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Artist Feature: Nelly Tsyrlin

Create! Magazine is pleased to introduce the work of abstract and figurative artist Nelly Tsyrlin. After graduating from York University with a Bachelor of Arts, Nelly continued her studies in classical painting at the Repin Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Although at first glance her style of work may seem anything but academic, she actively employs all the pillars of a traditional art education, with an emphasis on color, harmony, and drawing.


I work in short series inspired by both profound and mundane experiences. My artwork is created by painting on glass and transferring the imprint to paper using a technique called Monotype. Each artwork is original and utterly unique. Each mark placed on paper is permanent, leaving no room for error and creating a sense of intimacy and exploration. My work is often spontaneous. It is not pre-sketched or designed. I find that without strict boundaries I am able to create a finished product that is truly honest.

We’re excited to hear about your new series! What can you tell us about ‘Compositions in Color’?

The following images are selections from a body of recent works created over the course of 2019 mainly as conversations in color. My theme color is Payne’s gray - I love it because it is neither blue nor black and yet it is both. I love to wear it and I love to work with it as its temperature is cool enough to compliment any warm and bright color on the color wheel, such as hot pink or my other favorite, Indian yellow. In addition, it always works equally well with neutrals like raw sienna and yellow ochre.

Learn more about Nelly’s work by visiting her website or following her on Instagram!

Photographs of the artist by Daria Perev.

Interview with William Tyler Story
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Create! Magazine is excited to share a new interview feature with artist William Tyler Story. Besides telling us more about the new series of abstract works he is excited to be focusing on this year, he also explains the pivotal moment in his early career that motivated him to pursue being an artist full-time. You can find more of his work on his website or via Instagram @peaceoot and @williamtylerstory.


Influenced by modern-day street art, driven by raw talent and intuition; my subject matter reflects self-discovery.

My interest in art began at a very young age, drawing things I would see in everyday life. Brought up in East Texas, art was rarely encouraged as a career path. Because of this I never saw art as a future career, but more as a hobby. My local community revolved around sports and everyone I knew aspired to be a professional athlete of some sort. Naturally, I followed in those footsteps and played a wide variety of sports trying to find a fit. Despite my athleticism, I knew deep down it wasn’t my calling.

My first year out of high school (2010), I moved into a loft in Downtown Dallas. This is where I began to experiment with the arts. Inspired by artists like Banksy and Zio Zeigler, I spent countless hours painting large murals on the walls of my home. In time, I began taking acrylic to canvas, continuing to expand my artistic process.

October 01, 2016 I decided to share my art with the community for the first time. Selling 4 of the 5 paintings I displayed sparked a flame that motivated me to strive for a full-time career in the art world. Since then my art has evolved and expanded its reach internationally. 2018 marked my first year as a full-time artist, selling paintings, prints, commissions, customized apparel and more.

My latest “DREAMseries” (2019) was the debut of my favorite style of abstract paintings. I found a technique that felt very natural to me after all of the experimenting with different styles of painting. I’m currently working on creating an extension of the DREAMseries and plan to share it publicly early fall. These paintings will soon be translated into my first large scale mural installation.

Can you tell us a little more about your early interest in art? 

When I was little I loved looking at the illustrations in MAD magazine. I was drawn to the imaginary caricatures. Only 8 years old, I sketched my first portrait of Kobe Bryant (image lost over the years). That moment I recognized my knack for drawing. The details of the face, proportions, etc. It all felt very natural to me. 

I continued to doodle over the years and my skills began evolving. I had a wide variety of drawings, but the one common theme was my desire to portray an alternate, unrealistic scene. I was drawn to cartoons and things that were a bit abstract to reality. 

I took a couple of art courses in school. However, I felt confined within the guidelines of what I was being taught. So I chose a different path and pursued a career in the Health & Wellness industry. At the age of 19, I was working and going to school full time. On the weekends I spent my time painting on the walls of my apartment. It was refreshing to have zero boundaries. Painting large murals of anything that came to mind. Exploring color palettes, types of paints, techniques, etc. After moving around a bit and having to paint over the artwork on the walls, I figured it was time to take my art to canvas.

What led you to first exhibit your work in 2016? After this successful showing, how did you develop your career?

After working a stable job for 8 years and painting personal pieces when I had the time, I decided to display my art in a local coffee shop to see what would happen. 4 of the 5 paintings displayed sold in less than a month. That was my sign to take a leap of faith and follow my dreams. I started painting more and steadily transitioning away from the Health & Wellness industry. Once I felt like I could survive minimally off of my artwork, making sales online anyway I found possible, I declared myself a full-time artist.

It seems like doing commission work is a significant part of your practice. How do you find clients and what are some of the exciting or challenging aspects of this type of work?

As my work began to expand internationally, I felt confident enough to begin accepting commission work to push my skillset further. The clients’ requests were always of a style I had never attempted before. This was an exciting step in my career. They were requesting portraits, animals, landscapes, etc. The thrill of exploring new techniques motivated me to keep going and try new things. I’d say the most challenging aspect of this type of work was fear of the unknown. I began questioning myself, “Am I doing this ‘right’? Will they like it?” Define ‘right’.  I was reminded of the days in art class where I felt confined within the rules of art. Those internal struggles gave me clarity on what art means to me today. I no longer feel that I have to be so structured or plan so far ahead when it comes to painting. I create a general concept and allow myself to feel more and just let things happen. It brought on a whole different level of enjoyment to painting.

Talk about your more recent abstract paintings and what has inspired them.

Recent works of my DREAMseries reflect this epiphany of freedom to move about the canvas in the way I enjoy most. Sharing the inner depths of my subconscious using colors that reflected however I felt in that moment and letting shapes take form. Listening to music…sitting in silence…rested…exhausted…these paintings have pieces of me in every little corner. The colorful DREAM painting can be rotated to any side, creating a new perception with every turn. A fun twist that allowed me to paint from every angle, giving the collector 4 paintings in 1.

The DREAMseries also displays my first paintings composed in black & white. 

I spent many restless nights wondering what was next for me. I sat up thinking about how I got to where I am today and what the future may look like. And then it happened. I was able to finally close my eyes and dream. Hopping from one reality to the next, waking with blurry details in my mind…I picked up a pencil and began sketching. There was a new fire burning within my soul as the shapes began to take form. I felt the creativity flowing with every stroke. There was less planning…more feeling…it was eye-opening.

While painting the DREAMseries, I discovered a unique style that came very natural to me and I’m excited to continue to share my work with the world as I grow.

Do you have any other exhibitions or projects planned for the rest of the year or into 2020?

I am currently coordinating my first large scale mural installation and exploring different opportunities with gallery displays for 2020. From there I hope to continue painting on a larger scale and help more people connect with my work. 

Is there a quote, mantra, or piece of advice that is especially meaningful to you?

Find your passion, be persistent & remain patient. Forever grateful. Forever humble.

Why I Started Create! Magazine
Photo by Emily Grace Photography

Photo by Emily Grace Photography

I started my first magazine from a tiny studio apartment six years ago out of a desperate need for a creative community. I had no idea what I was doing at the time, and since I didn’t have the funding to start a physical gallery space, this was the next best thing I could come up with, and I am so thankful that I did. This desire to connect with other artists and empower them on their journey has been a constant over the years, and continues to inspire me to grow Create! as well as venture into exciting new projects that will support the growth of the emerging artist community. While I was developing my painting practice, there was a missing component of human connection and support on this unpredictable journey.

Back then, I had no money, no design experience, and all I had was a random idea that I decided to execute after working numerous minimum wage jobs. It took lots of Google searches, studying every publication I could get my hands on in Barnes and Noble on my lunch break, and teaching myself how to build websites, design magazines, and do basic business. I was discovering how to find artists and took lots of trips to galleries and museums to promote my humble publication. There was a period of time where I even walked into galleries in person to introduce myself and handed out free copies of the magazine. As you can imagine, some were super supportive and kind, while some were suspicious or disinterested.

It took many years to build a strong community. Over time I became more and more brave and started partnering with galleries and organizations that were so out of my league, it wasn’t even funny. This forced me to level up, increase the quality of the publication and stick to my commitments. Years and years later, the magazine became my actual job. I am now proud to work with a small team of four incredible women. We work together virtually, so we don’t get to see each other very often in person, but I know each one of us is driven by the love of art and the desire to support fellow creatives, especially those new on their journey.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from starting a creative business so far is that we are so much more powerful than we think. Taking responsibility for our own luck will speed up our success rate faster than waiting on some “expert” to come validate us. From my experiences, being bold and starting something will bring support faster than by wishing for it. We are definitely not meant to do this alone and there will be people on this journey that will help push your career forward, but remember that they also human and had to start somewhere just like you at one point in their life.

I used to approach influential figures in the arts with the notion that they surely must have something I don’t. I used to give myself excuses such as “I don't have rich parents, “I didn’t go to a fancy private art school,” “I don’t know how to do business” or even “I am not attractive or cool enough.” But when I took a chance on myself and got started, things began to shift, and the right people showed up with support.

The entrepreneurial path is not easy, but at the same time it’s open to anyone willing to find missing information, to fail over and over again, to have days where they have no idea what theу are doing and to try again and again until something sticks.

Building a business may not be for everyone, but I encourage you to contribute to a cause that you often think about. Maybe you found a way to do things better in the art world and want to make improvements by launching a better version of what already exists. There is more than enough room for new contributions, and I am excited to see what you create.

More than anything I want you to know that this magazine is for you. I may not get to work directly with each artist, but please know that you are always at the forefront of my mind with every new launch, article, or podcast episode.

Thank you for being a vital part of our community.



P.S. If you enjoy this content check out my podcast Art & Cocktails or subscribe to our glossy, colorful publication.

If you are an artist looking to get your work published, we always welcome submissions to our free blog and open calls.

Explorations of the Natural World by Claire Elliott
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My paintings are centered around explorations of the natural world, with a particular focus on how we catalog, categorize and venerate natural objects. Much of my work is drawn from greenhouses, a space where plants are isolated and bent to human will for our enjoyment.

These types of plants hold a cultural value, we choose to elevate them by letting them into our homes, and preserve and archive them in conservatories. The arrangement of the flora in these spaces reveals narratives ranging from botany to colonialism to romance. Using plants as a vehicle for abstraction, I am fascinated by the disconnect between a painted surface and the artist’s vision. Probing the medium’s capabilities, I find inspiration in the result of trying and failing to capture something, while recognizing the heights and limits of the paint.

Eric Shaw at The Hole, NYC

New York, NY) - The Hole is pleased to announce Trails, an exhibition of new paintings by Eric Shaw, on view October 21 – November 19, 2017. This presentation includes seven fanciful abstract paintings employing high contrast polygons and pathways, geometric shapes and fine lines suggesting trails on a map. This is the artist’s first solo show at the gallery.

Shaw’s paintings are inspired by the diverse commercial graphic design that is ubiquitous throughout New York City. Referencing memories and photographs of logos and signs, he uses a smartphone application and his forefinger to create digital drawings of these motifs, which are then transferred onto canvas with acrylic paint. Once painted onto canvas, Shaw uses thin tape to draw additional lines that form his trail-like lines.

Each day he photographs the painting and uses the mobile application on his cellphone to draw on top of the image, editing the digital copy to form a new layer of the analog painting. This regenerative process continues until the painting is considered complete. Moderated by direct exposure to the urban environment as well as mobile technology, these works are underpinned by the digital-world geometry and program design that structures contemporary life.

About Eric Shaw

Eric Shaw (b. 1983, Enfield, CT) lives and works in Brooklyn. Shaw has exhibited internationally most recently this summer at PRIVATEVIEW in Turin where he was an artist in residence. Other recent exhibitions include Come As You Are at Annarumma Gallery, Naples; Stars & Stripes at Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv; Highlight: Summer One at Hollis Taggart Gallery, New York; Maker’s Mark at Regina Rex, New York; Some New American Paintings at Ever Gold in San Francisco; and Summer Mixer 2015 at Joshua Liner Gallery, New York.

About The Hole

The Hole is a contemporary art gallery run by Kathy Grayson. Opened July of 2010, the 4000 sq. ft. storefront on the Bowery is a block up from the New Museum, bordering the Lower East Side and NoLIta neighborhoods of Manhattan. The Hole presents monthly solo and group exhibitions with a focus on emerging art and thematic group exhibitions. The gallery represents more than fifteen artists from America and abroad, and has exhibited over 200 more.

Jim Bachor

Jim Bachor is a Chicago-based mosaic artist. His work fuses the contemporary and classical by depicting imagery from modern pop culture through the centuries old medium of setting glass and marble into mortar. Bachor is best known for creating various series of "Pothole Installations" a street art project he began in 2013. See more examples of his work on his website and read his artist statement below. 

Trying to leave your mark in this world fascinates me. Ancient history fascinates me. Volunteering to work on an archaeological dig in Pompeii helped merge these two interests in to my art. In the ancient world, mosaics were used to capture images of everyday life. These colorful pieces of stone or glass set in mortar were the photographs of empires long past. Marble and glass do not fade. Mortar is mortar. An ancient mosaic looks exactly as intended by the artist who produced it over two millennia ago. What else can claim that kind of staying power? I find this idea simply amazing. Using the same materials, tools and methods of the archaic craftsmen, I create mosaics that speak of modern things in an ancient voice. My work locks into mortar unexpected concepts drawn from the present. By harnessing and exploiting the limitations of this indestructible technique, my work surprises the viewer while challenging long-held notions of what a mosaic should be. Like low-tech pixels, hundreds if not thousands of tiny, hand-cut pieces of Italian glass and marble comprise my work. This is my mark.

Images courtesy of the artist.

Patty Carroll

If you are in the Chicago area, be sure to stop by Schneider Gallery to see Patty Carroll's new exhibition "Anonymous Women." The show will be on view from March 3rd - April 29th and the gallery will be hosting a reception and book signing for the artist on Friday, March 3rd from 5:00 pm-7:30 pm. 

“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman;” the words of Virginia Wolf perfectly complete the monograph, Anonymous Women, by Patty Carroll released by Daylight books in 2016. The artist's works are playful and fun, curious yet direct. In a year when many women felt they would collectively if not vicariously break through another glass ceiling, Carroll’s works are especially poignant. Through often super-saturated, highly-activated frames Carroll conceals a feminine figure that blends naturally into her surroundings. The domestic space of these figures reveals more about them than they do of themselves. Always faceless, covered, even overrun by her surroundings, Carroll’s women are not without personality. Identity is created through environment. It is from the surroundings that we infer personality, taste, interests, and character. Carroll has made several approaches through time to achieve variations on the same effect- to underline the historic role of women; she has draped the figure in fabrics, confused them with household objects, and shown them as mannequin-like without heads operating almost robotically in lavish spaces.

The true profundity of the work lies in our engagement with it. An immediate read of the work reveals the female as a secondary sex. Carroll’s women reveal and undermine this initial perception- the women are objects like any other in the space, she is a purely aesthetic or decorative element, and yet prolonged viewing exposes a range of other visual aesthetics, commercial, fashion, and religious among them. The outcome is both sharp and convoluted. Traditional roles never confined an extraordinary woman. Any enduring cultural limitations are something to fight against.

Images © Patty Carroll | Courtesy of Schneider Gallery
Titles from top to bottom:
Header image- lily
Image 1- Domestic Bliss
Image 2- Booky
Image 3- smother

Lisa Von Hoffner

Artist Lisa Von Hoffner uses a brilliant array of colors and incredible skill to create her artwork, with a subject matter focusing on issues surrounding contemporary womanhood, subverting the role of the female nude in painting. She breathes new life into the classic female nude by transforming it through vivid colors of acrylic paint, metallic vinyl, and neon lights. Her work shatters what you may think about a traditional nude painting, as each piece portrays powerful women that own the space they inhabit. They avert the male gaze by embodying their own sexuality and taking control of the position they are in, instead of simply being on display for the patriarchal eye. 

The combination of psychedelic hues and LED lights are so visually stunning in Hoffner’s work, that the women in which they surround become illuminated, demanding the attention of the viewer. The artist’s subjects are elevated to a higher state through the use of glowing backlights, which emanate incredible hues of light and shadows, forming new dimension.

“Laced with bright lights and a near hallucinatory fanfare of color, the immediate tenor of my most recent work is a carousel of revelry and excitement, similar to the buzzing allure of Vegas. Through the hallowed reiteration of circles and a hyper-spectacle of art objects, these pieces enter the realm of devotion—devout objects to be revered, objects that pay homage to the sanctity of womanhood.” 

-Lisa Von Hoffner

She completely transforms the environment around her work in such exhibitions as Radical Devotions at Harry Wood Gallery in Tempe, Arizona. The artist’s elaborate lighting and glossy props enhance her paintings and immerse the viewers into a world of mind-altering colors.  

Lisa Von Hoffner holds an MFA in Painting and Drawing from Arizona State University and has been featured in exhibitions across the United States. You can find more of her work on her website at

Interview with Artist and Psychotherapist Timothy Walsh

TJ Walsh, BFA, MA is a Counselor/Psychotherapist, Painter, Art and Higher Education Administrator. Prior to receiving his M.A. in Clinical Counseling Psychology from Eastern University in Saint Davids, PA, TJ received his BFA in Graphic Design from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

TJ has extensive experience working with young adults, university students and young couples with a focus on artistic and creative personalities. In addition to his work in a group and private practice, TJ is a seasoned Student Affairs/Student Life professional with foci in the areas of Counseling, Conduct/Judicial Affairs, Title IX (specifically within the realm of campus sexual assault), and Educational Accessibility (ADA).

TJ writes and speaks about topics of art, culture, faith and mental health. His work has been exhibited and published internationally. He is on the faculty at Eastern University in the graduate school's Counseling Psychology department.

Tell us about your journey to becoming an artist. Was it something that always interested you?

I was always encouraged to create. When I was young, I wasn’t interested in sports and when I did play sports, I was always out in left field (literally) daydreaming and getting lost in my imagination. As I grew older, my teachers and mentors encouraged me to pursue my art even when the art was unconventional to what everyone around me was creating. My work went from expressive, figurative work to completely abstract during this time and I haven’t turned back. My work harkens back to those days in the left field, exploring my imagination and responding to my emotions – with the hope of evoking imagination and emotion in others.


When did you decide to pursue therapy as your second career? What inspired you to follow this path?

I took the step to pursue helping others professionally about five years ago when I arrived at a crossroads. The crossroads was the decision of whether I was to go back for my MFA or to get my graduate degree in psychology. The MFA would mean that I’d disappear into myself, while the psychology degree would allow me to explore other people. One thing that I know about myself is that when I am allowed to disappear into myself, I become self-destructive. I chose to pursue helping other people over myself. This decision played out marvelously for me because not only do I get to learn from and help other people navigate their path, but my artwork and insight about myself has grown and increased exponentially, too. It was the right decision.

How do you relate your art practice to the therapy room? How are they connected or different?

My art practice is not directly connected to my therapy practice insofar as they inform one another. However my art practice provides release and distance from the heavy emotional work that I put into sessions with my clients. Much like I encourage some of my patients to utilize making as a way to release stress and process emotions, my art practice is that for me. Making creates the necessary space to process experiences, interactions, and relationships.

What have been some interesting observations you found regarding the connection between art and mental health?

As researched by Zorana Ivcevic Pringle, Ph.D. at Yale University, it has been found that people who engage in everyday forms of creativity are revealed to be more “open-minded, curious, persistent, positive, energetic, and intrinsically motivated by their activity.” Individuals who score highly in daily creativity report that they have a greater sense of well-being and personal growth compared to their peers who engage less in everyday creative behaviors.

Creating can also be therapeutic for those who are already suffering. For instance, research shows that expressive writing increases immune system functioning, and the emerging field of posttraumatic growth is showing how people can turn adversity into creative growth.

Do you encourage your patients to express themselves visually and if so, have there been positive benefits as a result?

I do encourage patients to express themselves visually. It’s through the use of a creative expression that develops opportunities for exploration and growth.

One thing to remember is that, with the discretion of the therapist, often less structure, more fluidity and openness, can produce a productive session. Art is a useful tool to uncover one’s deepest sense of self, one's psyche, and also a means of getting to know the client. As themes in the artwork emerge, it is important to remain sensitive, as the artwork is just as ‘alive’ as the client. The art is a connected extension of himself or herself.

From your experience, what are some tips and best practices for artists to overcome blocks?

When experiencing creative block, it’s important that you don’t browbeat yourself. Lulls in creative energy are necessary to the overall creative process, and even though the lack of creative energy can be frustrating and psychologically painful, it’s important to move toward viewing these periods as times of growth. The in-between times is when creativity gets its start. It’s important to have a lot of thinking time – and thinking time happens when you least expect it to happen. When experiencing a creative block, try these helpful tactics for working through it:

-Come up with many solutions – not just one. Try to come up with a list of 20 ideas.

-Look for patterns in episodes of your creative block.  When a creative block occurs, take notes and see if a trend emerges.

-Draw blindly for half a minute. You can’t criticize the results. Give yourself a theme. This can work for free writing, too. Without having expectations, you can break through to being able to work on your blocked project.

-Redefine the problem to find it more compelling. By looking at your project with from an unfamiliar angle, and a new perspective, you may be surprised that the block will become dislodged.

-Dirty your canvas. Put an ink-stained handprint in the middle of the problematic work. This will give you something to fix.

-Keep a sketchbook or notebook. Always carry it with you.


Tell us about your approach to painting. What is your process like?

My approach to painting is a process of call and response. I lay a spot or field of color down, place a mark or blemish on a surface and respond to it with another color, mark, or blemish. The work is an investigation into what it means to make marks on a surface to convey emotion. The process can be meditative or manic, as it is informed by many hours of listening to people share their stories of transition or struggle with me in the therapy room. The immediacy of mark making is therapeutic and healing. Making marks and pushing paint is about breaking through the noise of life to unearth the conversation beneath.

When you experience a tough time, what strategies do you use to overcome it?

When I experience a tough time, I make sure that I am seeing my therapist regularly. It is only through working things out with my therapist that I can dislodge what is stuck. I also make sure that I am in my studio as often as possible. This allows me to keep a flow open and continue the process of gaining insight and perspective on my relationships, the world and myself.


Please share the best piece of advice for staying grounded and maintain a healthy creative practice with our artists and readers.

1. Microcreate. Allocating regular time to create is vital, but we can also create in short bursts whenever windows of opportunity open. On busses or trains, for instance, we can do some mental practice or jot down ideas.

2. Be resilient. Given that creating involves experimentation and missteps, it takes mental toughness to keep pushing our limits. When problems arise, or if we receive criticism that hurts us, we need to be able to bounce back and press onward.

3. Create through turmoil. Life brings unexpected complexities. Instead of being derailed by disturbances, if we keep creating through tough times, even at micro levels, we support our motivation.

4. Refuse to procrastinate. Many would-be creative people put off starting or finishing projects. But such procrastinating behaviors are actually manifestations of angst that arises when we worry about rather than dive into artistic problems. If you tend to sidestep your creative work, take up some anti-procrastination techniques. For example, think about your creative work just before you sleep and then do some micro creating as soon as you wake up in the morning.

5. Collaborate. Creating with others lifts our artistry. But before we commit to collaborative projects, our partners and we should clarify our objectives and roles.

6. Counter negativity. If we find ourselves harboring toxic thoughts like, “I’ll never have new ideas,” we should respond by disputing the negativity, affirming our ability to create, and then getting to work.

7. Maintain energy. Creating takes a lot of energy. It’s important to commit to healthy lifestyles and also schedule restorative time. Especially when we wrap up large projects, vacations—even brief ones—ward off burnout and recharge our motivation.

8. Be accepting. Sometimes our creativity will soar; other times we’ll fumble. In order for our creative paths to continue to be open, we have to accept the bad days with the good. Ultimately, what matters most is that we are consistent in our work. If we do that, we liberate our creativity, and our lives are meaningful.

Interview: Emmy Mikelson

What is your background as an artist?

I work in a range of media - video, sculpture, performance, and currently I am focusing on painting.  I received a BFA from the University of Iowa and I did my graduate work at Hunter College in New York City. At an early point I was interested in art as a place for inquiry. It is a field of study and practice that is very open and capable of endless permutations. This idea of constant change and flux is very appealing.

How would you describe the subject matter of your art?

I am interested in the permeability of things. My work has taken many forms over the years, but there is a constant attention to the notion of categories slipping in and out of one another. Things are never stable; they shift, sag, leak, push and acquiesce. This is true for all things: material and immaterial. It is an idea I am always trying to find ways to get at. What does it look like to have bodies, buildings, horizons, photons and laptops all flattened onto one another and indistinguishable?

How did you get started on your latest body of work?

My current painting series arose broadly for two reasons: space and speculation. The project began partly because of a space constraint. A few years ago I moved into a live-work space that needed renovation. My studio became a cluttered construction zone, so I eked out a small clean spot and started to work on these small-scaled paintings as opposed to the larger sculptures I had been working on. Around this same time I began reading more on a branch of philosophy called Speculative Realism (SR). One of the recurring points in SR is the idea of a flat ontology. In many ways it is a spatial condition where hierarchies are resolved differently. It has a democratizing effect, albeit dynamic and forceful, full of change and flux. Although it has clear implications for politics and ecology, I was thinking about it in more abstract and material forms. How to depict a space where all things exist right at the surface, no one thing more meaningful than another? And how could that space be simultaneously thin and dense, full and flat? These were the questions that prompted and continue to influence the work.

What is the best advice for overcoming creative block?

To quote a card from Brian Eno and Peter Schimdt’s Oblique Strategies: “Go outside and shut the door.”

Do you have a day job? How do you balance your time?

In addition to my studio and curatorial projects, I teach at Baruch College and work at The Cooper Union developing their architecture summer programs where I also teach a drawing workshop. I think the best way to “balance your time” is to not think of work outside of the studio as a “day job”. I try to find overlapping interests and ideas in the places I work. In the classroom, the assignments I develop relate to concepts I am thinking about in the studio. Through Cooper I have found several interesting experimental architecture journals that I have been fortunate to publish my writing and work in. These kinds of intersections between work and studio can help to make all your time remain connected and not just a series of distractions.

What artwork, film or piece of literature has had a strong impact on your work?

Some works have a tendency to stick and stay lodged in the back of your head. When I was 16, I read Milan Kundera’s novella Slowness. The telling of fractured histories playing out in strange slices of time had a strong influence on me. I have a feeling that if I read the book fresh right now, I may not even like it. But at that time, that collection of thoughts and words meant something. And it still rattles around in the background.

Interview: Adam Wallacavage

Adam Wallacavage was born in 1969. He currently lives and works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where he received a BFA in Photography in 1995. In 2001, Wallacavage taught himself the art of ornamental plastering and began making octopus shaped chandeliers. His chandeliers have been exhibited in galleries in São Paulo, Rome, London, Miami, Los Angeles, Vienna and New York. In 2012, Wallacavage had a solo exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Alliance titled Shiny Monsters. His chandeliers have been featured in publications such as The New York Times, New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine and TIME Magazine. Beyond making sculptural works, Wallacavage is also an accomplished photographer. In 2006, Gingko Press published Monster Size Monsters, a book documenting fifteen years of his photography.

When did you discover your interest in sculpture? What was your early work like?

It might sound weird, but I think it was building forts as a kid. I made tree fort, underground forts, and a fort over the stream next to the house I grew up in. I remember really going for it with the designs. After that, I would say going to Eyes Gallery on South Street in Philadelphia in the mid-1980's and being inspired by the Mexican paper mache sculptures I saw there. I tried recreating what I saw and started making these two-headed giraffe sculptures probably inspired by Salvador Dali.

How did you get started on creating your beautiful chandeliers?

I bought a Victorian Brownstone in South Philadelphia back in 2000. The first-floor interior was turned into a doctor's office in the 1940's so most of the ornamental elements were taken out and modernized. I wanted something opulent, and since I had taken a molding and casting class in art college, I realized I could make something quite elaborate with a few bags of plaster and some latex molds. The better I got with this technique led to more confidence, and that was when I decided to try making my own chandeliers for my home. I made five octopus chandeliers for my Jules Verne themed room and after that, I just never stopped making them.

We love your work and the otherworldly organic forms you create. Where do you come up with your ideas and what are your references?

Well, I just mentioned where the octopus came from, and it is my most popular and my favorite to make, but I'm inspired by Art Nouveau and art forms from nature. Ice formations, bats, sea creatures, snakes, birds, then silly kitsch.

What is a typical day in the studio like for you?

Lately, I've been all over the place, so time in the studio is erratic. I'm working today but going to the beach in the afternoon. I live in Philadelphia, but the beach I go to is about an hour and a half drive away. There's really never a typical day for me ever.

How do you balance your time as an artist with your personal life?

I'm always thinking about art no matter where I am. I go out as much as possible and even if I see a band, I'm always thinking about photography as well and seeing if I can document everything I'm seeing. I made a living as a photographer for a long time, starting with shooting for skateboard magazines and moving to shooting bands and street art in the mid 1990’s then to commercial photography. I stopped shooting professionally but it only helped my passion for documenting things.


What important life event or piece of advice helped you discover your unique voice and vision?

I went through a divorce 10 years ago and it forced me to really figure out a way to keep the house. I basically had to triple my income right away. This was also at the time where I was getting away from commercial photography. What happened is I found confidence in my own work and with that came the ability to sell my art. I'm quite fortunate for that. It came from making something I loved first but realizing what other people might want as well. My art comes from a deep place, but I don't care to make that part of it an issue. If a child likes it, that is all that matters to me.

Interview: Danielle Krysa

Danielle Krysa has a BFA in Visual Arts, and a post-grad in graphic design. She began her fine art career as a painter, but has found a home for herself in mixed media collage. Danielle is drawn to strong, simple compositions – add to that her love of hunting for vintage images in every thrift shop she wanders into, and voila, the painter becomes a collage artist. (Danielle is the writer behind the contemporary art site, The Jealous Curator. She is also the author of Creative Block, Collage, and Your Inner Critic Is A Big Jerk – all of which are published by Chronicle Books.)

How has your experience running The Jealous Curator impacted your personal art practice?

Running The Jealous Curator exposes me to a lot of art. A LOT. Probably the two most important things that have made a difference to my own work would be the following:

1. I’ve learned that there’s a gigantic range of art in the world, and there is a place for everyone. Your work won’t be a fit for every gallery or every buyer, but there is a place for what you create – you just have to find it.

2. Before TJC I felt quite lost when it came to my own work. I was all over the place. Probably within in the first year of writing daily posts I started seeing a pattern in the work I was really attracted to – negative space, vibrant colors, a touch of humor – I realized that this is where I wanted my own work to go, and I haven’t looked back!


We love the community you created through your blog. How do you balance your time between family life and your creative career?

I love the combination actually – to be organizing art shows or interviewing artists for the podcast one minute, and baking cookies with my son the next. However, I did really struggle with this a few years back – trying to do everything perfectly, all the time. Not very realistic! About 3 years ago, I made a conscious choice to start breaking my days into very clear chunks. If I had scheduled a time to work on my book from 9am - 1pm then that’s the only thing I was doing during that time. I wouldn’t feel guilty about all of the other things I could be doing because this was “book time.” When I’m in the studio making art, I don’t worry about the blog or podcast, etc. because these few hours are “studio time.” The same goes for “family time” – and I have the most amazing men in my life (my husband Greg and son Charlie), so it’s very easy to set chunks of time aside to hang out with them!


What advice would you give artists and creatives looking to leave their day jobs?

Have a clear plan. That’s not very romantic, but you’ll sleep better at night! I have just made the jump from full-time graphic designer to full-time Jealous Curator. It’s scary, but I also made sure to pad my bank account so that I have a little cushion for the first six months. It’s really nice not to have a ton of financial pressure on your creative career the second you make the jump. Have projects, relationships, your online shop, etc. set up before you make the leap. That might mean lots of late nights when you get home from your day job, but again it will allow you to hit the ground running. Ok, enough practical talk, let’s get to the romantic stuff! A lot of people are terrified to make their dreams a reality for all sorts of reasons (money, self-doubt, both) but life is short, and if this is the life you want then you have to go get it.

PS. Deciding to make this change now doesn’t mean it has to be FOREVER. Personally, I’m going to give this whole “Jealous Curator” thing my very best shot, but if for whatever reason it doesn’t work, I can always get another design job… or become a barista.

We are inspired by your background and know that lot of artists struggle with similar obstacles when it comes to their “inner critic”. What advice would you give those looking to get back into the studio and overcome the fear?


I know this fear well, and it can be absolutely crippling. The way I got back into the studio, and managed to nudge by my annoying “inner critic”, was with small baby steps. I did quick projects on scrap paper, because I have a tendency to get a little too “precious” about whatever I’m making. Inner critics LOVE it when you get too precious about things. A perfect white canvas, a fresh sketchbook – terrifying. You have to allow yourself to play, experiment, make messes, throw things away, start again, make more messes and repeat. It’s the only way to sneak past that jerk. The first book I wrote is called Creative Block. I interviewed 50 working artists about how they deal with blocks, doubts, and inner critics. I also asked each of them to give a quick “unblocking project”, and boy do they work! I would highly recommend trying a few of them. They’ll get you past blocks, and as a lovely side benefit, they’ll get your inner critic to shut up for awhile.

What has been your biggest breakthrough in terms of making art?

Oh, there’s been quite a few. The first one being ACTUALLY making art! I used to keep ideas in my head forever. They had to be perfect before I put them to paper or canvas – and therefore those poor little trapped ideas never made it to paper or canvas. The other big breakthrough for me was embracing humor. When I did my BFA I was criticized for using humor – it wouldn’t be taken seriously if it wasn’t serious – so I squashed that part of my work. In December 2015, I interviewed LA based artist Wayne White, and that changed everything. His work is really blunt and hilarious, and he just puts it out there whether it gets criticized or not. A few days after that interview, I just said “screw it,” and finally allowed myself just to be me. What a giant relief – and I’ve never had more fun in the studio. Ever.


What inspires you? How do you come up with your collages?

I love narratives and tend to make stories out of just about anything. I never cut images out with an intended purpose, I just cut. I have a giant bowl of people on my studio table just waiting to be thrown into one of my weird little stories. I spread out several pieces of paper (and now panels occasionally) and start making thick, colorful brushstrokes. Once I have those, I dig through the bowl looking for just the right person to pair with each paint stroke. The moment there’s a match, the title pops into my head – I know I’ve got something if I actually laugh out loud in my studio. (Crazy art lady, alone, laughing hysterically in her studio. Yeah.)

What is your favorite thing about being an artist?


Being part of the coolest club in the world! Artists just understand other artists, and I could spend all day every day talking to creative people – sharing war stories, working out challenges, celebrating victories. Oh, and the other thing I love about being an artist – the high you get when everything is flowing. Ah, it’s like magic. What are you currently working on in your studio?

I’m still continuing with my paint/found image collages. At the moment I don’t see an end in sight! Lately, I’ve been experimenting with using more paint and working on wood panels instead of paper. I used to be terrified to experiment (I have no idea why), but now I actually find myself looking forward to it. I guess miracles do happen!

Interview: Rebecca Rutstein

Rebecca Rutstein is a Philadelphia-based artist whose work spans painting, installation and sculpture, Rebecca Rutstein explores geometric abstraction with a vision inspired by science and scientific data. Rutstein has been an Artist-in-Residence in geologically dynamic locations including Iceland, Hawaii, the Canadian Rockies and Vermont. Most recently, she completed two “Artist at Sea” Residencies aboard research ships where she collaborated with scientists mapping out never-before-seen ocean floor topography from the Galápagos Islands to California, and exploring uncharted territory from Vietnam to Guam.

Rutstein has exhibited widely in galleries, museums, and institutions, and has received numerous awards including a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, Pew Professional Development Grant, Ocean Exploration Trust Fellowship, Independence Foundation Fellowship and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grants. She has garnered recent attention through radio interviews on NPR and Hawaii Public Radio, and with features in Vice Magazine, Huffington Post, Philadelphia Magazine, Philadelphia Inquirer, Artblog, Fresh Paint Magazine and New American Paintings. Her work can be found in public collections including Johns Hopkins Hospital, Nordstrom [Canada], Fox Chase Cancer Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Temple University where she recently completed her first permanent, outdoor public art commission.

Rebecca Rutstein holds a BFA (Magna Cum Laude) from Cornell University (with abroad study in Rome, Italy) and an MFA from University of Pennsylvania. She has been a visiting artist at Universities across the U.S. and conducted ship-to-shore outreach with science museums world-wide. Rutstein is represented by Bridgette Mayer Gallery in Philadelphia and Zane Bennett Contemporary/Form & Concept in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

When did you decide to become an artist? Briefly tell us about what inspired you to make the decision.

Drawing is one of my earliest memories, something I loved to do from a very young age. I drew voraciously, and it helped me get through some challenging times. As I grew up, I dreamed of being an artist but did not imagine that I could practically pursue it as a profession. I remember vividly the moment that all changed: I was seventeen, filling out my college applications when I had a conversation wth my dad, who had just left the comfort of his 25-year law career to pursue a dream managing a minor-league baseball team. He encouraged me to think outside the box, do what I loved, and follow my passions. I have never looked back.

This was your second year participating in a sea expedition residency. How did you get involved with this project?

Science and technology, specifically geology and maps, have been the subject matter in my work for many years. I have been fortunate to complete art residencies in some pretty inspiring places around the world to create site-specific projects. When I was invited to sail on a research vessel where the ship’s multibeam sonar system would map never-before-seen ocean floor terrain in the Galapagos Islands, it was a chance I couldn’t pass up. For me, to see part of our planet revealed for the very first time, and to bring these revelations into my work, was the opportunity of a lifetime.


What were some highlights of making art on a research vessel?

Collaborating with the scientists and crew, creating a studio in the wet lab, embracing the rocking motion of the ship into my artistic process,  finding my place within the established rhythms of ship life, making friends from around the globe, and feeling the freedom of the open sea and sky, all culminated into an unforgettable experience.

What was your early work like? Were your paintings and sculptures always influenced by science?

My early work coming out of grad school was inspired by abstract expressionism and was very process oriented. The paintings were highly emotive and a response to some intense personal experiences. But the paintings lacked structure and needed to be anchored. At some point, I found myself leafing through an almost forgotten geology textbook from college and came across plate tectonic diagrams showing the shifting of earth’s plates. It spoke to me as a metaphor for the upheaval, collision, and separation I was feeling in my own life. That was the beginning of my fascination with science as a subject matter in my work.

Briefly, explain your process. How does each piece come to life? Do you do extensive planning for each work?

I generally work on paintings or sculptures in series with an overall theme in mind. I often have a color scheme and thoughts about the scale of my marks as a starting point, but from there it is totally process oriented. It is not unusual for me to paint out a painting several times before I arrive at something I can live with. I never sketch before making a painting - the canvas is my drawing board.


What’s next for you? What events and projects should we be on the lookout for?

I recently got signed by a gallery in Santa Fe, NM and am working on a new body of work for a solo show opening there in the summer of 2017. I also have some pending large-scale commissions including a public mural project in Philadelphia along with some sculptural projects overseas. And I am hoping to get back out to sea if time allows!


All images courtesy of the artist and Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia, PA.

Interview: Hannah Stouffer

Hannah Stouffer (b 1981) is an American art director and visual artist living and working in Los Angeles, CA. Born and raised in Aspen, CO, Stouffer relocated to CA in 1999. With over 15 years experience in fine art and commercial illustration, design, writing, publishing, and curatorial production, Stouffer has proven to be a powerhouse in creative visual media. She is identified as both an art director and visual artist, having maintained a strong presence in both fields, commercially and with her own fine art. Having produced and published 3 contemporary art books, Stouffer is a true tastemaker of visual aesthetics. She is currently a contributing writer for VICE's Creators Project, while also maintaining her own inspiration source, Lust-After.

In 2015, Stouffer brought her creative vision and expertise to H+ Creative, as the founder of the experiential services agency filling the role of the company's art director. With H+, Stouffer aimed to create experiences centered on client connectivity through visual production, art direction, consultation, and curation. With abilities are as diverse as the clients she serves, H+ thrives on projects that expand her own conceptual process.

From 2011-2014 Stouffer contributed as the editor for leading art publication Juxtapoz Magazine. As a content creator for nearly four years, Stouffer diligently informed the public through print and media platforms, generating eight online posts per day, and one print feature per month. During this time she produced and curated book titles Juxtapoz Psychedelic and Juxtapoz New Contemporary, in addition to producing the monumental Psychedelic Book Release Exhibition at The Well in Los Angeles, CA.

Before 2011, Stouffer's career as a commercial and fine art illustrator allowed her work to be commissioned by many high profile clients. Under Jen Vaughn Artist Agency, projects include work for AMEX, Dell, Microsoft, Nike, The New York Times and Wall Street Journal China allowing her creative hand to lead massive campaigns, both nationwide and abroad. Stouffer has been commissioned by Christian Dior, at Art Basel Miami, POW! WOW! Hawaii, KINFOLK in Brooklyn and Pangea Seed in Isla Mujeres, Mexico for large scale site-specific work as well.

With her initial exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum, Stouffer has been showing her work in galleries and museums worldwide since her introduction to visual media. Exhibitions include work at the Japanese American National Museum and The Dallas Museum of Art with solo shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Denver and New York. Stouffer has been present as a juror for the Art Directors Club of Houston and an ambassador of the arts in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel with social startup, Kinetis (to name a few).

Tell us briefly about your journey as an artist.


To be honest, it's all I've ever known and was encouraged to do from a very young age. I've drifted and evolved from a variety of mediums, outputs, and projects and worked as a fine and commercial artist, illustrator, art director, curator and art writer. I spent four years as the illustration and erotica editor at Juxtapoz Magazine and am currently a contributing writer for Vice's Creators Projects. I recently produced my third visual art book (The New Age of Ceramics) and launched a visual agency this year, H+ Creative, representing a roster of top-tier international talents. That's about it. I maintain my own art practice and am infinitely curious. It's been a good ride thus far. What inspired you to start H+ Creative?

After a good long run as a commercial illustrator, the next viable step seemed to be to extend my experience in the industry to assist other artists in a similar field. While the landscape of agency and industry work has shifted to more of a digital platform, I'm currently working with and representing artists that have a basis in both their own fine artwork and also a drive for doing projects commercially. I've always had an infatuation for both the visual arts and the entrepreneurial side of the business, and this allows for both.

How does being an art director and consultant inspire your studio practice?

It's really just a further extension of my aesthetic vision and ways in which I can carry my knowledge on. It's all wrapped up into one nice big, illuminated, holographic, paint covered package. It's all so intertwined at this point.

Name few artists or creatives that have influenced your work.

I wouldn't even know where to begin, but the start of my career was really fueled by Deanne Cheuk, Si Scott, Andy Warhol and my father, Marty Stouffer.

Micro_Cosmos, 2/3/12, 7:44 AM, 16C, 8148x11082 (491+761), 150%, Custom,  1/15 s, R65.3, G37.8, B45.6

What's a typical day like for you?

Well, I'm currently drinking tea and typing away on the computer... I'll probably do this for a little while then take my dog for a run in the park. I'll make it to the studio and try to wrap my head around a zillion things that all seem to be floating in my mental peripheral. I'll make a mess, get distracted, make some progress and get outside again for the sunset. I gave up on stress a long time ago, and now I just do what I want.