Brenda Dunn

Let’s Get to Work with Brenda Dunn

One of the most exciting things about the ARTPRENEUR conference is the opportunity for artists to make connections with their peers and to learn things they may not have expected. This year, we’re asking the speakers and MC’s for some insights and thoughts around being an ARTPRENEUR and any tips they may have for other artists. Be sure to register to reserve your place to hear more from them on November 4th, 2017!


Local artist Brenda Dunn (artinjest) is in the midst of a very busy fall season this year.

She has a book launch coming up this Sunday, October 22nd, as part of her Neighbourhood Arts 150 project. The book, titled (Re)place (Re)collect, is a collection of stories from seniors in Ottawa’s rural neighbourhoods, written with the intention of celebrating areas outside of the downtown core and bringing some of the excitement of the 150 celebrations out of the condensed city centre. As it is a funded project, she is excited to be able to give the books away this weekend!

Following that is the CSArt launch, and then Dunn is the first artist in their curated season for subscribers this year. She will be working with CSArt subscribers to make them all custom greeting cards (with her character Ourson Faché, pictured below) that poke fun at either an existing holiday or something only they celebrate.

A post shared by Brenda Dunn (@artinjest) on

When we sat down with her to ask some questions, we started with the topic of challenges. As people either know or assume, being an entrepreneur can be very rewarding, but does come with its fair share of difficulties. Among these are risk and unpredictability. Since, depending on your particular form of entrepreneurship, there may not be a steady, bi-weekly source of income, which makes many people uncomfortable. 

“You have to find a way either be comfortable with that or have, really what I recommend is to have a few different hustles, so you’re never really relying on just one revenue stream.”

When asked what about her favourite aspects of being an entrepreneur, however, Dunn laughed and responded “There’s a lot of risk and a lot of unpredictability. I’ve always liked doing a lot of different things.” She talked about how, as children, we’re encouraged to play and make-believe that we’re all these different things, but as we go through school we are told to narrow our scope.

“Truth be told,” said Dunn “I don’t know many people that are super satisfied doing one thing all the time ever. I have yet to meet someone who says ‘I love my job all the time, every part of it, ever.’ And there are parts of my career that aren’t my favourite, don’t get me wrong, I don’t like doing my taxes, but the different projects I take on and all the things that I do, I very much enjoy. And part of why I enjoy all of them is that when I’m tired of one I swap and I do a different one.”

Growing up, she also wishes that there had been more visible examples of people acting and living as arts professionals when she was choosing her career. It’s a big part of why she takes on the projects she does, to be that example for others.

“There is still this prevalent idea out there, the image of the starving artist. Or the idea that a career in the arts is not viable. And that’s worse than a bad idea, that’s a dangerous idea, and it leads to a lot of people being unhappy in their 40-hour work weeks which are not healthy and not good for any of us. It’s problematic to me that we still uphold that image of a starving artist or the idea that being a good artist is somehow linked to being an unhealthy person.”

A post shared by Brenda Dunn (@artinjest) on

One of the big themes we’re focusing on this year at ARTPRENEUR is productivity. Dunn has a couple productivity practices to share.

1. Get up early. “Unless you’re really a nighthawk and your circadian rhythm has been totally converted, get yourself up in the morning. For most of us, most of the time, we just say that we’re not morning people because we’re tired. And if you’re tired there’s a reason, so find a way to rest yourself so that you can get up early and kind of start fresh and attack your day because it’s amazing what you can get done before anyone else gets up.”

2. Avoid the ‘busyness’ culture. “I think we’re all a little bit addicted to busyness and I think it is partly because it is addicting to feel like you’ve gotten something done without necessarily having to do any work. So every time you want to do something like have an interaction with someone, really ask yourself, what is the most productive way to have this interaction? Is it an email, a phone call, a face-to-face meeting? Also, learn to be very respectful of other people’s time and your own, and learn to say no, without excuses or even rationale. It’s ok to just say ‘no that’s not something I want to take on right now’. It leaves you with more time to focus on getting your own work done.”

A post shared by Brenda Dunn (@artinjest) on

The last topic to cover was that of disruption, specifically, how can we use disruption as a positive force? Dunn, who is taking part in Inktober this year (embedded above) with a little story about going through the process of being uncomfortable, believes that disruption is in itself a positive force.

“Disruption really just means that something that was once established has changed. I don’t think that disruption itself is negative, in fact, I think stasis is more negative. And one of the worst things I think we can do is lean into that aversion to discomfort. If you can get yourself worked up to the idea of being uncomfortable and if you can teach yourself to go towards that feeling you will accomplish so much more. Your brain is never going to want to go after the thing that you don’t really have the steps laid out for. It’s never going to attack the task that you don’t have totally planned out. You’re never going to feel ready and you feel like you’re never going to do it perfectly and those are signs that you need to go towards to those experiences. Be uncomfortable and unsure. Do it anyway.”

Did this blog post leave you feeling motivated? Got any questions you’d like to ask Brenda? Be sure to catch her as a Co-MC at this year’s ARTPRENEUR Ottawa 2017 Conference: Canada 151 – Let’s Get to Work!

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