Jenny Ziomek grew up in Evanston, Illinois. She moved to New York City at age 21 to study art at Parson's School of Design. Ms. Ziomek lived in NYC for eight years, during which she: worked at an art gallery and an art magazine, did commissioned paintings for businesses and individuals, earned her master's in education through NYC Teaching Fellows, taught special needs children in public schools for 2 years (kids with emotional disturbance), taught 2nd and 3rd grade at Village Community School for 2 years, and was an artist-in-residence for a summer at School of Visual Arts.
Ms. Ziomek moved to Los Angeles a little over two years ago. She has shown her artwork at shows such as Matrushka Construction, co-LAb Gallery, McGroarty Arts Center, and Unique LA. She also sells her work through LA stores and on her Etsy shop. I had the pleasure of working with Ms. Ziomek, and I am so happy she accepted my offer to participate in Advice for My Daughter.
What is it that you do exactly?
I am a painter and illustrator. I work on commissioned drawings and paintings as well as my own art projects; some of which I sell through art and design shows, stores, and my Etsy shop.
What are you working on presently?
A lot of things! The biggest project I'm working on currently is helping to open a gallery in Los Angeles. I am their education curator, meaning that I design and facilitate education and workshop events through the gallery. This is is exciting to me because I get to combine my experiences and background as an artist and teacher.
In terms of my own artwork, I am working on a couple of private commissions right now. I am continuing my work on a series in which I attempt to depict people in the spaces they've created for themselves/the environment in which they feel most at home. Some of these will be shown through the gallery.
I am also working on two collaborations. The first one is an experimental art book that I am co-writing and co-illustrating with an actor/artist. The other is with a writer: I'm doing the illustrations for his incredible book. AND I've finally started making the graphic novel that I've been wanting to make for a long time.
What skills and characteristics are needed to be successful in your field?
Woody Allen has been quoted saying that 80% of success is just showing up. I think in the art world, there's a lot of truth to this. So many people drop out or quit along the way because it's a difficult field to be in, with no inner structure or guidelines for how to be successful. Of course, there are people who you can look up to and get ideas from, but mostly you're just making up your own path. That can be very scary and intimidating. So I would say persevering and being relentless is up there. And then there's talent and following your heart and all of that, but I think those are givens.
What do you enjoy most about what you do? What are some of the challenges you face?
I love when I get to collaborate with people; whether it's the art projects I mentioned above, or the gallery, or even having people model for me for the "homes" series, I get a lot out of connecting with others.
Also, when I'm painting solo, I sometimes have these very inspired and flow-like moments where I just feel like I'm doing the very thing I was put on this planet to do. When this happens, I feel incredibly grateful.
I think the challenges I face are directly connected to the positives I just listed. The fact that I enjoy working with others can be difficult; as most of my work does have to happen in total solitude. Also, getting to that feeling of flow and deep connection to the work often takes time, discipline, and just sitting down and doing it. And even then, it definitely doesn't happen every time I sit down to work. One of the biggest things I'm learning is that the inspiration doesn't usually come first--it's the reverse, the work causes the inspiration. And that can be a hard thing to remember when you're having a hard time getting started.
What advice would you offer to someone who is transitioning between careers?
Find ways to use what you've learned from one and apply it to the next. Teaching taught me, or deepened my ability to, step outside of myself and really see, hear and empathize with others. This quality serves me constantly as an artist. I think the technical act of drawing and painting can be learned by most, but the ability to truly see and notice is a harder skill to obtain.
In the education world, we use the term "lifelong learners." I think the smartest and most interesting people are constantly seeking out new experiences and ideas and finding ways to incorporate them into their lives, whether they are transitioning between careers or not.
What is one motto that has served you well in your life and career? Why?
There's a letter from artist Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse in which he famously tells her to stop thinking and just DO. As someone who's in my head a lot, overanalyzing and fearing mistakes and/or wrong decisions etc., I'm starting to realize that the most meaningful things I've done in my life have involved putting all my fears aside and just moving forward. That doesn't mean being impulsive and following every whim. It's this delicate balance between being thoughtful, following your heart, making smart decisions, and then just diving in completely. I am working on this all the time!