Interview with Illustrator Jenna Paddey
Jenna Paddey is an illustrator from Guelph, ON whose work I have recently become obsessed with! From commissioned illustrations of beautiful wedding gowns, to portraits, and abstract work, Jenna does it all! Her whimsical and muted tones feed is sure to bring inspiration to your everyday life. Without further ado, let’s learn a bit more about Jenna’s journey to 12.7K followers on Instagram and beautiful digital paintings!
Em: Tell us a bit about you and your work – when did you first start drawing?
Jenna: I know it sounds cheesy, but I’ve honestly been drawing all my life. From a very young age I could occupy myself for hours as long as I had some paper and pencils. Right now I live in Guelph, Ontario, and work as an illustrator and graphic designer. My work really focuses on whatever I currently have on my mind. Often painted postcards of places to go, portraits of faces I find interesting, or elements of nature I want to re-create in my own way.
Em: Most of your work is digital now, right? What tools do you use and do you find yourself still going back to the ol paintbrush and paper some days?
Jenna: I bounce back and forth between digital and traditional media a lot! Digital is amazing for commissioned pieces and work I’m aiming to post online, because it so easily translates to web platforms, but there’s something so nice about being able to spend time with paints and brushes. Digital drawings can feel a bit more exhausting at times as there’s a lot more attention to detail involved, but painting feels almost meditative.
Em: What do you feel is one of the most difficult aspects of being an artist for a living?
Jenna: The consistency, for sure. It can be difficult to know when you can expect your next paycheck, so sometimes it feels like walking on eggshells in order to be able to afford groceries. The ‘starving artist’ cliche exists for a reason. Other times, things are really good, but I’m learning a lot about planning in order to have a bit more stability under my feet.
Em: What has been one of your favourite commissioned pieces? How did you and that client connect initially?
Jenna: I’ve made a lot of commissioned collages, and I adore working on those. Most of them are for friends, but I also have one particular piece that comes to mind- a Beauty and the Beast inspired one that was so much fun to work on. I always find backgrounds challenging but they result in something very rewarding. The client found me from my instagram and emailed me from there!
Em: Where do you find inspiration?
Jenna: I find it in so so many things. Sometimes I’ll see a cool photo online, sometimes inspiration is the result of a long walk alone. Sometimes it’s a conversation, trip, book, song, nature… it comes in the midst of everything and often at the most unusual times.
Em: In our initial chat you had mentioned that you started social media very early before the algorithm – how do you find social media growth has changed within the last 3 or so years?
Jenna: It’s a lot more difficult to find organic reach now. The instagram algorithm has made it so that only about 10% of your followers see your post unless there’s a ton of engagement on it. Things used to be so much simpler in terms of strategizing when to post content, and what would succeed, but now everything feels like a game that’s only meant to be won by hugely popular influencers. There’s so much more planning involved now with instagram and social media. It can be an amazing tool, but social media growth no longer favours the little guy. I think it’s just important to remember to create content you’re proud of. If people see it, amazing. But create because it fuels something in you, not because you’re expecting numbers out of it.
Em: What advice would you give other artists wanting to make a career for themselves doing what they love?
Jenna: Don’t shy away from something just because it isn’t the safe option. If you’re truly passionate about what you do, you can find a way to make it work. There will undoubtedly be ups and downs, and people telling you that you’re reaching for the stars, but remember why you started, and pursue your passions head on if they bring you joy. Your work needs to make you happy before you can expect it to bring any sort of joy to others, so make that your first priority! And I’m going to sound like a complete cheese-wad, but have fun with it. Art is exciting and beautiful and the most brilliant thing about it is that there can never be any excess of creativity in the world. It is diverse and varied and life-giving. Let it fuel you.