Posts in Interview
Studio Sunday: Curtis Anthony Bozif
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We have an exciting Studio Sunday interview this week with Curtis Anthony Bozif! He is a Chicago based artist who has a solo exhibition of new works currently on view at the Evanston Art Center. The show opened on August 17th and will run through September 22nd.

Find more of his art on his website or on Instagram @curtisanthonybozif

We are pleased to have featured you in one of our previous issues, but you've got some new things going on now to share. How has your work developed in the last few years? What are you creating now? 

I think my work has undergone a kind of distilling since last we spoke. A simple observation would be that the paintings have become more monochromatic and less compositional; more textured and less graphic. I’m focused on building surfaces and less concerned with what I’d call picture making. To this end, I’ve been using a lot of metallic and iridescent colors. They have a sheen to them that accentuates the texture and surface of a painting; its physicality. Metallic and iridescent colors  shimmer. This causes the appearance of a painting to change relative to where you’re standing when you look at it. As you move around, the angle at which the surface absorbs or reflects light changes; the color shifts. A certain part of a painting may be obscured by a bright reflection while another part may appear to fall into shadow. In a sense, this kind of painting is hard to see. It’s hard to know. 

What kind of studio space are you working in? What is important for you to have in it? 

My wife and I recently moved into a new place here in Chicago. I now have a whole room dedicated to my studio. Definitely the most important thing for me to have in it is space. Because I make relatively large paintings, I need to be able to step back and see the whole thing at once. I also need to be able to move around and see it from different distances and from different perspectives. When a painting gives me trouble, this has always proved helpful; looking at it from a different perspective. Sometimes the hardest way to see a painting is to look at it head on.

Another thing that’s important is light. For me, this has always been the most frustrating part about setting up a new working environment. Balancing natural light with artificial, the temperature of the light, the intensity, and where to position the lights to reduce glare, I still haven’t figured it out. I‘ve never be completely happy with the light in any of my studios.

One last thing I’ll mention is my old CD player. It’s a simple stereo boombox I got when I was in high school. I’ve had it with me in all my studios. At the Kansas City Art Institute, Northwestern, and the string of different places I’ve had since then. I think music is important to a lot of painters because painting is a solitary activity that requires a lot of time and attention. Having something to listen to can help prevent loneliness, help you pass the time, and help you to focus. Recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of Steve Reich, Ingram Marshall, Third Coast Percussion, and the soundtrack to Werner Herzog’s film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, composed and performed by Ernst Reijseger. I think of the repetition and layering that is so characteristic of this kind of music as analogues to the repetitive mark-making and layering in my paintings. This has helped me to think about my process in some interesting new ways.

How do you maintain a consistent schedule with your creative practice? Do you have certain habits or routines that you follow?

The first thing to mention is I have a nine-to-five job. Any consistent schedule, unfortunately, has to be worked around that. In his book, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, David Lynch recounts Bushnell Keeler’s expression: “If you want to get one hour of good painting in you have to have four hours of uninterrupted time.” Like Lynch, I agree with this statement, but the exact times, one or four hours, doesn’t really matter. The point is that excess time is essential. It’s essential for play and for accident and for chance, but sadly, uninterrupted time is very difficult to make happen. 

So weekends are precious to me; I’m usually up by seven. I’ll make a pot of coffee and read for an hour or two before I start painting. Research has always been an important aspect to my studio practice and reading is a big part of that. For instance, I just completed a series of paintings inspired by the Great Lakes. Over the course of making this work I read dozens of books on the subject. In my research I discovered an author named Jerry Dennis. He’s based out of Traverse City, Michigan and has written extensively about the Great Lakes. I found I had a strong affinity for the way he often approached the lakes, which is to say, on a geological time scale. I was so taken by his writing that I reached out to him and we developed a correspondence and that’s been really rewarding. In a way that’s not easy to describe, I’ve always thought of painting as a way of thinking; a way of knowing, but so too is poetry, music, history, and science. Learning how people who work in other disciplines approach—and ultimately come to know—the same things you’re dealing with in your own work can help to develop a more complete and nuanced understanding of those very things and, of course, your work.

Coffee and reading wake me up and help me to focus, after that, I’m ready to paint. I try and make this a quick and painless transition. It’s important to me to be able to walk into my studio, grab my tools, and immediately get to work. Here, I’d like to quote Lynch again. In the same book as before he writes: “It’s crucial to have a setup. [...] So that at any given moment when you get an idea that you have the place and the tools to make it happen. If you don’t have a setup there are many times when you get the inspiration, the idea, but you have no tools, no place to put it together and the idea just sits there and festers. Over time it will go away. You didn’t fulfil it and that’s just a heartache.” Today, there are so many distractions vying for our attention, there’s so much noise, to have the time and space to dedicate to your work and where you can focus, and what Lynch calls a “setup”, is so important. 

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What is one piece of creative or business advice that you would give to your younger self? Is there a quote or mantra that is especially meaningful to you right now? 

I would tell my younger self to ignore, or mostly ignore, his grad school professors. It’s important that what you’re doing is enjoyable. I’m talking about the physical act of making art. What you do with your hands and eyes when you make art, is it enjoyable? What you do with your body, do you like doing that? It’s something that rarely gets discussed in art school. For example, when I was at Northwestern, I started making video art and my professors responded positively to it, but looking at the world through a camera, staring at a screen, and clicking a mouse all day made me really depressed. I ultimately stopped making art.

Similarly, I’d tell my younger self to think hard about the sustainability of his studio practice. By that I mean: is what you’re doing, are the ideas you’re engaging with, are they generative? Do they foster a healthy curiosity? Or, are you backing yourself into an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual deadend? If making the art you’re making is no longer enjoyable, or healthy, if it’s just paralysis, dread, and boredom that you feel upon entering your studio, then you should probably be doing something else.

Finally, you have a show coming up - can you tell us about the details and any other events you have lined up for the rest of 2019? 

My solo show, Great Lakes, at the Evanston Art Center, runs from August 17th to September 22nd. As I alluded to earlier, this work is the culmination of a year long effort—through research and careful observation—to engage with the Great Lakes and to translate these experiences into the paintings.

One way I’ve tried to do this is by thinking about the lakes in terms of their scale. By scale I mean their size relative to the human body; their time relative to human time. People often try and describe the Great Lakes by listing a bunch of figures like: they contain one fifth of the surface liquid freshwater on the planet. This sounds like a lot, but of all the water on the planet, only two and a half percent is freshwater. So what does one fifth of two and a half percent mean? It means that the freshwater in the Great Lakes, as a natural resource, is both abundant and exceedingly rare. Similarly, we think of the Great Lakes as being very old; melt water from the end of the last ice age, but this melt occurred just 12,500 years ago, while the last ice age lasted almost a 100,000 years and the earth, it’s over 4.5 billion years old. On a geological time scale, the Great Lakes, like human beings, just appeared. Reconciling these time scales is impossible. If painting is a way of knowing, these paintings have been a way for me to know the Great Lakes, but to know the Great Lakes can often times feel like an exercise in abstract thinking.

One of the ways I’ve tried to translate the irreconcilability of these scales is by making relatively large paintings built of dense layers of minutely-sized, seemingly random marks across their entire surface. It’s my hope that this kind of scale and intensity suggests a vast, infinite space, and unknowable depth. As I mentioned the last time we spoke, I’ll often employ sticks in lieu of paint brushes when I’m working. This technique, along with embedding different materials like sand and iron filings into my paints, creates a highly textured surface that can often times feel more natural than human made; like the surface of a rock face. Layers of thin glazes and metallic and iridescent paints enhance these textures by catching the light, they shimmer, obscuring the image, and for this reason these paintings can be hard to see. I’m interested in the tension between the depth created by these layers and the flatness that’s emphasized by the sheen of the iridescent surface. You have to negotiate the way the light is interacting with the surface in order to see past it, to go deeper. It’s not unlike looking at water. 

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Interview with Pamela Rounis from SAD Mag
Portrait by Lauren D Zbarsky.

Portrait by Lauren D Zbarsky.

We always love hearing about women who are creative entrepreneurs and especially enjoy those who also work in indie publishing! I was excited to have the opportunity recently to interview Pamela Rounis of SAD Mag, an independent Vancouver based publication that focuses on art and design. Read on for real talk on changing career paths early on, prioritizing work commitments, and the future of SAD Magazine as well as the podcast she hosts, called the SADCAST!

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How did you get involved with SAD Mag? What is your role within the magazine? Can you give our readers a brief overview of SAD Mag’s mission?  

SAD Mag is an independent Vancouver publication featuring stories, art, and design. Founded in 2009, we publish local contemporary and emerging artists and writers with a focus on inclusivity of voices and views. We are a non-profit and volunteer run. Our main mission is to elevate the creative scene here in Vancouver and give emerging creatives a place to get published and noticed. I started doing design for SAD around 2012 and eventually became creative director and co-publisher. When Katie Stewart (co-publisher) asked me to join SAD it seemed like mostly everyone there was a writer or photographer and none of these folks’ primary interest was design so it was a real opportunity for me to be able to change everything from the logo to the size of the magazine itself. This July, after nearly ten years, Katie, Michelle Cyca, and I stepped down as co-publishers to give a new generation the reigns. We will all remain on the board of directors, however, and I will continue to host our podcast, SADCAST. Syd Danger has taken over for me as the new creative director and co-publisher along with Madeline Barber as editor and co-publisher. 

What has been the most exciting aspect of working with SAD Mag? What are some of the challenges? 

The most exciting aspect is working with the artists, illustrators, and photographers on the creative for the magazine. It’s a lot of fun reading the pieces and matching them with the right person and briefing them on how to bring the piece to life. Each issue is themed which also brings a unique challenge, finding ways to stretch that theme across an entire issue in a way that keeps a reader’s interest. Our biggest challenge is the same as any magazine, gaining and retaining subscribers. It’s funny how many people will come to our parties and spend $30 on drinks, but don’t buy the magazine! We do have many loyal subscribers though it’s always a challenge to get the word out, especially since we’re volunteer run and sales are no one’s passion project. 

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How do you balance your various commitments considering that in addition to working with SAD Mag and hosting SADCAST, you also have a full-time role as an Associate Creative Director at an agency? 

It’s been challenging to balance everything which is what led me to the ultimate decision to step down from most of my duties at SAD after 7 years. I think there was a lot of sacrifice that went into my being able to do everything. Certainly my husband thinks I’m a workaholic and I work most weekends. It’s not a lifestyle I would recommend and I think that’s the harsh truth about a lot of successful people. This past year I had my first panic attack and I said to myself that something needs to give, I can’t do it all even though I want to. Being promoted to ACD at Rethink came with a lot of new responsibilities also, so it just became overwhelming. I think for a lot of the time my motto was "better done than perfect". And that's really the only way things kept rolling.

Are there any exciting things coming up with the magazine or with personal projects for the rest of the year that you'd like to share?  

I am very excited to see what Syd and Maddy do with the magazine. The next issue, their first as co-pubs, is appropriately themed Future and it’s definitely one to watch out for. Meanwhile, I’m going to try to make the SADCAST better than ever, and take it a bit easier, haha!

By Alicia Puig

Portrait by Lauren D Zbarsky.

Studio Sunday: Michelle Lee Rigell

It is the last week of our show ‘Pilot’ with PxP Contemporary so this Studio Sunday highlights one of our invited artists, Michelle Lee Rigell. She is a contemporary realist painter who is based in St. Louis and we have featured two works from her ‘1,000 Crane Project’ in the exhibition. Read on to learn more about her creative practice, studio space, and exhibitions for the rest of the year!

Bio

Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Michelle Lee Rigell is a St. Louis-based contemporary realism artist who works in acrylics. Since 2015, Rigell has shown her work in several locations in the Greater St. Louis area including SOHA Gallery, Art Saint Louis and fundraising art events such as Wall Ball for Artscope and Art of PAWS for St. Louis Effort for AIDS. Rigell also volunteers as an instructor and is the assistant director of Arts As Healing Foundation, a nonprofit organization that brings the therapeutic benefits of art to cancer patients and those with chronic illnesses.

Statement

I tend to gravitate toward subjects that evoke nostalgia and whimsy. I am currently working on a project called the "1000 Crane Project" because of my childhood love for origami. When I wasn't drawing or painting, I was constantly folding origami. My goal is to capture the beauty and precision of origami while incorporating the flawed nature of wrinkled papers and used wrappers and labels of some of my favorite childhood American products.

Cranes are also a symbol of good fortune and longevity in Korean culture. They have been an apt subject matter in my life because rediscovering my passion for painting began as a way to cope with my miscarriages and difficulties with infertility. I am a firm believer that art can provide healing, and I want to be able to help others heal by providing a sense of sentimentality and humor through my art process and experiences.  

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How did you first become interested in art and can you explain a bit of how it led you to the work you create today?

I’ve loved art for as long as I can remember. As a child I wanted to be an animator and graphics designer like my uncle, the other artist in our family, but in high school, I focused on getting into medical school. I was convinced by the adults in my life that this was a more practical career path, but ultimately I chose not to pursue a career in medicine after graduating from college.

After moving to St. Louis for my husband’s medical training, my mother-in-law encouraged me to take art classes. When I signed up, it never crossed my mind to pursue a career in art because I didn’t have any formal education in art and I had lost a lot of confidence in myself. Around the same time, I had a miscarriage and my second not too long after, so it was a period filled with a lot of hurt. Fortunately through the classes, I met my mentor and began volunteering for the Arts As Healing Foundation, reigniting my passion for art and opening new possibilities for me. I went on a long and roundabout journey back to an art career, but now I am sharing my love for art to others who need it and love it with more appreciation and passion than when I was younger.

We love that your work is so fun and whimsical with hints of nostalgia. Can you tell us about what inspires you and the story behind your series of origami cranes specifically?

A few years ago for Christmas, my mentor gifted me a glass jar with the Chinese character for happiness and good fortune on it. Along with art, I also loved origami growing up, so I decided to fill it up with cranes, which then led to an even better idea of painting them.

Before my “1000 Crane Project”, I was already painting nostalgic subjects like record players, musicians, vintage signs using earthy, dark tones; I grew up listening to a lot of Oldies music. But as I gained more confidence in myself and my work, I wanted to experiment with bolder compositions and colors. I had found the perfect subject that was not only iconic and symbolic but had been a big part of my childhood as well. Instead of using crisp, new sheets of paper, I thought it would be more interesting and challenging to make cranes with wrinkled, brightly colored candy wrappers that are sometimes more plastic and wax than paper. It would give me more opportunities to play with lights and darks to create all the tears and odd folds. And who doesn’t love candy? As long as I can bring a smile to the viewers’ faces, I know I’ve done a good job.

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What is your process like? Do you do a lot of sketching or make work more intuitively?

I fold all the cranes I paint first. Occasionally I’ll go on a folding spree and fold whatever piece of paper or candy wrapper that catches my eye, so that later if I need inspiration or a new idea I can go through ones I’ve already folded. Sometimes I have to do a little cutting and taping supplemented with thumbnail sketches especially with the candy wrappers, so I can get the right labels and patterns to show through. I prefer to paint from my still-life set up, but I also take photos to refer back to because the cranes are tiny.

Describe your current studio or creative space. What is most important about it or one thing that you definitely need in your work area?

Currently my studio is in our guest bedroom. I’ve tried almost every other room in our house before settling into where I am now. The guest bedroom has the best lighting as it faces north with lots of windows. I try to take advantage of the natural lighting as much as I can, so my colors don’t shift. For me, lots of sunshine leads to lots of motivation and productivity. I would eventually like a space where I can make larger paintings and move more freely, but I also like being comfortable and having everything I need at home.

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What is your favorite thing about being an artist?

One of my favorite things about being an artist is being able to express myself but also being able to have a safe place for me to tune everything out. The other is that I never stop learning as an artist. I’m continuously finding ways to improve my technique and to challenge myself to elevate my artwork.

Do you have any big collaborations, projects, exhibitions, etc going on during the rest of the year that you'd like to share?

I recently finished a piece that will be up for silent auction on August 3rd at this great fundraiser, Art of PAWS by St. Louis Effort for AIDS. The proceeds help patients care for their furry companions so they can focus financially on their healthcare. I will also be in a four-man exhibition at the Angad Arts Hotel in downtown St. Louis from August 2nd to October 26th.

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Women Working in the Arts: Marie-Odile
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For our first-ever women’s issue this past spring (which is still available for purchase here) I profiled four young and entrepreneurial women working in the arts to highlight those not only creating work, but also those who are supporting artists as curators, gallerists, educators, writers, and more! I’ve kept this series going on our blog and am excited to share this interview with gallery manager and art influencer Marie-Odile, or @imagine_moi on Instagram.

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Bio

My name is Marie-Odile (it’s a peculiar name, I admit!) and I was born after 1990 in France. It feels like I’ve always been passionate about art. After a few years away from what I believe is my path, I dropped out of HEC Montréal Business School to go study art history and earn a master’s degree at la Sorbonne in Paris. Now, I am a gallery manager in Paris with the background of an art historian.

I am half French and half Brazilian so ethnic mix and hybridization run through my veins. During my time at la Sorbonne, I saw the opportunity to study the history of Brazil through an art historical lens. I wrote two theses related to Brazilian art history and contemporary art. My first essay focused on the study of religious syncretism present in the art of Thiago Martins de Melo. My second one was a critique of the itinerant exhibition Imagine Brazil. I consider art to be a window to important matters such as feminism, history, the LGBTQI+ rights movements, inclusivity, and even geopolitics!

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Choose one woman in the arts from history or who is working today and tell us about why she inspires you or has had an impact on you.

I was always amazed by Peggy Guggenheim and the fact that she had a significant role in art history. Everywhere she went, she left something to be remembered. She built strong friendships that encouraged her to open her horizons. Peggy started an art gallery at 39! She supported Surrealism and Abstraction and took part in the writing of American art history with the Abstract Expressionist movement. For her, collecting artworks was both a way to support artists and to share them with the world. Her ambition to open a museum was realized with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, which was later donated to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in the late 70’s. She had the guts and the desire to share her passion for the arts and to take part in its modern history.

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I would love to hear a bit more about your Instagram account too. When did you start it and was it always focused on art?

By the end of 2017, I started to think about my own “personal branding” and how I could carve out a place for myself in the art world. I had no contacts to begin with, only my personality and passion, so I decided that Instagram appeared to be the perfect social media channel with which I could connect to art lovers around the world. I imagined what I could do with my profile and then I worked to create the account and grow it to what is now.

No, it wasn't focused on art first because it took me a little while to understand how it works. I go to exhibitions, museums, and galleries on a regular basis. This is a habit I kept from my art history student years, when I had moved to Paris and got struck by the possibility of seeing art anywhere all the time. I started to share my experiences through my stories and I received messages like: "Thank you, I can visit and see art through your Instagram" from people far away. It kind of moved me. So then I started to read every article I could to understand Instagram algorithms and how to hashtag, for example.

What kind of content do you feature?

On @imagine_moi you will see pictures of my museum, gallery, and sometimes art fair visits, enlivened by funny art selfies. I curate little imaginary collections of artworks, mixing styles and periods according to a theme. Among the art pictures, you will encounter some selfies and casual life moments too. I am a woman and so not choosing between strictly posting art culture or casual selfies and life moments is kind of a feminist committed position of mine. I think it’s important for me to stop thinking that I have to chose in order to avoid being discredited.

My goal is not to show off with culture and knowledge. Not at all. Instead, I want to spread a desire for and curiosity about art. I’d like to see interest in art blossom in people’s minds, even more for those who think it’s not for them. I love thinking that I made someone want to go see an art show, visit a museum, or see art anytime, anywhere. Very often, in museums, I hear people saying  “ Well, I could have done that”... and I think, hmm, in reality no. Before saying this, one must think about what the mainstream art of that period was like. If you were told the context of creation for the Malevich’s Black Square painting, maybe you wouldn’t think he is a con artist!

What do you love about the platform or dislike?

What I love about this platform is that I can use it to interact with people from across the world. I even started a discussion group with women from Cologne, London, San Diego, and Milan who work in the arts as well. We share art every day and it allows me to have a sneak peek into what they see at art fairs and biennales when I can't go because, let's be honest, it wouldn't really be environmentally friendly nor cheap to go to all those events. I love the idea of spotting artists that are not yet in galleries or very well known. I sometimes buy artworks from them to start my own collection. It's my way of being supportive.

I have to admit that I find it sad when people come to exhibitions only to have an artwork as a proper Instagrammable background. A lot of people do not credit the artists nor the location of the museum or gallery because it gives a ‘cool vibe’ to be arty. It's great to see more visitors, but it's very disappointing to use an artist's work only to make people believe you are interested and part of an art intelligentsia when you are only looking to be perceived in a certain way or gain likes and followers.

Also, we’re interested to hear what are your plans for your profile going forward?

In March 2019, the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report by Clare McAndrews revealed that 10% of the more than 3,000 galleries surveyed did not represent any women artists. Among these galleries, 48% have only a quarter or less of women on their rosters. Last but not least, regarding auctions, 96% of the works sold are by male artists. I mention it because we write art history every day and I would not like to see a new article like Linda Nochlin’s 1971 piece “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” with twists like black artists instead of women, published a decade from now.

@imagine_moi is imagining all these little things I can do and everything that we can do today that will have a positive impact on tomorrow’s art world. Moving forward, I would love to serve as an ambassador or as an art influencer for museums and art fairs. We have to keep in mind that the young people of today are already buying art and will be the art collectors of tomorrow!

Article by Alicia Puig

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Studio Sunday: Brooke Sauer
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Our Studio Sunday interview is with LA based artist Brooke Sauer. She creates unique cyanotype paintings inspired by a deep connection with the natural world and how humans interact within it. We are pleased to be presenting two of her works with PxP Contemporary so if you enjoy this feature, we invite you to check out her work on our site! Make sure to view our inaugural show ‘Pilot’ soon as it will be closing on August 15th.

Bio

Brooke Sauer holds a BFA in Painting from Otis College of Art & Design, and an MFA from Art Center College of Design. 

Statement

Brooke is a Los Angeles based artist inspired by her innate connection to nature. With her art, she strives to connect more deeply with the natural world by exploring and learning about it first-hand and reflecting on our symbiotic relationships to it. The intimate and sometimes whimsical moments portrayed in her work suggest that just as nature surrounds us, it is also within us. Her unique cyanotype illustrations are created by combining a very old photographic printing process (cyanotype), with her background in painting and her love of botany, using the natural sunlight and water available to her to produce each unique and unpredictable piece. Her prints are made from pressed plants that she collects while hiking and exploring. Brooke refers to her botanical collection as her, “nostalgic herbarium”, as they all hold a memory and a story of a wonderful feeling, a place, and the people she was with when she collected them. This nostalgia peeks out from time to time in her works in the form of a longing or introspectiveness on the part of the figures captured within, or perhaps a yearning for a new adventure.

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When did you first become interested in art?

Growing up, I was always drawing and painting, making things and making music. I took a few formal painting classes as a little kid, but it was frustrating for me. I think I was happier just making whatever came to mind. One time I opened up a "greeting card store" in my bedroom with all the cards I designed. It was more conceptual, not like anyone was really going to come in our house and buy anything, but I liked seeing all the designs that I drew together like that. I was also an avid reader and wrote and illustrated my own detective novel. I was always creative, but I don't think I consciously thought I was creating Art until I was a teenager. I didn't have any formal art classes again until I was in my early 20's when I went to art school.

Tell us about the inspiration behind your work and what your creative process is like.

I am inspired by my relationship to nature, which has been growing along with me my whole life. Growing up, we moved to a lot of different places with different kinds of landscapes, plants, and animals, and I had a lot of freedom to, say, roam the woods behind our house by myself. When I was 12, my Dad & I , and often some friends started doing a lot of hiking, camping, and going on some pretty epic backpacking trips to some amazing places. This helped me to feel confident in my abilities and comfortable being out in the middle of nowhere and knowing I would be ok, and that this was actually natural, like how people used to live. The longer you're out there, the more natural it begins to feel, and you truly become one with your surroundings. That feeling of being a part of something in nature, which is vast, and it being a part of me, is what inspires my work. My work starts with a feeling, maybe a memory, or even an experience that I want to have, and then i try to translate that into a simple line drawing. From there I create my final piece, which has many layers.

First, I paint a picture using a UV sensitive fluid under non UV lighting. When it dries, I take wild plants and flowers that I have collected on my hikes and pressed, and arrange them on top of my painting. Next, I expose it to the sun for a certain amount of time depending on the weather, then I remove the plant parts and rinse off the painting and let it dry. The plants and flowers have been photographically printed into the painting, becoming the negative space that creates such a stark contrast against the rich cyan blue. This is actually how some of the very first photographs were made, as well as blueprints, which came much later.

What do you hope your viewers take away from seeing your paintings?

I hope my viewers take away a feeling of being connected to one's surroundings in a way that is poetic and thought provoking. Of being a part of something and having it equally be a part of you.

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What is one piece of advice that you would give to your younger self?

To be confident in my abilities and my creative voice at any given time, even when it is always changing and evolving, because that can spark doubt, but it's really just a part of nature. In fact, I think that's just advice I would give to myself, or any other artist, at any time of life!

How do you overcome creative blocks?

I just force myself to do something - like I'll play a game where I have to draw any object that is in front of me in the room, or on the table, but in drawing it I have to transform it into something magical or mysterious. Those exercises don't usually turn into final works, but they do get me into a more creative headspace which is where I want to be.

Good advice! Are there any exciting exhibitions, projects, or collaborations going on this year that you’re currently working on or will be soon?

I have a solo show in April 2020, around Earth Day, at the College of The Canyons in Santa Clarita California. I am expanding my studio practice in a way that will allow me to work on a much larger scale to create a new body of work for this show. I will also be including a soundscape element and possibly some 3-dimensional applications of my process as well. This will be a big push for me to see what I can do with this medium and the context of my work.

Finding Purpose Through the Darkness | Podcast Episode with Jenny Brown
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On this episode of Art & Cocktails, Kat talks to collage artist Jenny Brown about her journey and how she discovered her artistic voice, overcame adversity, let go of the shame surrounding her dreams and gained clarity in her art career. 

This episode includes conversations about:

  • Discovering your creative calling

  • Student loan debt and financial struggle

  • Overcoming depression and more

Jenny Brown is a 1996 graduate of Bennington College and she received her MFA in 2005 from The School of Visual Arts, where she focused on the mediums of painting, drawing, and collage. She moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 2008, and in 2018 set up space at Lyra Art Studios in the city’s Olneyville neighborhood. Her most recent solo show, “When You Speak to Me, This is What I See,” was curated by Periphery Space and presented at Paper Nautilus in Providence, RI, featuring a studio-like installation of her collages and drawings.

Artist Statement

Over the past decade, I have become captivated with exploring ideas surrounding the existence of a parallel or “alt” universe, and finding a way to represent it visually. What if we opened everyday doors and instead of seeing what we expected to see, we saw how we existed in the same moment but in another place in time? What if that alternative world wasn’t frightening, but instead place where color, nature, and our souls made sense in their own unique and curious way?

As an artist who sees the process of creating art as non-linear, I find that I experience the past, present, and future lives of my work all simultaneously. These periods of time happen all at once, maybe not at all, and sometimes infinitely with no end in sight. I find everyday curiousness, the physical mementos (such as photographs & paper ephemera I use in my work), and the history and images from past travels to be present every time I bring pen to paper. For when one speaks to me about my work and my creative process, I wish they could see it all-the beginnings, the unknowns, the forgotten, the lost, the joyous, and the never-ending beauty of the story that brought me to this exact place and time.

I am a 1996 graduate of Bennington College and received my MFA in 2005 from The School of Visual Arts, where I focused on the study of painting, drawing, and collage. I moved to Rhode Island, in 2008 and currently work out of a studio in Providence’s Olneyville neighborhood. I have collaborated with retail brands such as Anthropolgie and Alex & Ani, worked in a variety of art education settings both as a teacher and a mentor, and have over a decade of experience in event planning and facilities management in the corporate sector.

Learn more at www.jennybrownart.com

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.

Bio

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.

The Streets of San Jose: Interview with Costa Rica en la pared
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Before moving to Costa Rica, my knowledge of what the art scene here was going to be like was limited. I knew little beyond a few successful local artists, like contemporary abstract painter Federico Hererro, or the sculptor, Jimenez Deredia. However, one of the most exciting aspects of San Jose I have discovered so far is the vast amount of incredible street art. With architecture as likely to be white as it is to be a soft pastel yellow, burnt orange, or a saturated blue, the tags and murals blend in with the colorful structures but also stand out individually as high caliber works. Especially in hip neighborhoods like Barrio Escalante, the artworks painted on exterior walls seemingly equal or outnumber the ever growing amount of trendy restaurants, bars, and cafes. This led me to the questions: how, why, and most importantly, who are these artists? 

On Instagram, I found a virtual hub of the street art scene in the area, aptly named Costa Rica en la pared (Costa Rica on the wall). Founded and run by a charismatic young Tico (local slang for ‘a native Costa Rican’) named Mario Molina, the organization currently coordinates tours and events that showcase the city’s great talent in street art. I sat down with him recently to discuss his interest in urban art, the history of graffiti in the city, and what he aims to achieve by continuing to grow Costa Rica en la pared.

First, a bit of history. He explains that street art began in earnest in Costa Rica around the late 90’s. The roots of the artists working today can be traced back to two major graffiti writers from the US and one from Nicaragua who became integrated with skate culture here during this time. For many years, however, the style of the work being produced was restricted by the kinds of paints and materials that were available. Fast forward about ten to fifteen years and once better quality spray paints arrived, there was a noticeable shift in the color palette and in the complexity of the art being produced. Rather than just graffiti, more murals began popping up after 2010. Additionally, the new generation of urban artists have access to digital tools that help them create their works and that many also have backgrounds in graphic design or related fields. The combination of better tools and more experienced talent caused a proliferation of quality street art in the past several years - this was a significant part of the impetus for launching Costa Rica en la pared. 

Mario has always been interested in art and has a genuine love for the nature and street culture of the area where he grew up. Though he began in a different field of study, he eventually pivoted to pursue a degree in tourism at the Universidad Internacional de las Américas, which he will soon be completing. After working at a restaurant for some time as a barista, while developing an interest in photography on the side, he left to pursue his interest in urban art. He does create tags periodically that focus on themes of social justice, but the motivation behind starting Costa Rica en la pared wasn’t about promoting his own work. Instead, he wants to act as a medium through which the local community can connect with street art.

One would assume that such a strong presence of street art and graffiti must be funded, organized, or supported in other ways as is the case with Miami’s Wynwood Walls or Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Project. According to Mario, however, besides a few murals that were commissioned by brands, artists are largely producing these works by themselves. Even without explicit permission, most artists don’t encounter issues with the authorities and often tag their work with their social media handles. Nevertheless, passively accepting that urban art is being created in your neighborhood is not the same as actively supporting it. This is where Costa Rica en la pared comes in. 

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Mario founded his organization around three years ago and initially began reaching out to the artist names he would repeatedly see around the city. Recognizing their distinctive codes and tags, he would find them on Instagram and ask to hear about their stories. Most were open and very willing to speak with him. Based on these interactions, he started to share what he had learned via series of posts on his Instagram page (@costaricaenlapared). These stories shared alongside strong visuals and a catchy hashtag has drawn a lot of interest over the past few years and his handle has now reached over fourteen thousand followers. While an interest in marketing and an eye for photography have surely helped grow his audience, what is unique about Costa Rica en la pared is its well-honed voice. He places a clear emphasis on social impact and supporting local artists in a way that nobody else is at the moment, with the ultimate goal being to have tourists and locals alike better understand and appreciate the urban art all around them. 

His other main source of engagement in addition to social media are walking tours that he calls urban art safaris. As he and the tour participants navigate various neighborhoods throughout the city, Mario leads the group in a discussion that is equal parts art, history, and sociology. His love for what he does is evident as he lights up when I ask him who are a few of his favorite local street artists. He considers the question carefully and ultimately settles on three that he pulls up on Instagram to show me. The first is @ulillo, an abstract muralist who promises one public art project for every private one he completes. Then there’s MUSH @mushongo, who Mario respects for his “purist”, old school style of lettering done with spray cans and praises as one of the influential pioneers of the graffiti movement in Costa Rica. Finally, he tells me about @negus_artevida, a talented tattoo artist in addition to mural and graffiti artist, who Mario describes as someone who creates big productions with significance and is a supporter of the old school style like MUSH.

As our conversation winds down, I ask him to tell me about what else he has planned for the rest of the year. He will keep hosting tours and planning events and he recently began selling t-shirts to help raise funds to support more street art projects. The talent is there, but what’s missing is someone to manage the logistics of connecting potential sponsors with artists. With his passion, it’s clear that he’s the right person for this job. He will be adding additional members to his team shortly so that they can continue to expand their reach, build partnerships with local hotels and hostels, and complete their first fully funded mural in barrio Aranjuez. From there, he hopes to eventually move beyond the city to other towns across the country. After all, he says, it’s not San Jose en la pared, it’s Costa Rica en la pared. 

Article by Alicia Puig
Featured in Issue 15!

Studio Sunday: S.P. Harper
‘Vut-Ami’ Portuguese-cut Diamond,  Acrylic and oil on canvas wallpaper, 16 x 16 inches

‘Vut-Ami’ Portuguese-cut Diamond, Acrylic and oil on canvas wallpaper, 16 x 16 inches

This week’s Studio Sunday features the work of LA-based artist S.P. Harper. Her work focuses on imagery of glittering gemstones created in a way that mixes the traditional still-life with modernism. Learn more about the family ties that inspire her choice of subject matter and the strong interest she has in the Ecocentric art movement in her interview below!

Bio

S. P. Harper studied art at the American University in Paris, France with Paul Jenkins, USC Roski School of Fine Arts (BFA) and ArtCenter in Pasadena, California. After spending 12 years in New York City, Harper returned to Los Angeles to teach art and concentrate on Ecocentic Art. Harper’s grandfather, Archibald Picking, was a diamantaire (diamond cutter) before becoming a conductor for Pacific Electric Red Cars.

When did you first become interested in art? Where did you study and can you tell us a bit about the early years of your career?

My interest in art was first kindled when my parents took me to see Pop Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The boldness of Andy Warhols’s big Brillo boxes and Campbell’s’ soup cans resonated with me. Our public school system did not offer instruction in the arts so without art classes throughout my elementary, junior and high schools, ultimately my love of art and pleasure of working in a studio environment was discovered in college. I learned to paint and sculpt but did not have a solid concept or vision of what to create, initially accepting trompe l’oeil and design projects until slowly developing my focus over time, many years, in fact.

How has your work developed and when did you begin to hone in on the subject matter that you focus on today?

Ten years ago, collecting my daughter and her friend’s used clothing, tie-dying them and selling them back to school parents for annual fund raiser benefits initiated my interest in reclamation. This re-appropriating process led me to paint with discarded surface materials. The still life of the gem stone came around organically because they are the perfect object to see recycled patterns through the gem facets. Just recently, there is an awareness this subject matter may come from channeling my late grandfather who was a diamantaire (diamond cutter).

‘Prometheus’ Round-cut Diamond,  Oil and acrylic on canvas poster, 16 x 16 inches

‘Prometheus’ Round-cut Diamond, Oil and acrylic on canvas poster, 16 x 16 inches

What is your current work inspired by?

The iPad drawings by David Hockney and his unparalleled mastery of draftsmanship and color have long served as inspirational material for me. Like David, I abstract from nature and attempt to present my subject in an artful and positive light using David’s kiss-of-the-sun, California color palette. I am also inspired by the Ecocentric artist activist: Vik Muniz. His dramatic use of recycled materials and the sheer size of his “WasteLand” series are awe-inspiring.

Can you talk about your interest in the Ecocentric Art Movement and how your art fits into it?

I paint on and create sculpture with reclaimed materials such as discarded tablecloths, wallpapers, curtains, metal and wood scraps. By reforming and re-employing, my work brings materials back to life to re-use and up-cycle. There is a new scholarship emerging as a massive international movement of the 21st Century to reduce our dependence on mass produced goods takes hold. Ecocentric practice is filtering into the consciousness and the behavior of society and is being explored by many disciplines as human values recalibrate. The movement serves the needs of environmentalism and is also known as Neo Materialism.

Five Thousand Karats,  Steel, aluminum and door hinges, 24 x 24 x 24 inches

Five Thousand Karats, Steel, aluminum and door hinges, 24 x 24 x 24 inches

What kind of space do you work in to make your art? What is important to have in it for you?

I work in a home studio which contains a wood shop and do the metal smithing at Molten Metal Works in Glendale, California. Good light, a large table space and a lot of unencumbered free time to create are top priorities. A room sized space is dedicated to storing a collection of salvaged materials in which painting and sculpture creation comes from. These materials are a constant source of inspiration. They tug at my heart stings to be rejuvenated and launched back into the world.

Are there any big projects, collaborations, or exhibitions that you are working on for the rest of the year that you'd like to share?

Seven Million Karats at the Audubon Center at Deb’s Park in Pasadena, California is my most recent installation. Seven Thousand Karats is included in Works On Paper at the Brand Library and Art Gallery in Glendale, California opening on September 7 and runs through October 25. A Diptych painting and sculpture will in included in Above the Couch at bG Gallery, Santa Monica, California opening on September 21 and runs through October 15. See you at the openings for art and cocktails!

Studio Sunday: Molly Mansfield

This week’s Studio Sunday feature highlights the work of artist Molly Mansfield. We’re so excited to be bringing you a closer look at her paintings and best tips for maintaining a creative practice. Read her interview below and then check out her two beautiful and affordable pieces that are currently available online with PxP Contemporary!

Bio

I live in small town Texas with my husband and two little boys. Working with watercolor, gouache, and oil paints, I use handmade pigments that are mined from the earth's minerals.

My childhood days were spent playing amongst the leaves in the nursery owned by my parents and running barefooted and wild on my grandfather's property. Nature and particularly plants have played an important role in helping me to cope with anxiety. Now as a mother, thinking about my children, I value its role even more. When encountering nature, so many feelings are elicited. There is the excitement of spotting a rare bird, the wonder of a spiders web, an overwhelming sense of peace when standing at the water's edge, and even fear when met face to face with a coyote. Nowhere than in nature are the senses so stimulated.

The fury of our fast-paced, productivity driven, consumer culture is often overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. I regularly feel the struggle to counter these pressures in my life and work.

Statement

My paintings are impressions of experiences. Abstractions of a memory seeking to speak to the benefits of interacting with the natural world. Nature beckons us to take time out of our busy schedules to pause and take in the beauty. I want my paintings to reflect that sentiment. My process is measured and intentional. There is a lot of looking and soaking in the experience. Each brush stroke is carefully placed to describe the feeling that I am trying to create. My hope is that when you look at my artwork you are compelled to slow down, maybe take a deep breath, enjoy something beautiful, and engage with the present moment.

When did you first become interested in art and what drew you to painting?

Like most young children I was always making and inventing things. My mom was always coming up with some new creative project for me to work on from bead making to sewing and knitting to designing container gardens. I loved the opportunity to explore and certainly benefitted from being able to look at art making through different viewpoints via playing with different mediums. Painting has always been there though, and it has always had my heart. It was elevated in my mind as a child by a few images I had seen of Van Gogh’s work, a thin paperback portfolio of Cezanne that we owned, and receiving postcards in the mail from my aunt, Jennifer Young who is a painter. This modest collection of paintings I had access to, was devoured by me. Every color and brushstroke becoming ingrained in my mind. But every time I came back to the paintings an overwhelming feeling came over me, the energy moved me, I was taken far far away from my present situation to something magical that I had never experienced before. The paintings couldn’t be memorized. The process of making a painting is very feeling oriented as well. I love the experience of guiding, sliding the creamy buttery paint across the canvas. I turn music on, my whole body is moving, I’m not thinking about what I’m doing I just know I can’t stop. I keep laying down brushstrokes boldly side by side, alone they are blocks of color but together they become something recognizable. Something that has meant so much to me and I hope becomes meaningful for the viewer.

Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind your work and the series (or multiple bodies of work) that you are focusing on at the moment?

Imagine driving down a well trodden road, but you still can’t keep your eyes off the landscape. A line of cars builds up behind you , but you are struck with overwhelming beauty of whats in front. The grey stormy skies, the saturation of the well watered layers of fields. There is something new and exciting about the view and yet something familiar.

We moved out of Austin last summer to a small town near my hometown. It was an unusually rainy and cloudy fall for Texas. I was struck driving the road, FM 973, that connects my small town to Austin by the rolling green hills and grey skies. The landscape that you can see from this road is so striking because it is slightly higher elevation and open farmland with layers and layers of fields and crops leading up to the horizon line. I knew that I had to paint these views and I wanted to, focus on movement, shapes, and feeling, over details.

The collection, “Views From 973” is inspired by memories. Abstract & Fluid. Moments running into each other. Not about the fine details but about the feeling and emotion of the experience. Though these landscapes are inspired by a particular place, it makes sense that one might remind you of your own adventures. That’s when it becomes about human connection. Something that started as part of my own story, but then becomes yours.

This body of work has been the most intuitive work I have ever done. I look at so many of the pieces in this collection and think, “how did I even do that?!” The Brushstrokes, compositions, colors, none of it was planned really. I went into it with a feeling that I wanted to express and then let the process take over. This is work that I felt Inside of me and I knew I had to create.

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Describe your current studio space. What is most important for keeping a consistent creative practice?

My studio sometimes is the kitchen table, sometimes my bedroom dresser, and always most of the closets in our house (for storage, not for painting in, LOL). I am beginning to long for a more permanent space to create in, but honestly working out of my home has served me well. I’ve been painting (almost) every day for the past five years. Most of that happens in the evenings after my kids are in bed and I clean up my mess, packing everything back into closets when I’m done. I am very energized to work in the evenings, however homebody that I am, it is the last time of day that I want to leave my house. I have loved creating in the center of my home near the energy of my family and the comfort of my tea kettle.

Here are a few things that have really helped me in having a consistent creative practice.

1) Just start making. Its that simple. If you can, organize your day so that you are creating at the same time. Pay attention to what times of day you have the most creative energy, are you a morning person or a night owl? There may be times in the beginning when you don’t feel like making anything but just keep showing up, eventually the muse will show up too. After a couple of months of coming to the studio consistently you will have a habit, and after that I think it is pretty easy. I did a 100 day project 5 years ago and I’ve been painting nearly every day since, it’s just what I do and I love it.

2) Remove distractions. A few years back we got rid of our TV. Relaxation and enjoyment are good things, but for me Netflix was taking over my life, I felt like I wasn’t in control of how I spent my time. This was the best decision ever because while vegging can feel nourishing in the moment because it is passive, painting is what FEEDS MY SOUL.

3) Make your workspace comfortable. Do what you can to make your space not only where you want to be, but a place where you feel relaxed and able to let the creativity flow out of you. I once had a studio with no air conditioning in the summer in Texas. I did make work there but there was no lingering with delight over the process. You know I got out of there as soon as I could call the piece done! Recently I have been making work out of my home. It’s not glamorous. I could’ve rented a studio but home is just the only place I want to be at the end of the day (when I paint).

What is your favorite thing about being an artist?

Freedom! I get to be with my kids, make art and have a business. I get to make my own schedule. I don’t like people telling me what to do, LOL. I am allowed to follow my interest, passion, and muse. Making art isn’t all lollipops and fluffy clouds, sometimes there’s a wrestling that has to happen. Communicating what’s in my head, a thought or a concept into something visual on the canvas is hard work. There are so many ideas and in a way each one is a problem to be solved. Thinking, trying, thinking again. Once something clicks the work just starts coming out and I just have to keep up. The best word I can think of to describe this feeling when the idea is out and on canvas, is freedom. Sigh. Now I am ready to start on the next idea. ;)


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Name a few artists whose work has had an impact on you.

Pastmasters: Cezanne, Van Gogh, John Singer Sargent. Contemporaries: Jennifer Young and Richard Claremont.

Are there any exciting exhibitions, projects, or collaborations going on this year that you’re currently working on or will be soon?

Oh yes! I have just barely started making work for my first solo show here in Austin at Revelry in September! I am soooo excited about this body of work exploring a slightly different landscape than my last collection, of plants and our relationships with them. It is work that I have been thinking about for a long time and I feel like I’m finally ready to get it out and put it on the canvas. Of course I’m very excited about the show too!

Start Late, Live Your Dreams | Podcast Episode with Lisa Congdon
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Join us for a super inspiring episode featuring one of our favorite artists and role models, Lisa Congdon.

If you are worried about whether it's too late for you to be an artist and pursue your dream, listen to this interview immediately!

This episode covers:

  • Lisa's journey and breakthroughs

  • Starting later in life

  • Overcoming imposter syndrome and fear

  • Finding your artistic voice

  • Managing your time and increasing productivity while making time for fun + more

Fine artist, illustrator and author Lisa Congdon is best known for her colorful paintings and hand lettering. She works for clients around the world including MoMA, REI, Harvard University, Martha Stewart Living, Chronicle Books, and Random House Publishing, among many others. She is the author of seven books, including the starving-artist-myth-smashing Art Inc: The Essential Guide to Building Your Career as an Artist, and illustrated books The Joy of Swimming, Fortune Favors the Brave, Whatever You Are, Be a Good One, Twenty Ways to Draw a Tulip and A Collection a Day. Her latest book, A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives, was released by Chronicle Books in October 2017. She was named one of 40 Women Over 40 to Watch in 2015 and she is featured in the 2017 book, 200 Women Who Will Change the Way you See the World. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon.

Learn more at www.lisacongdon.com

Studio Sunday: Lizz Berry
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Create! Magazine is pleased to present a new Studio Sunday feature with Portland-based artist Lizz Berry. Learn more about what inspired her interest in fiber and textile art, the multiple reasons that she keeps a small forest of plants in her home studio, and what will be keeping her busy for the rest of the summer!

Bio

Lizz Berry is the founder, maker, and innovator behind The Wild Textile. All of the products she creates are hand crafted in her home studio in Portland, Maine.  She is a hand-weaver, natural dyer, quilter, and all around fiber enthusiast. 

Her love for cloth began at an early age, when she was exposed to family heirlooms from India - some over a century old. Colorful antique silk saris and other complex weavings were a part of her childhood - whether it be forts, canopies, or costumes. These fueled her love not only for textiles, but also for the color and textures that enliven them. Today you can still find her home adorned with some of the very same pieces that inspired her as a child. 

Lizz received her B.F.A. from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, where she concentrated in Textiles. She spent her undergraduate years studying hand weaving, color application, and surface design via dyeing techniques.

More recently, she has integrated her fibers studio with her other life-long passion, the outdoors. She loves the simplicity of color in nature, and it never ceases to inspire her. Environmental conservation is also important to her, and she represents this value in her practices as often as possible. Color, the natural world, and fibers are the core elements of her creativity, and the unified embodiment of The Wild Textile.

When did you first become interested in art?

My interest in textile design has evolved from a variety of influences with one commonality: three dimensional, visual design. In grade school I wanted to be an architect, which later shifted to interior design and decorating. I experimented with every artistic medium that was available, both inside and outside the classroom. Throughout high school I took every single art class that was offered, except for Weaving. Ironically, I thought it sounded boring!  However, as a crafts major in college, my attitude quickly changed. I developed a passion for textiles after taking my first class. My focus began to gravitate towards functional pieces - scarves, blankets, linens, tableware and various items of home decor.  Throughout and following my college years, I worked in a sewing studio and fabrics store. This experience supplemented my passion for textiles with exciting new disciplines - sewing and quilting! On weekends and after work I also taught myself to forage for natural dyes and use my kitchen scraps for free sustainable colors that told a story. All of these practices have become key elements of The Wild Textile, and I suspect that my artistic interests will only grow more diverse in the years to come.  

Tell us about what inspires you creatively.

Plant life, abundant light, and nature in every form. Whether it’s the ever-expanding urban jungle in my home studio,  the rocky coasts and sandy beaches of Maine, or the alpine zones of my favorite mountains - I constantly integrate the textures and colors of my natural surroundings with my work. Exploring the outdoors inspires me to build lively color palettes that facilitate unique combinations of surface designs. It is always an extra special day when I come across natural dyes to be foraged in my travels! Another key source of my textiles inspiration emanates from my family heirlooms. My grandmother was a missionary surgeon in Assam, India, and she bestowed to my family a variety of handwoven Indian saris, tapestries and fabrics. The standards of craftsmanship upheld by prior generations never ceases to astound me. I find myself connecting with these textiles more than ever, as I approach reading the end of her diary entries on life in India during the 1950’s. 

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What is your process like? 

I often find my process fluctuates between meticulously planning and complete improvisation. In some instances, I plan each weaving in precise detail to make sure they will work logistically. In these cases, I create multiple scales of drawings with different colorways, pattern options, and sizes. On other projects, I allow my process to depend solely on my instincts. This approach involves designing my pieces while simultaneously crafting them, and has created some of my most interesting weavings to date. I love making up patterns on the loom that have never existed, and perhaps never will again. I often find myself in a meditative state where my feet move across the foot pedals while barely looking down at what I am creating. Some weavers may find this odd, but I think this technique can create truly authentic combinations of texture and color. I am always anticipating the next weave structure to be accidentally discovered!

Describe your current studio space. What is most important about it or one thing that you can’t live without in your work area?

I work out of my home studio in Portland, Maine. I have A LOT of house plants (over 70) scattered throughout my small apartment, which has abundant natural light. The plants are therapeutic to me, and also very functional in the photography process. I use them as backdrops in an effort to help the viewer visualize my products in a livable space. As an added bonus, it allows me to hide the nicks and bumps in my not-so-perfect wall from the early 1900’s.

What is one piece of advice that has stuck with you or a quote that you think is especially meaningful?

If you want to keep it, so will someone else! That’s how the majority of my products have developed. Create something for yourself - something that embodies the colors, textures, and emotions that inspire you - and before long you will have orders for more. 

Are there any exciting exhibitions, projects, or collaborations going on this year that you’re currently working on or will be soon?

I have recently signed on as Show Coordinator for the Maine Crafts Guild, which puts me in charge of organizing four large fine craft shows throughout the summer. This will keep me pretty busy over the next few months, but in my spare time I have been experimenting with a slew of great new materials for product prototypes. I am currently working on a brand new Fall line for the The Wild Textile, including more home decor items than ever, zipper pouches, sling bags, backpacks and more. Keep an eye out for this exciting release!

Check out The Wild Textile online or follow along on Instagram!

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Kat & Alicia Interviewed for the THRIVE Talks Podcast!
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We were so honored to be invited to be guests on the THRIVE Talks Podcast hosted by Jamie and Tara of Thrive Art Studio! Here’s a description and link to the episode:

Starting where you are with Ekaterina Popova and Alicia Puig from Create! Magazine

Do you read Create! Magazine? Today we talk with Ekaterina Popova and Alicia Puig about the ups and downs of running an independent contemporary art magazine and working in the arts! We loved talking to another creative duo about starting where you are, failure and they offer awesome tips on getting your work featured!

Listen here.

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Studio Sunday: Jennifer Small
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This week’s Studio Sunday allowed us to catch up with Philadelphia based abstract artist, Jennifer Small. We love the bold colors and geometric forms in her work so it was nice to hear a bit about what goes on behind the scenes! Read on to hear about her process and some advice she would have given to her younger self that is relatable to many emerging creatives.

Bio

By day, Jennifer Small makes visual designs on screen and by night she makes abstract paintings on canvas. She received her BFA in Painting and BS in Art Education in 2005 from Millersville University and MFA in Painting in 2012 from Savannah College of Art and Design. In 2016, while living in Chicago, she made the transition from teaching to graphic design. Her work has been exhibited in Washington, DC, New York, Richmond, Savannah, and Chicago as well as in New American Paintings and Studio Visit magazines. In 2019, she relocated to the Philadelphia area to continue her career as a painter and designer.

Statement

My art, initially abstract in appearance, records a journey of a day in the life—a practice that starts with documentation through the lens of a camera. My eyes act as a viewfinder narrowing down the panoramic into single frames. Compiled snapshots represent blocks of time during my process of seeing and recording aesthetic significance in ordinary routine. I see curious formal elements in common things waiting to be manipulated and transformed into abstract compositions. I collage together the single framed images, simplify and render them in paint to create the lines, shapes, and hues that fill the canvas. Abstracted layers build shallow spaces that depict my translation of the everyday. My work shows my analysis of time and space interpreted by looking through a lens at my immediate environment.

When did you first become interested in art?

I've been interested in art as long as I can remember. I grew up in a creative family where we were always drawing or making something. I knew from a very early age that I would have a career in the arts and be a lifelong creative.

Tell us about the inspiration behind your work and what your creative process is like.

My work is inspired by observing my everyday life. I see daily routine as an opportunity to record aesthetic curiosities that can be used as building blocks for my paintings. My abstractions are collections of these curiosities which represent my personal experience with time and place. I begin my creative process by taking photos of interesting visual sightings observed while moving through my normal routine. Next, I make sketches collaging parts of the photos together to create compositions that work well as formal abstractions. Sometimes the original source material in one painting relates, sometimes it doesn't. Color is a consideration before I begin. I usually start with 2 warm colors and 2 cool colors and during the painting process expand upon or reign it in from there. I work from painterly to more precise (with the help of a lot of painter's tape) combining acrylic and spray paint to build my surfaces into abstract structures that tell my story.

What do you hope your viewers take away from seeing your paintings?

I hope viewers of my paintings see energy, movement, and variety from a formalist abstraction point of view but also their approachability after learning what inspired them. And as a result, they might consider slowing down enough to appreciate their own daily environment.

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What is one piece of advice that you would give to your younger self?

I would advise my younger self to be more proactive earlier with sharing work, applying for opportunities, and connecting with other artists in order to build a community and also see personal growth.

What is your favorite thing about being an artist?

My favorite thing about being an artist is its unpredictability. I can't predict what I will make, who I will meet, or where it will take me next but I'm very much looking forward to the ride.

Are there any exciting exhibitions, projects, or collaborations going on this year that you’re currently working on or will be soon?

My work will be published in Vol. 45/46 of Studio Visit Magazine coming out this summer. Additionally, I am continuing to make work and get reacquainted with the east coast after moving from Chicago to the Philadelphia area in April.

Find a selection of her work available online with our new gallery PxP Contemporary!

Tattooing in "Somewhere NYC": Interview with Astrid and Mars
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Interview by The TAX Collection

https://www.instagram.com/somewhere.nyc/

What led to the inception of 'Somewhere NYC?' - Is this something that you had been planning on doing for a while, or did something specific spur its creation? 

Mars: Opening "Somewhere" was definitely a crime of opportunity (or maybe fate?). I had spent the last two years working in a tiny, one-station studio in the back of an art gallery in Bushwick, and although I loved it, it was starting to feel a little cramped. I traveled a lot during that time and kept getting progressively more inspired by all the amazing queer studios that were opening in other cities. I met so many wonderful people who were so deeply committed to offering a safer space to get tattooed in. I wanted to create an equally open space to be able to invite them back to! 

Right after finishing a stint at Minuit Dix in Montreal and Outcast Club in Toronto, I found out that my previous studio mate was leaving New York. Astrid was coming back to New York at exactly the same time and needed a place to work. It felt like a sign!

Astrid: I returned home to California for ten months in 2017 to work in my first shop. As a former home tattooer, I felt obligated to put in the time at a street shop to feel less alienated from the community. Despite my profoundly positive experience (for which I'm forever grateful), I still left feeling discontent with the old school dynamic of a shop owner "running" space — a space consisting of artists who essentially managed their operations independently. I knew I would have to be my own boss. When I moved back, Mars contacted me, and here we are. 

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I know you have certain feelings towards traditional tattoo shops, what is something different you feel your shop provides? 

Astrid: I'm very collective minded when it comes to workspaces. We wanted a transparent, cooperative partnership where we share primary responsibilities but are more or less autonomous. Our primary mission is to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible. So many young clients of mine have recounted experiences where they felt scared, pressured, and intimidated in a tattoo shop. Artists bullied them into designs they didn't want or belittled their ideas. It's wild to me that any artist would think that's appropriate and I'm glad to see the machismo aspect of the industry drying up. 

Mars: I generally have a strong preference towards private studios (as opposed to more traditional walk-in shops) both for working and being tattooed. I started my career tattooing friends in my bedroom, most of whom were queer and didn't feel comfortable being tattooed in traditional shop environments, which was a feeling I shared. At the time, I think it was much harder to find private spaces or be able to get a sense of which shops would be welcoming. I've heard so many horror stories from friends and clients about being harassed, assaulted, or just not respected by tattooers (all behaviors that have been a big part of mainstream tattoo culture for a long time). That was not an environment I had any interest in replicating. 

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Has social media (Instagram specifically) helped shape your business? 

Astrid: Social media IS my business. Artists used to be entirely dependent on shops to bring in clientele, and that's where the gatekeeping began. The internet turned the tables completely. People seek out individuals now, not shops. The shops depend on artists. It's been beautiful to see people who were, or would have been turned away from traditional spaces become successful in their own right, in their own style. That's why the changes in social media, mainly punitive algorithms, and shadowbanning, are more than frustrating - they're dangerous. People choose the content they want to see, and trying to restructure those choices makes no sense. 

Mars: I wouldn't have a business at all if it weren't for social media. I wasn't trying to be a tattoo artist or do this professionally at all when I started; I was just tattooing some friends and posting the results on Instagram. If it weren't for people finding and responding positively to my work there, I have no idea what I would be doing with my life right now. 

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Any upcoming guests we should be checking out? 

Astrid: All of them! It's been so amazing to work with friends and with talented strangers who become friends. We are still very new and like to ask our guests what we can improve on. It's essential to get feedback and keep growing.

Mars: Oh my god yeah, everyone! The main motivation for me leaving my previous studio was to finally have space to share with other artists; it's been such a pleasure so far, and I can't wait to continue expanding our little tattoo family. 

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If someone reading this wants to book a tattoo appointment, what's the best way for them to go about this? 

Astrid: Email us! We are not a walk-in shop, which is important because it both allows us to be selective and keeps random strangers from walking in and potentially souring the vibe. My books are almost always open. Just remember that answering emails takes time, so please be patient. 

Mars: Everyone working at Somewhere manages their own schedule and has slightly different ways of doing things. If you're interested in making an appointment with any of our guest artists, I'd recommend just checking out their Instagram to see how they prefer to take appointments. I open my books on the 1st of every month and receive all inquiries through a booking form, which will always be posted in my bio during that time, cause trying to figure out how to schedule my life more than a month out is way too much for me to handle!

How many tattoos do you each have? Do you ever tattoo yourselves? 

Astrid: Many of my friends sacrificed their bodies so I could learn, so of course I tattooed myself as well. It would have been unfair to not practice on my own skin first. There are tattoos I did on myself, for better or for worse (mostly for worse), and I have tattoos from fellow artist friends. I decided recently that I only want friends to put art on my body. I always thought the design itself would be most important, but it turns out that the person who did the art is more important to me now. I get to carry them around with me forever. People are surprised that I don't have that many. My grandma doesn't want me to get any more, even though she likes the ones I put on other people. 

Mars: I've definitely tattooed myself because it is a really important step in the learning process when you're still figuring things out, but I absolutely hate it! There are so many amazing artists out there. I'd much rather dedicate the body space to work I really respect than cover myself in my own doodles. I get so tired of seeing my work all the time, and there's so much to learn from trading and connecting with other tattooers.

I'm honestly not sure exactly how many I have at this point; I sometimes try to count them like sheep when I'm going to sleep, but usually, I fall asleep somewhere around 50.

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Starting a business in NYC is not for the faint of heart - have there been any challenges along the way? 

Astrid: We found out that our windows did not keep the rain on the outside and that our heater is selective about when it is or isn't going to turn on. Ridiculous building issues are a classic Brooklyn thing. However, I've had much more trouble dealing with apartments than when I opened our business. To be fair, Mars did most of the work. I recommend a Capricorn + Taurus business partnership whenever possible, whether you believe in the zodiac or not. 

Mars: I can't even count the amount of meltdowns I had in the first couple of months, but I can't imagine going into this project with anyone better suited than Astrid. We've known each other for 6-7 years (where and when we actually met is one of the only things we disagree on), well before either of us were tattooing, and I think we do well balancing each other out and keeping each other sane. It's honestly an earth sign dream team. 

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What was your worst client/tattoo experience? 

Astrid: Almost everyone I've ever worked with has been wonderful. I think I only experience difficulty with clients who are particularly controlling or demanding, usually people who don't understand the limitations of tattooing. This behavior usually comes from a place of anxiety, and I can empathize with that. The only way to combat these situations is to trust your artist. They are making decisions based beyond aesthetics. They have to think about how the design will work on your actual body and if it will age well. It's not just about how it looks on paper. 

Mars: I think I've been really lucky with all of my clients! Since for the most part everyone finds me through Instagram, I think generally my clients are pretty self-selective; I don't really have anyone come in that I don't really vibe with. 

Unfortunately that doesn't always extend to their friends/boyfriends (usually boyfriends). I think probably the worst thing you can bring to a tattoo appointment is another person who's going to be questioning your decisions the whole time. I'll always give my professional opinion based on how I think the piece will age, fit with other pieces you have, etc, but ultimately the only opinion that really matters is your own. I hear a lot of, "That spot is gonna hurt too much, get it lower/higher/smaller/less visible," from people not getting the tattoo, and it really bums me out because it's not their body. Don't let anyone else make you doubt yourself or get in the way of you getting the piece you're really excited about!

Astrid: Yes, please leave the boyfriend at home. And leave behind the friend that doesn't want to be there or the friend that wants to talk to you like your artist isn't there. I don't only have an investment in the tattoo, but an investment in getting to know you. It's still a privilege to put art on someone’s body and I appreciate having the opportunity to bond with clients.  

If someone wants a tattoo and is not in NYC, will either of you be traveling and doing guest residencies? If so, where? 

Astrid: Definitely! I made a permanent travel "highlight" so people can check in on it as I add destinations. My biggest issue is that I am terrified of flying, so I haven't been traveling as much as I could. And I'm sorry about that. I wish strangers were more down to hold my hand during taking off. 

Mars: I travel pretty frequently, but also unfortunately not as often as I'd like. I have a lot of guilt around the frequency I'm able to get to other cities, but the truth is I have a family, including two dogs here, that I hate to leave. It's really hard to balance time at home, time working, and the time actually spent on vacation. Realistically, when I'm on tour somewhere, my only days off are travel days. That being said, I always post about cities I'm going to as soon as I know I'm going, and there will definitely be many more in the future!

What advice would you give someone getting their first tattoo?  

Astrid: These days, my advice would be to get a little tattoo first. Something simple and small, just so you can understand how the process works and what it feels like. Fear is challenging. Fear will hold you hostage and force you to get an awesome tattoo that is too small in a place where you didn't want it. Choose an artist whose work you love and make sure you see the kind of work you want reflected in their portfolio. The number one rule is that if you don't like the design, or you feel uncomfortable with the artist, don't get the tattoo. Yes, you will lose your deposit, but you don't owe it to anyone to go through with a situation where you don't feel seen, respected, or safe.  

Mars: I think the most important thing is to trust your artist, and a big first step towards that is doing your research in finding someone whose work you value. I'm honestly so jealous of anyone getting their first tattoo now, in a post-Instagram world. When I got my first tattoo, I had no understanding that artists could have different styles or specialties, or that you could even be specific about the type of person or space you wanted to work with. Now it's so easy to find someone who does exactly what you're looking for, and at the same time get a little bit of an idea of who they are as a person before going in. 

I think if you go into it trusting your artist, and being open to their interpretation, you'll end up with a really rad tattoo that you're both super stoked on! But that trust also extends to knowing you can assert your needs at any time. They know what's going to be best in terms of what's realistically possible, what's going to heal well, etc., but you know your body. Like any other situation, make sure whomever you are with can respect your boundaries. If you need a break, you can take a break! If you need to adjust how you're sitting for comfort, talk to your artist, and figure out how to do that. Don't be embarrassed to ask questions at any point in the process, because you're both relying on each other to communicate and make something awesome.