If you ask us, there’s no better cure for the Monday morning blues than surrounding ourselves with friends who fill us with inspiration and positive energy. Except, maybe, for surrounding ourselves with friends who fill us with inspiration, positive energy and cupcakes.

Alas, there were no carbs present when we sat down to chat with Jenie Gao, but there were sweet, sweet morsels of sunshine and radiance which are almost as filling (without the calories!). Check out what she has to say on her art, her inspirations and her favorite childhood memories … then check out her amazing woodblock art here!


Tell us a little bit about what you do at Jenie Gao Studio.

The core of my practice is my artwork. Making art is the way in which I best communicate and share my ideas, stories, and beliefs with others. The space I create around my artwork is a part of that. I want what I do to be accessible and approachable, because when we open ourselves to share what we do and who we are we invite others to do the same. We teach and learn from one another; we have dialogue and therefore connect. So I start with the artwork and my studio practice, teach workshops on my process, and host events to bring people together in a shared and welcoming space.

What’s your philosophy on art and creativity? (What kind of artist would you say you are?)

I’m like a sheepdog when it comes to art. I’m happiest when I’m doing my work and disgruntled and anxious when I’m not. Happy isn’t entirely the right word—it’s more like a satisfaction that can only come from something that’s ingrained in one’s instincts. If we’re going to be really literal, I’m a fine artist, a printmaker, a woodcut artist, a “drawer” (but not one who holds your socks). Philosophically, I believe in knowing and being true to oneself, in being committed to the things that each of us cares about. For me, that’s making art, and when I treat art as a language in my life, a means of communication and expression that interlinks all other parts of my life, then the hard work and creativity feed one another and grow.  My relationships grow.  My energy is good. My mind is bright. My days are full. It’s easy for something like art to become a sort of “sideshow,” that thing that a person maybe has time for today or later this week. It’s easy for many things that each of us cares about to become sidetracked, easy to get caught up in the daily grind and commitments to what we think we’re supposed to do, value, or have. I’ll go back to being true to ourselves, to the importance of listening to and working towards who we are. While it’s scary to let go of our securities and our attachment to expectations and even the inconvenient comforts in our lives, when we learn first to be true to who we are it becomes increasingly easier to be open and dedicated in all aspects of our lives; we begin to grow, instead of doing maintenance.

So in a nutshell, I believe in working hard at what I care about and being open to share that with others. I believe in learning by doing, that when I work in this way and have clarity, it invites others to be open, to learn, and to grow as well.

Describe your studio space in 5 words or less.

Full of daylight and possibilities

You’ve been a busy lady lately! Care to share what you’ve been up to and where we can find you in the near future? Don’t worry, we won’t stalk you. We think.

Lots of art-making! I’ve also been working on my studio, creating a space that is open and inviting for anyone else who enters it. Expect an events calendar soon. I will also have artwork up at Café Lulu in Bay View from end of July through October, so please stop by to see the show. I’ll be there for Gallery Night on Friday, July 27th. As for stalking me, if you’re in the neighborhood and you see me working and want to say hello, just knock. It’s way less creepy and I’m pretty appreciative of visitors. J

Is there anything you’ve ever tried to learn how to do that you’ve discovered you’re just plain bad at?

Dancing. Maybe I haven’t given it an honest enough effort, but there is enough evidence that my kinesthetic intelligence quotient is just really low.

Ok. So we’ve heard you’re a great Dabble teacher, but if you were going to be a Dabble student … what things off your bucket list would you want to learn how to do?

  • How to crochet, specifically in the round
  • How to speak Portuguese…(not sure if foreign language is something I can get away with just dabbling in?)
  • How to play consistently at pool
  • How to float on my back
  • How to change a tire

This is a tough one—are you ready? If your life were being made into a movie, what moment in time would be the opening credits, and what song would be playing in the background?

That is tough.

So this isn’t something I remember, but apparently when I was two years old I begged my mom to buy me this red umbrella. Finally, she caved (most likely also thanks to my grandma), and I proceeded to parade throughout the store carrying this open red umbrella like a goon. My mom was so embarrassed that at the end of this she said to me, “You’re going to carry that umbrella for the rest of your life.”

It’s still the only umbrella I’ve ever owned.

The song for this moment: First Day of My Life, by Bright Eyes. Or maybe Little Bitty, by Alan Jackson.

What’s the last book you read? Who would you recommend it for?

The last book I read was Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I would recommend it for anyone. If I need to be more specific, then anyone who loves beautifully visual language and a story that tugs at the heartstrings. For short story lovers, please also read Adichie’s anthology, The Thing Around Your Neck.