Jenny Vyas: Artist Showcase Q&A

You may recognize Jenny Vyas‘s incredible murals and art pieces throughout the Chicago landscape. The Underground sits down to pick her mind about her work, inspiration and the ever changing art industry.

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Photo Credit: David Sabat

First and foremost, please introduce yourself. Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?

I am a fine artist from the Chicagoland area. Like all great stories start, my journey as an artist began about 5 years ago when I went through one of the most significant (and painful) transitions. While healing during that period in darkness, all I could think about was to paint. My professional background up until then was in eCommerce. Never having painted professionally before, you can imagine how daunting this “calling” was. However, the more I ignored it, the louder it grew within. So, for the next year, I jumped in head first to teach myself how to paint and I’m ever so grateful for the catharsis it has brought me, albeit its unknown and often times, terrifying territory. It’s been such a gift to summon up the courage to follow my passion.

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Photo Credit: Laëtitia Donaghy

Do you find that Chicago’s art scene inspires or influences your art?

In my experience, Chicago has one of the most supportive and caring artist communities out there. Art is such a genuine cultural element here and there is true respect for artists and their craft. Artists are interconnected and willing to collaborate and help each other out which is so refreshing in a profession riddled with competition. This has inspired and fueled me to carve out avenues for creative expression and build a business around it. In addition, opportunities to present and showcase work in the city are countless. Commercially, I think it’s a very interesting period for artists. Artists and their artworks are more sought out and accessible than ever as fans engage in conversation and get inspired by connecting with them through social media. As the economy struggles in this city, art seems to be the one constant that has found fertile ground in the Chi.

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Can you tell us about the process of making your work including those you will be showcasing at the Art Show?

When painting, I get fixated on a singularly transcendent emotion that explores the darker places within we tend to hide from. My creative process attempts to capture the polarity of this emotional process in semi-abstract human silhouettes and fluctuating forms in half-light. I am a storyteller by heart and painting something for the sake of…well, just painting wasn’t enough. I needed my work to tell those stories. Often times, I’ll get so fixated on capturing an emotion that it consumes me. I think, dream, talk about it all day, all week (mostly in my head) until I’ve captured some essence of it on the canvas.

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Many of your pieces showcase forms of human silhouettes. Can you tell us the story behind them?

My Dad is a philosopher and I’ve always been able to engage in deep discussions about my existential crisis with him. Why my art often has a philosophical and existential undertone. I am fascinated by the beauty in human frailty. And capturing that in the forms of human silhouettes seemed fitting. Through my paintings, I am finally able to unpack these complex layers of human condition I struggled to externalize otherwise in the past. The surprising (and the best) gift from this process though has been the way people connect with it. My art stopped telling my story a long time ago and instead became the conduit to evoke catharsis in its viewers. What more could an artist ask for?

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It’s quite challenging working as an artist in the digital world with so much creators out there. How do you keep true to yourself?

It’s evident that the art market is saturated with talent and social media and online presence influence the worth of an artist’s work. When I started selling work, the biggest problem I experienced (and still do) was balancing a need for the market with a detachment from the commercial aspect of the craft. In order to remain to true to myself and create work from the heart, I recognized a need for commercial obedience in how I marketed myself. While I would rather pay my bills from selling my art, in order to accomplish the above, I chose to continue freelancing as a digital marketer with a select few clients I retained from my life prior to becoming an artist. This allowed me to accept art commissions that I genuinely felt connected to without compromising my personal values and the intellectual pursuit I seek from the work. I’m not saying I’m always successful at this, but it’s a process and I’m learning to create stronger creative boundaries every day as I become more established as an artist.

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Photo Credit: DTKindler Photgrapher

What advice would you give to a young artist following in your steps?

To romanticize this profession is perilous. Too often do you leave your heart out bleeding on the canvas and you’re left feeling exposed and incredibly vulnerable. However, the catharsis and self-love that erupt from this process are well worth it. Like any great profession, this journey demands dedication and hard, hard, HARD work. If you’re considering becoming an artist (or have just started this journey), I have two pieces of advice for you. (1) DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF to established artists. You have no idea how many trials and errors landed them where they are today. They too began their journey just like you did one day. Allow yourself space and time to mature creatively. (2) Don’t be misguided into thinking that you have to go in full-time. I began painting to heal myself through my #100VulnerableDays project where I painted 100 small paintings (an hour a day), while I freelanced with over 10 clients for digital marketing. This allowed me to earn a sustainable income and still follow my passion on the side. My “studio” was a corner in my living room and eventually progressed to taking over the basement of my parents’ house. So, don’t think that you have to start with a studio or a huge financial commitment/freedom. Just start an hour a day. Rest will follow.

Join us for an Artist Showcase Friday, June 7th with the super talented Jenny Vyas and many other local Chicago artists, all paired with a Hendrick’s Gin tasting in honor of World Gin Day! Party starts at 10pm!