Interview of Arielle Jennings by Freya Bennett
Hey Arielle, how are you?
I’m good! I could use a nap and a cup of tea, though.
Where do you call home?
I’m a born and bred New Yorker. I’ve lived in Brooklyn all my life, but I consider Providence, Rhode Island to be my second home.
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
My name is Arielle Jennings (@arimjenn on Instagram and Twitter) and I’m a Brooklyn-based art educator and freelance Illustrator. I graduated in 2014 in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design. I’m really into baking, watching Hulu shows, and have recently started to grow a collection of diverse children’s books.
Tell us a little bit about your art:
My artwork tends to fall under the categories of “fun”, “cute”, and “whimsical”. I’m unknowingly drawn to illustrating things that relate to sweets, animals, botanicals, and women. Portraits and vignettes are the normal layout of my artwork, although I am trying to get into the habit of drawing more backgrounds. Sass, humor, and feminism have also translated into artwork I sell.
Have you always wanted to be an artist?
Interestingly enough, when I was younger, I wanted to be an archaeologist. Then I began watching anime and that idea flew out the window. I’ve always been interested in design, however, and can remember building paper houses at my mom’s job when I was younger. I didn’t really become invested in art until 7th grade and then seriously considered it as a career choice, going both to high school (Cartooning Major) and college (Illustration Major) for it.
What do you love about art?
As a person that has been involved in art for the majority of her life, I have always appreciated art for allowing me to be myself. I love the fact that it allows me to create my own identity and speak up for causes I support.
What mediums do you use?
I vary between traditional and digital mediums depending on the project and the style that I am going for. Usually, I’ll start my sketches in pen or pencil on paper and then transfer them into Adobe Illustrator if I am making a vector drawing or a surface design pattern. If I’m creating a traditional-style illustration, I will transfer the image to clayboard and then use acrylic paint. I’ll finish off the details in Micron or Prismacolor markers. I’ve also recently started trying to master watercolor and gouache in portrait paintings.
What is your favourite subject in art?
Art-wise, I would say that my bread and butter would have to be textile design and children’s book illustrations. My style of artwork is very whimsical and colorful, so it lends itself nicely to those two particular categories of art. Plus I can’t seem to shake drawing cute animals and flowers.
My next love would have to be printmaking. In college, I took both letterpress printing and screen-printing classes and instantly fell in love with the process for both. I enjoy the tactile quality of the work that is produced through these means and the process of prepping your artwork and then seeing the end result. I also enjoy the fact that I can generate income making t-shirts and tote bags from my art.
You’re also an art educator! Tell us a bit about that:
Being an art educator is a very interesting and rewarding experience. Surprisingly, I never imagined being an art teacher after graduating straight out of college! The opportunity fell into my lap and I just ran with it. As an artist that benefited from youth-based art programming, however, I feel as though I’m coming full circle. I really enjoy connecting and teaching young students design principles and elements. Seeing their faces light up when they accomplish something they thought was difficult or when they create their own designs is the best.
What do you love about your job?
Well, currently I’m freelancing and working on my portfolio. It’s important to me to have an up-to- date portfolio when I do make the transition to working full-time in design. However, I am still involved in art education and wouldn’t mind going back to teaching. For the moment, I am an Artivism Volunteer at Project Attica. Project Attica is a non-profit organization that uses art to educate youth and adults about mass-incarceration and social justice issues. I also recently started a position as a Design Fellow at The Tempest Media. The Tempest is a technology and media company aimed at building, amplifying, and connecting innovative products and experiences for diverse millennial women. Plus this badass company is run entirely by women!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years, I would like to be considered a notable black female illustrator and have several children’s books with diverse characters and cultures out. Representation in art is very important to me and I want to make sure that aspiring female artists, especially women of color understand that they can do anything they set their mind to. I would also love to become a Program Manager or Director at a visual arts-focused non-profit.
Why do you think art is important?
I think art is important because it allows people to express their authentic selves and gives a voice to the voiceless. As my creative work revolves more around diversity, inclusion, feminism, and social justice issues, I appreciate the opportunity that art has given me to be a part of the conversation. As an introvert, I wouldn’t know the first thing about speaking about these issues in a public crowd. Art allows me to be as blunt and as loud about issues I care about.