JENNA MCLEAN ART

I truly believe that there is an artist in every one of us. When I got my degree in biology, genetics was one of my favorite subjects. You know what? There is no gene for creativity! Nada, zilch, zero.

I grew up in a house that prized math and science. Both of my parents were engineers, and art was simply not considered to be a valid career option. Fortunately, my mother encouraged me to sew, crochet and sketch. She also had a few friends who were (ahem) successful artists who made a living from illustrating books. They were my secret role models.

In my teen years I got into macrame and drawing with India ink. After college I spent my weekends taking classes at The New School and Parsons School of Design in NYC. I learned ceramics, jewelry design, and "old school" black and white photography....the kind where you shot pictures with 35 mm film and developed it in a darkroom. 

I studied letterpress printing with a man in his 80s who knew how to set type and operate a printing press. I realized that fabrics and printing were my jam, so I signed up for classes at The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. There I have had the good fortune to study silkscreen techniques under Larry B. Wright, who was Robert Rauschenberg's right hand man and also printed for Andy Warhol (I almost ran over Andy Warhol with my car. True Story. Check the blog for the details.)

During the week, I did the corporate thing. My science degree led me to the environmental industry, where I had the fun job of donning a yellow Tyvek suit and respirator, helping Fortune 500 companies get rid of their hazardous waste. Yeah...it wasn't glamorous, but it paid well.

Many of you can probably relate: I ended up getting stuck on the working-for-others hamster wheel, dealing with quotas, weird bosses, red tape and endless office politics. And all the while there was a little creative angel whispering in my ear, "You CAN do this. You can take your sketches, put them on stationery and linens, and earn an income from it."

But I thought I wasn't creative. That I didn't have the chops to pull it off. Mind you, I was taking art classes at some of the best art schools in America, surrounded by students who were incredibly talented.

However, the misery of staying in the corporate world was stronger, so I took the plunge! I created a company, Ruby Red Skipper, named after my Scottish sea captain great-grandfather (he was the skipper of a ship named "The Ruby"). I applied to the NY Gift Show to sell my wares, and to my utter shock, gift shop owners bought them. And eventually I quit the day job.

If there is one thing I have learned, it's this: creativity exists in every person alive, but it often gets buried underneath the expectations of our parents and friends, the need to pay the bills, and the ridiculous notion that being artistic is a special "gift" that certain lucky souls have inherited.

 

Creativity is a skill that can be developed, just like learning French or how to play tennis. The cool thing is that we each have our own style, unlike anyone else's. My goal with this online art school is to teach you simple, proven steps that will help you identify your own true style....and then apply it to the arts of block printing, bookbinding, natural fabric dying, ecoprinting and surface pattern design. 

Dreams don't have an expiration date!