Monday, March 30, 2015

Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Work - Artist Jennifer Orkin Lewis, aka August Wren

A few weeks ago I published an interview with a new art licensing agency called Jennifer Nelson Artists. I really liked their fresh and unique work so I decided to publish all the artists there, starting with the amazing Jennifer Orkin Lewis, aka August Wren. We share a passion for art and design but also for interviewing artists to help them connect to their communities. Jennifer's interviews can be found here on Riverarts.

Jennifer is an illustrator and painter and a RISD graduate in textile design. She lives in a pretty little village just a bit north of NYC on the Hudson River. For many years she was a stylist in fabric manufacturing companies and designed lines for lingerie, children's clothes, and sleepwear, she said. Jennifer bought lots of art from shows like Surtex and Printsource. She got to know all of the design studios, although she didn't paint at all herself in those years.

© Jennifer Orkin Lewis
"When my son was small I started painting for a design studio that sold to card companies. That was the beginning of starting my own business. I slowly phased out of my job and focused more on my own art. When my son was in high school I realized I would have an empty nest soon and that's when I made a strong decision to become an illustrator. I opened an Etsy store, took many classes, and painted and drew all the time. I started getting licensing and freelance work but it was a long path. The culmination so far is a book I illustrated last summer for Abrams books coming out April 7th. It's called Sitting in Bars with Cake."

YOUR FAVORITE DESIGN/ART STYLE: I have so many different styles that could be my favorite, I love Matisse and also American Folk art. I love roaming the Met to see ancient vases and tapestries. I can't leave out mid-century modern and vintage/flea market stuff. There is something inspiring to find in everything it's hard for me to choose just one. But I try to find that spark that speaks to me and create my own language.

© Jennifer Orkin Lewis
THE MAIN INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR WORK: I find my inspiration everywhere, I particularly love painting flowers and people. But it's the little everyday thoughts and things that cross my path that make up most of my work. I will paint a bouquet of flowers or find some leaves from a walk on a trail, I visit a busy place and look at all the crowds, I see a beautiful teacup or a fancy sweater. I imagine an intricate piece of lace or a butterfly garden. All of these things inspire me to paint.

THREE (or less) KEY NOTES ON ART & LICENSING: This is my first year showing at Surtex. So far my advice is to start preparing early – create new art, your banners, a portfolio book. It's so much work and you don't want to be scrambling at the end. And don't be afraid to show your work.

WHAT YOU REALLY LOVE, I.E. YOUR PASSION: I really love ice cream. Black raspberry chip. That makes me very happy. The beach, traveling with my husband and son and sitting on my porch in the warm weather with the sun on my face for a mid afternoon break.

© Jennifer Orkin Lewis
WHAT YOU DON'T REALLY LIKE: I hate migraines and cold weather. A lot.

A FAVORITE SOMETHING: Speaking on the phone with my son who is in Florence for a semester.

A MEMORABLE EVENT IN YOUR LIFE: Having lunch on a rock in Northern Thailand with elephants bathing in the water beside us. And having my sketchbook featured in Uppercase magazine.

A FUN MEMORY: I had the most delicious peach I have ever eaten from a farm stand in Sicily on my honeymoon. It's been many years and I can still taste it; I've never had another peach that great. Another is on a trip to Paris. I stopped into the Notre Dame cathedral for a minute (for some reason there weren't many tourists) and a choir was singing Gregorian chants, filling the whole space with incredible sound. It was unforgettable.

© Jennifer Orkin Lewis
YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD AS AN ARTIST: For the past 6 years I've been on the board of our local arts council Riverarts. I've created a blog where I interview artists to introduce them to our community. It's something that has been on the back burner for a little while but I mean to pick up again.

I've also started a sketchbook project where I paint for 30 minutes daily and post them on Instagram. I think and hope I have inspired many others to start their own daily practice. It's the most rewarding thing I've ever done.

THE NEXT CHAPTER IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE: For the last two months I've been lucky enough to have a wonderful agent, Jennifer Nelson. She is smart, encouraging and lovely. I hope to up my whole game in the licensing world. I will be showing for the first time this year at Surtex (Booth 355) with a new collective I've joined called Cloverly with 3 other amazing artists.

A HELPFUL TIP TO OTHER ARTISTS: Be yourself. Look at other's work for inspiration but then close it down when you are doing your own. Don't worry about the final outcome during your creative playtime. That's where you discover the most about yourself.

© Jennifer Orkin Lewis

© Jennifer Orkin Lewis

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