Jenn Steffey: The Q&A

By Peggy Roalf   Monday November 18, 2013

Jenn Steffey is one of the artists invited for the AI32 Illustration LIVE Cover Project. Along with 35 others, she participated in the weekend studio marathon and produced 12 original covers. If you’re one of the lucky ones who ordered an advance copy, keep your eyes peeled.

As an artist, what are some of your favorite things about living and working in New York

One of the best things about living in NYC is the sense of community. I get so much inspiration from other artists. Last year Brooklyn Museum kicked off an open studio weekend called GO for all the artists living in Brooklyn. SO many artists participated. The very crucibles of creativity—open to me! I met people in their studios and talked to them about their work, face to face. I’m usually alone in my studio making artwork, so this meant a lot to me. Too bad I moved to Manhattan or I would have participated!

Also NYC offers many forums for every kind of artistic medium. The fact that there is an entire Society of Illustrators here is hug. Not many other cities can offer that.

Oh yeah, and there are some nice art museums and galleries here too. 

Three from the AI32 Illustration LIVE Cover Project.

How and when did you first become interested in art and illustration?

I think like all people do, when I was a kid. Everyone tends to forget that they were artists when they were children, experimenting and playing with art. Then they say, “Oh I can’t draw a stick figure” even though they were making all this art as a kid. Art is just one of those skills we pick up early on, I just never stopped. I think everyone is born artsy, it’s just whether or not you have the desire to pursue it.

As a kid, naturally. Influences were (and still are) my older brother, my dad, Looney Tunes, and early Wonder Woman comic books.

My older brother never stopped drawing Star Wars starships, and since whatever he did was insanely supercool, I copied him. Though my drawings were not as fierce, there were lots of cute animals in them. 

Tells us about your art/design background. Where did you study? What was your experience there like?

I had the extreme good fortune of going to Rhode Island School of Design. I know it sounds cliché to say it was a life changer, but it was. It gave me confidence in myself as an artist and I met some people who are life long friends and troublemakers.

What was your first assignment?

My first assignment was to do some sloppy lettering for Bark! Magazine, which was great as I am a pro at sloppy lettering.

What is your favorite part of the creative process? 

I think the whole “what-if” part of coming up with an idea. Where you can stretch your imagination and take two wack-a-doodle things and put them together, purely for your own amusement. Like Neil Diamond sucking snake venom, purebred dogs as winter hats, and on and on…

Lou Reed

What is a recent art exhibition you saw; what did you take away from it?

The Museum of Comics/Cartooning had a big show that had a ton of local, independent comic book artist selling at tables. There were so many fantastic artists there, it made my head hurt, but in they also had a showing of original comic book art drawn by masters. Bill Griffith of Zippy the Pinhead fame had some artwork up which was wonderful. It really makes a difference to see original art, lines drawn, how things were inked, decisions that were made. It puts a human element back into art that is revered.

Who and what are some of your biggest influences?

My list is long and has all the “greatest hits” of the art world, but one name I would be remiss to omit is Shawn Kerri. I loved punk and indy comics (still do!) and copied this one strip of a punk kid slam dancing because it was super cool and captured the essence of punk. Years later I learned that it was A GIRL that drew it and it filled me with immense pride. So as a shout out to the ladies, more influences include Anita Kunz, Lynda Barry, Nina Paley, Jillian Tamaki, Eleanor Davis, Esther Pearl Watson and Martha Rich, to name a few.

What are some of your favorite blogs/websites for inspiration?

Yuko Shimuzi has a pretty involved site with insight into her work and the process behind it. Jennifer Daniel has some way-out design ideas and her site is always changing. The Sketchbook Project is a great site too.

Have you ever had a creative block with a deadline looming? What do you do to get crackin’?

I tell myself to just work for an hour. Usually one thing comes out of it and if I am lucky, I will spend more than an hour. This isn’t always the case, but if I put a time limit on it, I can trick myself into starting something.

What advice would you give a young artist on selecting an art school or college art program to attend?

I got a LOT out of going to art school, but the student loan debt was tremendous. It’s certainly a balance you have to strike between how much you can afford and how much you want to go. I’d say be sure to find the one with your interests in mind and that can help you once you graduate. You are paying them to be there for you, so make them work for you the best way possible. 

From Homecoming by Murphy

Jenn Steffey works out of her studio situated in New York, New York (a place so nice they named it twice), She graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in the ‘90s. Some of her clients include WFLU Radio, The Bark Magazine, Roctober Magazine, the American Museum of Natural History, Lonely Planet books and The Criteroon Collection. Besides working, Jenn enjoys a friendly game of iar hockey, petting little dogs and searching for the perfect Dark and Stormy cocktail.


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