This week we spoke with amazing illustrator Jenny Parks. Her work is most recognizable for it’s use of cats and all that is geeky! Her amazing attention to finding the correct cat or animal to fit the subject is absolutely purrfect…. sorry, had to do that.
When did you first realize you had this amazing talent and that you could make it a career?
I don’t know if this is the same for all artists, but I kept up with art because my friends and family were super encouraging and told me I was good, even when I wasn’t really when I started out. I feel like what people call talent is a mix of passion and drive, plus lots of hours practicing. I spent a lot of time drawing as a kid, especially animals, and so over time I just became better at it. I originally got a degree in Scientific Illustration and had planned to try to do that full time, so the idea that drawing cats as characters could be a career didn’t even cross my mind. I drew the cats for fun, starting when I was a kid, and then after college did a newer version of Doctor Who cats also just for the hell of it, not thinking it would go anywhere. It wasn’t until I went to my first Comic-Con to sell a few prints that I thought, hey, this might be something.
Why cats? and one corgi? Where did this fascination come from and will there be any other representatives from the animal kingdom?
I think I was maybe 12 or younger when I first started to draw my favorite characters as cats, which at the time were from Phantom of the Opera and then later Doctor Who. I can’t really say why I chose cats, just that I liked them a lot, and it was one of the animals I felt like I knew how to draw. I still love cats so the trend has just continued. As for the corgi… I also just love corgis. They’re so short and cute. Though that piece in particular of the Game of Thrones corgi was originally a Christmas card I sent out to friends and family one year. To save myself from suffering, I am sticking mainly to cats, since I am already pretty slow with making new art, and having to do, say, a dog for every character as well would break me.
When did you decide to take your art out to the cons?
This was actually my brother’s idea. He had a booth selling comics at San Diego Comic Con and asked if I would want to try selling some prints of the Doctor Who cats. I actually had no idea this was something artists did as a career, and so it was a huge eye opener. That first con was amazing, and it encouraged me to make more characters as cats and go to more comic-cons.
You do an incredible job of matching the correct cat with the character, is that something you plan out? How much trial and error is involved in that?
I spend a lot of time figuring out the right cat. Some will click quicker than others, like I’ll just find the right breed immediately and sometimes it’ll take me hours looking through photos to find what fits perfectly. There have been a few cases where I changed the look completely after a sketch just didn’t look right for the character, so yeah occasionally there is some trial and error.
How did Star Trek Cats come about? and to be fair when are we getting Star Wars Cats?
I was approached by the publisher, Chronicle Books about doing some kind of book with cats, and it took some discussion to eventually decide on Star Trek. I’m already a Star Trek fan and they had connections to CBS, so it worked out perfectly. And to answer your question… I actually can’t say much right now except, you’ll have to wait and see.
What are some tips you have for young artists?
This might sounds kinda weird but, just be a good person. In my experience, being nice and making friends gets you way farther in the art world than just your skills alone. You’ll make faster connections, and people will want to hire you. Don’t be jerks, kids!
Do you ever hit the creative wall? How do you get out of it? Is it as easy as spending a day with your cats?
I definitely do hit creative walls and burn-out. The biggest lesson I’ve learned recently to help alleviate that, is to give myself regular days off, at least two a week. I worked myself maybe too hard with my first Star Trek Cats book, and I had to learn how to push back a little with deadlines so that I don’t end up actually hurting myself and making my art suffer for it in the process. In general, I feel like spending some time away from drawing is actually really good for artists, and helps re-charge those creative juices. I usually do things like watch movies or YouTube videos, read comics, or just take a walk. I work from home so my cats are basically involved in everything I do.
How was your WonderCon? Any highlights? Lowlights?
Wondercon was great. I always like going to Anaheim, especially since that means I can come in early and spend a day at Disneyland. The show itself is always a good one, and I like seeing my fans there. Nothing super crazy happened this year, I was just bummed that Star Trek: The Next Generation Cats wasn’t out quite yet at the time so I didn’t have copied there.
What’s one thing you wish fans knew about the Artists working at a con?
Please be forgiving if we’re acting kind of distant. Usually we’re so tired. With travel and then being social for about 9 hours straight for 3-4 days, it can be super draining. And most of us don’t get breaks, beyond a quick run to the restroom. I sometimes worry that I might look kind of grumpy by the end of a con. I swear I’m friendly, I’m just dead tired.
Where can our readers find you next?
For June I’m headed to San Francisco Comic Con (which is in Oakland this year) on the 8th, and then my home show, Denver Comic Con on the 15th. Both are great shows and I’m excited to see everyone and show off my new art.