Makers to Know: Jennifer Ou

I've known Jennifer for maybe a year now, we met through Instagram as suffering grad students in the sciences. Her work is so colorful and calming at the same time, and I really appreciate her taking the time to tell us more about her & artwork! 

Everyone takes a different path to starting their own business. How did your shop begin? 

I sold my first painting the summer after I graduated high school. I didn’t go to art school, life got busy, and for years I dabbled around, did a few commissions here and there. When I went to Italy last spring, I dedicated myself to be fully immersed in my surroundings, and I fell in love with painting all over again. When I came back to Ohio, I resolved to make it work somehow. I revived my Etsy shop, entered the Instagram world, and just kept painting. You can’t sell if you don’t have paintings, and the more I painted, the more my work grew, and the more I sold. Since then, I’ve just been taking it a step at time.

Your recent work focuses on landscapes and floral arrangements in a style that leans toward impressionism. What drew you into this subject matter and painting style? 

To me, impressionism is the perfect balance between the boundaries of realism and abstract. My work used to lean heavily towards realism, but I began to appreciate the accidental brushstrokes that persisted into the final painting. It gave a more painterly feel, and that human touch makes a painting so much richer and personal. Landscapes are something I’ve always done — they come more naturally to me, and I love how they can be simple or complex. I avoid drawing whenever possible, so the subject matter allows for a more simple composition. Florals, however, are a subject completely new to me. I enjoy changing it up periodically, and experiment with different styles to keep my work fluid and growing. 

Where do you hope to see your art in the next few years? Do you have any big goals or dream collaborators? 

This year is particularly busy with life outside of my art, so I hope to paint larger in the next year or so. I’d love to have a greater mix of small and large paintings. I also haven’t had the time to show my art locally, whether that be coffee shops or art festivals. I’d love to do this at some point in the next few years! Most of my work is sold online, so I feel it would be wonderful to meet my collectors in person! Although Instagram has definitely helped bridge the gap between the artist and customer, there’s just something about being able to show your art and talk about your work in person. 

What was one of the biggest challenges that you faced as you started your own business? How did you overcome that? 

I think the biggest challenge is knowing how to start. It’s kind of an adventure, there’s no written instructions, and I didn’t have any artists I could reach out to at the time for guidance. I struggled with everything from doubting my own work, trying to find a niche, figuring out where to get the best canvases I needed, what size or subject matter to paint, pricing, how to deal with negativity. I learned a lot of things the hard way, and it was just plain difficult. It still is, but now I have past experiences to look back on. I wouldn’t have gotten through if it wasn’t for my friends and their faith in me. Just having people to talk things through, from business ideas to constructive criticism, is essential.

When you’re not working on your shop, what are you up to? 

I’m currently in grad school to become a physician assistant (that’s another story in itself)  - so my time is very, very limited. 90% of my life is spent in class, studying, taking exams, sleeping, or grocery shopping and cooking ;) It doesn’t allow much time for painting, and I’ve definitely thought about closing up shop more than once. I’m so grateful for everyone continuing to support me in my artwork regardless!

Can you share three of your favorite handmade shops or artists? 

Oh, this is hard. There are just TOO many talented makers out there! Some that come to mind are Jelly Bird Signs - Nicole is not only amazing at what she does (making signs), but I love her heart for God, her family, and people. Danielle from Small Wild Shop is just beyond talented and she continues to surprise me with new creations. I have way too many artists I’m crushing on, but a most recent favorite is Raven Roxanne (@rain_bird) - her newest Girls With Flowers series is her best work yet!