In-Sync with… Jennifer Cronin (interview)

Taken From Me, Oil on canvas, 54″ x 54″, 2010

This post continues my series “In-Sync with…” aimed to get a closer look at contemporary artists and art professionals from Chicago and abroad. Read it, enjoy it, share it, and get in-sync with artist Jennifer Cronin. Do not miss his personal recommendations at the end of the interview.

Not often, I find young emerging artists who are humble and quiet about their talent. That is the case of Jennifer Cronin. I believe she is a Chicago artist to watch closely. I have seen Jennifer grow as an artist in the last couple years and I am super excited to see her work evolve and take on new challenges. Jennifer is young, humble, passionate about her work, focused, and overall a wonderful human being. So, keep a good eye on her for the upcoming years. Trust me on this one.  Enjoy the interview!

Untitled no. 1 (from the peculiar manifestation of paint in my everyday life), Oil on canvas, 72″ x 36″, 2010


Sergio: Where did you go to school (college/university) and what degree you received?

Jennifer: I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where I earned a dual BFA in art education and painting.

Sergio: Do you feel art school prepared you for the art career you have now?

Jennifer: I feel that art school has prepared me for my current art career by enabling me to develop creatively and conceptually within an academic setting, which I could then bring into the “real world.”

Sergio: What is one thing you wish you had learned at art school?

Jennifer: I wish I would have pursued other subjects outside of art with greater diligence, perhaps working toward an additional degree.  With regards to art, I wish I would have learned more about the science behind the materials that I use, specifically paint and painting mediums.

Sergio: What is your website?

Untitled no. 4 (A New Set of Worries), Oil on canvas, 36″ x 66″, 2012


Sergio: What are you working on and what inspires you right now?

Jennifer: I am currently working on a series of portraits of my coworkers (myself included) at my customer service job in the tourism industry. Working in customer service requires a special type of person.  Based on my personal experience with my coworkers, I have noticed that you must be friendly, unassuming, modest, talented, creative, optimistic, hard-working, kind, and smart.  However, you must also be able to come to terms with the fact that many people you encounter in your everyday life at work will not notice those characteristics at all.  Personally, while I have many hopes and aspirations, I cannot get away from the fact that I spend a majority of my time performing a task that I’m not truly engaged with.  And I know that I am not alone in this feeling.  So, employing my coworkers and friends as inspiration, I am working on a series that is about the disconnect between who we must be on a daily basis, and what is actually important and meaningful to us.  Beyond that, I have also been thinking about starting a new, more fantasy-based project that is based on my interest in psychology, but I haven’t fully thought it through yet.

Sergio: How does a typical day in your studio/creative space look like?

Jennifer: A typical day in the studio involves me coming into my studio and turning on something to listen to (npr, music, Science Friday, or some free audio books I found online).  I usually have everything ready to go when I get there.  I may have to put out a few globs of paint on the palette, but then I get to work.  I like to have some snacks, water, tea, coffee, etc. while I work.  I usually work for several hours, and finally go home and try to make a late dinner.

Sergio: Describe your creative process.

Jennifer: The first step in my creative process is to come up with some sort of idea.  Sometimes, an idea comes easily, often when I’m not really thinking about it, but sometimes ideas arise after relentless and laborious thinking and brainstorming.  Usually, I brainstorm initially through writing, and occasionally I do a few rough sketches.  I like to think about my current interests, which are often fluctuating, and use those as a basis to make an artwork that is genuine and meaningful.  Once I have done my brainstorming, I set off to take photos based on my idea.  I usually take many photos, and spend a while sifting through them to find the best one.  I then edit that image until I have a final image that I’d like to work from to create my painting.  In terms of the painting process, I usually begin by covering the canvas with a layer of color, and after that, I sketch out the image using neutral-colored paint.  Using the photo as a reference, sometimes I paint exactly according to the photo, while other times I make changes throughout the painting process.  I spend several weeks working on most of my paintings, building thin layer upon layer until it reaches a point where I am satisfied.

Sergio: What type of mental/practical activities do you do when facing a creative block?

Jennifer: Usually, if I have a creative block, I just keep brainstorming until I come up with something or give up.  In the latter case, I usually try to accomplish some things on my to do list, such as running errands or checking emails.  Sometimes I will try to relax and watch a movie or TV show.

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine, Oil on canvas, 48″ x 72″

Sergio: Do you find social media to be a distraction or an asset for you as an artist and how do you deal with it?

Jennifer: Social media is definitely both a distraction and an asset for me.  It’s easy to pour a lot of time into social media sites without getting anything too productive out of it.  However, I think social media sites are invaluable to me as an artist.  They allow me to easily notify people about upcoming events, keep people up to date with what I am working on, and they also allow me to easily connect and communicate with people who are interested in my work.

Sergio: What is your biggest challenge as a contemporary artist?

Jennifer: My biggest challenge as a contemporary artist is balancing my time.  Sometimes it can be difficult to balance my day job, painting, errands, cooking, sleeping, and important people in my life.  However, when those things are well-balanced, it can sometimes be rather draining.

Sergio: What’s next for you (exhibits, projects, travels, residencies, etc)?

Jennifer: I wish I knew the answer to this question, but I have several ideas of things that I would like to do.  I am thinking of pursuing an MFA in painting, or a master’s degree in another area such as psychology (or both). I may also try to find work teaching jr. high or high school art.  In terms of my artwork, I’m never exactly sure where it’s going, but I’m happy just so long as it’s going somewhere.  I’m currently preparing for two solo exhibitions, one at Water Street Studios in the spring of 2013, and another at 33 Contemporary Gallery in May of 2013.

Untitled no. 1 (Customer Service), Oil on canvas, 36″ x 60″, 2012


Sergio: What excites you about your local art scene?

Jennifer: I enjoy being a part of the art scene in Chicago.  On the surface, the art scene of Chicago may not appear to always be the most cutting edge, but there is a lot going on beneath the surface in smaller galleries and art spaces that I find to be very interesting.  Additionally, there are numerous exhibition opportunities, allowing me to engage with different neighborhoods and people from different backgrounds.  The local art scene is large enough, without being too large that one could feel lost.  It is also small enough that one can become acquainted with it and watch it grow and change.

Sergio: What is missing, lacking or changing in contemporary art?

Jennifer: Contemporary art seems to me to be losing touch with its visual and communicative basis.  This can be good and bad.  I think it becomes bad when artwork is inaccessible to most individuals (the general public) and becomes artwork that is speaking only to experts in the field.

Sergio: Do you believe gallery representation today is as important as it has been in the past?

Jennifer: I believe that gallery representation today is still very important.  Working within a group of artists and under the expertise of a curator/gallerist can make the world of art much easier for an individual to navigate.  However, I think that the role of artists as their own self-promoter is also quite important.  Artists (some have help with this) are responsible for maintaining a web page and social network pages, sending mass emails, some degree of planning for exhibitions, and many other aspects of promotion.

Sergio: How do you envision the art world would be different ten years from now?

Jennifer: Ten years from now, I believe the internet and technology will continue to play a larger and larger role in the art world.  Facebook, Pinterest, and personal blogs currently serve as venues for personal curation, and I think that will continue to grow.  Personally, I think that this is a positive move, since more people have the ability to determine what is considered significant artwork of a generation.

Sergio: If you could reinvent the way the art market (galleries, collectors, museums, art fairs) functions, how would it look like?

Jennifer: I would like to somehow lessen the importance of money in all of it and have greater incentives for individuals to create for the sake of creating.

Pink, Oil on linen, 38″ x 66″, 2009


Book…  “Mad in America:  Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill” by Robert Whitaker

Art movie or documentary…  Planet Earth

Art museum… National Portrait Gallery, London

Contemporary artist (other than yourself)…  Jeremy Geddes

Place to be inspired by… the zoo

One sentence advice for an art student… don’t worry, you can make it work.

Chicago cafe/restaurant… Jerry’s Sandwich Shop, Cumin Restaurant

YouTube video… any Pomeranian video

Shelter, Oil on canvas, 112″ x 72″, 2011


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s