Wendy Zumpano, self-taught artist & blogger
Lucky me! I get to draw pictures for a living, meet wonderful people and create special memories for generations to enjoy. I am humbled by the feedback I've received from my clients and the people I meet at art shows, who ask how I got started and where I studied.
I am a self taught artist and my art education has been practice, practice, practice. My work has improved significantly over the last 25 years or so (see my first portrait ever below...) I have been drawing since birth, and professionally since the early 1990's.
In the 90's, as my friends started getting married and having kids, I drew portraits as gifts. I hung a portrait of our dog at our vet and slowly but surely, I started getting requests for PAID portraits! Eventually I ordered business cards and created this web site. While commuting to downtown Chicago, I drew on the train where I perfected my steady hand on the bouncing rails and received occasional inquiries from fellow commuters. Over time, it became a joyful hobby and source of side income.
In February of 2005, I had an opportunity in a different industry that fell through and while I was heady with short-timer's arrogance, I told the CEO to stop lying to customers and employees. Whoops! I was fired with no severance and I couldn't have been more panicked. My husband and parents encouraged me to try drawing full time.
How I wish I would have pursued it sooner!
Today, thanks in part to my corporate computer experience, I have a sophisticated process of digitally capturing the images that I draw in layouts that can be rather complex (combining up to 29 people in a one portrait, changing positions, combining a hairstyle from one photo, a smile from another and so on). My work experience in marketing and client relations has helped as well. There are many talented artists in the world who don't know how to market their art. In some ways I'm lucky that the marketing know-how came first.
Clients ask if I get tired of drawing, and I never do. Every project is a joy, every client a new friend. I sometimes bump into people I have drawn but never met, and their faces are so familiar to me, I'm sure I know them. I think about branching out into painting some day as my fellow artists sometimes suggest I do. But I just love the simplicity of black and white, and the nuances that pencil can bring. Plus, I like an eraser.
I love my work! I'm home when my kids come home from school and I kiss them goodbye when they get on the bus. I don't have to call anyone to tell them that I'm sick, or my kids are sick. Other than precious time spent with family, the best part of my job is the emotional connection I have with my clients. Sometimes my projects are a little bittersweet - people or pets who have passed on or the celebration of a meaningful relationship. It's an honor to hear their stories and draw for them. People have said such kind and flattering things about my work; it is deeply satisfying to be appreciated for something that I truly enjoy doing.
I write a blog about some of the amazing stories behind the wonderful people I have drawn and my experiences becoming a full time artist. Let me know what you think!
I hope to have the chance to get to know you, hear your story and draw something important in your life.
I grew up in the Chicagoland area with a technical father and a mother who loves the arts. My dad designed the moving walkways that you see at airports. I inherited his mechanical engineer precision and my mom's love for people. I worked for my father at his computer consulting firm for many years, which gave me some technical and practical skills that help me in running my own portrait business now. I met my husband, Joe, in the computer field when we worked together. We live in the far north suburbs of Illinois with our two boys, Joey and Max, who are too smart for their own good. You can see their portrait at the top of each page of this website, with our little rat terrier, Bullock (named for Seth Bullock from the Old West... not Sandra.) We have another little rat terrier named Duncan (for Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks) who is lovable but borderline special needs - he is crazy. We are all older than in this photograph, but I can't change it. The boys were so cute.
I developed an interest in portraiture when I would copy black and white celebrity photographs from the newspaper TV guide when I was a little girl. Since being an artist didn't seem like a real career option, I went to the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana for advertising. I always loved to write, so it seemed like a nice combination of my business, writing and graphic skills. It seemed like a logical plan except that I couldn't get an actual JOB in advertising. But I did take an elective art class that taught me some techniques that I use all the time.
My real beginning in portraiture happened in college, but not in the classroom. I drew a group portrait of friends as a graduation gift for my roommate, Karen. That's supposed to be me sitting on the floor in the front left of the picture. Don't I look like I've been punched in the face? I have come a long way, as you can see by the following more recent group portrait. But hey, a portrait of 13 people as my first effort was an optimistic undertaking.