This is a series of blog posts featuring interviews with women who are entrepreneurs. While I will be interviewing a lot of artists, art is not limited to artists. The art of running a business is challenging and rewarding, no matter the discipline. Told in their own words (as much as possible), I'm looking forward to sharing fascinating stories from inspiring women!
Jael Bendt is an up and coming illustrator living in Minnesota. She has a webcomic that just debuted called Nightshade.
Inspiring Women - Jael Bendt, Illustrator
1. How do you think your art makes a difference to people, if at all?
I don't know that my work makes a difference to people, though I would love to think that it does. Ultimately, I make art to make a difference to me, but it's always a goal to shoot for influencing others. When someone sends me a message that says "this touched me in this way," it's the highest compliment an artist can receive. It means I'm doing it right.
2. Share a great moment you've experienced relating to your art?
I just recently started working on art full time, and am currently working on a webcomic that just launched September 1st (nightshadecomic.com, if you're interested!). It's about a girl who has to barter for her soul after an unfortunate prank gone wrong, and so she finds herself having to save the universe while trying to get back to her former, much simpler life. This feels like a huge accomplishment to me because I get to tap into a creative muscle that hasn't been exercised for a long time: a long-term art project, of sorts. (Note from Barb - start reading the webcomic from the beginning here.)
3. Are there any future projects you're excited about?
Well, my comic has been taking up a lot of my time, and it's currently the most exciting thing I have going on, but having unlimited time also means I get to plot a whole lot of other exciting things (a store, perhaps, connected to the comic), as well as doing freelance work, which I hope to dive back into. Freelancing is always fun.
4. What does being an illustrator mean to you?
It means using my talents to tell a story. Not just for a webcomic, but illustration is different from fine art in that it's a much more direct way of getting ideas across to viewers in a visual way. I enjoy being able to communicate via what comes most natural to me. After all, we humans are all storytellers in one way or another.
5. I didn't find the usual lengthy artist statement on your website. Would it be fair to say that you express yourself better through your illustrations than writing? Why do you think that is?
I do! I've always been a visual person. This reminds me of that story in The Little Prince, where he draws a snake eating an elephant, and someone thinks it is a hat. For me, it's always fun when people think my work is the hat, but it's particularly exciting when people see the elephant in the snake in my own work. It means I succeeded.
I feel that the work, however presented, should speak for and about the artist. I don't remember the first time I spoke, but I do remember the first time I made a drawing. I remember what I wanted to say with it (as a 6 year old, it honestly wasn't very deep), but I remember the excitement when my mother was able to understand. We all put a little bit of ourselves into every piece, whether it is a serious tone, like my piece Vessel, or a more playful piece. They all say a little bit about who we are and what we believe in.
6. I see a lot of fantasy themes in your work. What other style(s) of illustrating do you do? If you can choose, what is your favorite?
I think style is mostly a combination of the things we like to do, the things we choose to leave out, and the themes that interests us. While I, and I am sure a lot of illustrators out there, can use tools to give us any particular "style" -- from highly rendered to very minimal palettes and simple lines, from paint to digital, etc -- it's something that's very personal to an artist because it's an extension of how we think. So, in short, I am sure I could achieve a whole range of styles, but the way I work is really based on what I love, aesthetically and in terms of concept. As for favorites, though, I really like that one can accomplish a lot of highly detailed work with the most basic of fundamentals: line and color. Those two have been my most favorite thing to explore lately.
7. What do think the biggest misconception is about you and your art?
That I'm a guy, haha. People assume that I am a man due to my nickname "Jay." It's kind of funny and I used to correct people on this, but nowadays I just kind of let it go because it's funny to me. As for my art, if you know, tell me! I haven't received much in form of criticism based on misconception.
8. I don't know many artists who like self promotion, but here's your chance!
-- What is the best way to contact you? Email always works: firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Who is your ideal customer? Someone who likes experimentation, and who hands me the ropes with the assignment and lets me run with it. It's always great to collaborate with someone who trusts the artist.
-- Can we buy your artwork, or support you in other ways? Absolutely! You can always email me for prints of pieces you're interested in, or, if you're into comics, I recently started a Patreon Campaign: . (Note from Barb Kellogg--For those not familiar with Patreon, here's a brief description from their website— "Patreon is a way to pay your favorite creators for making the stuff you love." And a link for more info.)
9. Describe your perfect day. Art-related or personal. (Or both)
My perfect day involves waking up slowly, having a cup of coffee while going through email, going for a walk with the dog and then coming home to get to work until lunch time. After lunch time, repeat this process until the end of the day. Right now I am lucky to be able to do this every day.
Art related will always be the day when, at the end of long hours of work, I can step away from the drawing board completely satisfied with what I accomplished that day. That's the best feeling! especially because it allows me to relax at the end of the day, knowing I did a job well done.
10. What is the least important thing we should know about you?
I hate carrots (though, I guess, if we eat together, it might become a bit important ;)).
I want to thank Jael for such a wonderful interview. I was introduced to Jay several years ago by a mutual friend and we just clicked. She is driven to create, and I'm so thrilled for her that she's pursuing her dream of illustrating full time.
~Barb Kellogg, photographer, tea drinker, and dark chocolate lover
P.S. Do you know a woman entrepreneur that you'd like me to interview? She can be in any kind of business—art, banking, landscaping, you name it—part time or full time, living anywhere in the world. You can share this blog post with her as a bit of an introduction. There's no catch. No fee. This is my way of sharing great stories to inspire others.