when I was only creating what others wanted. I took a step back from commissions to focus solely on pieces of work that I wanted to create. Once COVID hit and so many of our daily routines and activities started to contract, I took to one of my favorite activities…chalk art. I participated in my first chalk art festival 5 years ago as a complete novice and completely fell in love with the process. Most artists work alone, rarely interacting with those that view their art. Chalk art festivals completely remove that barrier and put artists face-to-face with their audiences. It’s a physically exhausting and mentally exhilarating experience. I started missing that more than any other activity denied to us. I decided to start chalking in my neighborhood, on my driveway and sidewalk. One Sunday afternoon I brought out my pastels and chalked a couple of animals. As neighbors walked by on their evening walks (happening much more often because of the pandemic), the chalk art started getting a lot of attention. I realized that not only was this a therapeutic activity for me, it also provided something for my neighbors. My daughter quickly started joining me and then in addition to it becoming my stress relief, it also became a bonding experience. While we didn’t have the same experience as a chalk art festival with the personal interactions, this did allow us to start interacting with people from a distance, and online. While we have agreed to complete a few pieces for neighbors celebrating special occasions (at no charge, we’re all trying to get through this together), I have still treated it like my regular art business…I chalk what I want so that I can stay motivated. I may not see any monetary gain from our creations, but the peace I feel with each completed piece is my reward and my therapy.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
To me, Fort Worth is the perfect city for an artist and friends. Murals are popping up across the city and provide one of my favorite activities…art hopping (travelling from public art piece to public art piece). Magnolia is the perfect street to experience the best local eateries, drinks, and dessert, while finding many of those fun murals!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to recognize my neighborhood, Marine Creek Ranch in Fort Worth, TX. My art career really became an interactive experience when I started chalking with my daughter at my house and my neighborhood started providing support and encouragement.