of the time when we think of print artists and designers, thoughts go
more toward the giant printed works and illustrations. But a lot
of those same artists are producing work on a smaller scale beyond
chapbooks and print cards. Many of those talented people are putting
their skills to work on everyday items like menus, brochures,
pamphlets, stock art, notepads and various other designs for bigger
companies around the world. Do you really think Disney only hires one
person to draw all their creations on various products?
--- Its that kind of work that's given Valerie Jar a successful career as a freelance artist. Putting her own spin on already established brand names while also creating her own works for developing companies and small businesses. Providing an opportunity to have her work seen from a few thousand patrons to millions of customers on any given day. I got a chance to chat with Valerie about her artwork and career, plus thoughts on local art and other designers, all with some samples of her work for you to check out.
Gavin: Hey Valerie! First thing, tell us a bit about yourself.
Valerie: I'm Val. I'm 24 and have lived in Utah for my entire life, but didn't stay in the same location growing up. I went to four different elementary schools and two middle schools before settling into the Salt Lake City area. I want to travel the world, Iceland is at the top of my list right now, I eat a lot of cereal and I ride my bike pretty much every single day.
Gavin: What first got you interested in drawing and illustration, and what were some of your early inspirations?
Valerie: I don't know what got me into illustration really. I just know that I have loved it for as long as I can remember. There isn't a time in my life where I don't remember drawing. My dad encouraged it and always told me to do what I was passionate about. Art was it. It was my favorite subject in school and never did I question any other career path. I'm inspired by old vintage signs and peeling typography on buildings. I like pretty packages and hand-lettering. I also really love the aesthetic of art deco.
Gavin: You received your BFA in Graphic Design from the U back in 2008. What made you choose the U, and what was their program like for you?
Valerie: I chose the U because it was close by. I dabbled with the idea of going to an art school in Minneapolis or San Francisco, but was not in the right mindset or place in my life to do so at the time. Staying in Utah ended up being a good decision because college turned out to be a great experience and I learned a lot. I took a bunch of printmaking classes in addition to my graphic design and illustration classes, which was nice. I formed some good relationships over the four years I was there and discovered I have a huge love for screenprinting.
Gavin: While you were there you were a part of the design team for the Daily Utah Chronicle. What was your time like spent there?
Valerie: This was my first real paying design job and I had never touched Adobe Illustrator prior to this, which was a little scary. Even though I felt like I didn't get the chance to be too creative there (the majority of what I did was create simple tables and graphs for articles), it helped me gain the basic technical skills I needed in the Adobe programs which would later make a huge difference when I started the actual design curriculum that upcoming semester.
Gavin: Over the years, both in college and out, you've worked for several companies as a designer. Allen Communication, Freestyle Marketing, Axiom, etc. How has it been for you honing your craft from so many different companies?
Valerie: As I got more experience in design (at school and at work), I wanted bigger challenges, which led to me switching to jobs that would give me the projects and environment I needed to constantly better myself creatively. Axiom was the biggest influence on me. I did an internship there between my junior and senior year of college and I loved every aspect about it. I was surrounded by people and work that made me want to grow and was always inspired by the people around me.
Gavin: How did you land your current gig with StruckAxiom, and how has it been working for them?
Valerie: During my senior year, Axiom contacted me and asked if I wanted to work for them. I couldn't have been more excited about that. I worked there for about a year and half until we merged with Struck in September 2009. Axiom had a staff of around ten people, so it was totally eye opening and new to see a creative shop function on a bigger scale. It's great to be in a studio where everyone is so into what they do. Being that we get to work on projects for big-name clients helps all of us push our skills to the next level.
Gavin: What eventually made you decide to do freelance design work under your own name?
Valerie: I never really intended to freelance under my name, but every once in a while, I got contacted to do a project and if it sounded like something I wanted to do, I'd take it. Having an online portfolio, networking and promoting yourself really helps get people interested.
Gavin: You've done work for areas like advertising, product integration, name branding and various other other areas. What made you branch out like you have rather than pick a major area?
Valerie: In school, design was always about trying to solve problems, whether it was for a CD package or poster or logo. I think doing projects in different areas helps me continually evolve and never get stuck. The same goes for art in general. The majority of what I do is design and illustration, but every once in a while, I need to get my mind off of that for just a second, so it's good to have a balance of creative interests. I would love to get into pottery again. I like taking photos even though I am not the greatest at it.
Gavin: Who are some of the people you've done work for since starting up, and how is it for you working freelance as opposed to under contract?
Valerie: The people who contact me for freelance have seen my portfolio, so they are usually very open in letting me do what I feel and trusting me to figure out a solution for them. It gives me more room to experiment, whereas, when working with a client at work, they are sometimes set on a specific thing and it can be a little harder to work your way around it. I still enjoy that though because it's a bit of a challenge and that can be rewarding when you get it right.
Gavin: What's the process like for you in creating a piece from idea to final product?
Valerie: I think about things before I go to sleep. I sketch. I don't have a set process; things change depending on the project. But the constants are that I think and sketch.
Gavin: Is there any set plan as to how your designs will look or is it more spontaneous?
Valerie: After I think about for a while, I usually just start going at it. I would say it is a tad more spontaneous. A lot of my work right now is heavily focused around illustration. I am really into color and sometimes will base what I'm doing around what colors I want to use.
Gavin: When the final design is out, what's it like for you hearing people's reactions to your work?
Valerie: It's one of the best parts about finishing a project! In college, critiques were my favorite. I like getting feedback, regardless if it's good to hear or not. Positive or negative feedback plays a huge role in how you tackle the next thing on your plate.
Gavin: What are some upcoming projects people can look forward to seeing from you?
Valerie: I plan on getting back into screenprinting sometime in the future. I'm doing an illustration for a letterpress print series and am also going to be published in a book this upcoming spring/summer. Over the past year, I also really got into doing portraits in charcoal/pastel of people I know. I miss fine art and find that doing these portraits gives me a chance to get my hands dirty again. I want to build a huge collection of these drawings and try to show them in a gallery setting one day.
Gavin: Going into local, what are your thoughts on our local art scene, both good and bad?
Valerie: Salt Lake has a great local art scene. It's diverse and you wouldn't think it, but there are so many opportunities to witness art in all forms. I think the city is starting to gear itself to being more art-friendly, which encourages people to get into it, and that can only benefit the art scene.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Valerie: Basically going out and supporting it. The more support art gets, the more it continues to flourish. I think it's key to just see things you normally wouldn't. It's also a great way to keep your mind fresh and open. For people who aren't necessarily informed about the art scene, get out and explore it. You will most likely find something you have an interest in, whether it's at a gallery, plays, event, concert, etc.
Gavin: What's your take on Gallery Stroll as a whole and what it's done for the art community?
Valerie: It's been great for the community. I've discovered artists that I love that I didn't know about beforehand and formed some contacts through it. I love meeting the people behind what you see on the walls. It seems like gallery stroll is getting more and more popular too. Salt Lake is great for that... the city isn't too large, so it's small enough that the art world is more intimate and you really feel like you could be a part of it.
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of year?
Valerie: I'm going to keep designing and illustrating. A big goal of mine is to start screenprinting again. I really miss that. I want to do more personal projects in my free time and just continue to keep doing what I love.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Valerie: A big thing I have been into lately is adding a good variety of updates to my blog. I post about things I come across that I am inspired by or plain like. I think it's been a great tool for what I do and has broadened what I know and am exposed to. If you visit, you might find something you are inspired by too, and that is one of my main goals for it.
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