Thursday Spotlight: Illustrator Jen Keenan
Greenpoint illustrator Jen Keenan’s work is both cheerful and comforting in its handcrafted imperfection. Inspired by vintage children’s books, animals, our awesome neighborhood, and more recently our country’s political climate, her work brings you into a world that radiates strength and positivity. Proceeds from prints on her site will be donated to help fund the NYC chapter of the post-inaugural Women’s March on Washington next weekend January 21st.
GP: What do you love most about Greenpoint?
Jen: “I really love the little historic blocks in Greenpoint. A lot of the neighbors sit out on their stoops in the summer, and we all stop and chat while the dogs briefly play. Every August there is a Calyer Street block party organized by some of the neighbors who grew up along Calyer. Everyone sets out tents and food and pitches in money for a food truck and waterslide /bouncy gym for the kids. It’s nice to have a bit of that quaint charm and friendly neighbor vibe. It makes you forget you live in such a big city.”
GP: What’s your favorite thing to illustrate?
Jen: “I absolutely love illustrating food. So obviously a lot of my favorite projects are food and recipe related! I also have a personal series that I started for my shop Charming that are prints of various neighborhoods in the city (Greenpoint was obviously my first). It’s fun to illustrate the popular hangs in each neighborhood (and the food of course). The series pretty much could go on forever since there are so many neighborhoods to pick from!”
GP: Why is it important for art to be a medium for social change?
Jen: “Art—whether it be illustration, writing, music, photography, performance, and so on—is a way to humanize and bring visual emotion to social and cultural issues. Art has the power to inspire, anger, shock, push boundaries, confront, expose, raise awareness—or even temporarily distract. Whether a particular piece is loved, hated or not totally understood, it is there to start a conversation. Conversation can lead to understanding. Understanding can lead to actually knowing one another. Knowing one another can lead to change.”
GP: How did you get involved with the Women’s March?
Jen: “As soon as I saw that there was going to be a NYC branch of the Women’s March on Washington, I knew I wanted to help. At some point a “creative call” email was sent out to the group, so I contacted the fabulous NYC organizers (who are all volunteers btw!) offering my illustrative skills. Now, I am illustrating portraits of inspiring people that represent equality, as well as other New York march related materials. All of my prints are for sale to raise money for the women’s march. I will be adding more items to pick from up to the day of the march (Jan. 21st).”
GP: How long have you been making art?
Jen: “I have been making art for literally as long as I can remember. I think my first attempt of artistic expression was when I was about three. I cut off all of my bangs in protest of a large family reunion. ;)”
GP: What would you tell someone looking to break into the world of illustration?
Jen: “You just need to keep making things. Keep illustrating, keep sharing, keep engaging with other illustrators. Don’t look at other artists work and think ‘Ugh why can’t I do what they do?’. Do what you do! The nice thing about illustration is that it is never really too late to get started.”
Jen Keenan is a Greenpoint-based children’s book designer and freelance illustrator. She can often be found at local fairs selling goods under her paper goods brand Charming.