One of the Babes: Jenny Gacy
The creative job industry is intimidating and vast—especially when you're an entrepreneur.
But that didn't stop illustrator and designer Jenny Gacy.
From T-shirts to prints, Jenny has found a way to monetize her distinct creative style, while speaking to a unique audience. You can catch her at our September meet!
Read up on our interview with Jenny below:
Q: What inspired you to start your business? Did you have any role models or learn from someone, in particular?
A: I’ve always loved drawing and computer-based art but struggled with finding my place as a professional. I have a particular style and tone to my work that makes me sort of a niche illustrator rather than a gallery artist; I wanted to study video game art but was repeatedly discouraged by professors and administrators, because “the field is very competitive."
I taught art classes but found it wasn’t my strong suit. But I love trying and learning new things. Through a long and constant study of a variety of new and different mediums (from mural painting and sculpting, to vector graphics, to 3d modeling and virtual reality tech), I’ve slowly amassed a variety of skills that I realized made me an asset to businesses and other professionals. It’s been strange (and sometimes terrifying) as a natural “over-preparer” to find myself in a nebulously defined career with no set plan or path to follow. The only professional freelance artists I know are some I’ve seen online, and it’s hard to gauge how they started. I just try to put myself out there, take every project I can and learn how to do new things as I go if needed. I’ve kind of had to teach myself how to be my own boss and my own business person. But I think I’m finally finding my own way, and how my strange brain can be useful to others.
Q: Do you have any tidbits of advice for people with passions, in general?
A: Everything is competitive! Don’t listen or become scared to follow your passions because something is “competitive.” Instead learn how you can compete. Find your strengths and unique qualities and learn how you can apply them to your work, then throw your whole self into it. Seek out new opportunities online and in any room you walk into! And if your work isn’t what one person/client/company wants or likes? Don’t stress, others will. As the quote says, you can be the ripest and sweetest peach in the world, but some people are still going to hate peaches.
Q: What have been your favorite moments of creativity (possibly a time when a burst of creative energy produced something you could have never expected, etc.)?
A: My favorite thing is when something I draw for my own satisfaction reaches out and makes other people happy. I drew some illustrations of the first Harry Potter book in a moleskine as a personal project—mostly because I love Harry Potter but also so maybe someday so if I have kids they can see the book as I do. Recently, over a year later, I scanned them to put in a portfolio and posted them up on the Internet for fun, like, “hey, look at this thing I spent several afternoons on for no real reason.” It got over 12,000 notes [on Tumblr], which has never happened (not even close) with my artwork (thanks, Harry Potter fandom!). Someone sent me a message saying they loved them so much they cried when they saw them, and I cried!
More than 12,000 smiles from my silly little drawings, all over the world!! That is the most beautiful thing. I’m working on more of them again now, after all this time, as a thank-you to all the sweet words of encouragement I was sent. It really made me feel like I was doing the right thing with my life.
Q: What have been your most challenging moments in your career, thus far?
A: Starting out as a freelancer and trying to find clients was really difficult and discouraging. For several months I was driving around passing out business cards to places I liked, emailing any Craigslist ad that looked doable. Right before I got my first few solid clients I had applied to all kinds of irrelevant day jobs, and no one even called me for an interview. Even the public library ghosted me and I felt totally worthless. Thankfully I was able to scrounge by and wait it out, and client work started coming in. Once it starts, it snowballs, if you keep at it.
Q: What's your day job (if this business isn't your day job)?
A: Right now, I’m all client work, but soon I’m starting up as a designer at New Standard Mfg, a screen-printing and design company here in town.
Q: When you're discouraged, what do you run to or away from?
A: I run to:
Desserts and sugary coffee.
Video game worlds (interactive stories for my brain, gorgeous artwork for my soul, triggers and buttons for my hands).
Online inspiration hunting and hoarding (Tumblr, Pinterest).
Your favorite band at the moment: Currently listening to new Lana Del Rey and old Violent Femmes
Your favorite book at the moment: "Yes Please" by Amy Poehler!