Originally published on Forbes.com
This Trailblazers series takes a look at the pivotal milestones that make up the life trails of inspiring women from a diverse array of backgrounds and experiences. We all know what social media profiles display about the end results women have achieved. This series is intended to take a deeper, more authentic look at the journeys they have taken to get there.
Jade Purple Brown is an incredible artist and entrepreneur living in New York City. Her work uses strong figures, vibrant colors, and messages of optimism to create new, dynamic worlds of individuality and empowerment. Her artistic practice spans across illustration, design, and creative direction, and has attracted a wide range of global clients. She recently released a book of illustrated quotes by inspiring women, Words to Live By, and has partnered with many influential brands and designers to bring her modern and vibrant creations to even broader audiences.
After learning more about the trail that Jade has blazed, I got the chance to ask her some questions.
Rebekah Bastian: You shared that after going to school for fashion marketing, you decided to teach yourself graphic design. Do you think being self-taught in your discipline opened you up to new creative approaches that you might not have discovered through traditional education?
Jade Purple Brown: Definitely! Since I don’t have a formal background in graphic design, I think I’m a lot more free in the artistic choices I make. My artistic practice is extremely intuitive and is filled with experimentation and a strong sense of play. I don’t worry too much about following certain guidelines and rules that are taught in traditional design courses. I think all of this has played a role in helping me discover my personal style.
Bastian: After feeling unfulfilled at work for some time, you decided to go out and build your own business. What advice do you have for other womxn who are considering making a similar leap?
Brown: Having a job that you’re not in love with can feel like such a huge inconvenience when you’re working towards your dreams, but I would tell others to use the time to do their research and start building a concrete plan for their business. Figure out the financial and operational side, save as much money as you can, and really make sure entrepreneurship is right for you. Juggle your day job and your dream job until you start to see real traction. When you finally take the leap, you’ll be able to do so with full confidence because everything is already in place.
Bastian: Art is such a powerful reflection of the artist. How have the perspectives that you bring — such as being a Black woman who lives in New York — informed the work you do?
Brown: I’m constantly inspired by all of the unique styles and personalities that walk the NYC streets. I love drawing diverse individuals in a way that sparks joy and optimism when seen by the viewer. I’ve felt like my narrative was often missing from the art world, so it’s also very important for me to show Black women in a dynamic, empowering light. Overall I create artwork that reflects how I want to feel and what I want to see more of in the world.
Bastian: What has mentorship looked like in your life? What forms of support, guidance and inspiration have you benefited from as you navigate your journey as an artist and entrepreneur?
Brown: I’ve wanted to be an artist since I was young, and my family has always been supportive. I know this isn’t the case for a lot of people pursuing creative careers, so being encouraged by my own family has given me a huge sense of confidence to move forward with my dreams. When I first started out, I didn’t have anyone with a creative background I could personally turn to. Instead, I would spend time researching people that I admired by reading books, interviews, and studying their work. Learning from other people’s stories has allowed me to piece together a plan for myself and figure out what I truly wanted for my own life. Now that I’m further into my career, I’m lucky to be friends with other artists and creative entrepreneurs who I’m able to learn from and grow with.
Bastian: What led you to create your book, Words to Live By, and how have the quotes you selected for it impacted you personally?
Brown: Around 2017, I started a personal project called Words To Live By. The collection included bold typography-based artwork with powerful sayings like “Start Now” and “I Can Have What I Want.” I used the project as an opportunity to strengthen my typography skills and share positive affirmations with my online audience. In 2019, I was approached by Chronicle Books to create a book highlighting powerful women. We landed on the concept of combining dynamic illustrations with empowering quotes from 50 influential women. The quotes selected in the book are meant to provide an extra dose of inspiration and encouragement and serve as a beautiful reminder of the true strength and inspiration that women embody.