Artist Profile: Jenny Prinn, Owner of Jenny Prinn - Yarmouth, Maine
Hi, Jenny. We are HUGE fans on your work. How’d you get started?
I started painting in earnest in my late twenties/early thirties. And I enjoyed some success for a few years before becoming pregnant with my sons. But because my boys are only 17 months apart and I wanted to focus on being a mother, I took an almost nine-year hiatus from painting while I raised them. When I turned 40, I felt time slipping away and I knew that I had to start again. I haven’t looked back since.
When did you know you wanted to pursue painting full-time?
I knew immediately when I started painting again after my nine year break. There was no question. I had been a freelance photo stylist for over twenty years, and even though I loved my job – I knew that I wanted to leave styling and paint full time. I did both for about a year, but it was so difficult to raise my boys, work on photo shoots during the day, and then paint at night. And although I knew that I wanted to leave styling and paint full time, it was really scary to make that leap. There were bills to be paid, and I worried if I could really make this my full time job.
What attracted you to abstract form? Tell us how abstract acrylic paintings became your focus.
This is a good question. And the honest answer is, I really don’t know. Personally, I’ve always been drawn to abstract work – it always spoke to me. And it was clear from the moment that I picked up a paintbrush, that this was going to be my language – there was never any question. For me, every experience in life is broken down into juxtapositions of color, negative space, pattern, and shapes. These things speak a truth for me – they are able to express the feeling, the smells, the sounds, and the touch of an experience. They are a direct conduit to representing the nuances of life. Abstract art speaks a universal language, if you’re willing to listen.
Tell us your favorite piece in your studio and the story behind it.
I can’t choose just one - I’ve surrounded myself with a lot of favorite things, including my sons’ art! I absolutely love the Victorian easel that my dad gave me in my early twenties, it brings me such joy to use it. And believe it or not, some of the brushes that I use are also from my dad, from my early twenties. And for sure - the 1960’s radio that my grandfather listened to during my childhood, and the delicate barley twist table from my grandparents’ home are favorites too. And last but not least, I love the vintage Velvet Elvis painting that I gave to my husband the first Christmas that we started dating. I searched all over the country for one – long before the internet existed. I made phone calls to Vegas, Tennessee, California, Arizona, and even Mexico, to try and find one. I ended up finding this one in a pawn shop in Lewiston on Christmas Eve afternoon. I had looked in the shop before and they didn’t have one, but I decided to call them one last time to inquire again – and the guy on the phone said he thought there might be one in the attic of the shop. Sure enough, there was! I drove in a blizzard on Christmas Eve afternoon to go get it.
Do you enjoy working in a basement studio?
It’s wonderful! It has a ton of controlled light and it is only a few steps from my kitchen – both of which allows me to work at any hour of the day - often times late at night. And because it is in my home, I am able to be available for my sons. That being said, it also makes it difficult for me to get a solid, uninterrupted day in the studio - because I am so accessible! But I wouldn’t change a thing. It allows me to be both a mother and an artist – which is not an easy thing to balance. So having my studio in my home is paramount.
Tell us about how your family influenced you as an artist.
My parents were antique dealers. So, I learned from a young age what it is like to be self-employed and I always knew on some level, that I would work for myself.
I saw first hand the crazy hours, and the stress of working for yourself, but I also saw the rewards of being your own boss. A couple of my dad’s favorite sayings were, “Make hay while the sun shines” and “You can’t sell from an empty cart”. These two sayings define how I approach being an artist and owning my own business.
My parents showed me that you can love what you do and do what you love – and that it’s possible to make a living doing it. I only wish that they were both alive to see me doing just that. They would love it.
Do you have a favorite childhood memory making art?
A diorama project in third grade. I remember that the world kind of exploded for me with this project. This is where I realized that art didn’t have to follow the rules and that art didn’t have to be only a painting or a drawing – that there were other ways to express yourself. That diorama was so much fun to work on; I spent a crazy amount of time working on it. I distinctly remember how exciting it felt to be creating, and thinking, and problem solving. It was my first taste of what it feels like to create something directly from your soul. And it’s a feeling that now, I can’t live without.
What is most challenging being a one-woman show, business owner, painter, wife, mother, community member… and more? How are you able to juggle it all?
Ummm, everything. And I honestly don’t. I have discovered that my personality is an “all-in” personality – if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right. Which is EXTREMELY problematic when you’re juggling too many things. There is absolutely no way to make it all work and to fit it all in – at least for me. I am constantly failing at something, because I am giving all my focus to something else. And there is no question that my priorities for the time being, are definitely with my sons and being involved in the things that they are are part of. My boys are 14 and almost 13, and I am acutely aware of how fast time is moving. It is most important to me, to give my primary focus to them and their interests. I try to fit my business into the crevices that remain. I keep telling myself that in 6 years, I will have nothing but time to paint and run an efficient, effective business. So for now, my focus is on my boys. But I’m not going to lie, this can be difficult - I want to give everything I’ve got to my business as well. I have learned to be patient – or at least I’m trying to learn.
Have you ever wanted to throw in the towel?
When I can’t devote enough time to painting because other things are going on in our lives. When I feel like I’m not evolving creatively. When I feel like I can’t get it all done. When I feel like I’m letting clients down. When I feel like I’m letting my family down.
What’s been the highest achievement so far?
This is a tricky question. There might be three answers. 1). When I started working with Serena and Lily – this really helped give me exposure. 2). When I was mentioned in an editor’s pick in InStyle – this gave me a jumpstart. 3). That I’m actually doing this. Because it’s honestly so crazy and wonderful.
If you could live in another country where would you live? What language would you like to speak?
I think, if I had the means – I would be a modern day gypsy. I would travel the world, stopping to live in places along the way. I would love to have that freedom. I would love to absorb different cultures, sights, sounds and smells. I would love to meet new people and make friends around the globe. And I would really love to see how this would influence and inform my work. I think it would be amazing. A few of the places that I would want to wander to first would be: the Amalfi Coast, Norway, Sweden, Morocco, Japan and Greece. As for a language, I used to be able to speak and read French fairly well – unfortunately I’ve lost it. I would love to be able to speak it again.
How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?
I’m really trying to cut down, so I’m trying to only have 2 cups these days. (But, some days it’s 3 or 4.)
Describe yourself in three words.
Observant, Intuitive, Absorbent
What are your guilty pleasures?
Interior Design Magazines; Thick, glossy coffee table books about artists; Reading; Patriots Football; Potato Chips (pretty much any kind); and this summer, it has been a Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic.
Any advice for getting out of a creative rut?
Switch mediums, and just keep showing up to work. It’s important to work through it.
What’s your cure for self-doubt?
See above. I just force myself to work through it. I have found that the best medicine is to paint through the self-doubt – wallowing in it only brings more self doubt. It’s important to just keep working.
Tell us your hope for being part of the Female Not Factory community of artists.
I went to Mount Holyoke, an all women’s college – so girl power is not new to me. But it’s been a lot of years since I was in college, and I realized that I missed the perspectives and strength that come from engaging in all-female conversations and endeavors. FNF spoke to me as a woman creative and as a mother. I love that I get to be a part of a business that supports and champions the female creative. I love that there are artists from all over the country with different life experiences and backgrounds – and that our birthdays span multiple decades. I love that the unifying traits of every artist represented in this shop are woman + creative. I love that all of the products found at Amie are made from a woman’s hands. And that each woman’s unique voice can be found in her work. And I love that the Founder of Female Not Factory, Meredith, so strongly believes in showcasing this unique, specific female perspective.
Any words of wisdom?
I don’t think I’m in a position to give any words of wisdom – because I’m still trying to figure all of this out myself. But, maybe my age allows me to impart a little wisdom? And I guess that would be: Work really hard. Be flexible. And most importantly - be you + be true, and you will eventually see success. But always remember that success can take many forms.