Jenna Conway: Math Tutor, Artist

Spotted in: The Mission, SF

Occupation: Math Tutor, Artist

What are you up to today?

I'm just eating a burrito. It's a spinach burrito—I'm a vegetarian. I just back from my art studio, I'm having a nice casual day off.

What were you working on?

I'm doing some comics for my friend's zine about crying.

That's an interesting group topic!

Yeah, everybody cries.

Have you gotten to see any of the stories?

I haven't seen any of the submissions so far. I'm doing a story about this one time I was really lonely—living in the city for the first timeand this lady helped me carry my groceries. I had my bike and my groceries at the same time. She couldn't speak English, but she was being super sweet and she carried my groceries down to BART for me. And it made me cry because I was so lonely and someone doing something really nice for me—that was so great. So I'm making a story about that.

Wow, that is so sweet! Is this for any show in particular or is it going to be an anthology?

She's doing it for the Portland Zine Fest. She's entering it.

Have you been the festival before?

I've been to Portland, but I haven't been to the zine fest—I'm new to the zine world.

I forgot to ask, what's your occupation?

I'm a math tutor, and I do art.

How did you decide you wanted to become a math tutor?

It's just something I was always good at. I studied it in college a little bit. I did art and math. I like both those things together. I really like calculus.

What in particular?

I like the visual aspect of it. You can make math equations to explain shapes. I love that. Like, if I gave you this math equation it would actually translate into three-dimensional shapes. I love that you can express that with a number. It's really cool.

What's something that's caught your interest lately?

I just watched My Neighbor Totoro for the first time last night! [laughs] It was so good—I'm obsessed with it!

What did you like about it?

I like the sleepy noises that Totoro makes. I'm also thinking of doing some children's book work and I really like how Miyazaki is so good at feeling the loneliness of being a child. You know? The adults don't understand this other world that they get to live in. I think when you're a kid you have no power, and a lot of the time you become lonely because you don't have any control.

What are your influences in terms of your work?

Have you read The Phantom Tollbooth? It's a really good children's book. It's about the union of math and letters!

So your two passions combined!

Yes. There's like the kingdom of numbers and the kingdom of letters and they're battling. They're two brothers. And then the main character basically just brings them together.
It's a great book.

What's a recent challenge you've overcome?

I think feeling self-confident in my job has been hard for me. I interact with a lot of wealthy parents and I feel judged all the time because I have green hair. So just learning to feel competent. I feel like I've gotten better at not letting people intimidate me and getting more in touch with my strength.

Have you found anything that helps, or are you finding over time people are just getting used to you?

I have a mantra before I meet them: I'm not afraid of you, I'm not afraid of you, I'm not afraid of you . . . [laughs] But, I don't know, that's not a very good one. I think you just have to not be afraid of your own insecurities.

Well more power to you for doing that!

Thanks—feeling better about it! [laughs]

So I just wanted to ask you about your personal style, and how would you describe all of this?

I got a lot of stuff going on.

You've got some awesome tattoos.

[Points to pancake tattoos] I drew this one!

Yeah? What's the pancakes and bad news all about?

I can't eat gluten and I'm really sugar sensitive and my favorite thing in the world is pancakes [laughs]!

What an awesome way to deal with that situation! And this bison tattoo over here?

My family is from the Midwest so that's a family tattoo.

How did all of the rest of the outfit come about?

My studio mate just gave me this cool hat.

It perfectly matches your hair!

Yeah! I don't know, how do people usually talk about their style?

People are usually pretty baffled when I ask them that. But I keep asking it and it's really funny because most people around here are like, I don't know, whatever I felt like this morning, you know?

Yeah! Well, I made my "Don't Care" vest. And this jacket [points to brown jacket she's carrying under her arm]. This is my style. This jacket.

Oh yeah, this puffy 80s coat?

When I draw myself in my comics, I'm always wearing this jacket. So, like this grandma jacket that I'm really into. Here I'll show you [pulls out her phone]. This is the cover of the zine I'm working on, and this is my jacket.

Aw that's so cute!

It's called Party of One. 

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