Jenna Rose Simon had been drawing for years before one of her pieces went viral on social media. Ever since, she has been sharing her gift with the world via her online platforms. Her art, which began as a way to find her voice as a survivor of abuse, subsequently gave a voice to other survivors.
She recognizes that her art can be triggering, both for herself and viewers. Please be aware that some of her art accompanies this article and deals with the issue of child sexual abuse in a direct manner and therefore may be upsetting.
Darkness to Light recently had a chance to speak with Jenna about her art and how it’s impacted her life and the lives of others.
D2L: How long have you been drawing?
Jenna: I have been drawing most of my life, but only started drawing seriously within the last year or two. I’m mostly self taught, and I’ve enjoyed drawing for as long as I can remember.
D2L: What is your creative process like?
Jenna: It mostly involves taking from my own experiences or the experiences of others in my life. I try to draw things that I feel matter in the world, rather than just a simple portrait or celebrity (though I do draw those as well). I try to draw what’s in my heart, which often winds up coming out in a creative way without really trying. I do from time to time try to draw a concept that I feel those following me will relate to, even if it is not specific to me personally. At those times, I spend a great deal of energy trying to find relevant issues in society today, such as bullying, self-esteem issues, or the need for approval. Then I attempt to draw out a concept that easily depicts those struggles, so that people looking at it can easily see what the concept is and hopefully relate to it and feel something
D2L: Your art is very moving and powerful, and each piece seems to speak to multiple messages. What are your thoughts about people interpreting the images as you intended versus in a way that speaks to them?
Jenna: As an artist, I always want people to interpret the drawing in a way that is meaningful to them. It’s sometimes hard to guarantee the way an individual will interpret a piece of art. So many people have different life experiences, which create barriers to their interpretation of everything they see. For example, a lot of parents interpreted my “viral” drawing as a way to show how “spoiled” and “over emotional” kids are, and how judgmental people are of parents. I intended it to show the effects of verbally abusing children. I can’t control how people interpret the art. I always hope that whatever they take away from it is something moving and positive, and something that helps them heal in some way.
D2L: What is the most challenging part about creating art with such intense themes?
Jenna: For me, it can be triggering at times. I also worry that it could trigger others, rather than help them. A lot of times I draw because I am experiencing something that I need to release in some way. That can be so therapeutic. However, I do often wonder if “putting it out” into the world will upset others or make them uncomfortable. I would never want to trigger or harm someone else. In those situations, I just weigh the probability of the piece having that effect on others, versus it making others feel less alone, and decide from there whether or not to post it. So far, there have only been a few pieces that I’ve chosen to keep to myself.
D2L: As with any art, I’m sure you sometimes get negative feedback. How do you process that type of feedback when your art is so personal?
Jenna: I have to just realize that the people commenting don’t know me. They don’t even really know that the art is personal to me if they haven’t been following me for a long time. I once had someone tell me that my eating disorder awareness self-portrait had been “done before” and was “unoriginal.” It was that moment that I realized people online can just be outright mean, and there isn’t much you can do about it other than know your own truth and realize that when you put yourself out there, people will have something to say. Some will be nice, others will try to pick everything you do apart. It’s up to you which group of people you give attention to. I try to focus on the ones who support me and appreciate my work, rather then the ones who tear it down.
D2L: What is the most profound interaction you’ve experienced with another survivor who’s come across your art?
Jenna: The most profound interaction I’ve ever received was when a child send me a direct message on Instagram telling me about a surgery she had for a brain tumor. When she first awoke from surgery, her parents said she couldn’t remember anything, including them. She was an artist and her parents were showing her sketches she had done and she couldn’t even remember drawing them or ever having a love for art. When the neurologist showed her a series of images to jog her memory, my viral drawing appeared in the slide show. Her parents told her she stood up from her hospital bed and shouted my name, and none of them knew what she was talking about. The girl told me that over the following few weeks, she regained some of her memories, particularly core ones like who her parents were, and things that she loved doing in her life like drawing and reading. To have that kind of effect on someone has left a profoundly large mark on my heart.
D2L: What would you say to someone who thought they might like to try art as a therapy?
Jenna: Do it! Anyone who wants to try art as a therapy is embarking on a really healing journey, even if they never share their art with anyone else. Sometimes art creates a release when we don’t have words, which can make it even more therapeutic than writing. Sometimes we have ideas that we cannot express, and drawing them makes it feel easier or more “okay.” I would tell them to definitely explore their thoughts and abilities on paper, even if another soul never sees it. There is something amazing about doing it just for yourself.f you
Jenna Rose Simon, nicknamed “Bean” for her size, is an actress and artist. She was born and raised in New Jersey, where she began her career dancing. Jenna performed a variety of children’s roles with the professional company, American Repertory Ballet, including the lead role of Clara in the Nutcracker for three consecutive years. It was then that Jenna found a love for acting and has starred in several film roles. Jenna is also a graphite pencil artist, and has risen in fame through her viral graphite pencil drawings depicting a variety of concepts.