Posts tagged Dreamy
Exploring the Worlds of Humanity and Culture: Interview with M.K Komins

By Sarah Mills

For the past decade, artist and illustrator M.K Komins has been passionately committed to the pursuit of creative excellence. Based out of Philadelphia, she draws inspiration from the politically vibrant, collective consciousness of its artistic community. Her work uses a combination of hyper-stylized, dreamy realism and boldly saturated colors to explore the worlds of humanity and culture.

Former creative director for avenue u design in baltimore, maryland, she now works as creative coordinator for elysium marketing group. With a vast and diverse range of skills, her professional experience spans from music poster commissions to large-scale creative collaborations with companies like lord & taylor and the special olympics.

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Were you always interested in art?

Without question. As a kid, I used to sit dangerously close to our TV and try to draw cartoon characters as perfectly as I could before they left the screen. In first grade, I got in trouble for "tracing" a picture of Jafar from Aladdin and handing it in as an original drawing. When my art teacher refused to believe my cries of innocence I had my first creative epiphany. I realized if I could make adults think I was so good at drawing I must be lying about it, I could probably have a career as an artist. I also learned you can't always trust the judgment of adults, and sometimes knowing your truth is all you have when the grown-up world is against you-- both lessons that have guided me into my development as an artist and a woman.

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In your bio, you talk about the influence your creative community has on your work. Can you tell us more about that, specifically how they influence you?

Besides going to Parsons, moving back home to Philadelphia a year ago was the best decision I've ever made for my career. This city has the warmest, collaborative and artistically supportive community of working creatives I've ever experienced. It sounds trite, but "the City Of Brotherly Love" is a perfectly befitting nickname for Philly, and it's nowhere more evident than in our art scene. There are countless artist-run galleries and collectives here, tons of spaces dedicated to showcasing local work, our Mural Arts program is globally unprecedented and to put it simply, I'm in love with this town. When I was working and living in New York, I felt very small and was consumed by the constant anxiety to be winning at something and everything all the time. There's no room to be still finding yourself, or a work in progress even though everyone is all of those things all the time. The pressure to act like you're doing way better professionally and financially than you really are was highly oppressive. Maintaining an impossibly high social currency can be poison to your self-worth, which equated to a sort of creative death for me. I will always love and appreciate my time and education in New York because I cut my teeth on some deeply important creative rights of passages there. If you want to learn how to take a self-esteem beating, face rejection, be broke as hell and still have the desire to drag your ass to the studio the next day and keep making work, move to New York and become an artist.

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Besides your art community, where do you draw inspiration from?

Inspiration can be such a tricky thing to quantify for me, because I feel like the source of it is always evolving and I'm taking it in on a constant, often subconscious basis. Truthfully, I'm inspired the most by pop culture and my daily interactions with other people. Whether it's passionate political conversations with my family or waxing poetic about the philosophical merit of competition-based reality TV with my friends, my work is simply telling stories of humanity. I think the reason why I gravitate to portraiture and figurative work is that I genuinely admire human beings. We're so complicated and messy and difficult. We destroy what we love all of the time but we still have an innate sense of humanity that propels us forward to try and connect with other people and create art. I majored in illustration in school and what I learned the most is that being an Illustrator means you have to make art that is "subtly obvious". That concept carries over into my fine art as well and once I stopped obsessing over what kind of artist I was meant to be, I gave myself room to just make what made me happy. I've learned that inspiration really finds you when you give yourself room to grow as an artist. This past year I've come to just embrace my conflicting desires to be both bottom-scrapingly lowbrow and sophisticated high art.

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You have an extremely bold color palette, what drew you to such bold and saturated colors?

I'd love to have a profound answer to this question, but the truth is I just like them. I think when we are children, everyone draws and we aren't afraid to use the brightest colors in the crayon box and make bold, vibrant messes. Most people stop making things as they become adults and the ones that do often refine their tastes and palettes. To a large degree, I think I just never did that. I've never fully let go of my sense of whimsy or creative adventure and I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that the driving desire to make art has saved my life through some very low bottoms. The work I make as an adult and the process with which I make it isn't precious. I'm interested in beauty, but I don't have a much of a desire to make light, subtle things, so I think the subject matter and style sort of inform the harshness and vibrancy of my color palette. There's so much delicate, detailed, feminine work in the art world right now and while I absolutely see it's value, I just don't want to be another artist painting soft, pretty women.

What does your studio practice look like?

It's pretty exploratory. Lately, I've been developing a style of working that combines digital painting and traditional art mediums where I paint in programs like ProCreate or Photoshop, print on large scale canvas or giclee and then manipulate the printed pigments with destructive chemicals like acetone or bleach. The ink reacts sort of like watercolors and can be wiped away or redistributed on the image. Then I go back into it with oils, acrylics, colored pencils, and other mediums to add in detail. Fusing digital and analog methods of image making is a quest I am deeply passionate about right now and, I think, a pursuit whose time has come in the fine art world.

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What has been your favorite moment in your artistic career so far?

Hm, that's a toughy. There are a few projects in the works that I can't publicly announce yet that have got me pretty freaking excited, but I'm about to travel to London for 10 days in October to show my Florida, USA series during The Anti Art Fair with Creative Debuts. I have work in 2 shows in LA later this fall and winter as well so I think just being able to travel and bring my work to a wider audience has been super rewarding. I'm tremendously grateful to be in this position.


What are some goals you are working towards in your career?

Too many to count. My original career goal was to be a concept artist for someone like Pixar and to illustrate children's books. The latter is something I'm actively working towards and the former is something I would love to do eventually. Personally, I don't know if I'll ever stop wanting to explore, grow, and get better as an artist. I hope I never get complacent in my quest for creative evolution. I love spending countless hours on a piece and feeling like I've done a good job, only to immediately see new work by another artist and think "Oh sh*t, that's way better!" That feeling used to crush and derail my process. But once I accepted that being an artist means staying constantly open to new ideas and self-improvement, I learned that I needed to frankly, get over myself by thinking I would ever be the best. I had a class at Parsons taught by this great illustrator Mike Perry who was tired of hearing a bunch of 20-year-old, privileged kids in an overpriced New York City art school complain about how unfair the art world is telling me something I'll never forget. He said that your career is just an escalator; there would always be someone behind you and there would always be someone in front of you. Stop trying to be the person in front of you. Just stay on the damn thing and you'll get where you want to go.

Constructed Environments by Jeremy Miranda

We love the way you create dream-like scenes by combining the landscape and interior. When did you initially get inspired to paint these images?

Thank you. That was a series I did back a few years back. At the time, I was interested in memory/time and trying to construct spacial environments that gave the sense of those things folding into themselves. I worked in that vein for a few years, panning for gold, and then honestly one day I walked into the studio and it all just looked like someone else’s work. I'm not sure why, but it just didn't fit anymore, which is great. I like moments like that in the studio, because they signal that you're being honest with yourself and that something exciting and new is about to happen. From there, I switched back to acrylic paint and began to revisit past ideas and ways of working that I actually felt ready for.   

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When did you first decide that you wanted to be an artist?

Growing up, I always was in love with drawing and thought I’d be a children's book illustrator or something like that, but I owe it to a handful of artists from my hometown (Sue McNally, Luke Randall, Tom Deininger) for exposing me to the idea of being an artist with a studio practice. They were awesome teachers and were nice enough to let a high school kid visit their studios, which were these big mill spaces with paintings and sculptures everywhere, and I was just completely hooked from there. Tom took me on as his assistant when I was a junior in high school, while he was in the midst of working on a solo museum show, so that really gave me an intense and intimate view into the daily life of an artist.  

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Tell us about your process. How does each painting come about from reference to execution? 

Pretty much everything is invented. If a painting is too mapped out, I get immediately bored. So, the only references I use are some pretty ugly, grubby sketches I make in the early morning.  I usually have a handful of paintings going so I can balance them against each other, and I’d really describe the process as intuitive, or maybe trial and error is a little more accurate. 


What advice would you give other painters for breaking through barriers and trying something new in their work?

I would refer them to Diebenkorn's "Notes to myself on beginning a painting" (provided below):

Notes to myself on beginning a painting

1. Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.

2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued – except as a stimulus for further moves.

3. DO search.

4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.

5. Don’t “discover” a subject – of any kind.

6. Somehow don’t be bored but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.

7. Mistakes can’t be erased but they move you from your present position.

8. Keep thinking about Pollyanna.

9. Tolerate chaos.

10. Be careful only in a perverse way.

What are some of your favorite things to read, watch or listen to that inspire your work?

I guess kind of everything? I haven't finished a book since our son was born, but I was working my way through all of Michael Chabon's books (whom I find very inspiring). But honestly, anything that's well made makes me want to make things in response.   


Tell us about some of your other interests aside from art-making.

It’s not a super interesting list. Hiking, gardening, cooking, those kinds of things. I’ve been playing guitar since I was very young, but it’s all self-taught and not proper in anyway.  Honestly, I'm interested in anything that gets me out of the studio for a bit.  If you asked me to go play golf in the rain, I’d be pretty excited to do that.  

Do you have a daily ritual?

I do. My wife and I split the week up watching our kid, so when it’s my work day I get up at 7:00, make a pot of coffee and talk with my good friend Tom on the phone for half an hour (which we've been doing for about 15 years).  When I get into the studio, I spend the first hour making very loose drawings. The drawings are what I end up making the paintings from, so it’s important that they're made right away when the images are fresh in my mind.  From there, I'm usually juggling a few paintings that are all in various stages of completion. Also, I listen to the same 2 albums on rotation all day. I'm hoping I'm not the only one who does this, because it feels pretty weird. But I can't paint in silence, and podcasts and spotify are too stimulating and tend to pull me out of the work. So I just repeat an album I like until it becomes this rhythmic, meditative, white noise. 

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What would you say your paintings are about and how do you want the viewer to feel when they experience them?

I have a handful of different series going on right now and each one is about something a little different. I have series going of shelters (I guess you could call them cabins really) which are, on one level, about the play of interior vs exterior and space and light, but they're also about how the making of art is its own kind of shelter or insular world one occupies. I have another series of studio interiors with fictional "works in progress" which are my version of a self-portrait. But sometimes I don't know what something is about.  I have a group of these sink paintings, one of which is the largest painting in my studio right now, and I feel compelled to make them, but I really am not sure what they're about. All in all, I’m equally concerned with the content as I am with the physical surface, and I spend a lot of time thinking about paint handling and line quality and texture.  My hope is that the balance of those things creates an immersive experience for someone viewing the work.      

What would you say you are most proud of up to this point?

The fact that I'm still painting. 

Interview: Alexandra Levasseur 

Born in Mauricie (Québec) in 1982, Alexandra Levasseur earned a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and Graphic Design at the University of Costa Rica in 2006. She then moved to Barcelona and completed post-graduate studies in Illustration and Techniques of Visual Communications at the EINA School of Art and Design in 2008. Since her return to Montreal, she has spent the past few years focusing on her painting, creating animated films and furthering her studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, at Concordia University, in Montreal.

Levasseur’s work enjoys worldwide recognition. Invited to collaborate during the Fashion Week in Milan (2013) by Nick Knight of SHOWstudio, London, she created drawings of the most renowned fashion shows. For many years now, numerous magazines have devoted articles and publications to her work: Juxtapoz, Decover, 24 images, Hi Fructose, Ignant, Supersonic Art, Booooooom, and Exhibition-ism, among others. Her film Table d’hôte was programmed in at several international festivals (Netherlands, Greece, Ukraine, Brazil, France). Her works have been exhibited in prestigious museums and galleries: The Mirus Gallery, in San Francisco (2015 and 2013); The Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2014-2015); The Picasso Museum, Barcelona (2009); and The Barra de Ferro Space, Barcelona (2008).

On your website you say, “I prefer drawing to talking.” Do you feel you best communicate through your art?

I definitely communicate better through art since I consider myself to be an introverted person. 

Describe the moment you first considered yourself to be an artist. 

I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a child. I have never left doing it. Art school gave me space to explore styles and techniques, and a sense of career, but I think finding my artistic voice has been a long smooth process over the last 30 years. It came naturally, and it is still evolving. 

You use a lot of different materials in your work including acrylic, graphite, and collage on wood. Tell us about your process and how you developed your specific style.

I get inspiration from scientific readings (biology and physics) and I do my own iconic interpretation of facts and theories, but also from films and poetry. I often start with a background. I build collages from photographs and textures that matter to me. I do the same with the figures. I look for positions of body that convey the message I want to express and I construct the composition. I used to do that step on paper with magazine paper cuts, but lately I’ve been using the computer to facilitate the process. Once I’m set on the composition and color palette, I start working on the larger support with acrylic, oil and pencils mostly.    

Your work has a very distinct palette, composed of muted tones of soft pinks and blues. What inspires you when choosing such delicate colors?

Memories of the favorite moments and places of my life. 

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The women in your work appear melancholic and solemn. Tell us about the psychological tension present in your subjects.

The representation of women in my work serves me as a universal symbol to illustrate an array of human emotions. My work being in part autobiographical, the feminine figures in it naturally satisfy my need to express the anxiety and struggle to understand our short life on earth and find a real powerful meaning to it. 

Does your environment influence the incredible, lush landscapes depicted in your paintings? What role does nature play in your body of work? 

I grew up by a lake, in the woods. Art is for me a way to study Nature. Biology, physics, and astrophysics are an infinite source of inspiration. I find a lot of poetry in the contradictions of Nature; it is so complex and incredible. I find pleasure in the reinterpretation of certain theories. It's a rich starting point to intend, explain or understand the mystery of being.

What event in your life would you consider a turning point in your artistic practice? 

After 10 years living abroad (2000-2010), in Costa Rica and Spain, I came back home (Canada). I had been working commercial illustration and design jobs for 3-4 years and realized it was not making me happy. I really started to explore personal ideas when I moved to Montreal. I found it deeply therapeutic to focus on the same project for a long time. Since then, it has been a kind of identity exploration. Eventually my work was exhibited in galleries in Montreal, the US and Europe. 

If your artwork could talk, what would it say?

I’m a vision and an interpretation of the unknown. I’m a thought experiment.

Interview: Marta Spendowska

Marta Spendowska is a Polish-born (Maine-based) American artist and illustrator. Since her arrival in the United States in 2005, she has worked with a wide range of art collectors and consultants, fashion and beauty brands, and interior designers.

In her current body of work, Marta depicts the colors, rhythms, patterns, and atmospheres she has experienced in America. She balances these compositions by incorporating visual references to her melancholic homeland, portrayed through more static organic forms in tones of black and white.

Her paintings were included in the 2014 Biennial at the Museum of Wisconsin Art and she has been exhibiting her work at a variety of venues throughout Wisconsin since 2012; additionally and recently, she was part of a four-person show at Elliott Fouts Gallery, in Sacramento, CA. Articles and interviews featuring Marta and her work have been published in books, such as the Directory of Illustration, and How to Style Your Brand, and numerous magazines, including Oprah Magazine, Domino Magazine, Women’s Wear Daily, Communication Arts Magazine, and more. She was also artist-in-residence at House of Creed.

Marta has a background in graphic Communications and holds a Master’s Degree in Marketing and Journalism. She currently resides happily in York Beach, Maine though she is scheming ways to be a free-stater (Live free or die!) in New Hampshire soon.

Marta Spendowska

Marta Spendowska

When did you move to the United States? Did you study art when you were in Poland? Tell us a little bit about your background.

The first time I came to USA (Atlanta, GA) was during my 4th year of my University in Poland. It was a 5 month long internship. 

My job was to show up at the place of work, but because I knew nobody was watching (yes, that’s the rebellious side of me in action) ), I decided to experience America on my own terms instead. 

I found creative jobs (working with fashion designers, musicians). After selling my first original art, I sat across from the parking lot of a health food store and decided to think about this really hard: "What is possible in this land of milk and honey that is not in my motherland, Poland?"

After spending five months in Atlanta, GA painting, going to museums, experiencing this crazy land and the most open people I’ve ever met, I gained a feeling and a realization that it was my place to flourish. I went back, graduated (Masters in Marketing), came back with $600 in my pocket and today—it’s been 10 years already! 

Eventually, after a period of hustling here as a waitress, Citgo gas station clerk, housekeeper, and yoga teacher, I managed to get accepted into a design program and I graduated from Graphic Communications. Because I’m quite independent, I realized very quickly I’m not suited for having a boss. After freelancing on the side a bit (I started accepting jobs while studying) I made the decision to set up my own creative business.  

Currently, I work as a fine artist and a commercial illustrator, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I live through fulfilling my ideas and sensibilities by painting and studying art. 

How do you feel your cultural background influenced your paintings?

Poland is a very interesting country. It’s melancholic, sarcastic and very independent. Everyone, left and right, always wanted a piece of us, so Polish people tend to be sceptic, a bit withdrawn and cold. On the other hand, nobody gets together in times of trouble like we do. I always say—if you gain a Polish friend, it’s for life. The friendship itself might take time to develop, but it’s going to be a deep lifelong friendship. We’re not superficial, that is for sure.

This translates into my art. I tend to be moved by melancholic beauty and Baltyk Sea (where I go once a year). Last year I painted the whole series inspired by my travels to this magical, salty, grey land. There is a huge difference between Pacific, let’s say, and Polish sea and this is where I find my definition of nostalgic beauty. 

So, my paintings speak of beauty in a somewhat sentimental way: The blue sea is moody, the botanical flora is either heavy and stubborn with presence or terribly delicate, like a translucent forgotten leaf or petal. 

My art feels like a little storm just went by and left something interesting behind. A petal, a golden island in the sea. Maybe it’s me missing Poland, maybe it’s Poland missing me, but surely, I crave and thrive in that emotional canyon of beauty and sadness. 

I could not paint happy trees. I love intimate, soft poetry as much as I love a melancholic art. 

When did you start making abstract paintings? What was your earlier work like?

I’ve been working as a commercial illustrator for a couple of years. My illustrative work is representational, I’m mostly hired for food, portraiture, some fashion, and lifestyle work. In the beginnings of my fine art history you’re going to also find portraiture. My work was very well received, and I was lucky to get it to the Museum of Wisconsin Art and be noticed in the international portraiture competition. As a child I always loved painting faces, so that direction was a no-brainer for me. 

But after working with “what I know” for a bit and feeling like I wasn't taking a lot of risks, I felt a strong pull towards abstract work. 

It took a while until I showed anything publicly. Funny thing is that after I published one or two pieces, I felt a weird need to prove I can paint, and “I can paint” means I can handle portraiture. This was my first trap to overcome: to make sure everyone knows I have traditional skills. 

Abstract work came to me to help me to develop as an independent artist. During my commercial projects I rely on a creative direction from art buyers, so the non-client driven abstract work helps me to discover the edges of what I can do if I only rely on myself, in a very broad sense. 

I love working in my main two series I call Wetlands and Bloomlands. Having the two correspond with each other pushes me further and keeps me engaged. 

Name a few highlights you experienced as an artist so far.

This maybe be bold to say, but the biggest highlight is to make a good living off of it. I paint pictures every day. Come on! What can be better?

Well, I spend a lot of time on the business side of it, but — I have no boss, no fights with co-workers, no resentment. 

I love Ashley Longshore’s opinions regarding this business of art. Artists are so interested in showing their work or being accepted to the shows. It is all important, but I want to live a good life, have resources to spend two months in Poland with my family, and love doing what I do, and most importantly KEEP doing it. 

As far as tangible highlights, I think being in the Museum of Wisconsin Art is a nice resume bullet point. Additionally, exhibiting in the show with Heather Day is a big honor, having my work on Danielle LaPorte’s product means a lot, my Urban Outfitters collaboration makes me very happy, but most importantly connecting with artists is the best part of all of this. 

What is one piece of advice you would give artists trying to progress their career?

Take the time to discover yourself. Do not cut corners. And discover yourself OUTSIDE of instagram…

What are your favorite activities when you are not in the studio?

My body is the happiest when it works with rituals, so I go to yoga every morning. It’s either Bikram or Ashtanga (I’m certified as a teacher, actually), because it’s intense and allows me sweat all the worries and stresses that come with running my own business. Additionally, sun-bathing, walking by the ocean, inhaling the salty Atlantic (or my Polish Baltyk) are the most invigorating activities. Whenever I feel like something is off, the painting or the string of them goes south, I check with myself and I usually discover I neglected some healthy routines. I always say—I’m never blocked, I must be simply overworked. The remedy is to take long salt baths (with ocean water in them!) and do lots of headstands. 

You recently moved to Maine. Has the new environment provided inspiration and influenced your work?

Actually, I was expecting the influence, but not yet, surprisingly. Not in the sense of the work per se. What living in Maine does is push me to connect locally and work as a part of a collective rather than a solitary artist. The connections are very slim yet (we’ve been here for 5 weeks only) and we’re busy with catching up with work after moving, and searching for a house to settle in. But my goal is to meet regularly with local artists and actually organize art events myself—we’re looking for a specific type of property for that reason. I’m happy to circle back with you in a year and reflect back on this fabulous Maine influence!  

Share a fun fact about yourself.

I am a goof. I paint serious feminine, elegant and beautiful paintings. My favorite creative woman is Virginia Woolf. I love high heels and I adore sad poetry. On the other side, I do cartwheels and I love to walk on my hands. I’m rather loud and very often talk too much or too directly. 

And, I love to swear, especially in English! I can always say (what I used to say in times of trouble): "I have no idea what that means!"

Studio Sundays: Marcus McAllister

We are thrilled to feature artist Marcus McAllister on this week's Studio Sunday! His dreamy paintings and sketchbooks will inspire you for the week ahead. 

"Marcus McAllister's work focuses on sublime, dreamlike fragments coupled with the state of the everyday occurrences of life. McAllister follows a systematic pattern of images externalizing his own thoughts and emotions. Images of people, of geometric patterns and of vegetation reflect upon themselves, hiding coyly in plain sight among decorative elements and create a « spatial lace » that complicates the reading of the image by opening its layers.

Marcus McAllister is a familiar face on the global art scene. Originally from Arkansas, McAllister now lives in Paris, France. He has shown his work around the world from Paris to New York and back to Baton Rouge. McAllister began an artistic journey after graduation that led him to many artistic endeavors that include an artist residency with the city of Beauvais and L’Ecume de jour and countless one man shows from the Parsons School of Design, Paris to Gallery 26 in Little Rock, Arkansas."


Magdalena Lamri

“French artist, Magdalena Lamri received her Diplôme Des Métiers d’Art from the National School of Applied Arts Olivier de Serres in Paris. Her figurative paintings and drawings juxtapose her realist technique with darker subject matter, often exploring the human body. She describes herself as an artist motivated by sensations rather than ideas, and her aim is to make manifest those feelings in her works. She has exhibited internationally in both solo and group exhibitions, and is the winner of several awards in France for her paintings.” - Saatchi Art

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