Today’s chat is with artist, illustrator and designer, Jen Renninger of Please Be Still. I’ve been a fan of Jen’s work since I first stepped foot in Etsy’s doorway, but when I finally got around to chatting with her through the site, I found her to be one of the most pleasant and inspiring individuals I’ve come across. So read what she’s got to say, take in some of her work and then give Jen a shout to see how awesome she is for yourself.
Give us a little background. Where are you from, born and raised?
I was born in Pennsylvania but by the age of 3 I was living with my Grandparents on the west coast of Florida. It was a pretty casual upbringing. Having moved to a vacation town every day felt a little like a get-a-way and I think that helped to make me who I am.
How did your creativity start? How old were you when you started doing art, how did it begin and flourish?
When I was pretty young I remember watching my uncle draw. Everything he drew was perfect and I was always entranced. I spent years trying to copy his skill. My family really encouraged my love of drawing and, to be perfectly honest, anything I seemed to get interested in. In addition to making things I loved books and always wanted to have images inside their pages.
Who or what inspires you most to create? Do you have any rituals?
Words inspire me. Whether it’s illustrating a story for a magazine or creating something to match a phrase that resonates with me, it’s always words.
What were you doing before you started selling your art? How did you transition from that to selling on Etsy?
There was never a transition in terms of moving from one to another for me. It’s been an event of addition really. For the past 12 or 13 years I’ve been illustrating for magazines and book publishers. I’ve loved every moment of that aspect of my career: the collaboration with the art director, the quality of the articles and books I illustrate for, and the pleasure of getting to see my work in print. The downside is that it all felt sort of anonymous. While I might have an image in the NY Times that gets seen by a handful of millions I never get any feedback other than that of the art director. With Etsy I have contact with so many wonderful people and love the thought that they enjoy the things I make. It’s the best of both worlds.
On your Etsy shop your work has an interesting aesthetic,mixing type and image in unique ways. Can you share a little bit about your process, do you go into a piece with a plan or piece things together as you go?
I actually tend to work in very different ways for each series. My ‘Words to Live by‘ series is dependent upon the phrase itself. I might collage or paint or use digital but it all depends on the tone of the phrase. My painting tends to be brighter and my collages tend to learn toward the more serious side. And the digital work can go either way…
I don’t often plan an image out from the get-go. Usually I have a trigger point (a phrase, and sense of some feeling or object) and then I just start working and the image evolves. I might stop to research something along the way, but generally I just try to follow my instincts.
Aside from Etsy, where else to you sell your work? Any venues you want to try but haven’t, or ones that didn’t work for you?
I’ve been in the process of setting up a shop outside Etsy BUT with the recent changes to Etsy I’m not sure I’m going to finish it. I really love the new circles feature. It’s such a great way to see what people gravitate towards and also a wonderful way to get to know new people. I also think my sales have increased since using circles and in general I just feel that my shop is more visible. I notice that whenever I post new things I get immediate feedback and I absolutely love that.
What would you say was the tipping point for your success? Can you point to an certain series of events or was it more gradual?
I like to think that my career is successful in terms of the connections I make with people on an intimate level. I consider many of the art directors I’ve worked with over the years friends, and the people I’ve some into contact with through Etsy are really wonderful.
The only thing I can think of that helps that happen is that I like to make things as personal as possible, whether it’s a note sent with a print, or a hand made card for an art director, I try to put thought and respect into the things I send out in the world. Somehow I think people get that. I truly appreciate the fact that anyone likes these things I make.
If you had to give up your art today, what would you do instead?
I’d love to work with the elderly. For years I’ve been doing meals on wheels and think It’s helped to form a foundation for something in that field.
Finally, what does the future hold for you and your art? What projects are on the horizon?
At this point I’m not sure. I feel like there are a myriad of possibilities and I just need to decide which way I’d like to go. I guess I’ll have to keep you posted.
We’ll keep eyes peeled for updates, Jen, thanks for your time. For the readers, if you want to see more of Jen’s work, check out her portfolio site and blog, but really, just go buy some of her art. You’ll be glad you did.