I’m so excited to share this interview with Jenna Paddey for the latest artist spotlight. Jenna is a Guelph, Canada-based artist, graphic designer, and freelance illustrator who recently went full time with her artistic talents.
I first discovered Jenna via Instagram, and I’m so impressed by her work which includes beautiful feminine portraits, paintings of beautiful Parisian museums, and coastal Italian towns with colorful houses dotting the hillside.
In this interview, Jenna gives us an inside look into her world from her inspiration, artistic process, and what it was like making the leap to pursue her passion full time.
You are an artist, graphic designer, and freelance illustrator. When did your interest in the art world first begin?
I’ve had a love for making things for as long as I can remember. I think the concept of creating something from the ground up has always enchanted me; whether it be building castles from the cardboard boxes my dad would bring home after work, or sitting in my room sketching for hours when I should have been sleeping. I’ve always had a big imagination and turning ideas into finished products has been where I’ve often found a lot of fulfillment. I’ve always known I wanted to pursue something creative as a career one day. As a kid, I would bounce between wanting to be an artist when I grew up, to inventor, fashion designer, costume designer, actor, and finally illustrator. As long as I am making something, I am at my happiest.
What was one of the greatest lessons you learned during your time studying Studio Art at the University of Guelph?
Learning how to take criticism! It’s something that was challenging to learn, but I’ll forever be grateful for it. I used to take constructive criticism rather harshly, and I think it was my own sensitivity mixed with pride. In art school though, a large portion of your education is sitting in critique with your classmates while you verbally tear apart one another’s work with the goal of pushing each other to make it better. It was a bit of a rude awakening at first, but one of the greatest teachers and now a huge asset as I frequently work with clients who might want revisions. Criticism doesn’t phase me nearly as much as it once used to. You just learn to roll with it, improve, and your work is much better as a result.
As both a Francophile and an Italophile, I love the French chateau and Italian coastal pieces that you’ve created. What is it like going from painting portraits to landscapes/architecture?
It’s fun! It’s important for me to feel like I can be flexible with my work, and it ensures that art-making continues to be something I enjoy. I try to paint whatever I’m feeling inspired by. I’ve always found human features to be very therapeutic and interesting to draw, and when I’m missing travel or dreaming of going somewhere far away, painting landscapes makes me feel as though I’m there, if even for only a moment.
Where is your favorite place to sketch?
Right now, it’s my new desk. For years I’ve wanted a big desk where I can really sprawl out, with space for all of my supplies and a place that feels as though it’s completely mine. A few weeks ago I worked on building my own desk, which fits perfectly in my sunroom so there is lots of natural light coming in throughout the day with views of my garden out the windows. I’ve been loving spending a lot of my time there, and definitely feel like I can create freely.
Who are some of your fellow artists who inspire you?
Do you prefer drawing digitally (I love the portrait with poppies) versus pencil, gouache, etc?
It really depends on the project. I’m a bit more of a perfectionist when it comes to digital drawing, as it’s a lot easier to zoom in and work on details or quickly “undo” a stroke you made by accident, but that can be both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I over-analyze with digital, but when I love a piece, I really love it. On the other hand, there’s something really lovely about creating with traditional mediums, and a big part of me adores the imperfections that usually result. Overall I think I enjoy the process of hand-painting much more, but if I’m aiming for a more polished piece, digital is often the route I’ll take.
Your work has been inspired by haute couture, including a recent work you shared on Instagram that was inspired by Dior. For the prostrations you create, do you work off of photographs or purely from imagination?
Both! Again it depends on the project. That particular Dior piece in question was referenced from a photograph, but sometimes pieces are entirely from my head or a mix of reference and imagination.
Tell me about the project you’re working on right now.
I’ve got a few on the go. Currently, I’m working on a few wedding invitation suites; which I’m loving. (It’s so fun to create illustrations for a couple’s big day!) I’m also working on some branding illustrations for a client to use on their web platforms, and then putting together ideas for my next print launch!
What has been one of your favorite commissions to work on?
One recent fave that comes to mind was the album cover design for a good friend of mine. The album is called “Atelophobia”, by Riley John music (shoutout to Riley). It was a collage piece but felt so refreshing to create and I had a lot of fun undertaking the privilege of interpreting his songs and making them into an art piece.
Out of all of the artwork you’ve done, do you have a favorite piece?
It changes frequently, one moment I’ll love a piece and then hate it a few weeks later! The saying “you are your own worst critic” rings true. Right now though, I’ve been having a lot of fun sketching some fashion illustrations and trying to relax and create literally whatever the heck I want to create. Social media can add a lot of unnecessary pressure on creatives and make you feel like every piece needs to perform well or reach a certain audience or level of engagement. Those things are great insights and they’re helpful, but can add a level of anxiety. I’m working on making art freely, frequently, and ensuring the numbers aren’t my first priority or concern in the process.
Last year you quit your day job to create art full time. What has been the most exciting part about doing what you love every day?
The freedom of it all is definitely my favorite part. I’ve never been someone who thrives in a strict routine, so having the option of taking my laptop to a cafe downtown to do some work, focus my creative efforts on painting one day, content creation the next, and then do some graphic design work for clients in my garden, later on, has been so rewarding. I also feel like there are just so many possibilities with where my work could take me. People are carving their own paths now more than ever, and they don’t need a traditional work structure in order to accomplish their goals and build their careers. I am so inspired by those who have gone before me; artists and creatives who cultivated their dreams and made them a reality. The future excites me – and terrifies me – but I’ve learned that the very best things in life are often on the other side of fear, and I want to be reminded of that often.
Follow along with Jenna via Instagram at @jennapaddey
All images via Jenna Paddey Art.