Creative Insights: Jen Cushman

Art Chooses You

I’ve always been creative. As cliché as it sounds, I believe I was born with the artistic gene embedded in the strands of my DNA.

I can recall my earliest childhood memories of whittling away the hours fabricating stories. Unsatisfied to merely think the thoughts, I always seemed to have this need to document the characters and plots by making simply constructed books where I wrote and doodled the narratives rattling around in my brain.

I had decided on a journalism career by my sophomore year of high school.  By college, my desire to do Pulitzer-prize winning reporting completely engulfed me. I continued in this vein for more than a decade, steadily working my way up to larger papers and bigger beats. All of my creative energies went into working my craft as a writer/editor. Luckily, I was good at it and I loved it.

After a decade working for newspapers, my biological clock rang—more like an alarm clock bleating loudly at 3 a.m.—I was burned out by daily news, and my husband and I wanted to have kids. I went through an identity crisis as a journalist-turned stay-at-home-mommy. To get through it, I bought art supplies and dabbled while my son napped.

My time as an at-home mom was short lived. A friend of mine was promoted to managing editor of a lifestyle magazine in Scottsdale, AZ and asked if I would be the Arts Editor and cover the city’s thriving gallery district.

I began freelancing for other art magazines and another editor friend called and asked if I would go to New Orleans for write a feature on their visual arts scene (this was pre-Katrina).  During my time in the Big Easy, I struck up a conversation about my collage and assemblage passion with the editor of Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion. A week later she offered me a column featuring mixed media artists, which I produced for nearly five years until the magazine sadly fell victim to the economy.

Then, the most wonderful thing happened; I found myself pregnant again at 41. As I was dealing with morning sickness, my wickedly-talented friend and mentor Susan Lenart Kazmer asked me to join her company.

My husband and I have a beautiful 19-month-old daughter, an 11-year-old son and I’m working as the Director of Education and Marketing for ICE Resin Susan Lenart Kazmer. I just published my first book, and the accomplishment of it feels incredible.

I’m living the life of my dreams. Making art, raising a family, coordinating a design team of tremendously talented working artists, managing our marketing, doing our social media and teaching the mixed media techniques that makes my soul sing.

I also get to add to my list writing an art marketing column for Create Mixed Media and also the fabulous Belle Armoire Jewelry magazine.

Despite the fact I’ll be covering different topics for Belle Armoire Jewelry and here, at Create Mixed Media, I decided to keep the column name the same. I’m fond of the name “Art Chooses You” because I believe so many of us are born visual.  We view the world differently from the moment we join humanity. Our brains are hardwired to see artistic fundamentals such as line, texture, color, design, harmony, balance and a myriad of other visual cues in the midst of our everyday surroundings.

I honestly believe that while we think we choose art, the reverse is actually true. I think art chooses us, and it does so at birth.

After interviewing lots of people over the years, I’ve learned the one question successful artists are continually asked is this: How does one make a living from one’s art?

Ahhh, the 64 million dollar question. Unfortunately, there isn’t a $64 million answer. There are, however, a lot of proven ideas and business strategies when it comes to marketing and public relations. We’ll explore these topics each month.

Of course, I wouldn’t be very good at PR if I didn’t tap experts. Columns will feature guidance from some of your favorite mixed media artists. We’ll be talking about crafting a good artist statement, setting up a professional portfolio, how to approach editors, how to get your work published and lots more. It’s my sincere hope that my columns will offer juicy tidbits that help propel you forward in the direction of your dreams.


Bio: Jen Cushman is a natural storyteller who found mixed media art a decade ago and never looked back. She is drawn to the imperfect, the funky, the quirky, the artsy and the authentic: be it people or objects or art. To learn more, visit her website

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2 Responses to Creative Insights: Jen Cushman

  1. ivy says:

    What a wonderful journey!!! Your colums in Home Companion were one of the big reasons I bought the magazine. I do miss it. I do believe as you do that art chooses you. Sometimes I wish I were one of those people who enjoye doing housework for a hobby, but I know in my heart that art is something that stirs my soul, and that is better than housework any day!! Look forward to your column!

  2. JenCushman says:

    Thanks Ivy for taking the time to leave a comment here. I really appreciate it. I also wanted to tell you that I am SO with you on the housework thing. I think I could have the walls fall down around me and not care as long as I’m making artwork. 🙂