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Meet Whitney Fenwick

Today we’d like to introduce you to Whitney Fenwick.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
The creative journey that’s led me to illustration has been more of an arduous climb through seering terrain than a gentle stroll. Since I was a small child, I’ve always been fascinated with making. Understanding how something was constructed or the techniques that were used has been an obsession of mine for as long as I can remember. As I grew older, I began picking up the same mediums that enraptured my mother and aunt: fiber arts, painting and sculpture. In high school, I applied to join the yearbook class despite knowing nothing about digital art. I quickly fell in love with graphic design, typography in particular. Six years later, and with the help of my husband, I had transformed this passion into a thriving business: a letterpress stationery studio. I found so much joy in mastering machinery and techniques that had been in use for over 100 years.

Then I became ill, as Hemingway said, “gradually, then suddenly.” My own body was attacking itself, a rare autoimmune disease few doctors could even spell: dermatomyositis. The disease progressed and the happiness I found designing and printing stationery withered away. Standing, and even sitting at a desk, proved impossible on the best of days. As I lost strength in my hands, I could no longer operate the machines I loved. I was no longer in control of my path, of my art. Each day the disease decided what I could do and who I would be. It wasn’t long before it had been decided: our business would be shuttered.

The daily pressure to create for my business was gone but my own internal desire to make something, anything, still burned brightly. Being diagnosed with a serious illness didn’t remove my desire to find fulfillment and purpose in my work but it did challenge me to figure out how to achieve those goals.

Please tell us about your art.
Adjusting to my limitations has been an ever-evolving process. No two days are the same in my body. Over time, and with the care from my doctors at UCLA, I’ve been able to adjust to my developing symptoms and find a new workflow. I turned to a tool that would allow me to illustrate how and when I could: my iPad. Equipped with Procreate and my Apple Pencil, I’m able to work from bed (be it home or hospital), the waiting rooms of doctor’s offices, or even the chair where I receive the weekly infusions that keep me walking.

My work prior to being diagnosed was typically modern and clean producing a sense of lightness but my recent work reflects more of what I now crave for my own life: a sense of cozy warmth and charm. My biggest desire for my work is that it brings approachable happiness to those who experience it. Every person is fighting a battle of their own. Some are visible while others go unseen but each of us can benefit by being armed with joy. No matter how dark things may seem, I think we all have a seed of happiness within ourselves, sometimes it just needs a little water to grow. If I can nurture that happiness in one person with something I create, make their battle that day a little easier, I would consider my work a success.

After a small improvement in my health, I have recently taken up a new medium: hand-painted wooden brooches. Creating wearable art has brought a newfound joy to my life. Not only does it have a profound effect on the mood of the wearer but I’ve seen it provoke delight in those who view it. I’m looking forward to continuing to create wearable works of art that create an aura of happiness for the wearer and those surrounding them.

We often hear from artists that being an artist can be lonely. Any advice for those looking to connect with other artists?
Just do it! I tend to be very introverted, especially when I become myopically focused on a project. It’s easy for me to neglect social interaction which can really wear thin after awhile. Since I’ve become immunocompromised due to my treatments it can be even more difficult for me to find ways to interact with other artists. I’ve found social media, Instagram in particular, the perfect way to connect with others. The art community on Instagram has been nothing short of astounding. I’ve made some truly special “instant best friends” who have shown me support and care through the ups and downs of my illness. My advice for other artists: don’t be afraid to reach out. If you’re willing to look you’ll find someone, probably many someones, touched by your story.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
The best way to view my art is on Instagram @whitneyfenwick or on my website There you’ll also find updates on my latest shows and the conventions I’ll be attending. I love to connect with others via Instagram- a quick message, funny memes, or pictures of food are always welcome!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Art: Whitney Fenwick, Photography: Made You Look Studio

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