February 21, 2020

Inspiring All Ages With Design

Shabbat Card. Designs by Joanne Fink

When Joanne Fink started her art career, she was designing intricate designs for ketubah documents. Now, more than 35 years later, her love for art and Judaism has developed in ways she never imagined by creating coloring books, journals, poetry, music and collaborative art projects that all incorporate her designs. 

Fink’s mantra is, “Live by inspiring others to fly,” and that’s exactly what she does with her faith-based collections. As a lover of Jewish music and art, her artistic passion led her to be the founding president of the International Association for the Calligraphic Arts and founding board member of the New York-based American Guild of Judaic Art. 

The Journal video chatted with Fink from her art studio in Florida to get a sense of her mind at work. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Jewish Journal: How did you first get established as an artist and how did that lead you to coloring books?

Joanne Fink: I started doing what I call Zenspirations 10 years ago this fall, and that is the combination of personal spiritual philosophy that is heavily overlayed with tikkun olam, which is “repair the world.” I use it to help people create their own inner talents and hone them to make a difference in the world. I process things Judaically, which is faith-based.

I cannot take credit for doing coloring books. I’ve done many books in my life and I have a couple of different publishers and what’s called a crafts book publisher, who did my first Zenspirations book. I think he is a visionary and he asked me if I wanted to do them. They came out in 2013 and were abstracts, flowers and Zenspiration. Together, they have sold half a million copies. It’s insane. My coloring books are different because I allow a lot of open space and I want people to use my art as a springboard for their own art, and I teach people how to add color and texture and text and their own personal style. The fronts of the book are basic patterning techniques, and they get this simple line and they can add extra details and make it their own. 

JJ: So it’s for all ages?

JF: Yes. They are designed for adults and I know that kids use them, but it’s for everybody. I would post on here [Facebook page “Zenspirations Create, Color, Pattern, Play”] and people would submit their versions of them. My editors and I would then go through and pick the ones we really liked. I think I’ve had dozens of artists contribute. 

Coloring Book page from Joanne Fink.

JJ: When did you learn how to use Lightroom or Bridge or Photoshop? How did you learn to incorporate that into your artwork and go digital?

JF: I spent many years standing behind my staff. I had four graphic designers on staff and I spent many years standing behind them pointing, saying, “Make that bluer, move that over there, make that bigger,” and in the end, when the economy crashed, I had a choice of learning Photoshop or closing my business. Now, 10 years later, I cannot imagine not working on Photoshop. Now I have such creative freedom, depending on what people want.

JJ: What is the reaction when people see your work in front of them?

JF: When I was a young designer, I started doing greeting cards, and I saw somebody looking at my card and I yelled, “That’s my card!” and she looked at me like I was totally nuts, so I never did that again. But I love when people get to use or when they appreciate my work on a level that they emulated in some way. 

I also do a lot of grief support work and have done pieces on [the shootings in] Parkland and Pittsburgh, and I also do designs with Jewish Songleader Boot Camp. One of the initiatives I did was Jewish Art Week, and I went into the synagogues and worked on the art projects. I had several hundred kids making a quilt, and another year we did a piece for the Holocaust museum where kids made hundreds of little butterflies. 

Design by Joanne Fink

JJ: What do you want to do next? 

JF: I would like to illustrate a siddur that has just my art and words. I guess what I do is bring the text to life with my art. But I did not want to take away the text that they are familiar with. But one of the things I really want to do is help people find connection. I don’t think I’ve ever made the connection before but I want to be the spiritual artist that [world-renowned Jewish song leader] Debbie Friedman is with music. If I am able to connect people spiritually with my designs like she does, because she is so powerful with her music, I think that would be so special. n

Follow Joanne Fink online at zenspirations.com.