The contemporary artist

CJ Hendry

CJ Hendry is an extraordinary pen and ink artist living in New York.

Each large-scale, hyper real work is hand drawn, layers on layers, and take weeks to complete.

She combined raw talent with social media and marketing wizardry, gifting Kanye West a hundred-dollar bill adorned with his face after his concert in Brisbane.

Her latest works reflect a woman beginning to use her voice as an activist, as many creatives are in 2020.

Martine Harte: CJ, they say ‘patience is passion tamed,’ you must be a patient woman to produce such incredibly detailed work?


CJ Hendry Contemporary Australian artist:

You know what’s funny?  I’m a very impatient person,  a typical stubborn Pisces, very efficient but I don’t deal well when things aren’t efficient.

So I don’t know how I sit here for so long but I think it’s very calming to be in this area and just draw.

I cannot explain it but it just feels right.

I decide subject matter and positioning and from then it’s methodical draftsmanship until the piece is finished.

It’s a pretty mind-numbing process, in that there’s very little to do in the creative sense. Hard to believe but it’s true.


Martine Harte: The rest of us think it is stunningly creative! Do you focusing on process or result?


CJ Hendry Contemporary Australian artist:

I guess it’s both – because without the process of sitting here for eighteen or so hours a day you can’t get the result.

In my head I know how I want it to look, so the only way is to sit here consistently and produce the work I produce.

Actually you know what?

Sometimes I really wish I was an artist who pumped out really quick works and was good to go but unfortunately I chose a time-consuming, difficult art.


We are glad you do what you do! What pens do you use?


CJ Hendry Contemporary Australian artist:

I’m using a Japanese black pen, a brand called Unipins. I’ve trialled a few and it’s a pen that works well for me.

There’s not much of a science behind it; it just has to hit a certain criteria:

It can’t fade, is waterproof and pigment ink – it has got to have all those qualities in terms of longevity and creating an artwork which will stand the test of time.

Editor’s note: (Hendry uses Carandache Luminance an Pablo pencils in her later works)

How did you cultivate your hyper-real style? Honestly, we may as well be looking at photographs CJ.


CJ Hendry Contemporary Australian artist:

It happened through a series of events. I was studying architecture at Queensland Uni and I dropped out and I did a couple of years in finance and dropped out of that as well. I was just so pissed off.

It wasn’t me and I wanted to create.

I could always draw but I didn’t see how you could pay your bills being an artist, it didn’t make any sense to me.  I decided to give it all up and pursue what I had always loved.

Fortunately I stumbled across a couple of opportunities, embraced them with both hands, and toes and fingers and just went with it.


And now these works are attracting up to $250,000. Amazing. I was wondering do you get into a meditative state when you draw?


CJ Hendry Contemporary Australian artist:

Yes,  it’s a very calming thing to do, I crave being here and drawing, I don’t know why.

People say, “Hey come out for drinks,” but I just want to sit here and draw.I don’t want to go out.

I actually think I have a personality disorder, maybe bipolar but hey that’s a whole other discussion but I’m so glad you said that because I do think it’s 100% meditative.

CJ Hendry via instagram

Find CJ Hendry on Instagram

What was it like delivering the Kanye West piece to Kanye?


CJ Hendry Contemporary Australian artist:

I met Kanye, it wasn’t for too long but it was all I needed. I’m one of those people who isn’t easily intimidated but I was so star struck I could hardly get a word out.

I don’t agree with everything he has to say but he calls things as he sees them.

Have you ever considered insuring those hands?

CJ Hendry Contemporary Australian artist:

Yes my right hand is insured for 10 million dollars.

It is only insured for just above the elbow so if I go skiing and bugger it up, above the shoulder then it’s all over. (laughs)

Artists often speak of their flow, what does that mean for you?


CJ Hendry Contemporary Australian artist:

When you are in that moment and intuitively everything feels right.

It might be a piece of writing, it might be a speech you’re delivering and you feel like there’s almost some (ok this sounds cliche and corny and I’m sorry if it does)  but you feel like there’s a higher power that’s driving it because at the end of the day you know you’re doing good in your heart.

I don’t read inspirational books, if I have to believe in anything I believe in karma.

I’m not here to do a dodgy over anyone, I’m not here to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes I’m just here to give it a go you know?

The Air Mags you dipped in black paint – tell us about those?


CJ Hendry Contemporary Australian artist:

Yes, they’re the absolute best. It was just social commentary, I wasn’t trying to change people’s perspective, I’m not going to tell people, I’m not that person, I’m just doing my thing.


Do you think you’ll reach that point where you use your work to try and change the world?


CJ Hendry Contemporary Australian artist:

Yes, you know what absolutely.

There’s lots and lots and lots of room for growth. It’s something I’m very excited about.

So is there a plan?


CJ Hendry Contemporary Australian artist:

No, with the sneakers that happened over just two days, it just kind of came into my brain.

I don’t plan anything months in advance I don’t even keep a diary of ideas.

I want to keep ideas fresh and of the moment so I don’t even write things down. If I have an idea I kind of take it and if it feels right I go with it.


You seem to be very chilled in terms of your output etc?


CJ Hendry Contemporary Australian artist:

I do work very hard, I get up at the same time every morning and I’m strict on myself, so I’m not that relaxed yet the greater outlook has to be relaxed.

There’s so much you can’t control, the things I can control are:

How I approach my day, how I exercise, what I eat, that type of thing but everything else you have no control of.


What are some of your learnings you want to share with budding artists?


CJ Hendry Contemporary Australian artist:

Talk is cheap and that’s what I’m actually learning in New York.

You just need to apply yourself.

I pride myself on being proactive.

What I would say is: don’t wait for the perfect business plan you just have to start. You know, get cracking!


Find CJ Hendry on Instagram

Images shared with full permission.

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Lucinda Dunn