Jen Uman is a refreshing reminder that talent can be cultivated without art school

It wasn’t always easy for Jen to adapt herself and her art in the midst of a drastic change of scene, however. “It took years before I found a pattern in what I was doing,” she says. “I didn’t go to art school, so there was always a reluctance about my approach or talking about my work.” Still, Jen offers up a certain type of sage advice: “Through time and mistakes, undercurrents of worry, responsibilities, support and life getting in the way, I’ve found assurance to just keep going and hold on to my point of view with conviction.” It was perhaps this philosophy brewing beneath the surface that guided Jen over the years as she worked jobs to support herself as an artist and get her work out to more people in the scene. Soon, Jen’s art landed in the hands and homes of collectors across the country. “From there, I was asked to do my first editorial op-ed illustration for the New York Times, and began several collaborations and solo projects,” she says.
There is a remarkable subtlety to Jen Uman’s art. As much as its idiosyncrasies are charming, it’s the complex web of emotion and thought behind each of her pieces, which keeps us so intrigued. “I’m the product of a hard-working liberal reform Jewish creative family who encouraged me to see through my ideas for every reason and for no reason at all,” Jen tells It’s Nice That. “We didn’t have much but they made my sister and I feel like we had everything.”
Originally from Long Beach in California, Jen got her creative start as a “post-disco rebellion, latch key, DIY generation kid from the ’90s,” where she felt encouraged to hang out with her friends and paint, draw, make videos and take pictures of anything and everything they had going on. After a childhood full of cinematic Barbie escapades and hand-drawn menus for every meal she ate, Jen blossomed into a creative juggernaut and set her sights on New York City. “I moved to New York City in the mid ’90s and began painting and experimenting as a consistent practice with the most economical gouache, which I still use,” she says. “Overall, I lived in Southern California and New York for 24 years each and I’m not sure which of them is more where I’m from than the other anymore.”