We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenny Li and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenny, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking of starting a business. I made the decision during quarantine where everything happened so suddenly.
For the past 4 years throughout college, I’d never gotten a single internship or job in the art/illustration field, while others in my class were able to get positions at prestigious studios and companies. I felt like things were so unfair—I had a perfect GPA, worked my hardest on all my projects, and was the only one in the school pursuing my dual degree program, yet why couldn’t I get anything? I was ready to give up on art and accept that I was never going to get a job or become successful—maybe I should’ve gone into medicine after all.
Halfway into year 4, I finally received my first internship offer at a small company for summer 2020. I was so excited—it was my first opportunity! But a few weeks later, the first case of Covid-19 was discovered in NYC, and the internship was canceled. I was back at square one again.
This time, however, I decided to take things into my own hands. As lockdown began in March, I began practicing painting environments—I painted every day, with hopes of creating a portfolio good enough for the illustration or animation industries. I decided to post all my work online, and my art started getting noticed by a lot of people. I got my first client in early June, and then another, and another—before I knew it, I was running a full time illustration business by August.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As an animator, illustrator, and musician, I want to transport people to a different world with my films. My films have a dream-like, nostalgic quality that feels both fantastical and close-to-home at the same time. In my visual development and background design, I try to create an ethereal feeling by using subtle lighting and balance of color. Together with the narrative, animated movement, and soundtrack, my films take my viewers through a journey of nostalgia and magic.
Capturing the mood and atmosphere of an imagined world is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding aspects of the process for me. There is so much technique involved in order to tell the story you wish to tell, and I’m constantly practicing painting and creating new environments from my head. With every new piece, I learn something new about light and color, as well as the unique contribution every element has to worldbuilding.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love nature and the outdoors, and the NY/NJ area has many fun hikes with beautiful views that inspired a few of my illustrations. Two of my favorite hikes are The Giant Stairs in Palisades Interstate Park, as well as Breakneck Ridge. Both are 3-4 hour long hikes, and I went to both places early in the morning where there was an amazing layer of fog covering the Hudson River. It felt like I was floating above the clouds. When I don’t want to travel far from NYC, I love going to one of the parks to paint. My favorite parks are Central Park and Fort Tryon Park.
After spending the day outdoors, one of my favorite places to eat is Shimiaodao Yunnan Rice Noodle, which is a tiny restaurant in St. Marks Place that reminds me of what I ate back in my hometown in China. I love bubble tea as well, and Teazzi is my go-to spot for drinks.
Breads Bakery is my favorite bakery and cafe. With its location right next to Union Square, I love to grab a few pastries and sit on one of the stairs in Union Square looking at all the interesting people passing by. Union Square also has a farmer’s market 4 days a week, where I always pick up some fresh fruits and vegetables.
(I actually had to think really hard for this question because quarantine has gone on for so long that I haven’t gone out to some of these places in over a year!)
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My mom, Maggie Huang, has been the biggest help in all sorts of ways throughout my entire process of starting an illustration business. Not only does she help me pack and ship prints during busy weeks, but she also gave me many marketing tips for managing my social media. She was an entrepreneur herself during her college years and started her own architecture company!