My name is Eric Jenkins, the son of the deceased Velma Jenkins and some other unknown person. The oldest of five kids, I was born in Pineville, Louisiana on November 1, 1983 (the Day of the Dead). Like most families in my neighborhood, we grew up scraping by, and my mom did everything she could to keep food on the table. One of my best memories is riding around the yard at our first house on my red-pedaled tractor in my red suspenders. But we never stayed in one place for more than 5 years. We moved around a lot and sometimes lived with family members.
The small town where I grew up was one of those everybody-knows-you types, stuck-in-time and slow. My mom had several boyfriends who were abusive, both physically and verbally. Of all the men in her life, there is one, in particular, who I remember because he tried to kill her. I remember that night in vivid detail. It’s impossible to forget. During my childhood I saw a lot of other bad things, too.
Well, maybe I wasn’t typical for my neighborhood. Even in elementary school, a lot of kids talked about sex, tried to act tough, and they got into fights. But me? I spent most of my days on the basketball court. Every year for Christmas, I asked for the same thing: a new basketball.
Though my two younger brothers and two sisters still live in Louisiana, when I graduated from high school, I enlisted in the United States Navy. After four years of active duty, including two deployments, I became a reservist and have been with the U.S. military for almost 11 years. I settled in California, and currently, I go the Art Institute in San Diego where I am working towards my Bachelor’s degree in graphic design.
One obstacle that I faced in my education was math. I swear it is by far my toughest and most hated subject. In third grade, when we were learning to multiply, I couldn’t remember my times-tables, so I sat at home and wrote them over and over until they finally stuck. That experience taught me the best way to understand any subject that gives me trouble is to practice as much as possible, which has helped me even recently.
At the Art Institute, all the new software had clicked in my brain instantaneously, so I assumed I would pick up Adobe Illustrator as easily as I had the others. If ever there was a time I’d been wrong about something, this was it. I just did not get it. I took notes in every class, which didn’t help at all. By mid-terms, I was failing the class, but no way would I let that happen. I downloaded a free trial of the software on my home computer since I couldn’t afford to buy the full version. All of my time, outside of going to school and completing assignments, went into teaching myself, and by the end of the class, I passed with a B. The hard work paid off, and now I use Adobe Illustrator almost every day. It’s one of my favorite programs to use.
My goal as a graphic artist is to, one day, have my own design firm. Until I get to that point, I would love to work in the design department for Starbucks, Hallmark, or Scion racing, but I’d also be happy to start with a smaller company. I have already completed a few design jobs for non-profit charities on my own, and at the moment, I am working in an internship with a great design firm in Encinitas (North County San Diego). A program that assists veterans in finding jobs and internships helped me to get the position, and I’ve gotten to create materials for several of their clients. After getting my degree in graphic design, I would like to explore Interior design as well.
I spend a lot of time on my computer working on designs and conducting brand research, but I try to plan my schedule so that I have time to spend with my wife, Elizabeth. She supports my goals, encourages me, and understands how hard I work to hone my skills. As for my brothers and sisters, though we’re in different time zones, I try to talk to them on the phone as much as possible.
My mom has been a major influence in my life. She did everything she could to provide for us and seldom did anything for herself. She was always willing to help anyone who needed it, and I think I get my sense of volunteerism from her. Sadly, in my early twenties, when my siblings were still in their teens, we lost her due to a stroke. Mom was only 43.
Another inspiration for me has been my cousin, Tina. She had a childhood similar to mine, but she managed to earn her bachelor’s degree and then a master’s. Currently, she’s a professor at a school in Atlanta. Her determination to make something better of herself was incredible. I saw a lot of my friends do nothing after high school. Some of them got jobs but others literally did nothing with their lives. I’m making more of myself, like Tina, and I want the same for my brothers and sisters.
One of my teachers at the Art Institute told the story of how he designed a piece for a client that was so powerful, it made her cry. The client said the image he created reminded her of her childhood home. When one of my designs has an effect on a client that strong, then I will know my skills have truly gotten where I want them to be. Maybe I can touch someone the way the artwork included in Charles Dickens’s amazing literary works has affected me as I read his stories growing up.
Advice I would give to someone working toward their goals:
- Take a chance and get out of your comfort zone because you never know what you can do until push yourself to find out.
- Your goal may morph along the way, but stick with it. At times it may seem like a losing battle, but when you finally succeed, you’ll look back and be glad you didn’t give up.
If you would like to see more samples of my work, you can go to this link. www.behance.net/fiveEYEmedia