By Caitlin Antonios
There tends to be a misconception that art majors are doomed to a life of little money and even less success. However, Jolene Ung graduated from UCI in 2011 with a degree in studio art and now works as a financially successful project manager to design and package products for other companies. After beginning her college career as a biology major, she decided to switch after discovering her passion for art. While she spends the majority of her day holed up in a cubicle, Ung never forgets that she is still an artist.
As a self-proclaimed and proud Girl Boss, Ung owns and manages her own brand, ‘Quirks & Smirks,’ where she is able to commercially sell her hand-lettered goods through the online DIY marketplace Etsy. Jolene created the fast-growing brand in mid-2014 and was determined to not let anything stop her from making it a successful business. She also takes part in Long Beach’s annual East Village Makers’ Mart that is typically held each November, which promotes small business, artistic ventures. Ung is an avid supporter of her home town’s art scene and contributes as much as often as she is able to. Jolene has managed to find a niche market that has gained her brand quite a following; last year her work was even featured on Huffington Post’s website after the Super Bowl last year for producing a “Left Shark” greeting card.
As her brand name suggests, it is in fact quite quirky. Her primary product is printed and hand-painted cards as well as other items such as band art, buttons, art prints and tote bags. Jolene’s cards in particular usually feature popular emojis or characters, like the minion characters from Despicable Me. While this may seem strange at first, it is a demonstration of Jolene’s ability to capitalize on the most popular trends and used her talents to make her mark.
What makes Jolene so successful, however, is her ability to produce art that covers a range of topics. Not only does she create works based on hot trends, but she also includes pieces centered around her Christian faith, as well as uplifting literature quotes and messages.
“I like creating beautiful things that can be interpreted as beautiful by many different people,” Ung said. “When I create a piece, I enjoy creating a visual obstacle course of sorts for my viewers. I like intricacy, plays on space and often times abstract interpretations.” Jolene hopes that her artwork will “inspire others to muster up their courage and try new things.”
UCI has played a fundamental role in helping her develop as an artist.
“I remember taking many classes that pushed me out of my comfort zone, and many of them also put me in situations where I was required to ask myself questions about my own identity both as a person and as an artist,” Ung said. “Specifically, I recall a class I took one quarter that was solely focused on developing yourself as an artist. This became one of the most influential periods in my life, artistically.”
One of Jolene’s greatest resources was keeping up with events on campus, which she usually finds on Facebook.
For Ung, art is more that just brush strokes on a piece of paper.
“I think art is important because it’s one of few things that can’t be put in a box, and it can belong to anyone and everyone. Art empowers those who may not have any other means to be empowered. Art is so special – I think it is a tool that can showcase the uniqueness and individuality of humanity.”