I didn’t initially in the beginning thought I could do art because it wasn’t a noble pursuit. It wasn’t education, or medicine, or law. But I feel very humbled and I really love life, and art is the way I can express myself to understand the point of living.
What Was the First Painting You Sold?
It was a panda painting. It had a yellow background and the panda looked like he was walking out of the painting. I called it “Arriving Panda.” Andy had a coffee shop in downtown Lowell and he saw the painting and he has had it there ever since. I see it every time I go there. It’s about attracting people who like the same things as me.
How Did You Develop a Following?
I used tweet every single day. I don’t tweet as much now that I’m getting busier, but when I used to stop tweeting, even if I skipped a day, people would message me: “Where did you go?” “What happened?” “Are you okay, because you just suddenly stopped?”
Before twitter, I used to chat with a lot of people in person and if they had questions, I did my best to answer them. When I first started to sell, I was very honest with people; I was just telling them my story. Even though my hope was to sell, I didn’t want to focus on that too much; I just wanted to paint. I told them, “I feel this way about this piece, and this is how I painted this piece and this is my story of how we got to this piece,” and so I would just be myself and tell them, “I can tell you right now that my paintings are not all going to be consistent because I’m all over the place. I feel different ways.” There are times where we have the personal side of us and the professional side of us, and they’re both so different.
How Did You Know It Could Be a Business?
I believe that it’s a profitable thing at the same time, whereas initially I started it as a feel-good thing. In the back of my mind, though, I always knew could sell it. The problem with painting is there are some pieces that I really like that I just don’t want to sell, and that becomes a problem. I have too many paintings, so I think I have to start an art show now. It’s conflicting. There are pieces that people like and then I get a good offer and I need to let it go. I don’t have enough space for all the paintings. It’s a hobby, but I also have big dreams. It’s tough for me to do art as a business because I have so much feeling involved in it and it takes a little bit of time. Art isn’t something that get it out there through networking and mass production. This is something that does take time. Even the professional collectors put us in track records instead of paying a lot of money. So I have to think about those kinds of things.
How Do You Keep Production Rates High?
I like to travel, and I come back from these trips with a lot of ideas. That’s when inspiration hits and all the things come out. So I can do a lot, but since I’m also I’m selling paintings now, I’m starting to do copies and customized paintings and that slows down the original painting process. It was coming out a lot and I had a lot of ideas too and it just kept coming out. I thought, I need to get it out in a way that looks good and that’s very easy to finish. So I like to paint on a canvas because right after you paint it, right after it dries, you can hang it and it’s ready.
I see myself hopefully licensing my newest series, Signs of Life, once I’m steady. Right now I’m all over the place. I told my collectors that they’re going to see different things; it’s not consistent. Once I get some consistency, I think it’s a good idea to start licensing on napkins and paper plates, and get part of that as a royalty.
I would also like to keep traveling because that’s where I get my ideas. In different places people think differently. So many business owners go outside of the U.S., they see how other people run their business, and they bring it back to the U.S.
About Jennifer Shao
In 2000, artist Jennifer Shao moved with her family from mainland China to Lowell, Mass., where she now lives. Jennifer is a graduate of Chelmsford High School in Chelmsford, Mass., and credits her art teachers for her evolving interest in the arts. Her teachers introduced her to the work of artists like van Gogh and Picasso. Jennifer is a risk-taker. She is not afraid to try new forms of art and new techniques. She moves from using brushes to cosmetic sponges, glitter and rhinestones. Her paintings are unique, fresh and full of color. As her style evolves, she is discovering ways to share her art with an audience. She has good business sense and has plans to use it to promote her work in the future.