Jeffrey Sparr is a talented painter who is also the founder of PeaceLove, a non-profit that trains individuals to facilitate mental wellness and self-care-based arts workshops within their communities. He has harnessed his passion for painting and is on a mission to help millions of people find peace of mind through the arts. Continue reading to learn more about Jeffrey’s painting style and the positive impact PeaceLove is making.
Where are you from and where do you currently reside?
I grew up in Providence and for the last 24 years have been right over the line in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
What drew you to become an artist and what mediums do you most commonly use?
I never even thought about painting until a friend suggested it. He heard that it could help people with mental illness. I’d been open about my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and I was at a place where I was ready to try just about anything if I thought it would help. And it did. So I haven’t stopped painting since. Well sometimes I use oil pastels instead, but you know.
How would you describe your style?
Vivid. It’s funny because painting relaxes me but my process might not seem relaxing to anyone else. I like to blast music and create with a lot of energy– and I think that really comes through in the pieces. I like vibrant colors and high contrast. I’m really inspired by Art Deco fashion, cocktail culture, and the geometric design style of the 1920s-30s.
What has kept you engaged and committed to your craft over the years?
I have to. I need to do it to take care of my mental health. It helps me express myself, and the things I feel when I don’t know how to say how I feel in words. But more than that, painting just feels really good when I’m doing it. I’m not thinking about my OCD. It’s a break from all my intrusive thoughts. I keep painting because I need that break.
I also co-founded a Non-profit called PeaceLove Foundation. It trains individuals to facilitate mental wellness and self-care-based arts workshops within their communities. It’s called the CREATORS Training Program.
We have a network of about 200 frontline professionals. Some of them are occupational therapists, grief counselors. Some work in schools or youth programs. All very very different. But at the beginning of every training we gather and I tell my story of how art changed my life. I want to thank them, and really impress how important it is that we provide creative outlets to communities. So now I really can’t quit painting!
How have you grown as an artist in the past five years and what are the major contributing factors to your growth?
For OCD the best treatment is called exposure therapy– and I like to joke I’m one of the most overexposed people now. But everything: talking about my illness, public speaking, traveling– it’s all the stuff that gets me riled up. My art has really pushed me to tell my story and put myself out there– which has in turn made me feel more things and need to make more art. And you can see all of that in my work too. Everything I’m processing shows up in my work.
What materials do you most commonly use?
I’ve painted on everything with everything. At the end of the day though I still gravitate toward foam brushes and acrylic paint or oil pastels. I don’t have to think about how to use them, and I can just focus on what it is I’m trying to create.
Can you describe some of your favorite pieces you’ve worked on?
One I like to talk about because it’s been really helpful in explaining my mental illness is “half daddy.”
My family is so important to me. I’m married with three children. And when the kids were growing up I felt a lot of guilt about my OCD and if it made me a distracted partner and father. I’d seek a lot of reassurance, which fed the process, making me feel even more guilty. Half daddy helped me explain feeling scared that sometimes I wasn’t there.
Do you have any advice for up-and-coming artists? Are there any tips or techniques you can offer?
Make as much as you can, and then share it because you love it. Or because it’s your story. Don’t worry so much about anything else. So many people come up to me to tell me how much they connect with my story, or my work. And it’s only because I’m sharing it. You have a story. Go tell it in whatever way makes sense to you and let people connect with it.
What are your website and social media links?