Meet Josephine Zentner (@josephinezentner) a talented artist from London, which we discovered a few months ago and immediately loved.
"My work is about creating playful, semi-surrealist worlds. I’m interested in creating scenes and situations that could happen, but don’t."
Let's meet her.
- Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
My name is Josephine, I am a third year student studying Drawing and Print at UWE in Bristol! I’m originally from London, and will return there after my studies in September. I am lucky enough to spend all my time painting dreamy scenes at the moment, and I hope to work as an artist full time after graduation.
- When did your journey start?
My journey started in October 2016 after going on antidepressants. I felt alive again for the first time in years. I had never painted before, but I thought I’d try it as I was drawn to the colours and I loved the immediacy of putting paint on canvas (rather than slower processes like printing or line drawing). I started off with more graphic work to introduce myself to the medium, and I have developed into much more detailed work as I’ve grown more confident in painting.
- What’s the idea behind your work?
My work is about creating playful, semi-surrealist worlds. I’m interested in creating scenes and situations that could happen, but don’t. I like putting objects in places they aren’t ‘supposed’ to be; the idea of an entire living room set up in the desert is both whimsical and magical to me, almost like something in a dream.
- Do you have a personal life motto?
Not really to be honest, I just get on with the day to day stuff! I find it hard to relate to generalised positivity and mottos so I tend to give myself advice in a more specific way depending on what I need at the time.
- What kind of music drives you?
I don’t know if I have music that particularly drives or inspires me, I just listen to whatever I’m feeling. I find it really annoying when I sit down to paint and then trawl through my music deciding what to listen to for 15 minutes, so I love putting on whole albums so I don’t have to think about it. Some artists I listen to are Paul Simon, Vampire Weekend, A Tribe Called Quest, Talking Heads, Four Tet, and Lana Del Rey. I’m definitely not exclusive with my genres!
- Do you have any favourite film and why?
My favourite film since I was 15 has been Leon the Professional. I’ve still never seen anything quite like it. It’s got everything: drama, aesthetic beauty, action, I just love it. But I’m a sucker for any sort of drama really. I’ve seen Good Will Hunting a thousand times, I love Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, Interstellar blew me away. Sorry, that was a few more than one.
- What’s your favourite piece that you’ve created and why?
Ooh that’s a tricky one. I think my newest work is always my favourite, but I’m constantly thinking ahead to the next work so I don’t really pay a lot of mind to my completed pieces. If I really had to choose, though, maybe Monument Valley. I love the drama of that bold red. However, both Teshima and Living Room both hold a place in my heart because they were the pieces that solidified what my work was about to me.
- How do you find inspiration on an average day? Do you have any rituals?
My inspiration lies in my source material. I have a huge folder on my computer that is broken down into furniture (hard / soft), objects, spaces (deserts, man made, natural, skies) and so much more that I can just pour over when I’m looking for inspiration. I normally have a few ideas on the go, though, so my step by step process would be first looking at my sketchbook (which is more like a journal where I write everything from business stuff to painting plans) to see if I have any sketches I haven't painted yet. Usually these are rough ideas but I’ve got specific furniture / spaces in mind, so I’ll collate all the source imagery I need and put it in a folder that I then go back to and look at while I paint. I’ll often print those images out, too, as I think it just helps with the decision making process as I move things around on the parts of the painting I’ve already completed.
- Who’s your favourite contemporary artist?
Chloe Wise. Her work is so incredible, I wish I had her technical skill. She is the only artist that has tempted me to work with oils, but I still can’t quite wrap my head around them! Her series ‘Of False Beaches and Butter Money’ blew me away. I loved how her work is not only technically and aesthetically beautiful, but also raises interesting discussions, particularly about food culture in that series, which I am really interested in.
- How is it to be a woman in the contemporary art scene?
It’s never really occurred to me to be honest! I guess because I’m still at university I haven’t had a whole lot of experience with the ‘scene’ yet, all of the collaborations and discussions I’ve had with people have been mostly via emails and Instagram.
I think as a freelancer you’re not really aware of issues like the pay gap and problems that occur more within other industries. Obviously the art world has its own problems, like with female artists not receiving proper recognition for their work. But now we’ve got wonderful people like Katy at The Great Women Artists who is doing such an amazing job bringing these female artists to light.
Also, I think social media has given women a lot of power in the industry because we can take control of our own image, whereas before we would have to rely on publications and galleries to get work out there. So it feels like quite a level playing field out there on Instagram. But maybe I’m naive, ask me again in a few years, haha.
- You’ve worked on many different projects, which one did you enjoy the most and why?
I think the swimsuit collaboration was the most enjoyable! Working with Katy from Stuff With Prints was great, and I’m really proud of the product we released. It was a long time in the works before it came out and I just felt so excited seeing the prototypes and the final product in the flesh. It felt really great. I’d also say that the Lazy Oaf exhibition was really exciting. They are a brand I have loved for years, so to hear that they had chosen my work to exhibit was such an honour.
- How did social media help you to promote your art?
I have social media to thank for every opportunity that has come my way. I started my Instagram account in March 2017 and just uploaded a few drawings and sketchbook pages of my very first time playing around with paint, and it just sort of grew faster than I ever could have imagined. I’m so grateful for the lovely reception my work has had! I have a Facebook page as well, but Instagram is definitely where artists thrive, it has become such a great community of artists that support each other and 90% of my business proposals come through via DMs, which I find quite funny. I think that social media has sort of enabled the artist to become their own agent and gallery.
- What do you think is the best way for an artist to be heard and advertise themselves, nowadays?
Well, I guess I would say it’s definitely important to get all your social media sorted, that will provide a good base. You should start a new account specifically for your work, you can’t be posting half family snaps and half art, people will get confused and feel weird about following you. People always say that posting regularly is a must, but I literally post about once every 3 weeks, I don’t know how people create enough content to post once a day! If you can’t keep up, don’t stress.
Entering competitions is also a good way to get yourself out there, but a lot of them charge for entry, so I only enter ones that charge when I feel that I have a shot or if the benefits of winning would be worth the entry fee. I’d also say that collaborating with other artists or brands is a huge way to get your work out. If you can really see your work working with what they do, you have nothing to lose by seeing if they're interested! They may never reply, they may not be interested, and that’s fine, but if they do, you could reach a whole new audience and create something exciting too.
- Do you have any advice to give to the new female entrepreneurs?
There’s a lot of pressure nowadays to constantly be working, which can make you feel like you’re not doing enough if you’re not working every single day and ‘grinding’ towards success. Obviously some grinding has to happen, but I think it’s so important to remember to not feel guilty for taking time off if you need it, or if you just want it! I’ve technically recovered from my mental health problems, but I still have a lot of down days where I just don’t feel like I’m in the right place to work, and I think everyone should listen to themselves in that situation and realise that the opportunities aren’t going to run away if you take some time off. And sometimes you’d just rather watch Bake Off, and that’s cool too.
Also, from a more practical standpoint: get a weekly planner / blank journal and write down your weekly to do lists. I’ve also written a list of goals at the front (and I’ve just ticked off my first one!) which is good for keeping yourself motivated, visualising your goals, and manifesting them!
Thank you Josephine. Discover more at www.josephinezentner.bigcartel.com