The Q&A: Jenn Liv

By Peggy Roalf   Tuesday July 18, 2017

Q: Originally from America, what are some of your favorite things about living and working in Toronto

A: I was born in the States but my parents moved to Canada when I was 3 months old. I've lived in areas surrounding Toronto all my life and currently I'm located in North York—one of Toronto’s districts which is a little more suburban. I like how my particular area is quite peaceful, but still gives me close enough access to the city. Also great bagels.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between art you create on paper [or other analog medium] versus in the computer?

A: I'm not really a sketchbook person to be honest. I've always been too precious with my drawing to really enjoy doodling as a pastime. Currently I work 100% digitally, which gives me complete control and ease to work as freely and comfortably as I please. With analog mediums I've never been fully able to kick the anxiety I feel over 'messing up' a certain area of the drawing, although I did come from a very traditional background all throughout high school and university. Perhaps one day I'll return to analog again when I finally learn how to not give a damn about perfection. 


Q: What is the most important item in your studio?

A: My computer for sure. Also my friendly ginseng bonsai and a small flowering cactus beside me while I work—it helps to relax my mind. I also have a bunch of stress toys nearby as well (no fidget spinners though, I would never get anything done). 

Q: How do you know when the art is finished?

A: Knowing when your art is finished comes from how confident you are in your own ability. The less confidence you have, the longer it will usually take for you to 'resolve' everything in your drawing.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child?

A: I was a huge Dr.Seuss fan! 


Q: What is the best book you’ve recently read?

A: I rarely read nowadays since I prefer absorbing content through videos. Which is kind of a shame since I was a huge bookworm when I was a kid and loved to 'escape' often. The last book I read was Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. It was really entertaining. I'm excited to hear it's getting a film adaptation soon.

Q: If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you choose?

A: If I could afford it I'd love to print all my assignments in risograph! But I feel like Photoshop has already become the medium I've chosen to work exclusively in for years now, where I've eliminated all others. Photoshop helps me work fast and efficiently while producing the best results, and in the editorial world it's all about speed. 

Q: What elements of daily life exert the most influence on your work practice?

A: My own emotional state for sure, which is triggered by a billion insignificant things. But I have to keep my feelings in check whenever I do client work. With my own personal work, though, I don't leave anything out when it comes to being myself. Also my cultural identity as a second generation Chinese kid growing up in North America. I try to infuse a bit of my personality in everything I do nowadays. I want my viewers to be able to feel something when they look at my work. 

Q: What was the [Thunderbolt] painting or drawing or film or otherwise that most affected your approach to art? 

A: There have been so many over the years so I can't really pin it down to one exact source. Currently I'm am very much inspired by Asian pop culture because I adore the style of art direction and find it really resonates with me. Current obsessions are Perfume, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, and pretty much almost any K-pop video I encounter. Just recently I was introduced to Wednesday Campanella as well.

Q: Who was the [Thunderbolt] teacher or mentor or visiting artist who most influenced you early in your training or career?

A: Stephen Appleby-Barr from Team Macho was personally one of my favorite profs during school. His teaching style was a little ... unconventional, but he gave me a lot of valuable painting advice back when I used to paint a lot in acrylics. I still think back to a lot of things he taught me whenever I approach color and lighting in my pieces. 

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: Kraft Dinner. If it was healthier I'd make it my main staple. Also I wasn't aware of this until recently but apparently loving Kraft Dinner is a super Canadian thing to do. I feel oddly proud of that fact for some reason. 

Jenn Liv (Jennifer Liu) is an award-winning Chinese Canadian-American freelance illustrator based in Toronto. She has worked for clients such as The New York Times, NPR, TED, Plansponsor, and The Walrus. Her work has also been recognized by the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, and 3x3 Magazine. Occasionally she likes to print things in Risograph and make comics. She is a nerdy woman. 
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Upcoming public events: Small Press Expo 2017, Fan Expo Canada 2017