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Artist Interview

Who are you and where are you from?

My name is Jaqui Lyn Eicher. I grew up on a farm East of Albany and have lived within 45 minutes of that same farm my entire life so far (except for two years of college in Kansas). The Willamette Valley is a wonderful place to grow up, and a wonderful place to live. What first inspired you to become an artist?

Deep inside I've always been an artist. It wasn't until I was a Junior in college that I began really studying art (at Western Oregon University). That's probably when I became inspired to actively become an artist in the sense that I intentionally created art with watercolor and acrylic painting. When I had more space to work in, I also created sculptures from recycled wood and metal parts. Where does the inspiration for your art come from now?

My entire life changed 7 years ago and I found myself without a dog for the first time in my life. I missed their company and in an effort to remain positive, I sought out all the dogs I could find. I lived (and still do)do) downtown Corvallis, so my daily walks downtown led me to the stores with dogs inside them. I began painting dogs: Redda at Sibling Revelry, Indy and the others at The Shoe Hutch, Cammie at Bob's Mirror and Glass, Buddy at Troubador Music. That led to me taking commissions to paint pet portraits. Now I have my own dog, Pearl (a white scruffy terrier). She is definitely my main inspiration today. Painting her portraits inspired me to paint her into some famous portraits (you can see them on my website; I call them "Portraits of Pearl"). I've painted Pearl into more than 30 portraits! This project has taught me a lot about different styles of art through history and each one has been a lesson in painting and composition. I am inspired by all of those artists in history. Who is someone that you look up to and why? (Doesn’t have to be an artist)

I look up to so many people. My main mentor has been Mr. Fred Rogers. We share some similarities and I admire the way he remained true to himself and the kindness within despite those who criticized him. One artist that I learned about through my "Portraits of Pearl" project that I'd never heard of before is Anna Ancher. Her style is beautiful. She can paint light and shadows like no one else I've seen. I remember sitting down to paint Pearl into Ancher's portrait called "Sunlight in a Blue Room" and thinking, 'there is no way I'm going to be able to achieve this. I tried anyway and it turned out to be my favorite of all the Pearl Portraits! Anna Ancher faced discrimination in her life and still persisted in creating the art that was inside her. Is there any message or word of advice that you would like to share with aspiring creatives right now?

I don't like to give advice so I'll call this a message of blessing for aspiring creatives: May you feel free to create art that reflects what is inside you. Just as in writing, no one else can create art like you can. What you create shows a unique perspective and adds a new dimension to the world around you. May you find the inner strength to create despite any hindrances in your path. How have you been during the pandemic? What have been some of your favorite pastimes or projects? What has been the most difficult thing?

The year has contained a lifetime of lessons for me--distilled into a short span of time. It will take the rest of my life to untangle all the lessons (as it will for everyone). A Rilke poem speaks for me: "Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final." (from his poem, Go To The Limits of Your Longing).

I have had two favorite pastimes during this pandemic year. One is creating YouTube videos of my Pearl puppet. Until this past year, the puppet (made by my artist friend at Half Pint Puppets) had been lifeless because. . . I am no ventriloquist. That is, I wasn't a ventriloquist. By now I've created more than 60 Pearl videos--all of them intended for a young audience and speak about mental health.

A second favorite pastime has been painting. I decided to create a digital animal sanctuary and have painted animals on canvas. Then I photograph the painting and post it on my website. There is quite a collection!

The most difficult thing about this past pandemic year has been finding my sense of purpose in the world. What has helped me through has been taking Pearl to meet a friend every morning at the same time, and going to the forest for walks with her later in the day. One of Corvallis' best assets is the Green Belt around the town. We are so fortunate to have forests close by that we've been able to walk in throughout the pandemic.

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