Jenny Vyas is an artist and muralist who came from a background of eCommerce (even managing eCommerce at The Oprah Store at Harpo!) and now creates paintings, commissions and works throughout Chicago focused on the beauty in complex human emotions and human condition. She recommends everyone read The Alchemist (more on how she regularly weaves it into her life below) and loves traveling. Read on to learn the destination she’s learned the most from, a time she “threw herself in the deep end and figured it out”, and the one thing she wishes people would ask her more about.

Portrait of Jenny Vyas by David Sabat
Photo taken by David Sabat, courtesy of Jenny Vyas.

Tell us about your background and how you got to where you are now.

I am a contemporary fine artist based out of Chicago, and I am highly influenced by beauty in complex human emotions and the human condition, and I attempt to reveal them through multiple nuances in expressions in my art. I am fascinated by human frailty, and it shows in my paintings – where I create semi-abstracts of human silhouettes and fluctuating forms in half-light; all drawn from reality, personal experiences, and memories.

Since my art emerged from one of the darkest periods in my life, I explore vulnerability to heal myself, and hopefully heal others through my work. In my previous life, prior to becoming an artist, I led eCommerce for corporations and businesses, including heading eCommerce for The Oprah Store at Harpo for 4 years.

What made you want to pursue your profession/area of focus?

In 2013, I went through what turned out to be the most significant transition of my life. All I yearned for during that period of darkness in pain was to paint. Prior to this, I had painted only once in my life in an art class during college (where I studied graphic design). The key message that helped mold this is from one of my favorite books, The Alchemist: when you want something, the universe conspires in helping you achieve it. What you seek is seeking you.

Jenny Vyas painting live at Fulton Market Kitchen in Chicago
Painting live at Fulton Market Kitchen in Chicago – photo courtesy of Jenny Vyas.

In that moment, all I could think of was to paint. And I strictly focused on that with an audience of one: myself. I wanted to heal through my art. Once I surrendered to this intense pull from within, this fire in my belly urging me to just paint, it took on a life of its own. What emerged felt like something I couldn’t control. It was a surreal and explosive experience. I became a conduit for something larger than just myself. And what you see in my art these days is what emerged. I finally understood what poets talk about, what artists paint about, what dancers dance about, what Shakespeare wrote about. That cognitive ecstasy.

Painting the #FederalesChi wings outside of Federales in West Loop, Chicago was a surprisingly rewarding experience. My favorite part is that the viewers become a part of the artwork and the art is an extension of their stories. My personal passion projects would have to be my #HowWillYouRISE murals (one is publicly accessible at the Clifton Street Art Gallery in Uptown, Chicago) where I paint my versions of phoenixes rising from ashes. They are a reminder to rise from adversity and pain and celebrate transitions that guide you to the life you’re meant to live from this journey.

One of Jenny Vyas’s #HowWillYouRise murals in Chicago.

What gets you excited to wake up every day?

Life. When you are genuinely happy with what you do in life, when you’re living out your purpose, there is a joy unlike any other. Finding your calling and listening to that pull from within is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

“The phoenixes are a reminder to rise from adversity and pain and celebrate transitions that guide you to the life you’re meant to live from this journey.”

What’s the best/most important thing you’ve learned or taught yourself? Why?

To RISE up again because no pain – no adversity – is stronger than you.

Why? Everything starts from us and ends with us. 

Mural inside ROOH Chicago by Jenny Vyas
Mural inside ROOH Chicago – artwork and photo courtesy of Jenny Vyas, photo taken by @booksofvish.

What’s the next thing you’re going to learn or teach yourself? Why?

My process of learning is organic. I don’t have a major plan for life right now. It’s about learning to hone in on my craft and my skills, and paint these deep, soulful paintings that are dying to come through me.

Why? If life has taught me one thing, it’s to live in the moment and not try to make my future happen today. The harder you try to run from your past or your present, the further the future gets. So, learn to stay still, my love.

Related: Check out this gigantic list of murals in Chicago (including Jenny’s Federals wings mural!) you need to add to your list!

Describe a time when you had to ‘throw yourself in the deep end’ and figure it out.

When I chose to paint for the first time. Learning a skill from scratch on my own was hard and often times, defeating. But today, I can’t imagine living without it. 

“If life has taught me one thing, it’s to live in the moment and not try to make my future happen today. The harder you try to run from your past or your present, the further the future gets. So, learn to stay still, my love.”

Do you have advice for finding a strong mentor/ building a relationship with one?

Most experts in any field will be happy to mentor others (provided their schedule permits it). My greatest advice would be to be prepared to be mentored before you connect with a mentor. Everyone’s time is precious and the worst thing you can do is not follow through on making changes or taking initiatives to follow the advice given by the mentors.

You see, mentors can learn from you just as much as you can learn from them. By applying their advice and you flourishing from it, you are gifting the mentors in return. It’s a two-way relationship.

Be the Bridge Mural Soul City Church Chicago Jenny Vyas
Be the Bridge Mural at Soul City Church Chicago – artwork and photo courtesy of Jenny Vyas.

Favorite resources for ongoing learning?

My favorite podcast is “The School of Greatness” by Lewis Howes. He interviews experts from all areas of life and I leave with at least one major learning I can apply in my business or personal life from every interview on that podcast.

I love reading books that highlight spiritual and philosophical learnings. My dad is a philosopher and began writing last year when he retired. His work is some of my favorite to read on a daily basis. Occasionally I love reading mystery and crime fictions. On any given day, there are 4-5 books sitting by my bedside.

If there’s one book I recommend everyone should read, it’s the Alchemist. It is life-changing. I reread it every 5-7 years and it holds a different meaning in life with each transition I go through. 

Photos courtesy of Jenny Vyas.

What’s your favorite spot where you currently live & why?

I don’t have a specific place I like to hang out at in Chicago. There are so many wonderful restaurants and bars and coffee shops all over town. And every neighborhood gives you a different experience. Personally— I love the mountains, so any chance I get, I’m traveling to Colorado or Wyoming. This year has been hard for me from that aspect. I am aching to hike up on the mountain trails again.

What’s your favorite travel memory?

Snorkeling in the ocean in Belize. Unreal. 

Out of all the places you’ve been, which has been your favorite and why?

I loved Santorini. Quite possibly one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. The people are so incredibly warm and welcoming as well. And the Santorini sunset, from Oia, is unlike any other. It’s like God puts on a show every evening. 

Santorini Sunset by Jenny Vyas
Sunset in Santorini – photo taken/courtesy of Jenny Vyas.

Where have you traveled you feel you learned the most, why?

The Mediterranean. There’s a shift that happens within when you expand your experiences to other cultures. I truly believe it opens you up in ways you can’t otherwise experience.

Where’s the next place you want to travel, and why?

Solo hiking and camping somewhere in the mountains. Solitude for me is a conduit, a gateway to the art that I paint. Adrienne Rich once said, “the impulse to create begins, often terribly and fearfully, in a tunnel of silence,” and perhaps this is my gift. To grant solitude the space and stage it requires in our lives. A space for the sacred part of you that belongs only to you. This perhaps is what distinguishes successful people from others. It is out of the restlessness, the scattered emotional mess that loneliness ignites, that most great art is born.

Hiking outside - Jenny Vyas
Photo courtesy of Jenny Vyas.

Bonus: what’s one thing you wish people would ask you?

A little more about my cultural background of being an Asian Indian.

What’s one thing people may not know about you?

I love crime shows, especially ones with serial killers. Hate horror though. Never horror. My idea of tapping into someone else’s imagination is not horror.

Learn more about Jenny Vyas

Canvas by Jenny Vyas - Chicago artist
Artwork by Jenny Vyas –