Jennifer (Jen) Brunelle is a make-up artist, an amateur tattoo artist and an up and coming modern artist from a small town in Canada. When not creating art in one form or another, she is busy raising her eight year old son. She has always enjoyed art and in the last few years Jen has found her way back to creating acrylic paintings – using art as both a form of personal story telling of her experiences over the years, as well as a tool to help her heal from those experiences.
Jen how do you see your background as a makeup artist and as an amateur tattoo artist influencing your style of art?
I actually started as an artist drawing, and I did not paint my first picturing until I was about 22. I became a makeup artist in my mid-thirties. I always loved horror makeup and originally looked into a course for that purpose but I truly fell in love with all makeup application as I learned through the program. I have always appreciated the beauty of tattoos and I have a number myself. Being creative I decided to purchase a machine and try to learn. It’s been a really enjoyable experience for me as well. I think that various styles work together to push me as an artist. I can see my style of art influence my style as a makeup and tattoo artist as I move forward with those mediums.
Art in various forms is a big part of who you are. What does art mean to you?
My art is very personal to me. I have many different styles and they really are a reflection of how I’m feeling. My dolls and darker drawings I started as a teenager are little parts of my heart. My characters are actually little reflections of myself over the years. As I’ve gotten older I’ve branched into other styles and how learned to express my feelings with all the different mediums they have available now.
Your story is similar to other artists including my own, in that you took a hiatus from art and then got back into it. What inspired you to start creating again?
Yes I did take a long break. Life got busy and I had a lot of personal issues I was dealing with. I have a personality disorder called Borderline Personality Disorder, and I had been suffering with Bulimia for 18 years. I actually became very sick four years ago. It scared me to the point where I finally got some help. I have been on a continuous battle to get better mentally and physically. But I now suffer from an auto immune illnesses and I’m realizing how precious life is. It saddens me that it took me getting very sick for me to really get help and start to learn to love myself.
My art is like therapy to me, it has helped me tremendously. It is very freeing for me, as someone dealing with mental illness, as it is a way to express myself and deal with my anxiety in a positive way. I use humour and laugh at myself and I create my art to make others happy. In the process it brings me happiness as well. I am still a work in progress but I hope that by sharing my story it may influence someone to get help sooner before it manifests into a lifestyle. I am continuously inspired now by the beautiful world around me. I appreciate it now more than ever.
Art is very personal to each artist – I know that for you, your art is based on your own experiences. How are the characters in your “Dolls” series a reflection of you at different points in your life?
My dolls specifically are versions of me. Having mental health issues most of my life I felt I could express my feelings through the drawing of my dolls. I always hid how I felt on the inside. It was like putting all that was hidden into those dolls, whether it was loneliness, a broken heart, or confusion. Often they look bony, and that was a reflection of my hidden eating disorder. As dark and slightly creepy that they may appear, I feel they also have a lot of love inside of them to offer… kind of like me. Now as I’ve been changing and working to get well, my art has transferred into a brighter more colourful style. However I am still a huge fan of skulls and dolls so there will surely be some colourful ones in the making soon.
Because your work is so personal and an artistic depiction of your life, how do you feel when you are putting your emotions and experiences on canvas for others to see?
I used to not want others to know the truth behind my work to be honest. I felt too vulnerable. But now I feel more than ever that I should take the opportunity to be open about it. Some, at times many find it overwhelming to hear so much personal information. But I see first-hand how many other people suffer from mental illness and self-esteem issues and are just too afraid, embarrassed or ashamed to talk about it. I wasted 18 years of my life torturing myself mentally and physically, and if my story can help even one person make better life choices and learn to love themselves then I think it is worth it. I hope that when people view my art they can see how much love is put into all of my work.
Your work deals with a very important societal issue. What do you see as the role of artists in the world today?
I think that whether it is an artist or another person who has an opportunity to influence others and share a message, we need to focus on positivity or education. And really it can be both. I hope to bring joy to people’s homes with the art they purchase for their walls and I hope by learning about me or meeting me, people walk away feeling enlightened and happy.
Is there a specific piece in your catalogue that you are most proud of? If so which piece is it and what is it about that particular piece that gives you that feeling of pride?
I do not really have one that I am most proud of necessarily; however, my doll Joey is probably the most important. She was the first painting I ever did. I painted her to look like me at that time, and I used paints and brushes from the dollar store. I had many sketches of my dolls, but she was my first painting. It is because of her I fell in love with painting. I have her framed and up on my wall.
Your paintings have a very unique style – what artists or art movements have influenced your work and in what way?
From a very young age I drew dolls and little characters and it continued on into my teen years. I love music and in my teens one of my favourite bands was Korn. One of their albums, “Issues”, had an awesome cover with dolls of the band members. I remember really being really influenced by that cover and it inspired my creativity. Tim Burton was another whose characters played a big role with regards to my ideas and inspirations. I am also really inspired by nature as well, so I like to incorporate my unique visions of some of the beautiful things I see on a walk or that I capture in a photograph.
Where do you see your work going in the future or at the very least, where do you hope your art takes you on the next stage of your journey?
I truly want to be able to share my art with the world. It brings me so much peace and happiness while I create it. Often I start with one idea in mind and it turns into something completely different. I love the freedom of change I can experience while creating my pieces whether it be painting, drawing, wood burning, or other creative outlet I want to try. I want the people who buy my art to feel the emotional energy and love I put into every piece. I am very grateful for the support I have had with my art this far, and I truly look forward to creating more unique works.
Jen it has been a pleasure learning about you and your art. I do have one last question for you. As an artist new to the art scene is there any message or advice you want to give to those starting out?
I would just tell others to believe in themselves. Just try and see what happens. It is a slow process in this industry but we are lucky in this day in age to have many social platforms. I am just learning to use them more myself. I understand the feeling of being nervous of rejection, but I have learned that the worst thing to happen is having someone say “No”. And then try again. Do not get discouraged. Have faith in yourself and maintain a positive attitude.
The art of Jen Brunelle, specifically “Dolls” is a series of characters meant to express her feelings and depict figures that are relatable to others. She hopes that through this series, individuals can avoid some of the experiences Jen has had, and in the process, find the positive to create the best life for themselves and come to truly appreciate how amazing each individual is in this world.