Q and A with Jennifer Soriano – Winner of the 8th Annual Create a Greeting Card Scholarship Contest

First and foremost, congratulations to Jennifer Soriano on winning the 8th Annual Create a Greeting Card Scholarship Contest!

Right now, Jennifer is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Illustration at the Academy of Art University.

We had an initial conversation with Jennifer, but we wanted to get a little more personal in this Q and A session in which she explains how her beautiful design came to life, what she truly wants to accomplish in her life as an artist, and what other artists could learn from her approach to the Create a Greeting Card Scholarship Contest.


MA: So, it’s been a few months – How has winning the 8th Annual Scholarship Program Contest affected you (besides being on top of the world)?

JS: Well, I have to admit to still being in a feeling of disbelief (that I won). It has been such a wonderful affirmation of all the work it takes to perfect one’s craft. I think, like many artists, we often question our abilities, especially in a world where artistic achievement is often overlooked – where our creations are often conceived in solitude. You begin to wonder if anything you paint or draw will matter to anyone else… its a little like putting your soul on display. The scholarship has certainly been both an  inspiration to work harder and to take pride in the work one achieves.

The money has been truly helpful to relieve some of the stress that comes with always figuring out how to pay for cost of tuition. Less stress of course means more energy to invest in one’s artwork.

MA: After reviewing your response towards, “What are your plans after Graduate School,” you stated you are “currently teaching studio art and want to become a better teacher.” What do you feel you need to do to accomplish this goal?

JS: While art may be created in solitude, its ideas are always rooted in other people. There is always an element of the artist’s character within their work. When I create a piece of art, it’s for people. When I teach art, it is not only for the individual student’s fulfillment as an artist, but also as a way for them to communicate artistically with their larger cultural setting. Part of communicating effectively is to understand what you want to say, who you are speaking to, and what is going to be the most effective telling of the story for your audience. I always like to think of art as being a conversation between the artist and the viewer.

(On computer’s changing the way an artist is evolving) – I decided it would be essential as both a teacher and an artist to learn new ways in which to use the computer to communicate a visual idea. Digital media today has a larger audience base and opens up many ways for the artist to communicate with as well. I also wanted to push myself to begin to think about different ways an artist could use this platform, whether they were using traditional illustration methods or digital painting programs. This is the world which my students navigate daily and I wanted to be a more effective educational leader for them by increasing my knowledge in this arena. I also felt the traditional world of artistic creation was an important component of being better able to manipulate new technology, so I wanted to increase my own technical ability in both traditional and digital painting techniques.

MA: What did you find to be the best and most challenging aspect of creating your artwork for the Greeting Card?

JS: I wanted to capture that feeling of when you are small and you are so excited for your birthday! The thing I remember (and is still true of my own children) is when you just can’t wait for that colorful mountain of sweetness that you get in fluffy frosting and colorful sprinkles. There is that barely contained excitement for the anticipation of cake!

2014 Scholarship Winner

I set up my still life of cupcakes so that it was from a child’s perspective, when you can see what’s waiting for you on the kitchen counter or table, but its out of your reach. I wanted to create the perspective like you were that child, looking up at that tempting row of cupcakes, and they are just out of reach.

I ended up sitting on the floor with a table easel in order to see my still life from a kid’s perspective with the cupcakes on the top of a pedestal. I got a real appreciation for the view kids have of much of the world (and their world). It is not the most comfortable position to paint from, but it was very effective.

MA: What did you think of the overall process of the Scholarship program? Besides being monetarily rewarding, was it a process where you feel you can grow from (as an artist and an individual)?

JS: Greeting cards are a form of communication and in this case, there is a very specific type of communication needed for a greeting card. As an artist, you have to think about the best way to communicate the theme. Additionally, you also have to think about the human being you are creating the card for, what ideas might appeal the most to them. It requires the artist to step outside of themselves into the mind of others and try to figure what moves them.

MA: Do you see this contest as being something rewarding to an artist in a creative aspect?

JS: I like these kind of mental challenges. You are presented with a problem and then you have to come up with a solution to the problem that is uniquely your own. Each of the artists who participated came up with answers to the theme that were vastly different. That is the wonderful part of the creative challenge… you get to see how other artists have different approaches to the same ideas.

MA: What advice can you give to other future participants of our Scholarship Program?

JS: Before you launch into drawing out an idea, think about who the card is for. Imagine a scenario in which it might be given and what is that person feeling. I think understanding the audience you are designing for is as important as the technical work of drawing or painting itself.

MA: If you could change anything about the Scholarship Program, what would it be?

JS: Perhaps people would benefit more if the news was spread to make (the contest) more widely known to the artistic community.  Especially as there is little financial support for working adults going back to school. As a group, we are often working full time jobs, supporting children, and even our children in college. Our financial burdens often outweigh younger students and there is little aid out there older students.

I happened to have a friend who saw the “Creating the Greeting Card Scholarship” contest because he ordered cards from The Gallery Collection. Prior to this, I had no idea such a contest existed or that graduate students were eligible! I wish I had known about it earlier.

I think (the Scholarship Program) is a wonderful way to support the education of artists.