Jenna Arts

Hello, Jenna!
Could you tell us about your path to illustration?

It is probably a cliché, but I was always drawing when I was young and decided after high school to follow my passion and to study illustration at AKV St. Joost in Breda, The Netherlands. I graduated in 2013. After a while struggling what to do next, I had the chance to do an internship at Dutch newspaper NRC. There I worked for over three months at the editorial office in Amsterdam gaining experience in editorial illustrating. After this internship, my career slowly started. And now I’m working for over three years as an editorial illustrator for different newspapers and magazines. 

Your illustrative style has its unique characteristics. How do you define your sense of illustrating?
I draw characters that are out of proportion, kind of ordinary and a little bit weird, but beautiful. Like we are all. I kind of want to say ‘It’s okay, don’t worry, we’re in this together.’ We all go to work; we eat, we wait, we do the dishes, we cry and go to bed at the end of the day. I like to observe human life from a bigger perspective, like observing a school of fish.

We mostly see pastel colors in your illustrations. If you would like to be a color, which would you like to be?
Definitely mint green.

What’s the most important thing about illustration for you?
It makes me happy and calm. Also, it makes me look better. Due to a drawing, I learned to take a step back and look at the whole image. It made me an observer. 

Are your illustrations pre-sketched or spontaneous?
I always sketch, mostly parts of the illustration. Then I compose the whole illustration in Photoshop. There is room for spontaneity in that process, but I always have a concept of the whole illustration in my head.

What exactly is your creative process when you are illustrating?
When I’m working on a commissioned illustration, I read about the subject and do a little bit of research. Then ideas start popping up. 
Mostly I start with the first idea I get, depending on how much time I have. I start sketching, I scan my sketches, make them a little bit presentable to send them over to a client and after I get my approval I finish them in Photoshop.

What are the challenges you faces in your career?
I have my concerns about the future. I sometimes wonder if I can do the job that I love and also be able to pay my bills, but most days I lock these thoughts up in a box in my head. 

Can the creativity be learned later, or is it a feeling that is always within the human being?
I think creativity is like a muscle you need to train. Everyone has it. Of course, there are people who are born with more talent than others.

Are there any dream projects that you want to work on in the future?
I hope to do a cover for The New Yorker sometime.

How does living in Breda, the Netherlands impact your creativity?
I currently live in Antwerp (Belgium) for a while. Antwerp is compared to Breda a lot bigger, which I like. Besides, I like the fact that it’s a very multicultural city and you can find beautiful classical buildings next to really ugly ones. Compared to The Netherlands, Belgium is more chaotic, and I do well in chaos. Also, Belgian people are kind of my people. They’re mostly down to earth and not that loud.  

What does a typical day look like for you?
I get up, drink my coffee, eat my breakfast and take a shower. Then I begin my work (reading articles I’m working on, drawing, answering emails, doing administration). I try to work between 9 and 5, so I don’t work till too late in the evening. I value my routine. 

What are you currently reading? And what three books would you recommend to others?
I’m reading a book by Dutch author/columnist Rutger Lemm after I read a really good and funny piece by him in the newspaper. It’s a book full of stories close to his life. Often they are very recognizable, which is sort of satisfying.

I recommend The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano, the books by Haruki Murakami and I also liked to read dystopian novels like 1984 by George Orwell or A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. 

Do you any have websites that you visit daily for inspiration?
Except for scrolling through Instagram and Behance once in a while, nothing in particular. 

What’s inspiring to you these days?
People, patterns, plants, light, shadows, but mostly people.

Thank you!