I stumbled upon Jennifer Kranz, an artist living in Chicago, IL, by accident when I was checking out one of my Facebook groups, “Real women have curves, Not the body of a 12 year old boy.” I was browsing through one of the photo albums and I came across a sketch that portrayed what it was like to live in the world of a plus-size person. The comment below read that the drawing was part of a developing series and at that moment I knew I had to learn more about it. So I (creepily) sent Jenn a Facebook message and asked her if she would like to talk about her sketchbook series on the blog. I wasn’t expecting to get an answer back, but to my surprise, Jenn was extremely down to earth and agreed! I hope you all enjoy our interview and the artwork! BM: Tell us about yourself, Jenn! JK: I’m just a single gal from Chicago who has always loved being creative. I have a Bachelor’s in graphic design and I am currently working as lay-out coordinator (typesetter) for a group of community newspapers in the suburbs of Chicago. As a hobby I like to paint and draw, have a closet almost spilling over with scraps of paper and sketchpads. Art is my passion in life, whether I am creating it myself or admiring someone else’s work. It’s hard to explain, but I love it when I look at a painting or photograph and have that “wow” moment. You know what I mean? Like “Wow, what were they thinking when they created this?” It’s like a small spark of joy. I always dream of being able to visit the Louvre some day and seeing the works of masters in person. I’ve always considered myself a peaceful person and enjoy the diversity that humanity brings us. How boring the world would be if we all looked the same. Ever see that movie “Surrogates” where everyone had the “perfect” image of themselves walking around? Everyone looked like they were made by Mattle, perfect skin, hair, body. Blah, I would hate living in a world like that. BM: Were you always interested in art? What’s your favorite medium? JK: I can’t think of a point in my life where I wasn’t painting, drawing, singing, or doing crafts of some type. One of my favorite sayings has always been ‘There is a reason art and literature are called humanities – it’s what makes us human.’ It’s hard for me to pick a favorite medium, I tend to bounce between them. For a while I fell in love with Adobe Illustrator and all I wanted to do was create illustrations on it. Then I had a painting stage. Painting is very therapeutic, I find myself going back to it when I feel I need to relax my mind and meditate. Now though, I am really digging drawing with charcoals. Cleaning out my art supply container one day, I found I had a little box full of artist charcoal still, and thought “Oh this might be fun to use for my sketchbook from Art House Co-op. “(To read more about the sketchbook project they are sponsoring visit www.thesketchbookproject.com.) BM: What inspires you to make art? JK: Nature is a biggie. Hard not to look at a flower or sunset and think of how one can capture such beauty. I like to follow the school of thought the Impressionists had by admiring color, light, and simple shapes. Whimsy inspires me, too. Being able to create something that can make people smile, or even just think differently, is right up there with creating a thing of beauty. BM: You started a sketchbook series that is plus-size related. Can you talk to us about that? Why did you want to do this? JK: When I received my sketchbook from Art House I was so excited about the idea that something I create would be traveling around the country, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My first inclination was to do watercolors of flowers and these little mice I like to draw at times. But then I thought, ‘You know this has the potential to reach a lot of people – I better take this opportunity to make a statement.’ I’ve always had to live with being plus-sized and it irritates me beyond belief how anyone with a few extra pounds on them is right away marked off as ugly. In college I had to take a photography/film appreciation class and one day our teacher showed a photo of a mother, father, and their son, all who had a little extra weight on them, sitting naked in a field of grass. When we were asked what we thought of the photo, one of my classmates stated out loud “That’s disgusting.” Normally the quiet one in class I couldn’t keep my mouth shut that time, I yelled out in response “What’s wrong with it, is it because they are fat!?” I thought it was a very nice photo. Or I think about the worst pick-up line I’ve ever received – “You know you would be really pretty if you lost a few pounds.” So the theme of my sketchbook turned into that one, cause I’ve always felt strongly about, big is beautiful. Even though the theme is a delicate social issue, I didn’t want my drawings to be real serious, wanted to keep that element of whimsy. I could picture someone flipping through the book and saying ‘oh, angry fat chick did this one.’ So I kept the images on like a cartoon level, which is why I haven’t draw any faces. Figure without a face to focus on, you tend to look at the figure as a whole. I want people to think about how they feel seeing arms, legs, or a butt that is just a little rounder. BM: What do you want to accomplish/express through this sketchbook series? JK: I wanted the drawings to show some of the emotions, bad and good, a woman has to go through because she is plus size – anxiety, self confidence, lonliness, love, happiness. And if the images do convey any of these feelings, do you relate or pity the person? I am hoping though, that the book as a whole will make someone feel better about themselves than worse. BM: What do you think is a misconception about being plus-size? JK: That we are lazy. We are the Morlocks that society fears will consume the healthy and productive. We let ourselves go all soft because we have no self control. That is soooo untrue. On the contrary, a plus size person knows exactly what a struggle is and how to work through it. When you belong to the last acceptable group of people to be prejudice against, you know you have to work that much harder to prove yourself. BM: Have you struggled with self-image? If so, how did you overcome it?JK: Oh yeah, no pun intended but BIG TIME! Pre-teen, adolescent years, pretty much hated myself. I was always taller and fatter than anyone I knew so I constantly felt like a freak. My mother always had me in baggy shirts and I couldn’t go swimming unless I put shorts on over my swim suit. I was hardly ever really happy. When I reached my 20s though, I was tired of always feeling depressed. I didn’t want to feel like that anymore. I wanted to be able to enjoy things again. So with each year I’ve learned to come to terms with one of my “plus-size demons.” I find myself saying, “If they don’t like it, they can kiss it” more often now. I’ve placed a mirror on my bedroom wall opposite my bed so now everyone morning when I wake up or get dressed I have to look myself in the eye. I think the person that looks back at me isn’t too bad at times now. BM: Thank you so much, Jenn! I washonestly so honored and excited to be able to display Jennifer’s artwork. If you are interested in seeing more of her artwork, please visit her online gallery. I’ve always wondered what experiencing society is actually like through the eyes of a plus size person, and interviewing Jenn definitely give me a deeper understanding. I love how she has captured the experience of being plus-sized in her artwork as well as common emotions, such as feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable, that everyone – not just plus sized people – can relate to. Art is such a powerful platform of expression, and I hope that with The Sketchbook Project, Jenn’s artwork and message reaches, educates and touches as many people as possible.