A while ago a met Jenny Leonard at a networking event organised by Not 9 to 5. I was so impressed and amazed by the job she did, that when I was thinking who could be a good interview partner to talk about drawing here, she was the first person who came to my mind.
A few times already I mentioned on this blog that drawing is my favourite way to relax and unwind. There are also plenty of studies confirming this. And now I would like to offer you the professional opinion of someone from the industry, her view on the topic and her pieces of advice. At the bottom of this blog, you can download the Mindful Drawing Sheet and the Thinky Time Sheet and explore Jenny’s world more.
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I have always loved painting and drawing ever since I was a kid; I was always making something out of cardboard! As I grew up, I started exhibited paintings and created murals for people. I’ve lived all over the place and have painted murals in restaurants, hostels, bedrooms and even a ski resort in New Zealand!
My tagline from my website is:
I am a community-driven commission artist, always pursuing collaborative art projects that bring people together. I currently deliver creative art workshops for schools and businesses in London and across the UK. I also work with companies to produce live art and annotation sketching at meetings, events and festivals.
2. How long have you been freelancing now? How did you make the leap from your commercial job?
I only took the leap to be full-time freelance about a year and a half ago. Before that, I was working for a youth and community charity called The Challenge. I went down to 3 days a week there while I promoted my business and got projects and clients off the ground so that I could take the leap and become full-time freelance!
3. Was this transition stressful for you and if so what was especially stressful about it? How did you manage it?
Well, for me I feel like I eased myself into it, by going part-time at work I knew this would cover my rent to London, so I thought well at least I have that covered! I managed it by slowly increasing my promotions, sales and ideas to drum up new business and making sure that when I left to become full-time freelance, i had a good pipeline of work due to come in.
4. Is drawing relaxing for you or does it feel like work?
It’s both! Sometimes I love to draw for myself, create silly cartoons or detailed line drawings and other times it’s for clients and feels more like work because I’m working to a brief or specific size and style and subject. But I love it, all the same, I just love to draw inky lines on paper.
5. I remember your mindfulness drawing sheet, so how do you see drawing as a way to practice mindfulness and to be present?
I think we spend so much time of our life on screens and computers and phones now. For me when I pick up a pen and put away all screens I feel at peace! It’s very simple; it’s just two tools we have used for centuries. I think it’s a great way to explore what you can create, and a good way to anchor yourself in the present and really think about how to relay your vision to paper. I also see it as a good process sometimes rather than outcome. By not worrying too much about what will fall out of your pen, but rather relaxing into the pen and the act of drawing. (Hmmm does that sound too dreamy and zen hahaha)
6. If someone just wants to unwind – what do you think is best to draw in that case?
I think a good way to relax and unwind is to draw something called a Lazy 8. (An 8 on its side in the picture provided) It’s a good breathing exercise and way to draw the breath into the body and blow the breathe out while linking it to lines you inhale and exhale on paper.
7. Your best advice against stress, please
I guess we all get stressful, but the best advice I’ve heard is just asking you, well, will this problem matter in 1 year? In 5 years? in one month? In a day even?! And then just stop whatever you are doing and unclench your jaw! I know I hold a lot of tension in my face, so I try to think about my jaw and relax it. Switch up what you’re doing, chat with a friend about it. Start each new day with a fresh perspective.
8. A lot of people say they can’t draw. Do you believe everyone can do it and if so what would you recommend for an easy start?
I definitely believe EVERYONE can draw. It’s just that we have got caught up in what makes a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ drawing. Once you let yourself think it is no good or bad, we can ALL put lines down on paper; it’s just the reality is not many people do it very often!
It’s like saying, well I’m rubbish at playing tennis, well sure, if you don’t play tennis you probably are! But I bet if you played it for an hour every day for six weeks you’d start to get better no?! Well, then I guess just practice, drawing is practice, it doesn’t matter so much what you create, it’s more about getting comfortable with the pen in your hands and feeling confident with your lines. I love to work with people on this in my drawing workshops and get them to forget their worries about drawing and relax and feel at ease with it!
9. What is your biggest challenge as a freelancing artist?
I think a big challenge is keeping work coming in, that’s always the challenge, right? But I try to look at each ‘gig’ as an opportunity to carve out three more jobs from. I try to meet lots of people and find out how I could work with them creatively, whether that’s a drawing workshop, a mural, some live art, a specific commissioned painting or just having a chat to see what the future might hold. Mostly it’s the classic ‘word of mouth’ so I try to put many words out there!
10. On a scale from 1 to 10, how happy are you with your freelance life? What do you like most about it and what is most challenging about it?
I don’t want to sound braggy but its a 10 for sure. I am happy with the style of living; I like to make up and plan my own days, weeks, months, I like it that I can take my annual leave whenever I want and I don’t have a specific number of days! I love it that I can get up early, sleep in late, work a weekend and then take a week off! I like all of it whether it’s coffeeing with new clients or performing at live art sketching events. I love it all! Can’t recommend it enough!
And keep drawing!