Today’s interview is with a talented illustrator, Jenny Vainisi. She has worked for various clients, including major publishing houses and advertising companies. Her works are very whimsical and the vibrant colors reminds me of spring. You can check out more of her work on her site and follow her latest works on her blog.


ep: Could you please describe your creative process?
My creative process will vary from client to client, and project to project. When I’m designing and creating illustrations for a client, I generally discuss what their vision might be. Often they will have some ideas regarding what they would like the image or design to convey, such as, a certain feeling or mood, specific colors, graphic elements, etc. They may or may not give me general layouts to work from. Some times I may receive a lose sketch from a designer, and other times nothing but an art spec from an editor. Some clients are very clear and decisive, while others may need to explore various ideas before more a specific direction is arrived upon. I find it’s important to ask questions, and no question is too silly. In the long run it can save everyone a lot of time, energy and money.

In general, I will create a few pencil sketches. I still love to sketch everything out first before bringing into the computer. Sketching freehand allows a certain energy and fluidity to transfer to the end result. (If it’s something fairly simply and it makes more sense to go straight to the computer, then I’ll do so.) I then submit to the client for feedback, make any revisions, and resubmit again. Usually by this stage the client has approved the final sketch. I then scan my image and execute my finals digitally.

When I’m creating illustrations for either my own personal projects (such as my book) or the art licensing industry (greeting cards/gift ware), my process is a bit more organic. Sometimes I will have a specific theme or idea in mind, while other times an image may present itself unexpectedly, say from a doodle or something sketched during my morning coffee. There might be a seed of an idea, so I keep the sketch in a drawing pad for when I need to pull some ideas for inspiration. I may not work on it immediately, but I know I’ve got it for later.

ep: What is your favorite piece you created and why is this your favorite piece?
One of my favorite pieces would be a collage I did many years ago of a dancer leaping in mid-air. I love the movement and energy of this piece. It speaks to me of joy and triumph. The border is full of playful elements which flow from the bouquet of flowers she is holding. I use to incorporate dancers in many of my pieces. I was very inspired by their lyrical forms and gestures, and would often build an entire scene around them.

ep: If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to yourself 5 years ago?
The same thing I’d tell myself today, and my future self five years from now; “Follow your bliss!” Trust your heart, listen to your intuition & your inner voice. Be true to yourself.

ep: Apart from creating/designing things, what do you like to do?
I love to swim! Love the freedom of being immersed in water. It feels like a cleansing. I swim regularly at an indoor pool, but swimming outdoors under a blue sky is like heaven on earth. I also enjoy going to concerts & listening to great music (one of the perks of living in NYC), spending time with good friends, laughing loudly, spending time in nature. I also enjoy teaching art to children which I find very fulfilling. Creating art—simply for the pleasure of it. Art for arts sake.

ep: How did you start out in illustration?
My focus in college was as a fine artist, where I studied painting and drawing at the University of Wisconsin. After graduating I moved to New York to attend the graduate program at Parsons School of Design, where I continued my studies in painting. I eventually segued into graphic design, taking a variety of classes necessary for that field. From there I developed an illustration portfolio. Considering my fine arts background, I felt illustration would hold my attention through the years. I began by using a cut-paper technique and developed my collage style. I’m sure Matisse was a great influence on me with his paper cut outs! Once I had 12-15 images with a consistent style, I found an agent and began creating work for a variety of industries; publishing, fashion, editorial, advertising, packaging and more. Today I mostly create digitally using Adobe Illustrator. Currently I’m developing work for the art licensing industry.

ep: What inspires you/where do you find your inspirations?
I receive inspiration from many things; nature, music, animals, my cats and their hilarious antics, children, a lyrical gesture, and of course, from other artists. I can find inspiration everywhere if I am open and receptive to it. It generally comes from something that resonates within me, and I see beauty in. Walking down the street I’ll see a flower or bird, or perhaps I’ll see the seed of and idea in a photograph, or read a quote that I can use as a leaping off point to create a visual image around. I teach art to children and sometimes I may see an element in their work that may inspire me to develop a theme around. Children can be so uninhibited and fearless with their imaginations and creativity which is so refreshing and inspiring, so really I receive inspiration from many things.

ep: What is your favorite book, and why is it your favorite?
That’s a hard one. I love anything by Louise Hay. She has a way of really empowering you, making you aware of your thoughts and the importance of keeping them positive. I tend to read a lot of inspirational books.

Eat Pray Love is one of my favorites! I love the conversational tone of Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing, as well as the intimate journey (both internal and physical) that she takes us on. There are a lot of good messages woven throughout that are great reminders for living life on ones own terms.

ep: Do you have a favorite quote? What is it and why is it your favorite?
Funny you should ask—yes! I have many favorite quotes and too many to list here. I will soon be publishing a book; Embracing Your Life: A Guide for Living with Gratitude and Appreciation, which will contain many of them.

This actually ties in with your previous question, regarding where do I find inspiration. The idea for my book was first birthed when I began collecting quotes that deeply resonated with me. I created imagery for them and paired them together. There are too many too list, however I do have a few I’ll share with you.

Lately this quote, by author Dean Koontz, has been resonating with me.
“The imagination’s a muscle, partly. And the more you use it the easier it becomes.”

I actually experience this when I am actively brainstorming and conceptualizing new ideas. When I am really zoned I find one idea flows easily into the next.

Another favorite is the famous quote by Martha Graham;
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. “

I love this because it speaks to the importance of honoring your creative expression and relinquishing judgement and inner criticism. Simple put, honor the talents and gifts that you’ve been blessed with.

“I know it’s impossible. But I know I’ll do it.” — Philippe Petit.
Need I say more?

“To the world, you may only be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.” —Anon.
This is a favorite because you really never know what impact you may have on someone through an act of kindness.

ep: What is your comfort food?

Popcorn and ice cream! They both say fun to me. If I’m sick—Cream of Wheat.

ep: What’s in your freezer right now?

Veggies burgers, frozen fruit, marina sauce, coffee, Ben & Jerry’s chocolate ice cream and some stuff with freezer burn that I really need to ditch.

See more of Jenny’s lovely illustrations here.