Meet the artist who perfectly illustrates our 20-something lives
When we first stumbled upon Quarter Life Poetry, we couldn’t believe our eyes: Here was someone not just dishing out some #tooreal feelings about being in your 20s, but also beautifully illustrating and writing poetry to express them. Tackling everything from not shaving your legs to student loan debt, every Insta-ed post combines relatively innocent artwork and not-so-innocent poems expressing frustration, doubt, fear, and of course, an appreciation for the simple joys of life.
The “no pants, no problem” version of the 20-something life is something that more and more young women relate to, and it’s taken form in pop culture as its own sort of self-expression and identity. Whether you’re debating the merits of putting on a bra to run an errand or crying while you calculate your food budget (or just thinking about creating one), you know that feeling: Caught between sureness in your undergrad education and the harsh jobs outlook in “the real world,” you’re slapped with the “millennial” label even though you only use Snapchat to send “ugly” selfies to your BFFs and consider 12 likes on your brunch photo a new standard of Instagram fame. Your parents want you to get your life together and start a family; you’re trying to figure out if you can finish that pizza by yourself. (You can; congrats!)
Quarter Life Poetry gets that, and provides a no-judgment commentary on a reality faced by a generation of young women torn between what they were taught to want and what they actually think and feel on a day-to-day basis. Here’s a sampling:
Can you see why we’re obsessed? We had to find out more about the woman behind the art, and so, we did!
Samantha Jayne is the Renaissance woman behind the magic. When she’s not working on Quarter Life Poetry, she’s an actress and freelance art director. We reached out to her ask her how she reads our minds, how she decided upon the illustration + poetry combo, and what it means to be a 20-something woman.
What does your average day look like?
I’m a freelance illustrator, writer, and an actress — so my days are largely self-structured. I’ve worked at big companies in the past, but I actually find I’m way more productive when I work on my own. I typically wake up early and go for a jog or a free yoga class to clear my mind and get centered. I make myself a cup of tea and start my work day. If I have a freelance assignment, I’ll dig into that.
But lately, I’ve been illustrating a book I’ve written about a girl right smack in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. It’s a dark comedy in the style of a children’s book, with rhyming prose and little whimsical illustrations — it’s been a total treat to work on. It’s been my passion project for a while, and that’s how Quarter Life Poetry was born. I wanted to keep fresh with quick little thoughts that popped up about the #struggle, and I’d draw doodles to accompany them to post up for my friends.
How do you decide what things are “20-something related” and then how do you pick which specific things to illustrate?
As a 25-year-old, I draw from my own experiences and those of my friends to determine what’s relevant to write about. I like to focus on the little thoughts women my age have throughout the day that aren’t necessarily broadcasted to the world. It’s a time in our lives where we’re constantly second-guessing what we’re doing, where we want to go, who we want to be.
It’s this incessant inner-monologue that’s super personal and terrifying. I think it’s important to recognize these fears, and even more important to make light of them. I also think that keeping the poems specific is what makes it relatable. I’ve been getting such a kick from fellow 20-somethings tagging their friends in my poems and saying “That is SO my life.” And I think– wait! But that’s MY life! It’s really awesome to see people connecting and having conversations about these topics.
What inspired you to combine illustrations with poetry?
I’ve always been enamored with everything Shel Silverstein. I would pore over his books of poetry and ink drawings. I loved the way he poeticized the littlest things; from overdue library books to cleaning dishes to eating a stack of pancakes. I loved seeing poetry-a form of expression that, in the mind of a kid, is reserved for deep, profound thoughts and sincere romantic gestures–totally turned on its head into something light and relatable to a 10-year-old.
Well, now that 10-year-old is 25 and I’m totally nostalgic for childhood. Part of me wants to be a kid again, curled up with Falling Up. But I also want to be taken seriously as an adult. It’s this weird push-pull of wishing to regress and grow all at once. I thought it would be fun to create doodles and illustrations in a children’s book style, only the topics are relevant to us as we are now.
How much of your Quarter Life Poetry work is informed by femininity or uniquely female experiences? Do you think about that aspect of it at all?
Quarter Life Poetry is very much informed by the female perspective since it’s my own thoughts and experiences. But my work is also representative of the millennial females I know. I think this generation of 20-something women has an incredible advantage, but we’re also changing the status quo in a big way. We’re the first generation to really question the traditional milestones women are expected to meet. The idea of getting married at 22, settling down, purchasing a house, filling it with stuff, and having two babies by the time we’re 28 is just not the norm for us.
We’re a generation of strong, independent women, creating our own names and careers. This sort of thing takes time. And thanks to insane tuition costs and the recession during our college years, we’re also largely underemployed and swimming in student loans. It’s a total recipe for a freak-out. Especially when we compare ourselves to where our mothers were in their lives at this age. I’m getting sweaty just thinking about it. My point is, we need to remember to laugh about the little things and that we’re definitely not alone in our journeys.
(All images courtesy of Samantha Jayne.)