Relatively new in to the world of work, after graduating just a couple of years ago, Definitely Jenny has been busying herself with magazine commissions and developing her distinctive, fun and fresh style. She’ll be selling prints at the Eye Candy illustration & art fair as well as running a workshop.
What first got you into visual arts?
I’ve always loved drawing when I was a kid and spent ages drawing my own fantastical beasts – I believe some of them even roam the depths of my family home still. It wasn’t until I had to chose my A-Levels that I knew I had to pursue the creative industry, I wasn’t even particularly fussed what discipline to follow at that point, all I knew was that I enjoyed it and that I had copious amounts of teenage angst against my father’s strong expectations of me becoming a doctor/lawyer/politician. The rest as they say, is history.
What is your creative process from inception to creation?
Depends on what I’m doing really, but if it’s for a commission I usually read the brief carefully and pick out any important details or interesting titbits to research into. I then thumbnail a bunch of sketches before choosing the top three or so; once the the Art Director agrees on a sketch I then colour it. I currently don’t have a fixed way of choosing any particular colour scheme, it’s a lot of guess work and experimenting, so if anyone has the secret to great colour schemes, give me a shout.
How did you develop your style?
I only really started developing my style two years ago, in my final year of university. I was really indecisive about whether to pursue Graphic Design or Illustration as a career path. However, one of my projects eventually ended up being really illustrative and I worked on simplifying shapes because I was short on time. I also found it difficult drawing eyes and noses so I cheated and just made them into basic shapes, they turned out really well – even though I’m still figuring out my ‘style’ I’m definitely more confident about it.
How would you describe your artistic style?
Bold colours, quirky characters and big noses!
What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself motivated?
Oh, that’s a tough one, to be honest there are plenty of days where I just stare at a blank screen and nothing happens for the entire day. I think it’s different depending on my mood but usually frequent, short breaks help a lot and breaking commissions into short, snappy segments to complete helps me keep motivated. It’s nice to feel like you’ve achieved something, even if it’s small pieces. I really envy those that can sit down and blast through it all, or those that have a quick workflow!
Which piece of work has given you the most satisfaction in producing?
I think my trio of illustrations of Baloo, Bagheera and Kaa from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. I used them to make carbon prints, and since I mostly work digitally it was nice to do something physically for a change. They came out really well and although I’ve played with carbon printing before it was fun to hone in on the technique – it was pretty inexpensive as well.
What has been your most memorable client experience, good or bad?
I love working with independent magazines despite their small budgets, one of my first commissions was from a independent magazine from New York on feminist drummers. My art director and founder of the magazine, Mindy was amazing and lovely! I even met her when she visited London for a bit and we got on like a house on fire. Being my first commission it was also the first time I got to see my work in print, I was having a pretty rough year after graduation and getting involved with people like Mindy and seeing my work out there reminded me that this is what I love doing.
What books, blogs and online resources do you use for creative inspiration?
I love reading graphic novels and I’m a sucker for cheesy self-help books. Mainly I just use Twitter for news/interesting articles and Instagram for finding new creative people though.
Who are your heroes and what other artists do you dig?
Ah, so many talented people to name! Janne Livonen and Lisk Feng for amazing editorial illustrations, Meg Hunt and Pam Wishbow for breathtaking colour combinations/compositions and Phillipa Rice for comics. There are so many more but those are the ones off the top of my head.
What project are you working on now?
Currently I’m working on an illustration for a fiction anthology, can’t give too much away, but it’s about King Arthur coming back to life in response to Brexit. Yep!
What’s the last exhibition that you visited?
The last exhibition I think I went to was Pick Me Up in Somerset House, that counts right? I love meeting fellow designers/illustrators, so I’m all for events that give you the opportunity to meet them. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going to fine art exhibitions (there’s nothing quite like seeing Damien Hirst’s work up close for the first time or sitting in Ai WeiWei’s Sunflower seeds) but I find the buzzing community atmosphere much more enticing than the sometimes solemn walls of Tate.
Do you collect work of any other artists?
Totally! Mostly it’s zines/comics, embroidered patches and pin badges as I love narrative driven work as well as bright, bold collectables. They also tend to be cheap, er I mean affordable so these types of items have me throwing my money at them. Occasionally if I have a decent wodge of spending money I love collecting vinyl figures and/or plushies, but these are usually relegated to birthday and Christmas treats.
What is the number one piece of advice you would like to tell new artists?
Be savvy and sensible with money – not just for financial reasons but to try to challenge yourself to find other ways of producing items or using different materials you wouldn’t think of, and be open to opportunities, you never know where they might lead. Oh, wait that technically was two pieces of advice…
What do you dislike about the art world?
I guess this is less about what I dislike about the art world and more about how people perceive it. There seems to be this never ending perception that ‘exposure’ equals ‘fair payment’ when it comes hiring creative people and while I’m thankful that I haven’t met too many of them, I know others that have.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
Find your ‘productive’ place to work in, it’ll differ for each person but the sooner you find it the better. At the moment I’m currently a ‘nomad’ illustrator and shift from place to place, whether it be cafes, on the sofa, the library etc. Whilst there are pros to this, it isn’t ideal and I miss my university space which was perhaps my most productive so far. It had all of the facilities I required and now I find myself saying ‘oh I can’t do that because I need a scanner’ or, ‘I can’t print it now, I’ll have to wait next week’, which just puts barriers in what I want to accomplish. If you have your own space with everything at hand then you’ll make less excuses for work.
You can only visit one City, watch one film, read one book, listen to one album for the rest of your life. What would they be?
It would have definitely been Okunoshima, also known as ‘Bunny Island’ (look it up, seriously, you won’t regret it), however that technically isn’t a city, so I would have to say London as I have many great memories there. For my one film, it has to be Zootropolis as it has everything I want in a film, including a catchy Shakira number. My one book would be ‘One for Sorrow, Two for Joy’ by Clive Woodall. This may be nostalgia talking though as I haven’t picked up the book since I was 13, however I remember reading this and it being brilliant, as well as it containing an unexpected number of adult themes despite being put in the ‘children’s section’ of my local library. It made me confront these views early and pushed me to read stories I might have otherwise thought too ‘adult’. Last but not least, my one album would be the complete collection of Shakira’s greatest hits.
Jenny will be selling her prints at the Eye Candy Illustration & Art Fair and running a workshop at the pop up store:
Eye Candy Illustration & Art Fair, Saturday 1st October, St Martin’s Church in the Bullring, Birmingham
An introduction to carbon paper printing, a simple, low-cost and under-appreciated form of printmaking! Learn the technique and create your own unique print with designs by DefinitelyJenny or bring your own image (max print design size 130 mm x 180 mm on A5 paper, one colour only, for best results print using light blue). Just drop in from 3pm.
Date: Saturday 8th October, 3pm-5pm
Venue: Eye Candy Pop Up Store, Unit 9, Great Western Arcade, Colmore Row, Birmingham