Who are you and how did you start making art? Why do you make art?
Hello! I’m Jenelle. I’m a freelance illustrator and musician! I’ve been drawing for my whole life and always knew I’d eventually make comics (that hasn't happened yet but one can dream). I draw mainly expressive character portraits, as well as bouncy calligraphy, and sometimes logos, but I enjoy making art to help lift other people's dreams into reality. I try to sprinkle diversity and bring awareness to the types of faces people consume on a daily basis while I’m drawing and designing people as well. I want people to feel a sense of wonder when they look at my art. A piece you can truly get trapped in and find something new about every time you look at it can have such a lasting impact on someone, more than a “like” could ever convey. My art practice has shifted slightly away from drawing and more towards composing and writing music. I’m noticing that I can leave a lasting impact on myself with music. Something I was never able to achieve with illustrations and it’s coloured my world immensely ever since. I make art to give myself the representation I’ve always wanted to see and to listen to the music I’ve always wanted to hear. It sounds selfish but it’s actually the best way to ensure that other people’s comments don't sully the experience of the thing you’ve created.
What was your first introduction to JustBGraphic? What did it teach you and in what ways did it impact your art?
In 2011 JBG showed up to my middle school and did a presentation showcasing their arts based march break camp. I love all things arts and jumped at the chance to participate, meet new people, and sharpen my drawing skills. The camp ended up being more dance and music based, and as an uncoordinated 12 year old, I felt creatively left out. What I didn't realize about that experience until many years later was that it let me dip my toes into different sectors of the art world. I had no interest in making music or dancing at the time but now I find myself drawn to music more and more everyday. That experience brewed in my subconscious for many years without me knowing and was basically a peek into what my future might hold. This September I’ll be releasing a debut music project (under the pseudonym ‘Camille Léon) that I probably wouldnt’ve had the confidence to pursue had JBG not been a part of my life so early on. I learned that exposing yourself to things that you seemingly might not be interested in is actually extremely beneficial.
How has your relationship with JustBGraphic evolved over the years?
I started out as a camper/attendee, and as the years went on, there were many opportunities to become a part of their team as staff! I only worked for Just BGraphic once, because I moved away, but I watched as so many of the other campers turned into staff and quickly into family. There are so many growth opportunities and Kayode (and co) really work hard on fostering whatever creativity you have in you. They never forget you and want to see you achieve your dreams and I love that so so much. Here I am, ten years after attending, creating a piece of art in collaboration with them.
What is your most important artists’ tool, the one thing you couldn’t imagine creating without?
If I’m illustrating, my writing tool is the most important. Whether that be my marker, paint brush or stylus for my digital drawings. I literally couldn't create without it. As for music, I’d be lost without my guitar. I can piece together entire songs, including the bass lines, with it. It’s an insanely versatile instrument and I’m so lucky to have been given one in 2019.
What is your favourite medium to create?
I’m not sure if music counts as a medium but it’s my new love. I only recently started making music because of the pandemic and everything I’ve created has come back and healed my soul tenfold. It’s everything I never knew I needed in life and I’m delighted I discovered it was something I could do and pursue.
What is your dream creative project or dream team collaboration?
Honestly, anything music based. I can see myself illustrating album covers, merchandise, posters and more for musicians for a veeeeery long time if they’ll let me. I would absolutely die if I got the chance to design artwork for Fefe Dobson, Willow Smith, Steve Lacy, Hippo Campus and/or Last Dinosaurs. I can imagine myself tagging along for the tour as well, telling anyone who’d listen that I was the one who created the thing they’re wearing or holding.
Who are your biggest influences (art, music, film, socials, activism etc)?
My biggest influences are people who realize that you can truly do ANYTHING and whatever makes you happy and then proceed to live their best life creating. You don’t even have to be “good” as long as you /do/, it feels right, and it’s not infringing on someone else’s basic rights as a human. I love bands like Car Seat Headrest and Grouplove who had a “why not” attitude, explored their mediums and created beautiful soundscapes as a result of having “unconventional” singing voices. People like Tina Bell, Poly styrene, Brittany Howard, Fefe Dobson, Jasmyn Burke, and Willow Smith (yea I know she's a nepotism baby but that doesn't mean she doesnt face misogynoir) who make ROCK music despite the many roadblocks put in their way because other people felt that black people shouldn't be making rock music. The co-creators of the original Art Hoe movement in 2014 (Jam and Mars, give them their flowers) for creating space in the world and on the internet for queer people of colour to re-insert themselves into the collective psyche after being omitted and erased time and time again. They fearlessly advocated and highlighted artists of colour and there are so many people who had their start in the industry thanks to this collective and are thriving because of these two. People who see that there are gaps, take it upon themselves to do something, and trust that they can learn the skills needed to succeed along the way are honestly my heroes.
What is the highlight of collaborating with Wrappr for you?
Since most of the things I create are digital, collaborating with Wrappr has given me a chance to have physical proof that I’ve done something. The tangible saves you from disbelief.
What is your favourite way to use a Wrappr? Bonus points for originality!
I’ll probably wear it as a shirt on super hot days but I’ll mostly tie my hair at night with it, to protect my gorgeous curls.
Spotify: Camille Léon
Read another interview with Jenelle here.