About Jen

Name: Jen
Birthday: August 4th
Job(s): Independent artist, proficient in Graphic Design and Illustration, micro business owner, Magical Girl
Hobbies: Bird care advocacy, drawing, reading, staying caffeinated, D&D, video games, and cuddling birds



Art & Work History

I’ve been drawing since I was 4 years old. I had an older brother that was nice enough to tell me all my drawings were trash. He wasn't lying, but I still loved drawing, so I kept on despite this. Looking back, this might have helped me learn how to both self-critique and accept critiques without having my soul broken. 

Since the age of 16, I've managed to maintain steady work. My first job was at a local flower shop out of necessity since my family was going through a very rough patch. 
I enjoyed working at the flower shop, and the Mom and Pop owners treated me very well. 

Mom-boss and I were setting up centerpieces on a yacht near the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. She said to me, "One day, you'll be going there..."
She knew I was into doodling and anything creative, but it never really dawned on me that I could make a career out of it. I shrugged it off, needless to say, she called it. We moved and I could no longer work there, so I got temp job at Pier 1 to help during the Holidays. I understand fully the nightmare that is retail on Black Friday, having severe social anxiety didn't help... This motivated me into finding a means so that I would never have to endure that again.

My friend randomly showed up one day while I was playing some video game or another. I had no real plans to attend college. I hated high school, why would I want to pay for more school? I went along anyway.
He asked my dad to take us to AIFL for Open House. Of course we'd need to research scholarships because we're both too poor to afford tuition. I really wanted to be a character designer like Tetsuya Nomura, so I had my sights set on game art, but my dad refused to sign for a $64,000 loan for a Bachelor's degree (btw I'm very grateful for this, now). Severely disappointed, I started to prepare to go to community college since everyone "knew" that the only way to make money was by having a degree. The admissions officer called me about the 1 year program in Graphic Design for $12,000. Dad was ok with co-signing for that and I worked my butt off, taking the city bus, and trying to sync schedules so I could catch a ride with my dad on his way to work.
Advice to college-bound folks. Get your gen-eds done at a community college and transfer them to whatever fancy college you want. You'll save money that way.
I excelled in the one year program, and the Professors got together to help me get an "actual degree."
Needing money to attend, I worked part time filing paperwork in admissions and later I moved to the student lounge where I was able to socialize with the usuals, make friends, and switch out games.
I was given the scholarship and in December 2006, I graduated from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale with an Associates degree in studied Graphic Design. I’ve been working in the field ever since. 

How did you get started with birds?

It started over 10 years ago with Elly, my Dusky Conure. After she acted like a clumsy goofball through the window at Petco, I was smitten, and felt I needed to have her in my life.

In retrospect, I now consider this a impulsive move. Not that I regret it, but it’s one so many people make. I didn’t do my research, the staff didn’t teach me much about bird care, they didn’t warned me about the mess, bites, hormones, or screaming. They just had me sign a paper that I honestly didn’t read, paid for the critter, and that was that.

Granted, I personally would never take an animal into my care without committing to them (she’s still with me), but I can see how someone could easily be lured in by the cute antics of a young parrot, and be blinded to the huge responsibility that it is having one in their life.

It all went downhill after Elly or uphill depending on how you look at it.

Obsessed over my new friend, I wanted a cute conure image for my computer’s desktop image. I found one that linked me to petfinder.com.

“Ok, so this site helps adopt out animals. What’s a conure doing on there? Who would give up their parrot?!” Little did I know back then…

That’s when I saw Clifford, a baby, Cherry-Headed Conure. We have feral colonies in South FL and the South FL Wildlife Center would take in any injured ones, rehab them, and find them homes.

A heart symbol resided next to Clifford’s photo that read, “special needs.” To me, special needs meant overlooked and in need of extra love. This spoke to me. Just like Elly, I felt that I needed him in my life and perhaps he needed me, too.

I met Clifford, fell in love, and was ready to take him home, but first, the adoption co-ordinator, Michelle said I needed to submit to a home inspection. I was confused at first because this didn’t happen when I took in Elly in, but now I know the importance of this protocol for the safety of animals. It’s not to be intrusive, it’s an opportunity to point out safety hazards, and prevents animals from being adopted out to hoarders, backyard breeders, bird flippers/brokers, smokers, and all other bad situations.

I set up the cage with soft bedding, low set perches, toys, and food bowls. Michelle stopped by and gave me the ok to take Clifford home. I was so happy. He  had splay legs just like Cody the Lovebird, and just like Cody, I wanted him to see the world, and not be confined to scooting in a cage all day. Clifford with me to hang out in the college lounge, to my friend’s apartment to watch movies, outside areas in restaurants. This tiny bird meant the world to me.

It was about a year when Clifford had a sudden seizure. I was there to see it all happen. We rushed him to the ER, but after a few hours, we received the phone call letting us know he had passed. This memory is burned into my mind as one of the most emotionally painful feelings I have ever experienced in my life. It felt like a part of me died.

I missed work (which they were very understanding of), I couldn’t leave the bed, cried for days.

I wanted to fight this sorrow. I couldn’t allow myself to feel this sadness forever.

In his memory, I volunteered at the Wildlife Center that saved him. I did injured animal pick-ups and answered phones in the Hospital Admissions office after work.

During this time, I connected with a Jacqueline Johnston, a dog & cat rescuer who also had a heart for the special needs critters. Her rescue No Paw Left Behind expanded to include No Feather Left Behind, and this was my hobby for years. When I wasn’t working full-time, I’d be out doing home visits, vet visits, transport, fostering, outreach events. It’s exhausting but rewarding.

From there, a conversation on philosophy brought up the concept of Birdhism. We came to a conclusion, that no matter our differences, we can both agree to out love of birds. I made a FB page about it just for the heck of it, and it grew to include The Chubby Bird Collection, cute-yet--educational material, occasional memes, and of course, lots of images of Cody.

Birds (as well as other animals) deserve love and compassion, even if some just want to bite and scream at me, and throw their healthy food all over the place instead of eating it. They’re wild animals meant for the skies but are confined to cages, waiting on our schedule, sometimes alone for hours. No wonder they lash out. They feel the same emotions we feel, from love and joy to pain and suffering. If I can do something to prevent pain and suffering, I am committed to doing so.

My bird family is a great source of inspiration and motivation. I work hard so that they can have a great life. 

Read more about My Flock

Please consider supporting my endeavors via Patreon

Redbubble: Featured Artist Birdhism
Voyage MIA Magazine

Mashable (Regarding NFTs)

Favorite Self-help Books:
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
Forces of Good by Leslie R. Crutchfield
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Radical Candor by Kim Malone Scott
Atomic Habits by James Clear