Don’t Be Afraid of Change, Toronto-based illustrator Jenn Liv

JENN LIV (Jennifer Liu) is an award-winning Chinese illustrator based in Toronto. She has also taught 4th Year Illustration at Sheridan College as a sessional lecturer. Jenn has worked with clients including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Google, Airbnb, TED, and Medium. Currently, she is pursuing a Master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Art, Media, and Design.

For Dark Matter Anthology III, Digital, 2019

We’d love to hear how you got started as an inspirational creative. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’ve always been immersed in the arts ever since I was a young child. I attended a high school with a specialized arts program and afterward still wanted to continue with my studies in visual art. I applied to OCAD University and completed a Bachelor’s degree in illustration. Upon graduating it took a while for me to get my career started. I participated in art fairs and comic festivals in the beginning and slowly began to accumulate clients along the way. My first big break was when I did a piece for PLANSPONSOR and Nautilus Magazine for the first time in the same year. Later I had a piece accepted into the Society of Illustrators which was also very validating to me as an illustrator. Slowly I was also granted a part-time teaching position at Sheridan College, as well as gained an art rep for my practice. Currently, I am in the middle of completing a Master’s degree in interdisciplinary art, media, and design. 

Client: Toronto Life, For Urban Diplomat Section ‘Condo Exhibitionist’. Chosen for American Illustration 38, 2018

What is your practice about? Do you have a specific topic that you are focusing on?

My main artistic practice is within the freelance illustration. Normally I am given some kind of brief or text to illustrate and then go from there. I don’t create enough personal artwork as I’d like to but I would like to create more work that represents Chinese culture and female empowerment. 

Client: Toronto Geometry Colloquium. ‘Fun With Subdivision and Cloth.’ AD: Josh Holinaty, 2020

You’ve been very active during the past few years. What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far?

During 2020 I was able to work with several big clients including my first major ad campaign and Airbnb. Other clients I’m proud to have worked with include The New York Times, The New Yorker, Google, TED, Medium, NPR, and Genentech. The most exciting project I’ve worked on was the ad campaign at the beginning of 2020, however, its release date has been postponed due to the pandemic.

Mind Gem, Digital, 2020

What does “community” mean to you? How do you see yourself in a community?

I believe it’s important to be engaged with your community to a certain degree. However, I am quite wary of online spaces and how toxic the interactions can become. I prefer to keep my distance for the most part but I love keeping track of what my artist friends are up to and what new pieces they’ve published. Currently, I am part of an art studio with 5 other creatives and we share a space in downtown Toronto. During pre-pandemic days it was a great way of dealing with the isolation that comes with being an illustrator. I also engage with my community by trying to give back to emerging artists with my teaching practice.

Suppression, Digital, 2017

What are you working on right now?

Currently, I am focused on my graduate studies and working towards developing a thesis in virtual/mixed reality and game design.

Is there any advice that you would like to share with others?

Be yourself. Don’t try to become anyone else. Be yourself because no one else can, that will be your greatest selling point. Also, don’t be afraid of change.

Kitty Girl, Digital, 2017

text & photo courtesy of Jenn Liv

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