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Elan Vitae

magazine

  • J Bristol

FEATURED ARTIST INTERVIEW SERIES: JEN AYYAD




Abstract Painter Jen Ayyad



There are those who inspire by what they create and those who inspire by who they are. Jen Ayyad is a shining example of both. Her transparent evolution as a person and as an artist has inspired at-risk children and teens through her volunteer work and donations, aspiring and fellow artists, and many others who enjoy being in the presence of her and her artwork.


In our recent interview, Jen shares what it means to create, the pitfalls of the creative process, what inspires her, and where the creative journey is taking her next:


JB for EV:

Hello and welcome everybody. This is Jennifer Bristol with Elan Vitae Magazine, and I am so very excited to introduce our very first featured artist for the summer issue of Elan Vitae. Please welcome Jen Ayyad from Dallas, Texas. Hey, Jen, I'm so excited to have you here!


JA:

I'm excited to be here too.


JB for EV:

So, Jen is an abstract painter as well as a businesswoman who has made her mark in real estate and other related industries. But today we're gonna talk about her journey as an artist. And Jen, the, reason this all came about is I was so attracted to the painting that we ended up using on the cover of this issue, because something about it really encompassed all the ways we create, you know, there were letters in there and different colors and, a mixed media piece, but, you know, there were music notes and things that really encapsulated, that impetus to create that comes through all of us. And so I'm curious for you about your path to painting as your medium.


JA:

Yeah, absolutely. Well, I will say, first off, I, I do like to dabble in a couple different mediums. I like to paint on plexiglass, which is known as acrylic on acrylic. I love to do inks. Inks on board, or canvas, and then acrylic on acrylic. And I guess the collaging, the piece that you're referencing kind of is a collage piece. So it's some mixed media in there. But yeah, I started out, you know, just doing this just very much for stress relief. And it kind of organically turned into something else, something bigger, which has been kind of exciting because I was coming from a sales world where you're always planning and there's numbers to meet and there's goals to meet. And this was very opposite. This was just doing something for myself. And then, you know, it just turned into something even bigger and more special.


JB for EV:

Isn't that interesting when we start sharing that piece of ourselves, how it affects other people and they start responding to it, and I don't know, in some way just allows it to come through even more strongly. And so, for you, talk to us a little bit more about - I've seen some of your pieces that are furniture. I've seen some of your pieces that are shoes. I've seen big paintings and little paintings. How do you decide what you're creating and when, and what's been your process as it's evolved over time since you began painting?


JA:

So, I will say it's a mix of different things, right? Sometimes it's just sitting there and saying, I've gotta play today and create something. Sometimes with like the coffee table, I just was bored. This was my coffee table in the background, and I'm kind of over it. I'm like, that's glass. Well, I paint on plexiglass, so, huh. I can paint on glass. So sometimes just very spur of the moment. But I do love functional art, and that's why I've painted on doors, shoes are functional as well. I actually did that for, a little boy, and a friend. So I would just say too, you know, I didn't know really what I was doing. I'm kind of a self-taught artist. So as I started painting more and more, I just, I guess I saw the world, you know, what was around me as kind of a canvas, right? And so it's like, Hey, that looks really neat. I wonder if I could paint on that. Well, if it's canvas or maybe plexiglass or glass in this case, I bet there's a way. So just kind of being observant, you know, to the things that I like.


JB for EV:

Yeah, absolutely. What other qualities do you feel like, so being observant is a great one, and I feel like what are the other qualities that artists or anyone who really wants to create can embody in order to allow that flow to come through them?


JA:

Well, I guess, I mean, it's kind of different for everyone. You know, I think if anything, just create, right? So there are days where I'm just tired and I'm probably even struggling a little bit with that now and, and just trying to get back into painting a little bit more. But, you know, I would say just being observant to everything around you is one, right? Do things that you enjoy in your life daily, whether that's have a date with yourself and, and go hike or go to the museum. It doesn't even really have to be something super art related either. But just kind of taking in, you know, what's around you. Maybe meditating even a little bit on, you know, sometimes in the mornings I'll do meditation because it allows me to quiet my mind and to kind of really take a step back and, and look back at the week maybe. Because we're always so busy. And so I think sometimes when I have that stillness, at least for me, that allows me to kind of then think a little bit more and maybe get inspired. And then sometimes it is just making yourself paint.


JB for EV:

What has being an artist or creative, how has that changed other areas of your life? You know, how have you noticed what having that outlet has done for you in your career and your home life and your friendships and in everything else that you do?


JA:

Yeah, I would a lot, I mean, again, it was very organic. I was a creative growing up, meaning I liked to draw and, you know, kind of paint. And I thought of myself as a creative, like my mom. Did I ever think it would be a career? No, not necessarily. Did I think I might sell artwork? no. But I think once I allowed myself to just kind of freely create, having no expectations, it kind of turned into something a little bit bigger. So, I would say that right there just gave me an idea of, hey, you know, things were possible. Don't ever like limit yourself, right? So, cuz I did really enjoy it. I just kind of thought, oh, that's probably not something I'll be able to do. I can't make a living as an artist. Don't do that. Right? So, I would say really opened my mind. And then there was definitely a stress relief component. Like I said, I got into painting really because it was an outlet for stress. Being in real estate, selling real estate is, is it can burn out every quarter, <laugh>. And so that's really what I started doing it for was just an outlet. And so once you obviously kind of eliminate that stress, that kind of helps, you know, trickle down into other aspects of your life. I would say that I'm probably really peaceful when I'm painting. I feel like it's something that I don't know that I'm supposed to do. I mean, other people may have jewelry making, maybe singing, you know, whatever that other outlet might be for them that's artistic. But for me it's definitely allowed me to show a side of myself too and be very vulnerable with my friends and family and the world, whoever sees my art. So I can't, I can't say it enough. I mean, I definitely think it's had a huge impact on my life and, and just even those areas that listed, there's probably a lot more as well that I'll discover down the road. <laugh>.


JB for EV:

Yeah. Yeah. Isn't it amazing? And I think it's continuously evolving. You know, we, we never know. As we peel back the layers of ourselves as artists and we create in different ways, or we test different mediums, it, it impacts us in a way. Like you say, there's another layer of vulnerability, there's another layer of exposure, there's another layer of experimentation and all of that changes us in every area of life. You know, we may not notice it right away, but there's like always that next, next level of evolution that we can take through creativity.


JA:

It has to do with purpose a little too, I would say. Like, I feel like I was supposed to paint. That was a gift I was given. So, um, yeah, definitely a little bit of purpose as well.


JB for EV:

Yeah. Yeah. That's amazing. I was gonna ask like what, what would you consider some of your greatest achievements as an artist? But I feel like that's the wrong word because I don't feel like we measure creativity so much as an, an achievement. But I feel like what are some of the things or projects or pieces or collaborations or things that you've done that have brought the most satisfaction to you as a creative?


JA:

I would say early on in my career, I mean, I've, again, paint on plexiglass. And you know, I, I met this client, I guess it wasn't a client at the time, but a friend of a friend because I was in real estate, you know, I did sometimes, meet folks in renovation projects, interior designers, you know, people that stage homes. And I had a friend who actually was, renovating a, a condo, the W high rise, the W residence. And you know, he said, you know, this guy's pretty artistic, you know, I think he's a creative himself, but he's actually looking for something in his home. Something different, you know, just different, right? And so we started talking and brainstorming and I, it was kind of a team effort. And we thought about what about a functional piece of art, right? What about a sliding door because he had a, his bedroom and it, it didn't really have a door space that, you know, it was kind of cool. And I thought, this can be art, right? And it's functioning at the same time. So I would say that right there, probably spearheaded, you know, the other things down the road that I did, like the phone booth I did for the mocking conversational lofts, I thought that was really unique. Um, and a cool opportunity, you know, it's kind of like a designer came to me and said, Hey, I've got this, like this phone booth or, or I guess payphone, I should say, do you think you can do something with that? And I'm like, Hmm. That I love. And of course it's not always easy, right? There's a lot of error in that. Like, okay, now I've created this, but how is it gonna work? How, how am I gonna get this attached? Or how is it going to function? Right? So I would say those are a couple of projects, that really spoke to me and I think, you know, probably drive me from wanting to do more and learn more, right? Like, what could be the next thing that could be functional art.


JB for EV:

Yeah. Very cool. How do you handle, you know, as someone who takes commissions for art, how do you handle client expectations and measure that with, with your free creative flow?


JA:

That's kind of tough, right? Because, you know, abstract art already, it's abstract, right? So I think, you know, if anything, I always come to the table to say, Hey, you know, I wanna be my authentic self. You know, obviously they're coming to you because they love your work. So there were times where I've had, you know, people come to me and commission me and I think they're really wanting me to replicate another artist. And so it, it is a balance between saying, Hey, I see what you are liking in, in this, you know, other artist's work. I can do something similar, but it's gotta come from me and it's gotta be my own, you know, spin you would say on, on, on the art, right? And you can't really recreate someone else's abstract art. It's just not possible. So I would say it's a little bit of that. And then really, you know, I just, I want them to be happy. So I've had some commissions where I feel like, you know, folks have said, Hey, I love it, but could you actually, you know, tweak this? It reminds me of teeth. I had a, a gal that her father was a dentist. And I kind of was like, oh wow, okay. So, you know, sometimes it's, it's, it's things that you may never think of, right? But you want them to love the art, right? They're gonna be seeing it every day. So I would say, yeah, I, some of it's just going along with the process and, and getting the feedback. But if I've ever had, which I haven't, but if someone ever just felt like, Hey, this just isn't what I want, or maybe this isn't what I thought I wanted, that's fine too, right? I mean, I wouldn't want my art in a space if someone wasn't really loving it. And feeling it, you know, it's not personal, so.


JB for EV:

Yeah. Yeah. What, what have you not yet tried that that has you curious creatively? Is it any other medium or any other application? What kind of peaks your interest at this point in your art career?


JA:

There's a couple. I would say airbrushing, kind of incorporating some, not, I mean, spray paint, airbrush, you know, that seems really neat. So that's something I'm interested in that I haven't really tried. One thing that I've dabbled in actually did a commission most recently, and I'm really excited, and wanna do more. It is acrylic on canvas, but it's just a very different technique that I've seen some other artists who teach, you know, kind of do. And, and a lot of times people say abstract art, you just threw some pain on a canvas. It, it's not, I mean, there really is a, I wouldn't call it a formula, but kind of a method or a process that you, you do kind of have to understand color composition or color theory, I'm sorry, you know, composition layering. And then it of course boils down to you, the artist saying, Hey, you know, what do I wanna take from that? What do I wanna add? Cuz all those layers eventually are, you know, you're gonna see things, underneath the layers and things you will cover up. And I think I wanna play a little bit more with that because a lot of my work has been more on the plexiglass side. And really the first thing you're putting down, the first layer of paint with plexiglass is really what the, the viewer is gonna see, right? And then you're playing with more light at that point as far as how many layers you wanna put on the back. So it's very reverse. Yeah. So that's something I really want to get a little bit more into. And collage art.


JB for EV:

Wonderful. That sounds very exciting. And, and you know, it's limitless out there, how we can create and then, and then allowing yourself to dive into that is a different story, you know, that it takes supplies and it takes focus and it takes, all those things that have to come together for a piece to come to fruition. And so sometimes when we're in a groove, it's harder than it sounds to switch it up or try something new. And so it's always fun. Even the slightest tweak can end up, I don't know, just making you feel differently about what's coming through and the way it's coming through.


JA:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's a lot of times I've had to say, okay, quit buying supplies, now you need to do it. So I have an airbrush gun, have the inks, I haven't done it. <laugh>. Yeah. A couple other too, right? So it's like, it's buying supplies.


JB for EV:

Yeah. Yeah. Well if you had, you know, if you were talking to someone who is just, just tapping into the idea that they have this creative flow and they really maybe are intimidated about taking the leap or diving in or making a splash with what it is that they have to offer, what would be your advice to someone who has that creative inkling but isn't quite sure what to do with it yet?


JA:

That's a really great question. I would say first ask yourself what you're afraid of. What, what is your fear, right? And we have a lot of fears. I would start there, uh, maybe journal a little bit about that, right? Kind of just get in touch with yourself and understanding maybe better, you know, what that fear could be, or what it is you're wanting to achieve. Maybe either. Sometimes it's just, I just wanna paint right and see what happens. That's great too. Don't be scared. I think the more I painted, uh, in my time that I have painted, the more I learned, the more I grew, the less that I painted, you know, I forget things, anything. But don't be scared and don't listen to. I don't know, I guess it's like the stereotypical, or, or maybe that's not even the right word, but what we think an artist has to be, right? You know, you don't have to be a starving artist, right? There are a lot of artists making careers, you know, by painting. So you don't have to be formally taught, right? You can, you can learn as you go. And there's a lot of tools out there. So I would just say, just start, just start with some basic maybe colors and a canvas and or whatever it is that you're interested in and just start, you know, messing around and playing around and, and I think you'll find your way for sure.


JB for EV:

Yeah, that's amazing advice. And I have to say, I'm so excited to see what comes from you next. I know you've been on this creative journey for a while, but also are opening yourself up to some, some new things and some new ways of doing them. So I have no doubt, that it'll be amazing whatever comes through. And I'm so excited to get to share your work through Elan Vitae and to be able to feature this piece that, just as really unique and special as are each of the, the babies that we create, you know, on this cover, because I feel like it really sums up, uh, both through color and texture and context, everything that I was trying to convey with this CREATE issue that's literally what it's called. This, the theme of this issue is CREATE. And it's about really, taking the, taking the leap of faith and diving in and making a splash with what it is you have to flow through you creatively. So thank you so much for sharing your beauty and your wisdom, with us. And I can't wait for everyone to check out the magazine, both on the cover, and we'll have some other photos to feature with the article about you as well. So thank you for joining me today.


JA:

You're welcome. It's so nice to be with you guys.


LISTEN TO FULL INTERVIEW HERE:






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