A story of art and entrepreneurship

Jack Giesen – Calgarian artist, illustrator and designer

Jack Giesen, 26, is a Calgarian artist, illustrator and designer of indie science fiction and fantasy book covers. She has taken all of her talents to maximize their potential through entrepreneurship. Her parents were her first point of reference in aiming for an independent career, and her grandma inspired her to get into the creative world.

As for her name, it is what it is: Jack. Not Jacqueline.

The first steps

 She grew up in Saskatchewan and lived there until she graduated from high school. Because she was in a small town, she had to travel to a city on the weekends in order to take art classes.

“As soon as I graduated [high school], I was ready to go,” said Giesen. She recalls coming to Calgary in 2005 to take a pre-college program at The Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD). Then, she built a portfolio that was sent to several art schools. She got accepted to ACAD and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD).

Giesen decided to fly to Nova Scotia and begin a new journey far from the town where she grew up, which she didn’t like much. However, after a couple of years in that new program, she decided to leave.

“I left because they didn’t really teach any of the business side. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do afterwards, and I also wanted to run my own business,” she admitted.

So she went home and then returned to Calgary to work in the marketing and public relations field. Later on, she came across Royal Roads, a university in Victoria, B.C., where she is about to complete a bachelor in professional communications.

The entrepreneurial path

As she finishes this program at Royal Roads, her activities as an entrepreneur keep going. On Jan. 2, 2015, she participated for the first time as an artist at the Lovecraft Gallery with “Return of the Light.” Giesen contributed with a beadwork installation that captured the feeling of struggling with mental health or physical disability.

This year, she also participated as an instructor of the “Intro to WordPress” workshop organized by the non-profit organizations Ladies Learning Code and Chic Geek.

Kylie Toh, founder of Chic Geek, commented on counting on Giesen to build a women-friendly tech and startup community: “stories like Jack’s remind me of the importance of what we’re doing,” said Toh. “We’re creating safe and supportive opportunities for women to take on leadership roles like she has done.”

On Sept. 12, 2015 she was the instructor of the “Social Media for Authors” wokshop for the Alberta Romance Writers’ Association.
“It was a great workshop. She went above and beyond,” said author VI Peace who attended the event. Jilian Long, also an attendant, referred to Giesen as “incredibly patient when dealing with our Twitter frenzy.”

Entrepreneurship has always been part of Giesen’s life.
“I didn’t really want to work for somebody else. There were always people around me that were doing what they wanted to.”

She says the key to an entrepreneurial life is focus, which is why she decided to put aside marketing and public relations to dedicate her time and effort to illustration. Doing so has resulted in designing science fiction book covers, which are shown in her web site.

In order to be an entrepreneur, Giesen recommends starting by taking “baby steps.”

“If you want to write a book, don’t get distracted by social media. Sit down and start writing,”

When it comes to choosing an independent professional path, Giesen states that it takes time to reach goals. The “trick” is getting a product or service out there, building a reputation and working on it.

Art is not suffering

“Everybody can make money except the artist because in order to create good art, the artist needs to suffer,” said Giesen while laughing at this idea, which she constantly hears in the art world.

However, she does not deny that a career in the art field is difficult. In her experience, there are times when fears take over the artist’s mind.

“It’s scary for me to take a look at a book cover and go ‘what if I can’t get it to match the image that I had in my head?’,” she said.

Overcoming those fears means accepting that, some days, things just don’t flow. It involves forgiving oneself when it’s not really possible to work on an art vision.

On the other hand, for her, it is important to find the balance between that scenario and the one where excuses like “maybe tomorrow everything will be perfect” keep happening again and again.


In the art world, it’s okay to make money, but it’s important to reflect about how to make it. That’s when entrepreneurial efforts take place.
“I think that to be an artist you have to create art. It’s all about sitting down and getting work done,” Giesen expressed.


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