Interview with Jumdropz
When doing my research for my interview with artist Eric Bui, I stumbled upon his shop where I saw bright and colorful pieces made by an artist who went by the name of Jumdropz. After interviewing Eric, I found out Jumdropz was Pauline, who is also Eric’s partner. My eyes were so attracted to Pauline’s vibrant and colorful art that I had to do a feature on Pauline. So let’s get into it.
Let the Chopstickers get to know a little bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m Pauline and I go by Jum or Jumdropz as my artist name. I’m a native of San Jose, CA and have lived here most of my life (though I briefly lived in Southern California when I went to college). As a professional, I have a background in project management and currently am an Account Executive for a training and enablement agency that focuses on consulting and creating sales materials for our clients.
I love having things that give me something to look forward to outside of work, so I’m constantly picking up new hobbies. The one constant throughout my life, however, has been art. I’ve always had a sort of short attention span, so I’ll get really invested in a hobby for a short while until I jump to the next. Lately though, I’d say my main hobbies outside of art have been discovering new music, watching films and TV shows I haven’t seen before, reading fiction (I’ve been really into horror and sci-fi lately!), and getting out to explore nature as much as I can.
How did you get into drawing?
I’ve been into art and drawing for as long as I can remember. Art was always my favorite subject in school and I think I’ve had a knack for creativity since I was young, but if I could pick a defining catalyst that got me really into drawing, it would probably be my obsession with Sailor Moon as a kid. I would trade Sailor Moon cards and stickers with my friends at school and loved them so much, I wanted to learn how to draw them so that I could create my own made up Sailor Moon characters.
Drawing was also a way to bond with my sister and my cousin—the three of us have always been super close, and growing up we would always spend hours drawing together. I feel lucky to have grown up around other people who are interested in art!
Who is Jum? What is the story behind Jum?
This is a great question! I’m still trying to figure this out because a lot of people ask me this. Who is Jum?? I guess I consider Jum to be my “artist alter ego” in a way. “Jum” is the silly way my family started spelling my Vietnamese name, which is Trâm (pronounced very loosely similar to “Jum”), so for the longest time my online handles always included “jum” in them. When I started to post my art on Instagram, I decided to make a separate account and called it “jumdraws”, and eventually I changed it to “jumdropz”.
I feel like I have two halves to my identity—Pauline is the side that I show to most people I come across, like friends, colleagues, and strangers, and my “true” self that most people don’t see is Trâm. So I guess Jum is my creative characterization of how I perceive myself.
You told me that you had to put art on the back burner because of your full time job. How has that been?
Oh, it’s been rough! But it happens, and I’ve learned to accept it instead of agonizing over it. Actually, this is not the first time that I’ve put art on the back burner. I mentioned earlier that I grew up drawing a ton, but actually, throughout high school and college I completely stopped drawing. I’m not sure why, I think I convinced myself it was uncool and lost interest in it. It wasn’t until I started dating my partner Eric that I started to gravitate towards art again. I was going through a really rough time in my life and having a hobby was a helpful outlet. But even then, I wasn’t consistent with it. It just so happened that at my last job, there was an art club during lunch hours. My friend convinced me to come with her to the club meetings and I met a lot of cool artists there who convinced me to make an Instagram for my art as a way to keep myself accountable! It really worked and I started posting pretty consistently and building up the habit of drawing regularly again! I really drew a lot last year during the lockdown as well, I think everyone needed a bit of escapism during that time and drawing was mine.
Earlier this year, I was actually unemployed for a while, and so all my time and energy went to my hobbies to keep me mentally healthy. I drew a ton and focused a lot of energy into developing my style more. I think I was gaining a lot of momentum and was super proud of myself. But eventually I found a job, and I think that really put a pause on my growth as an artist (and I hate that so much!)
I’m trying to find a way to balance my work and personal life better, but it’s been really hard. My job is pretty stressful and takes a lot of my brain power during the day, so when I finally have some time to sit down and draw, I’m so mentally drained that I can’t produce anything I like. The thought of drawing became a bit of a burden. I feel guilty for not drawing more and instead of my usual outlet for escape, it’s become something daunting. Being creative regularly takes a lot of effort and energy, and I am still trying to find the right balance.
I love the vibrant colors you use in your drawings. Would you say that is your personal style? Why do you use such bright colors?
Thank you so much! I’m a sucker for super bright neon colors. I’ve never really sat down and thought about why I use bright colors, I’m just naturally drawn to them because they make me feel cheery and happy! Plus, I feel like you don’t see them enough in everyday life. I think a lot of people shy away from using super vivid colors because it can be “too much,” but I feel like I’ve found a way to make it palatable (at least I hope so, haha!) Life can be pretty dull and mundane as a working adult, so when I draw, I want it to be an escape to something vibrant, uplifting, and fun!
I see on your Instagram that you initially did drawings on paper but later switched to digital. How was that transition?
Yes, thank you for noticing! It took a lot of mental courage for me to do that! I know it sounds simple, but it was a huge blocker for me before. I was really convinced that I could never be good at digital art and I constantly made excuses not to try it out.
When I was younger, I actually made quite a bit of art using digital programs, but I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with all the tools so I shied away from it, assuming I’d never figure out how to use them properly. So initially when I started my IG I was sticking to my comfort zone of pen and paper, but everyone kept telling me to try digital art again. I tried it a couple times and hated how it turned out. I think the disconnect had always been that I needed more texture in my digital art, and I didn’t know how to create it. When using ink and paper, there’s a lot of natural texture added, like when the ink blots, or from the grain of the paper, but when I started out on digital art, I didn’t know the right tools so everything I was drawing came out super flat and I was unhappy with it.
I typically wouldn’t add any kind of background outside of a few stars or flowers here and there. My process was to simply doodle something, and if I liked it enough, I’d color it in. My sketchbook was basically like a doodle coloring book, and it was rare that I would have a fully completed composition.
I started watching process videos by some of my favorite artists to learn some neat tips and tricks, and started incorporating and experimenting a bit out of my comfort zone. One day something just clicked—I found a process that worked for me and I’ve been sticking to it ever since! Now, with digital art, half the fun for me is after I’m done with the main part of the drawing, I spend a ton of time figuring out how to add cool graphic elements to the background and go ham with the textures and patterns. That would be a lot harder for me to recreate with traditional media, so yeah I’d say moving to digital art helped me evolve my style quite a bit! Now I look back and I can’t believe I ever doubted myself, because all my favorite pieces I’ve ever drawn have been digital! Past me would never believe it, haha.
I remember from interviewing Eric, that you also opened a shop on his page. How was that experience?
It was so reassuring, and I felt so loved and supported! I admire so many independent artists who have online shops where they sell their own merchandise, and it’s always been a fantasy of mine to be able to do the same. When I tell people that, they’ll usually ask “well, what’s stopping you?” ME!!! I’m stopping me!! I’m always getting in my own way, convincing myself that I’m not a good artist, that no one would want to buy from me, that I don’t even have enough discipline to make enough art to make merchandise out of, etc etc...basically being a hater on myself for no reason. During those months when I was unemployed, I really believed that I wouldn’t be able to find another corporate job, so I decided to just give it a shot to sell my art as a last ditch effort or something.
My good friend was generous enough to lend me all her old sticker making supplies, so I learned how to make stickers and made prints of some of my favorite pieces. It was so nerve wracking to launch the shop, but I did it as a birthday gift to myself, to show myself that I can achieve dreams I’ve always had if I just get out of my own way! As I mentioned earlier, at this point, my art shop has been on hold so that I can focus on work, but I do hope to get back to it and create more products sometime in the future now that I know I can do it!
How has this interview experience been like for you?
I’m just so grateful that you’re reaching out to me to ask about my experience as an artist. It’s really validating to know that people are interested in my art even though I see it as just a hobby. It gives me the motivation to keep going with it! Through this journey, I’m definitely learning the importance of going at my own pace. There are a lot of super talented artists online that I know are years younger than me and way more “successful” than me, so sometimes I feel discouraged and like I’m “behind,” but I have to remind myself that art is my escape and not my entire self worth. I should draw when I have fun doing so, not when I feel obligated to. It’s okay to take breaks and I’m not any worse of an artist if I have a long hiatus. After reflecting so much on my art and experience, I feel invigorated now to keep drawing and creating new things, so thank you for reigniting that spark in me! I hope you follow along my art journey and enjoy seeing Jum evolve!
As Pauline mentioned above, taking time to reflect on one’s life and art is needed especially for Asian American Artists who face many different struggles as POC in America. Chopsticks Alley is putting together an Asian Artists Healing Collective (AAHC), a place for Asian artists to meet in a natural park setting to address the challenges they face in times of Covid and systemic racism towards Asian Americans. The event will be hosted by Eric Bui and Lindsey Leong. We plan to host our first AAHC on January 23rd at Sanborn County Park. More details about the event will be released soon.
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Chopsticks Alley Editorial Intern
Harleen is a freshman at Foothill College pursuing her B.A. in philosophy. She ran her high school’s newspaper PHHS The Legend as a managing editor, and was later inducted into the Quill and Scroll Honor Society as a lifetime member. Growing up in San Jose, Harleen hopes to write about and amplify the voices of the Vietnamese and Pinoy community that she is surrounded by. She hopes to become a lawyer who will give back to her community.