Santa loves a stocking stuffer, and Greenpointers love whimsical art depicting their nabe. Jen Toth (@jenscribblesny) has found a way to combine these loves — not that commercial value is the engine fueling her art. Instead, she finds ways folksy and adorable to highlight the local businesses that dot our community, combining the magic of an iPad, water colors, and an artists’ eye to craft clean, memorable sketches of many New York landmarks. Read more about her efforts and artistry below, and explore her catalogue here!
Greenpointers: You illustrate so many fun Greenpoint gems! Do you live around the neighborhood, or are you just a big fan? (Or both?)
Jen Toth: You can definitely say I’m a fan of the neighborhood. I moved to Greenpoint from the city seven years ago. Now, I don’t think I could live anywhere else. Recently during Covid, I really saw the neighborhood pull together and it made me so proud. I love Greenpoint so much — it’s my home.
In your own words, can you discuss your artistic style and, in depicting local businesses and parks, what catches your eye?
I would classify myself as self-taught. My style is a mix of fashion illustration and doodles. When I was kid I was always scribbling on paper and remember getting yelled at for drawing on important documents. Then when I started working in fashion as a model, I became fascinated by design sketches. They are equally freeform and methodical — imagination and purpose. And there’s where I think I’m able to better define my illustrations by adding silhouettes and color.
Anything with angles and lines adds a layer for me to play with depth and texture. I’ll stop dead in my tracks if I see a sexy curve. In my opinion the sexiest drawing I ever did was the iconic bar at Boom Boom Room.
At the end I bring everything together with watercolor. So much can be defined by the weight of the brush and saturation of color. It can match a mood or feeling, and add to the story and emotion of the piece. I just finished a project for Del Maguey and sat down with them for their Liquid Art Series. That term nails my style.
Ruben, the owner of Paloma Espresso, suggested I illustrate them. I actually became familiar with them because when they started following me on IG their logo was so memorable.
I read that Greenpointer’s article! Ricardo is so captivating and I was pulled in by his words and story. My mom is from the Philippines so I felt that immigrant connection immediately.
In terms of your work, what’s the ratio of by hand to by computer? What’s your process like and what tools do you employ?
I’d say it’s a pretty good mix. I do a lot of painting at home with watercolor and acrylic but I’m in the habit of taking my iPad with me everywhere. Since I’m also on the go, the iPad is my tool for creating when I have a moment of inspiration. If I have 20 minutes between looks or an hour lunch break, I’m on my iPad scribbling something.
Even at home, I’m always moving from one area to another. I could start in my kitchen table and could end lying on my yoga mat with my iPad (usually in some crazy pose looking like a crazy person). I have a bad habit of forgetting where I put my Apple Pencil, the other day I spent 20 minutes looking for it and found it an hour later in my jacket pocket. Plus, when I’m packing up illustrations my space can look like a tornado rolled through. I have stickers, scissors, paper, and mailers laid out in an organized chaos.
In terms of focus, meditation helps ground me before I start working. I always have music or a podcast going while I’m sketching. Dance breaks are a must, too.
You’re making holiday cards depicting city scenes and also stocking stuffers — how goes business?
It feels so good to create something and have this overwhelmingly positive response. I have the best customers with amazing stories about New York and the places I illustrate. I have a friend that commissioned Lucali and an hour after I posted it, someone reached out and said they had their engagement dinner there. All these establishments hold so many memories and overlapping stories. That is New York.
Any Greenpoint establishments you are hoping to get to and depict in the future?
I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t done Paulie Gees yet and I dream about their pizza. I do want to start doing tattoo parlors, salons, Meserole Shoe Repair, Mr. Plums, St. Vitus…okay I have a long list still.
It might also be a safe bet for me to just work my way down Franklin Street.
I’m also thinking about the future of JenScribblesNY and how I can be of service to the community. I was excited to be asked to illustrate the Park Armory for their annual Snowflake charity event. I’d love to throw more projects like this into my schedule.
Anything else to add?
Just three things:
- I hope my work serves as a reminder that everyone has the ability to discover their creative side or something new…anything new. This is all new for me, and it feels so so right.
- I’d like to encourage people to go out and support small and local businesses this holiday season, including artists. These places need our help more than ever. About 17%, or 110,000, of restaurant have closed this year with another 10,000 on the brink of closing in the next three weeks. Let’s amp up our support.
- I’m excited to say that as of last week I became affiliated with One Tree Planted, where each purchase means we’ll plant one tree.