Artist Interview: Bud Cook

Bud Cook creates stunning acrylic paintings, and makes portraits that almost come alive. You can spot a Bud Cook painting miles away because of the luminous color palettes and bold and sculptural brush strokes. Read our interview with Bud, as he talks to us about his works on Every Day Original, process, and his personal creative journey. You can view his entire body of work on his website or follow him on instagram.

 

artistinterview Bud Cook

1. You can always spot a Bud Cook on social media, no matter the media. Pen, pencil, coffee stains, paint, one look and “Yep, that’s Bud.” You have such a unique voice. How did you find this voice? How would you describe it to others?

 

Let me start by saying thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions – I’m honored to be asked.

I’ve struggled with this idea for a long time; arriving at a personal visual voice. I love mark making, no matter the medium – so I make and show work with a great variety of styles/approaches, and this can dilute one’s voice, at least in the eyes of the audience.  I believe our visual voice is inside of us, waiting to get out.  The more art you make, the more defined and unique your voice becomes.  Additionally, our visual voice is not concrete, for me it is an ever evolving part of my visual identity. As far as describing it, my friend Tommy Arnold described my figure paintings as a “cleverly abstracted and stylized realism”.  Simple and straight to the point, I’ll take it. 🙂

 
 

2. You have such a specific undeniable Bud Cook color palette too, but rarely the same. How do you determine what kind of colors you will use for a piece?

 

I like to work with a fairly limited palette. In college, I learned to paint with oils and had a very traditional, earthy palette – today I enjoy buying new colors that I’ve never had before, so I have a wide variety of choices to start with. I’m always working from some form of photo reference, so I let that speak to me a bit regarding how I choose my colors.  But I also like to deviate from the reference in that I tend to see colors comparatively – so while the local color in my piece may differ some from the reference, I’m comparing new colors I mix to their difference from the original color (warmer, redder, bluer, etc).  I hope that makes sense.  For example, if a shadow color looks particularly purple then I will mix a straight-up purple to start with as a base color, and then go from there as the painting progresses.  Sometimes these early colors survive through to the end because they work value-wise, if the value relationships are working throughout, then I love to leave these patches of saturated color when I can.

3. You seem to be comfortable with many different media. When starting a budcook_tereseportrait, how do you select the right media for the job?

 

With commissions, the media is largely set by the customer – and because most of the portrait work I show is acrylics – that’s what I end up using most often.  For personal work and experimental fun stuff, deciding on a medium can be based on my mood, how crazy experimental I’m feeling, whose work I have looked at recently that has blown my mind, stuff like that.  I love to play, so sometimes it’s a simple as “what do I have right here that I can paint with now”.  My studio is a mess, every new project means clean up and reorganization – not necessarily the way I’d like it to be but it’s a practical constraint.  So I may have a bunch of materials out and just decide one night to see what happens when I combine charcoal, gesso and yellow ochre with a brush and a roller.  Fun discoveries sometimes, crash and burn sometimes as well.

 
 

4. You consistently use acrylics for your paintings. What is it about the medium that resonates with you? Why not oil?

 

I learned how to paint in college using oils exclusively.  My migration to acrylics was another practical decision.  My studio is in my basement and I paint standing next to my furnace which has an open flame.  I therefore stay away from any flammable materials or anything with dangerous fumes.  Having said that, the fact is that the two mediums are just worlds apart, considering dry times, cleanup, blendability – and with the constraints of acrylics I have learned and developed new tricks over the years with the medium to achieve the look I am going for.  I would LOVE to get back to oils at some point in the future.

5. You use lots of different surfaces. Why? Do you have a favorite? When you’re going from one surface to the other, how do you think about the shift, are there rules to how you use each?

 

I mentioned earlier, I love mark-making, and different surface textures can mix with the chosen medium to produce exciting and sometimes unplanned results.  For example, when I work with canvas, the texture of that surface will play a much larger role in concert with the paint than a Masonite panel necessarily would.  I am very deliberate with what surface I choose when it comes to commissioned work, but love to experiment when making personal work or just playing.

 
 

6. What do you mutter to yourself while you paint?

 

This can get seriously weird, fast.  When things are going well, the mutterings are usually positive, but when the work goes awry, or when it is in the ugly mid-stage, that’s when the mutterings can be bad.  I try to avoid negativity as much as possible when I’m working, but when it’s all going wrong the pressure builds and I will sometimes let out a single, loud “FUCK”.  Then a concerned voice will call down to me “you okay?”, which is returned with a terse “fine”, then the pressure is gone and the corner turned.  Most often I will mutter “just keep painting, just keep painting” in the vein of Dory’s “just keep swimming”.  That keeps me on course and helps to get me through the tougher stages of a piece.

 
 

7. How do you determine what you plan to paint each month for Every Day Original?

 

So many factors weigh into that decision.  What did I sell recently on EDO, that’s a big one – or even what type of work other EDO artists are selling?  Not necessarily the subject matter, more like what size piece combined with what material, plus price.  Every time I think I’ve got the audience figured out, I’m wrong and the new piece doesn’t sell, back to the drawing board.  The object obviously is to sell, and it’s really a bit of alchemy to figure out the perfect formula of subject + medium + size + price, in order to make the sale.  Music really motivates me while I work, so I love to paint some of my favorite musicians as subjects.  And to appeal to a large audience sometimes I will pick a favorite character of mine from movies as a subject – keeps the work fun, and people can connect in personal ways to the chosen subject and the finished piece.

 
 

budcook_jp8. Does that experience bring anything to your creative voice?

 

For sure, just that fact that I have to create a new piece each month – it sounds silly but that’s a good bit of pressure right there to keep me working on new, personal stuff.  Every EDO piece is really just another personal piece, not like commissions – really just up to me what I want to paint, so it’s a great incentive to make more work, and like I mentioned previously, this helps to define that personal visual voice.

I’m assuming you use photos as reference for your work, if not then we’re ending this interview and I’m going back to evil-genius school so I can invent a brain swapper.

 
 

9. What makes you say “This one, this photo has what it takes to be a Bud Cook?”

 

Great question, important to me for sure.  Sometimes I’ll paint characters from films, a scene that was particularly poignant or that has personally affected me.  In this case I generally pick my reference carefully by making just the right screenshot from a film.  I almost never find stills directly from a Google search for this type of work, the reference has to capture the exact moment when the emotional impact is there, or when the subject is truly revealed.

When I shoot my own reference for a portrait, I’ll sometime take dozens of photos.  The selection process at that point for me quite simply is to find the shot that “is” the person, to me.  If I am doing a portrait of someone I don’t know, I will review the reference that has been sent to me and try to identify the one that I feel visually has the most personality.

I feel like the reference has to speak to me in some way in order for me to be truly engaged with the painting.  When there is a strong, personal impact from a reference photo then not only do I enjoy painting it more, but also can create a better piece in the end.

 
 

10. Why portraiture? Why not dogs or farmhouses? Did any of your past teachers/mentors help you find this focus?

 

I’ve really only been into painting portraits as personal work in the last few years.  There’s a very specific problem to solve with portraiture; get the likeness correct.  All the rest can be very personal, but first you’ve got to nail the likeness – I really enjoy that challenge.  This focus came with my first solo show in 2014, the show was titled “TRIBE – Portraits of a Community”.  I painted portraits of people in my creative tribe; peers, professors from college, mentors and a couple of my role models.  It was a good deal of pressure I put on myself, because I was painting about a dozen portraits of my painter friends.  It took a little less than a year to create the work for this show, there were about 25 pieces in the show total, but 12 of the pieces were showcased together and were all the same size. It was during this time that my style shifted to a slightly more abstracted approach with the paint and I feel like I turned a corner creatively.


 
 

11. You do killer portraits, almost sculptural in quality. The logical question here is “have you ever sculpted,” but I wonder, do you have another job other than art? Have you always?

 

I have sculpted, but just a handful of times and really just for fun.  I met a local sculptor who casts his own bronze pieces right at home and last year I started a project with his assistance, and it has been cast in bronze but has yet to be finished (never enough time for fun side-projects).  I really enjoy sculpting, but don’t have as much time to play around with this art form as much as I’d like to.

To answer the last part of that question; up until November of 2013 I worked in the corporate world as a webmaster, graphic artist and multimedia designer/developer.  I did that work for a little over 20 years and was largely creatively dormant during that time (paint-wise) – long time in the cocoon, I have wings now.

 
 

Dylan_Tangled-Up12. Could you tell us more about you? What does a typical day look like for Bud Cook? Do you just do art, or is art just part of the picture?

 

Coffee, coffee, coffee.  I teach during the school year, just one class each semester at Quinebaug Valley Community College, but it takes up a surprising amount of time.  I don’t have an organized daily schedule, though I do like to do my communications in the morning with my coffee – and a coffee sketch if I can as well!  I am a father, husband, homeowner, pet-owner, etc. – these parts of my life are integral with being an artist now that I am a self-employed freelance artist – so the key to keeping it all together is BALANCE, and that’s a constant challenge.  When I have a gallery show on the horizon, then there is a good deal of studio time in my work week.  The words “weekend” and “vacation” are not a real thing anymore, not that I’m complaining – integrating work with life is still new to me, but something that I think has way more potential for everyday happiness.  And illustration work is in there too, though I am still trying to grow my clients in that area so it’s only a small portion of my work week.

 
 

13. You paint and draw quite a few musicians. Does music play a big part in your illustration process? If you can could you describe what the soundtrack of your paintings would be?

 

I love this question, I can talk about this one all day.  Music all by itself moves me deeply – but the combination of music and paint can transport me to another state of mind.  There’s no way I could describe a soundtrack of what I listen to, it’s so all over the place.  Music is a vehicle for me, it takes anxiety away and can turn a sour mood around 180 degrees.  When a specific musician’s work affects me, I feel a strange connection to that person – like they know something about me, or that we have similar life experiences that make their work so relatable for me.
Lyrics especially move me, so I am a fan of the “singer-songwriter: Dylan, Mark Knopfler, Jackson Browne, Natalie Merchant, Indigo Girls, Neil Young, Cat Stevens, Colin Hay, I can’t possibly name enough artists here.  Music as mood is important too, so am I looking to be uplifted while I paint, or do I need a darker louder vibe, or do I need someone to really burn me down?  The voice, oh man, this is the one that can really send me; Eddie Vedder, Sinéad O’Connor, Chris Cornell, Dolores O’Riordan, Greta Svabo Bech, I seriously can’t begin to mention enough names.  I can go on and on – let it suffice that music is transcendent for me.

 
 

14. Favorite Album and why.

 

Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” got me through the high school years; still love that album to this day. Pearl Jam has been my groove since their arrival on the music scene, so final answer; probably Pearl Jam’s “Ten”.

 
 

15. Here’s a broad question, where are you taking your work? Where is it going next year, five years, ten?

 

I’m excited to announce that I just recently signed a contract with an Illustration Agency; Sullivan Moore – and I am looking forward to growing my illustration client list with their help.

I’d like to move toward doing more gallery work.  I’m in a 3-man show in September at Krab Jab Studio in Seattle, and another 2-man show next spring in Massachusetts.  Alas, the gallery work is wonderful to have, but doesn’t necessarily represent any income – and can even at times mean a loss – but it’s the work that is most my own, so most enjoyable to create.

Paint-wise, I have grandiose ideas about where I’d like to take my work, but it’s never real until I put the brush to the surface.  My latest work for the upcoming Krab Jab show is a bit of a departure from my work to date – I’m intrigued with where the work is taking me.

budcook_geisha-5

 
 

16. Where else other than EDO can people find your work? And buy it?

 

As I mentioned in the previous answer, I will be in a 3-man show at Krab Jab Studio in Seattle this September, with new paintings that I am currently working on.  I also show my work in a local gallery near my home in Northeast Connecticut; the Silver Circle Gallery (http://www.silvercirclegallery.com/).  I don’t have a store on my website (http://www.budcookstudio.com/), but always welcome inquiries about purchasing work that appears on the site. My basement is FULL of unsold work, so really any work that I’ve posted on social media or my website may be available.


 
 

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Artist Interview : Stephanie Inagaki

Stephanie Inagaki creates hauntingly beautiful black and white drawings collaged with Washi Paper. Join us, as we delve into her world, offering insight into her fascination with Ravens and Crows, and how she alchemizes her multidisciplinary art into her own distinct vision.

You can view her entire body of work on her website or follow her on instagram.
Stephanie Inagaki interview
1. You describe yourself as a multidisciplinary artist, could you tell us about each of those disciplines and the type of work you do?
I have two full time careers being a fine artist and metalsmith which is under the company name, Miyu Decay. I have both my BFA and MFA in Sculpture but my career path has led me to predominately create drawings. I would love to get back into large scale sculptures but it’s been difficult finding galleries for that. (I’m putting the word out there universe!) My sculptures and drawings have always been influenced by personal experiences. There has been quite a bit of trauma so making art is the best way to synthesize those moments from my life. I also make my own costuming as I have been a Middle Eastern dancer for almost half my life and performing necessitated costumes. I sell some of my costume headdresses and fascinators through my jewelry company.  My jewelry is a mixture of the macabre, Old World, and tribal. Most of my pieces are originally hand carved.
2. What does the typical work day look like for Stephanie Inagaki?
Coffee is the first thing that gets made every day! My mornings are spent answering emails, on my social media, and working out. Lunch generally happens next and then I get into the studio for the rest of the day. I usually only focus on one thing at a time so it’s split between spending the day working on jewelry orders or drawings for upcoming shows. I take breaks in the afternoon to tend to my garden and play with my zoo menagerie. My boyfriend already had an older white cat, Cotton. When we moved in together we rescued two kitten sisters (Cowboy and Bebop) and two puppy sisters (Klaus and Nomi.)
3. We hear, and even recommend, specialization. Focus your work, break through, then expand. Did you do this? Why or why not? If not, how did you make it work?
I certainly feel focused but I don’t necessarily think I’ve broken through yet, conceptually or careerwise. It has just felt like a constant uphill battle with slight plateaus of regularity. I’ll feel like I’ve broken through to some extent when I don’t have to worry about monthly bills. Then onto the next part of this massive mountain! Being a creative as a career is difficult but so rewarding in many different ways. It feeds the soul. I am humbled that I can do this full time and that there are people who appreciate my work. I can’t thank my friends and loved ones enough because this isn’t easy.
I do agree to some extent in specialization as some days I feel like I wish I could just make fine art. But then I end up missing metalsmithing. I’ve always had my hand in many pots! I do specialize within each discipline though.
Stephanie Inagaki 1
4. How do these disciplines influence the sort of art you do for EDO?
I love the Old World. I amalgamate vintage and antique fabrics, patterns, and jewelry pieces that come from around that world for my costuming that I sell an also incorporate those patterns into the jewelry I sculpt. Since I was buying vintage kimono fabrics, it was a natural transition to buy washi paper that has similar patterning.
5. You’re very active, and open on social media. How do you approach social media like instagram and facebook? Do they each serve a purpose?
I had initially kept my Miyu Decay jewelry, art, and personal life separate on social media but I am all those things so I find that it’s important that I integrate it, especially since I am my own brand. It all defines who I am and the kind of artwork that I create. By seeing who the creator is, it makes the work more accessible and personable. I’m naturally introverted so having social media has helped me connect with other artists that I admire and respect. I don’t think I would have had the guts to approach them in person. Because of this, I make effort in answering any comments on both social platforms.
6. Do you consciously balance the personal vs professional shares you make?Inagaki_Tempest
For the most part I do. The only completely private social media account I have is my personal Facebook profile. I’ll repost silly animal gifs or social and political posts on that one. My professional art page on Facebook mainly has posts about my art, jewelry, and exhibitions that I am in. Instagram encompasses my career and personal life. It’s been more streamlined in that sense.
7. Do you have a general strategy about what to post and when? How did you come to this?
I loosely follow the weekly hashtags like #tbt or #fbf to post older works or detailed crops since not everyone who follows my work has seen it. It’s good for the numbers to be consistently posting as well. I’ve done some research as to what time is best to post too but occasionally it will be sporadic. I tend to be working Friday nights and those posts get a lot of views surprisingly.
8. A lot of your work on EDO features ravens and crows, what draws you to them and their mythology?
They are brilliantly fantastic creatures. One of my past residences had a murder of crows that would always hang out in the parking lot by my house. I’d talk to them and they’d talk back. Sometimes they would sit on my chimney and I’d heard them cackling through the hole, leaving a warm fuzzy feeling inside my heart. I love that they mainly mate for life. If a human or another animal does something good or bad, they’re intelligent enough to tell their murder for subsequent generations about those deeds. They represent love and loyalty to me. Crows and ravens, being carrions by nature are directly associated to death. I’ve always seen life and death as cyclical so death isn’t necessarily a negative thing because it leads back to growth and renewal.
9. I’ve noticed some of your pieces focus on Japanese lore (Ningyo, Nami,) and then use materials like Washi paper. Could you tell us more about that context and relationship to Japan and how it affects your work?
Since I’ve been creating my own mythology with my self portraiture I was looking to find other influences in my life that I could draw from. Harkening back to my cultural roots seemed like the most natural step since my parents are from Japan. I grew up watching Miyazaki films and other Japanese TV programs that always involved myth and folklore. I watched a lot of horror and sci-fi because my parents never censored what my brother and I wanted to watch. It was great.
On a design standpoint, there is always something so graceful about washi paper design. I use a lot of negative space in my drawings and I find that washi paper can act the same way. I was taught by a traditional paper seller how to sculpt flowers when I told her that I meticulously cut out the patterns but I have yet to make the flowers myself. I love the subtly in the golds of the printed flowers and flatness in color that contrasts my stark black and white drawings.
Ver10. On your website you mention returning to your roots in LA, studying abroad in Italy, and living in various US cities. How has this travelling influenced your outlook creatively and personally?
I think everyone needs to travel and see the world. Studying abroad should be a requirement while in school. I was able to live in different parts of our vast country and experience the unique histories that comes along with each city. It was the same abroad. I learned foreign languages which allows a person to understand the world in another conceptual lens other than English. I was able to see incredible art pieces in person that has forever changed me.
11. Favorite restaurant in the world and why.
Union in Pasadena, CA. My boyfriend, David took us there last year for our anniversary. It’s now been our go to for special occasions. Everything is freshly made and delectable, the service is always fantastic, and the biggest plus side is that they’re extremely careful about his food allergies. He can even have their desserts! They have the best meatballs that are perfectly crisp but succulent on the inside.
12. LA is a hotbed of great artists, too many to list here, and you are friends with many of them. Do you ever work with, or even near them? Tell us more about that, and what it brings to you and your work.
I’m generally solitary when it comes to working but occasionally I will take my drawings with me to work at friends’ studios. It simultaneously works as a time to catch up but still be productive as everyone tends to be on deadlines. Mind you, I can only do this with a few friends! It’s a bit reminiscent of art school where I had to share studio spaces with friends and colleagues. I am fortunate enough to have a solid group of creative friends that I can still get similar feedback from.
Collaboratively I’ve worked with Allan Amato on his Temple of Art project and a few other subsequent drawings for myself that came out of that process. Integrating his photography into my work opened up a whole new creative language for me to not only collage with Japanese washi paper, but to add acrylic and watercolor into my predominantly black and white charcoal world.
13. What is your process like for creating your pieces for EDO? (How much is spontaneous vs planned? How do you choose a subject matter? How do you determine pricing? How and when do you share what you’re working on?)
I do a fair amount of driving since my parents live close by, but far enough that it warrants an hour drive one way. My framer and printer, Museum Quality Framing is also in my hometown where my parents live. I usually think of my EDO drawings on these drives. It’s really meditative for me and when I’m having a creative rut, these drives help me focus in. My drawings are planned. My sketches are extremely rough but I tend to have a solid idea of the composition. I think I’m more spontaneous with placing the washi paper.
Each of my EDO drawings are tiny visual phrases of my overall themes of life/death and living, which involves feeling love and pain. I feel like I still have a lot to explore with integrating color and washi paper so I tend to still focus on crows or folklore.
My pricing is usually determined by the size, but if I spend more time and detailing on a similarly sized piece, I will raise the price.
I’ll share details of my EDO drawings when I work on them which can be the week before or even a few weeks prior to my release date depending on when I feel inspired or have the time. They are shared on IG and Facebook.
14. Any final thoughts for our readers?
Thank you for taking the time and interest in my interview and work. I can’t do it without you all!
 stephanie inagaki 2

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Artist Feature: Rebecca Yanovskaya

I’ve known Rebecca for a number of years now, and it has been nothing short of inspiring to watch her work evolve. She has come from SFF roots, like many here, and has pushed her subject matter and scale to epic proportions. What you may not know is that these incredible works are done in large part with a bic pen. You read that right. Her commitment to her art and her media is something we can all aspire to. So it gives us great pleasure now to reach inside Rebecca’s head and see what makes her tick.
 
Rebecca is known for her masterful use of ballpoint pen and goldleaf to create moody and atmospheric illustrations. These works harken back to classic epics and mythology while maintaining her own distinct vision. In our conversation with Rebecca she talks to us about process, artistic growth, and personal reflections. It is always such a treat to see what she creates for Every Day Original, and now you can experience some of the words and wisdom behind those creations.
 
You can view her entire body of work at www.rebeccayanovskaya.com or follow her on instagram.
 
rebecca_artistinterview
 
 
1. We met at the Illustration Master Class, and I feel like I got to see your artistic evolution personally. There was a point where you really levelled up, figures were getting nailed, an emotional quality was in every piece, and around this time you started working with leaf. Can you tell us what happened?
 
That evolution was a process with a few steps that I can remember. The first hurdle I remember was taking my health and confidence in hand — I came back to the IMC that year after really jumping into exercise, and that really helped me come to terms with myself and care less what people thought of me. Hand in hand with that came a resolution to stop trying to ‘be’ things I didn’t enjoy. I realized I didn’t want to work with paint, or digital, or watercolour, and that was okay. The second big thing that happened was a mentorship with Pete Mohrbacher that began right after IMC. He worked with me to focus my path in a way I found fulfilling, and also helped me with some technical, mechanical skills I was unsure about. And finally, a very influential trip to the MET cemented to me the type of work I wanted to do (where I became reacquainted with Klimt and his gold leaf). I reconnected with my artistic idols and the genre of art I wanted my work to fall into, and I now strive to emulate the feelings I had when I saw their work in every new piece.
 
 
2. How can someone else have the same kind of breakthroughs you’ve experienced? 
 
I think it’s important to do a lot of self reflection, and to figure out what really makes you create as an artist. Some people need a sherpa for that, others can do it themselves, but often going back to your childhood and remembering what artist/product first inspired awe in you can help. What was the first thing that you wanted to copy as a child? That’s usually where your passion lies.
 
 Rebecca_Yanovskaya_Descent
3. Let’s step back, when did you know you wanted to be a professional artist? Did you have role models in your life, artists or no, who helped get you here?
 
 I can’t think of a time in my life when I didn’t draw in some capacity. I was very lucky to have a mother that fully encouraged me, and so was able to surround me with art teachers who could give me the skills I needed. I think the first time I actually wanted it to be my profession was watching animated cartoons as a kid. The skill it took to create them blew my mind. I eventually realized that though I admired animation it wasn’t exactly my calling, but it definitely opened my mind to the possibility that someone out there was creating art and getting paid for it!
 
 
4. Could you tell us about your process and if there are any differences between your pieces on EDO vs personal pieces versus commissioned work?
 
I am really grateful to EDO for providing a consistent stimulus, which has helped me streamline my process considerably. There’s not much difference between the process for EDO and personal work, just an extra step of showing my finished sketch to the client for commissioned work. EDO has helped me have confidence in my ability to take very rough pencils to the finish without wasting time doubting my skills. My process for EDO is a lot about “what I feel like doing that day”. I start by taking a look at my stash of reference photographs and seeing if anything catches my eye in gesture or subject matter. I then push and pull them in Photoshop to get my desired composition. A commissioned piece will start in reverse, from the idea I need to get to, working backwards to the reference I will need to make that happen.
 
 
 
5. A lot of us will say how limitations help us do better work. Finding creative solutions around restrictions is a defining characteristic of a successful artist. You work in ball point and gold leaf, limited in palette, stroke, and overall look. How have you stretched the limits of these materials to create your work? Do you secretly add thin layers of paint when nobody is looking?
 
I definitely agree that limitations can help us do better work. I am quite lucky in that people know the end look of what I produce, and don’t try to push me into other directions. However, I never want to be stagnant with my own work, so I try to push the boundaries of what ballpoint can do. I think it also helps that I strive to recreate an image I have in my head, and any experimenting I do is in aid of that goal. I don’t use paint at the moment, though I have definitely thought about it and am not opposed. I don’t like experimenting for the sake of experimenting, however, so I want to have a purpose to the decision when I finally take that step.
 
 
 
Rebecca_Yanovskaya_Death_Dealer1
6. Gold seems to be the color of the decade, and a lot of artists are picking it up. You use it very successfully, and it’s always interesting to see what you “golden up” and what you leave in pen. How do you choose what to make gold? How do you think about the gold in the piece, what does it add? What does it take away?
 
I choose the gold portions based on what best services the composition. If a form needs accenting or contrast to stand out, I will usually accent it with gold. I also use it (hopefully successfully) to make the eye move around the piece. For me, gold is my contrast to the dark of the ink. Before I started using gold I thought my illustrations lacked a certain something, and I think the gold has filled that purpose nicely.
 
 
 
7. What’s the hardest part of the artistic/illustration process for you?
 
For me, the hardest part is in the middle, after I have traced out my sketch and I’m starting to fill in the midtones and basic ground values. It’s at this point that the piece looks hideous and I start to doubt that I’ll be able to pull it through to something beautiful. This also happens if I don’t have very good reference of whatever I’m trying to draw, and I start to doubt my ability to use my previous experience. I am lucky that I am dogged enough to get through these phases, but it is painful every time.
 
 
 
8. Take us through a typical day for Rebecca Y. Do you have practices or systems you use to organize your day? Do you just do art 9-5 then relax? Tell us more.
 
I like to start by eating well and taking care of daily tasks, so I am emotionally ready for the art portion of the day. I have tried to make lists of tasks, but I don’t think it is really ‘me’, as I am naturally a ‘grazer’ but for art. One of the reasons I enjoy ballpoint is that I can work a little bit, put it down, do something else, and come right back to it without skipping a beat.
 
 
Rebecca_Yanovskaya_Funeral9. You work focuses alot on the figure and detailed anatomy. What draws you most to the human figure, and what does it communicate in your work?
 
I’ve always been fascinated by humans’ ability to communicate nonverbally. Body language is a very powerful tool, and I try to have my characters show their personality traits through their gestures and bodies. I’m also fascinated by the intricate shadows I get to draw in all the different gestures we can make. Beyond that I just think human bodies when shown at the pinnacle of their capabilities are beautiful.
 
10. You’re also a woman doing fantasy art. At EDO we have a strong team of women, and proud of it. But this was not always a point of pride for an art gallery, and we’ve seen more and more female-focused galleries, books, and shows. To what do you attribute this evolution?
 
I am very happy that there are more opportunities for women, though as a competitive person I am always striving for my work to compete with the best of the best, regardless of sex. I think the evolution can be in part attributed to the rise in popularity of genre artwork. Because fantasy and sci-fi have been under the radar of the traditional fine art world, more women have been able to rise to positions of leadership and inspire young artists. Had they been fighting against the established art world there might have been much more backlash. I think also in fantasy art, it’s much more about the finished product than the personality behind the work, and that greatly helps minorities stand out and be recognized for their skill.
 
 
11. Did you ever experience any kind of missed opportunity or discrimination because you were a woman? Can you tell us about that experience?
 
It is possible I might have, but I probably wouldn’t have noticed it at the time. I am much more likely to attribute a failure to my own lack of preparation or skill, than to an outside force like that. I have experienced discrimination outside of the art realm, but within art I have thankfully seen skill take a higher place.
 
12. Your work is incredibly detailed, and I’ve watched you labor on these huge pieces in a tiny bic pen. What solutions/tips have you discovered that allow you to create such time consuming work? Do you meditate, listen to audiobooks, plan on never having a social life? How do you do it all?
 
For better or worse, I have a bit of an obsessive personality. It definitely helps when creating such time consuming work. I like to listen to e-sports streams/world championship competitions when working, as well as some movie analysis panels. Add to that, disgusting amounts of reruns of my favourite TV shows. Basically, any kind of audio stimulation with multiple voices. The best solution I’ve found for myself is to avoid large areas of colour fill. It’s must more interesting for me to do detail work than fill in areas with tone, even if it’s harder or more time consuming.Rebecca_Yanovskaya_Ascent
 
 
13. What are some exciting projects on the horizon that you can tell us more about?
 
I have some new personal pieces I’m planning for IlluXcon that I hope will be received well. As well I hope to make my new EDO pieces more intricate and powerful, stretching boundaries, similar to Death Dealer. Some other big news I have, I can’t talk about for a while, but I am excited to see the reaction when I can. My Gilgamesh illustrated book will be coming out soon and I hope it will launch a new direction in my career, where I can illustrate all the classic epics.
 
 
 
14. Parting words, do you have any advice for artists out there who want to create the kind of emotionally impactful work that you do?
 
I think what I’d like to tell past me is that it’s okay to do the same thing you love over and over again, if it’s based on a passion goal. I want to say that you don’t have to force yourself to do things you think you “should”, based on the industry or peer opinion. It rarely ever works and wastes a lot of time.
 
 
 
15. Where else other than EDO can people find your work? And buy it?
 
My website has links to my prints sales, or I can be emailed at any time to discuss my catalogue of available works (ryanovskaya@gmail.com)!

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Artist Feature: Kwanchai Moriya

artist interview kwanchai moriya

We had a chance to catch up with Kwanchai Moriya, an EDO regular and brilliantly colorful painter. Kwanchai creates breathtaking acrylic paintings that absolutely glow. He blurs the line between fantasy and reality, and takes us through some of his process, history, and exciting things in the nearfuture.
Find out even more about him and his work at http://www.kwanchaimoriya.com

 

Kwanchai, could you tell us a bit about your journey as an artist? Where and how you started, and early hurdles? Education?

Painting 1

The earliest memory I have of artistic acclaim was an apple and banana, rendered in pastels. I think it was 2nd grade, and I think it was for a class at the local park district. My memory is fuzzy on the details, but I do remember, with clarity, that I felt like master of the goddamn universe when my mama put that bad boy on the fridge. It’s an uncanny feeling, like someone else more qualified must’ve done that amazing art in front of you. Then you remember that YOU did that, and you whisper, “oh fuck yea….I did that shit.” Except I didn’t swear back then. So who knows what I said.

 

Many years later the feeling is the same. That feeling of total badassery that comes along with nailing a piece of art is exactly the same. Doing the thing that you are meant to do. It doesn’t happen every time of course. I think that feeling is what drives you on, through hills and valleys, over hurdles, in to hardship, out of hardship. I don’t think my story is very unique. Like most, I meandered into adulthood, trying to carefully balance a life filled with other folks’ expectations. And at a certain point I snapped, threw out the scale, and took a big leap. A major part of that leap was art, but, of course, it was many other things as well.

 

As far as job descriptions go, ‘painting and drawing stuff’ still feels a bit ridiculous, especially when I think about my parents’ blue-collar jobs that were instrumental in paying for it. There’s a lot of luck involved. I mean, I work hard and you have to be smart, of course. But there’s a lot of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. Also, no artist wants to lift the veil of mystery to reveal a very understanding, loving significant other, with a stable job that keeps their dumb ass afloat in dry spells. It’s all a part of the progression, though. And, I do my best to remind myself that it’s a privilege to be passionate about what I do.

 

 

For EDO you have freedom of subject matter, how do you go about creating ideas and planning for these small paintings? How much is planned versus spontaneous?

 

I start with a kernel of something: an image from somewhere, a moment from a book or movie, etc. And then I have a huge library of imagery that I’ve collected and I scan through them looking for the right composition or idea that might convey that kernel. And with those two things: the idea and a composition, I just kind of attack a blank board until I’ve blocked in the whole thing in paint. Then I go back in and start to work it and refine it. A hundred percent of the time both the idea and the composition change somewhere between start and finish.

 

 

You have a refreshing take on the fantastic, where things are quaint and intimate yet other worldly, such as your painting of Marvel Girl/Jean Grey. Would you consider this a Kwanchai aesthetic that you strive for, or a natural reflection of what you like to paint?

 

Thank you! I don’t really know where it comes from. I know what I like: heroines, small everyday mundane moments, huge monsters, robots, the color blue. And those seem to come up regularly in my ‘repertoire,’ if you will. Occasionally I try doing something that just isn’t really in my wheelhouse. Because, you know, as an artist, you have to stretch and grow and experiment to stay fresh etc., etc. And I have a whole stack of those paintings shoved between the shelf and the wall, where I don’t have to look at them.

 

Boardgames

Who are some of your inspirations and art heroes? What about them inspires you? Technique? Life choices? Fashion sense?

 

Some of my art favorite painters from when I first started painting are: Leyendecker, Bernie Fuchs, Sachin Teng, Greg Manchess, Sterling Hundley, Andrew Wyeth. I have a pretty eclectic taste in artists, the list goes on and on. One thing that is a common skill amongst all my favorite artists, though, is the ability to make a striking composition. A lot of people nowadays are super talented at painting cool robots, perfectly rendering sexy girls and badass knights. But I feel like a small slice of those people are also skilled at creating interesting compositions that fully utilize a rectangle of space. I try my best to be a part of that small slice, because, I definitely paint a lot of women with monsters and robots and helmets.

 

You have a very diverse portfolio, with very different bodies of work. Has this presented any challenges for you? If so how did you overcome them?

 

Yes, this is a challenge. In art school we learned to find your strongest style/voice and then stick to that. Otherwise, you risk confusing potential clients, and agents won’t want to take you on, etc.

 

At this point in my career, I spend an equal amount of time on three completely divergent styles: a) fun energetic board game illustrations, b) really simple cutesy paper cut out children’s book work, c) figurative sci-fi acrylic paintings for gallery shows. Board game publishers don’t pay a lot. But I love board games and take a lot of jobs that I should say no to. Children’s books pay the most, but I only get a few jobs a year. And paintings pay the least (in terms of time spent), but it’s the outwardly sexiest of the three and my most prized skill. Realistically, as an artist, I’m going to do all three of them and then some. So the question is: do I ditch all except one of them, in order to market myself better? And the answer to that is: I’m behind on all my deadlines so I’ll think about it 6 months.

 

But in all seriousness, all you agents and clients just waiting to hire me… don’t tell me what I can or can’t draw! I’ll find my own limits of creativity, marketing be damned. I didn’t crawl this far into the middle of the interstate to start making rational career decisions.

 

 

Do these diverse bodies of work ever speak to/rub off on each other? Or are they kept separated/in isolation from each other?

Honestly, a skill that clients respond to, regardless of style or medium, is the ability to manage your values well. Managing light and dark is so crucial in delivering your idea, no matter what the heck you are doing. It’s more important than colors or the anatomy of a face. And it’s absolutely key in making a good composition. If I want to see if a piece is working or not, I squint my eyes at it or (if working digitally) desaturate it in Photoshop. I’ll know right away if that shit ain’t right.

 

Children's Book

 

 

How did you develop your style? And how do your different styles reflect that growing process?

I didn’t develop a style consciously. When I’m painting, I try to keep the thought “make this awesome” in the front of my brain. Like, this thing I’m making, it has to be so awesome that if I saw it on the shelf, I’d grab it and buy it without thinking. If you keep searching for excellence in your work, your own voice is going to pop out whether you like it or not. Keep in mind, most of your early attempts at this look like some bad amalgamation of your favorite artists’ work.

 

My style shifted and changed over time to what it is now. All these little shifts were borne out of a growing frustration or stagnation. Then I’d decide to try something completely different, using masking tape or gobs of gel medium, or maybe a bigger piece of canvas than I’d ever used before. And 1 out 10 times it would work! It’s like when you find that perfect weapon in a video game and then you just keep using it over and over because it fits your style of play. And then by the end of the video game, you have maybe 3 weapons that you used for the whole game and you love them.

 

How does your personality and identity and inject itself into your work?

 

This is a great question that I should ask my friends. I don’t really know.

 

Actually, one thing I have had success with is injecting the model’s personality into a painting. I’m friends with almost all of the models that I use. And thinking about their personalities and nuances helps to direct the feeling of my paintings.

 

Any specific themes and concepts you revisit that isn’t immediately obvious?

I don’t think my work exudes subtlety. So what you see is what you get. There usually isn’t some big underlying truth.

 

 

BreakfastPlayset

What are your personal projects? How important are personal projects for you? What do they fulfill?

 

Personal projects are super super important. It’s the kind of work you’d do all day long if you had a zillion dollars, perfect relationships, and all the time in the world. It’s you, at your finest. I think they are the most important vehicle for getting you out of an artistic rut. They are also crucial in helping shape your career goals.

 

I always have a bunch of side projects, including designing/illustrating a board game or two, a woodworking toy project called the Breakfast Playset, and numerous painting ideas.

 

  

Could you tell us more about your process and technique with acrylics?

Yes, of course! I use Liquitex Heavy body acrylics and usually I just buy the cheapo value pack of synthetic brushes (since I beat the brushes up pretty bad). I use a porcelain butcher’s tray for a palette. I also use a hair dryer constantly to dry my layers quickly.

As far as strategy goes, I block in the entire painting first, big rough strokes making sure there’s no white. Then I start attacking the painting, starting with the biggest beast in the room (whatever I’m most intimidated by). Take her down! It makes the other littler beasts respect you.

 

 

Process 1

Are their specific materials you use or prefer to get such bold and vivid color palettes?

Actually I almost exclusively use cad red, yellow ochre, phthalo blue, burnt umber. A little bit of white maybe. Pretty basic colors as far as colors go. The only unique tube of paint I use a lot of is this light blue that Liquitex calls “Brilliant Blue.” Getting vivid colors is easy if you stay away from white and black (which you should anyway).

 

 

Why acrylics over other let’s say oils or watercolor/gouache?

 

I started with oils. But drying times and the breakneck pace at which my sessions usually go, demand something more practical. Also, for the first two years of my art life, I lived in a small studio apartment with one window, which was also my workspace/kitchen/living room. So forget about using oils and solvents.

 

Watercolor and gouache are far too unforgiving for a brain like mine. Using watercolor, and especially, gouache feels like walking in a minefield: a few steps in the wrong direction and boom. It requires a good plan and forethought. Painting with acrylic (and oils) is mostly heavy handed sculpting, topped off by a short session of tiny laser strikes.

 

Any tips or technical advice you can give to an artist who wants to become more proficient with acrylics?

 

I think acrylics are great when paired with a variety of mediums. You can get a lot of different effects that way.

 

 

What have you learned about yourself and your work in the past year?

 

I’ve learned that I need to give myself time to breathe. Managing and planning a schedule that includes good breaks, equals better, more thoughtful work. Burnouts are never good.

 

What do you want the audience to take away from your work? 

 

That is a difficult question, because I really don’t know. It’s still really cool that my paintings get sold at all, to be honest. That hasn’t worn off just yet.

Painting 2

 

What are you looking forward to in 2016? What’s next for Kwanchai Moriya?

I’m looking forward to a handful of group shows this summer and my first solo show later this year. Then there are a whole lot of board games that I’ll be the illustrating and traveling to conventions to promote with publishers. I also have two children’s books that I’ll be doing with Kids Can Press.

 

It’s only in the last two years that I’ve been able to quit my assemblage of crappy part-time jobs in order to paint and illustrate full time. I still can’t believe it’s working, and I’m afraid that any day now, agents will break down the door and be like, “This isn’t a real job! Cuff him boys, take him to Job Land!” “Also… surprise, all your student debt is back!” That would suck. But, jokes aside, freelancing is pretty much like running a small business, with all of its pitfalls and none its tangibility. Gotta be careful.

 

In the last two years, all of my greatest victories have happened like this: I wake up, it’s 2PM because I was painting all night, I roll over to the nightstand to check my email on my phone, and I open up some bomb ass email from a dream client. Time stops and the heavens open, I cheer silently to myself, groggy and alone in my bed, the afternoon light streaming through the window. A few years ago, that’s literally how I got my first real gig (a dinosaur kid’s book) after years of trying and hoping, and I just broke down crying. Couldn’t believe it. At this point, every new opportunity is precious and I’m looking forward to anything that comes my way in 2016.

 

 

 

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Artist Feature: Tran Nguyen

For our newest interview and artist feature at Every Day Original, we have a wonderful conversation with Tran Nguyen. Tran is one of our best sellers at Every Day Original and you can pick a little bit more about her brain in this chat with her.
Find out even more about her and her work at her website www.mynameistran.com

 

 

artistinterview_TranNguyen_notext

1. You have been getting a lot of attention lately and just won your second Spectrum gold. You’ve always been very humble about your success, it has to feel good. How do you celebrate these wins? 
By paying homage to my core support group — my family and friends that constantly encourage me to keep trucking along.  They make it worthwhile to continue my endeavor.  And, maybe a beer or two (wink face).

2. In talking with you about your art, you said your art is used as a “psycho-therapeutic support vehicle, exploring the mind’s landscape.” Say more about this.
I try to pinpoint the concept behind each of my paintings toward a specific but universal emotion we’ve all dealt with in our lives.  It’s my hope that the viewer can relate, recollect, thus foster well-being from what they interpret.  It’s ubiquitous to say that life is a series of hardship and each year yields emotional baggage.  In all, I’d like for my visuals to serve as a buffer in getting through tough times.

imaginefx_tutorial_by_mynameistran-d7koas53. If I recall correctly, you were initially a very polite “no” to the invite to Every Day Original. What was your hesitation? What changed your mind?

I didn’t think I could keep up with the monthly contribution — I paint VERY slowly.  Then, I decided to do studies as opposed to finished pieces which made it more manageable.  Also, I misread a few key words in the contract, haha…stupid me.


4. Who are some of your favorite artists (contemporary and historical), and what lessons have you learned from their practices?

Gustav Klimt’s treatment of intermingling figures and shapes inspire me to tap into surreal environments. I also admire Hayao Miyazaki’s ability to capture subtlety in the human form and mannerism. His whimsical worlds and lively characters are conducive to sublime animation.

5. William Faulkner is credited with the line, “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.” How do you set to work? How does this differ based on the kind of work you’re doing?
Like Elizabeth Gilbert once said in her TED talk, ” I’m like a mule.”  Every workday is a constant day of struggle and woe.  I’m no genius and creativity doesn’t often come easy.  It usually takes me a couple of hours to get into the mindset of creating.

6. You have a lot of experience with gallery work as well as illustration assignments. Do you still do both? Why or why not?
I sure do!  I love both markets.  They each have their good and bad.  Gallery work is therapeutic and is without restraints, while commercial illustration allows for collaboration and a more concise narrative.

7. Your images have a very distinct sense of scale. Often the figures and faces loom over surreal suburban architecture. I think many artists wonder how to come up with “a thing they do” beyond style or technique. How did you decide on these themes of scale and mood? How do you measure or predict success at an early stage of developing these concepts.
It’s difficult to say how it came to be.  The “large figures wandering around small, empty neighborhoods” was a concept I explored in my third exhibition with Thinkspace Gallery in 2011.  The year after, I decided to elaborate more on the concept and I became even more fascinated with it.  You can never predict what will or will not sell.  I think it’s best to dedicate several paintings to a particular concept so that you can fully hone it.

through_a_lone__winding_road_by_mynameistran-d8jndyl

8. Does your medium influence your finished work? Do the limitations of your tools help you create the work?
Absolutely.  I decided to transition from digital to traditional because of the fact that an endless color palette is frightening.  Also, I enjoy happy accidents and the tactile feel of a brush on paper.

9. Your most recent work has deeper values, more graphic shapes, and a more saturated color palette. Could you tell us more about this progression/evolution?
I’ve been in a purple phase as of late.  I’ve also switched my undertone color to a more vibrant one and pairing it with a muted palette.  Working with the new Hi-Flow Acrylics have helped with executing deep values as well.

traveling_to_a_distant_day_by_mynameistran-d8qkdz110. Is using color something that comes naturally to you, or something you struggled and worked up to?
It’s definitely something I’ve struggled and worked up.  A lot of experimenting happened to get the color harmony that I want.


11. You use photo reference, yes? Where in the process do you use photography, and how?

I use quite a bit of photo reference.  It’s a lot of frankensteining stock photography, fashion photography, and shoots with my friends.  This helps me determine the pose in the line drawing and rendering in the final.


12. I have noticed a lot (but not all!) of your work features Asian women. As someone of Vietnamese heritage, do you feel like you have a responsibility to represent Asian women in your work?

It’s only somewhat recent that I’ve been illustrating more Asian figures.  I previously rendered a lot of Caucasians, and decided to explore other ethnicity in the past several years.  I don’t think I have a responsibility to represent anything except for what lets me enjoy painting.

13. How does the “casting” of the characters in your images occur?
It depends on the setting of the painting.  If the piece favors red, I’ll most likely choose a redhead.

14. If you could go back in time, to when you were at the very beginning of your career. What advice would you give to yourself?
I think it’s important to know that you’ll have some failures here and there, and that shouldn’t hold you down.  I’ve had a few illustrations that has made me cringe when delivering it to the client.  Just learn what you can from it and move on.  It happens to every artist, young and old.

15. Tell us something unique about you so we can sound cool and in-the-know when we’re bragging to people that we’re friends with you.
I’m actually half deaf so it’s difficult for me at times to converse in crowded rooms.  I also laugh like a retarded, clapping seal…particularly the clapping.  I love pickles and Icee.

 

ORIGINALS FROM TRAN

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Featured Artist: Rob Rey

artist interview rob rey

This month we had a chance to catch up with one of Every Day Original’s original team member, and consistent sell-outs. His work sells out, he makes no compromises. You know what we meant.

 
Rob is a painter and illustrator whose work focuses on mythology, folklore, and the cosmos. He consistently creates stellar best-selling work for Every Day Original, and has some deep views on making work and learning as play.

 
Find out even more at his website.

 

artistinterview_RobRey_notext

1. Tell us a little bit about growing up near Chicago. Was art a part of your childhood or something you developed later? Was there any childhood inspiration that you carry with you today?
I always feel like I’m supposed to say I was born with a pencil in my hand, but it’s really not the case. Sure, I did some crayon drawings as a kid, but my family is not artistic. I started getting into art in a serious way in high school. I wasn’t particularly encouraged to make art into a career so it was a leap I made when college application time came around. I did do a lot of camping, hiking, and road trips when I was a kid and I think this helped to foster my appreciation for the beauty of the natural world, which in turn helped lead me to oil painting. I took a year off after high school to hike the Appalachian Trail. I got over halfway (Maine to West Virginia) before I had to stop because of a broken (stress fractured) foot.

 

2. Did you go to school to hone your artmaking? Did you graduate in the field you went to study? Do you work now in the field from which you graduated?
I’m not sure I knew why, specifically, I went to art school. I was considering architecture because it seemed practical or graphic design because I didn’t know there was a difference between that and illustration. Let’s just say I had a lot to learn, but I figured out at one point that, personally, I needed to learn to paint in oil. So I went into illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design and got hooked. Now I’m both an illustrator and a gallery artist.

 

3. People often ask me what kind of work we look for at Every Day Original. Just as often, I point to your work. These aren’t simply studies, they are small finished works, polished both technically and narratively. When you approach a small work, how does this differ from a larger piece, if at all? Do you have a clear idea of when to put the brushes down and call it done?
Well, thanks! While I know my EDO works are more polished than what most people think of as a study, that is still what I consider them to be. I often think of the numerous studies of J.C. Leyendecker and how he would work out so many aspects of his picture in studies, including much of his brushwork, so that when he painted his final picture he could then take it a step further. Leyendecker never intended to sell his studies so he didn’t usually finish off the edges, but if I’m going to do a study I don’t mind putting in a little extra time to make it a worthwhile miniature. Because of this, my process doesn’t differ much moving from small to large. In any size, my process is fairly well planned and the studies are one step in that process. I prefer the look of alla prima (first pass) painting, so in order to get it right the first time I have to plan out as much as possible. If my planning is successful then I won’t have to go back and fix things with a second layer, but I will paint a second layer if I have to.

 

1 Rob Rey_Stardust Gazing Back_16x164. Jane McGonigal, noted game/social scientist/researcher/designer, in her TED talks and book “Reality Is Broken” she talks about “fiero.” In her words, “Fiero is what we feel after we triumph over adversity. You know it when you feel it – and when you see it. That’s because we almost all express fiero in exactly the same way: we throw our arms over our head and yell.” Now, I know you to be fairly reserved in demeanor, polite and well-spoken. What, on this earth, gives you that feeling of fiero such that you stand up and yell (or want to)?
Ha, I never feel as reserved as I seem to come off. Painting certainly provides plenty of these moments. When an area glows just right or I find the right descriptive brush mark for a specific passage I am known (only to myself) to hold my mahl stick over head with two hands and howl at my easel like a Tatooine sand person. This is the cultural reference that an adolescence drenched in Star Wars has left me to be reminded of when I have those hands-over-head moments. But, as a lover of life, I often get a similar feeling when I see the setting sun falling across towering cumulous clouds or when I feel a perfect summer breeze. These moments may not be triumph over adversity, but they are worthy of hands-over-head celebration none the less. The sand person only seems to come out in studio though, I guess I am reserved.

 

5. Could you tell us more about your process as a painter? What are some of your favorite parts, and parts that you could do without?
The act of pushing oily mud around on a surface is probably, unsurprisingly, my favorite part. Seeing something come to life is great, but every part of the process is important. I start, as most of the illustrators I know do, with thumbnail sketches and plenty of other idea generating scribbles in my sketchbook. A thumbnail I like gets worked up in a larger sketch and I gather reference materials. Using my gathered reference, my sketch is then refined on successive layers of transparent vellum paper until I’m happy with the result. Each layer pulling forward the best parts of the last and continuing to develop the areas that still need work. Then I scan the sketch and make a rough digital study in Photoshop to work out value and color. There really is no match for digital when it comes to the ability to try things out and change colors quickly. Next, I transfer the sketch to a small board which will become my oil study. This is where I work out what pigments I’m going to use and how I might lay down my brushwork. Then the sketch is transferred again to a larger board where I will paint my final image, informed by all of the previous steps.

 

6. You’re a fixture at Illuxcon, and yet you now focus more on gallery/fine art work. What caused you to look in this direction? How would you advise someone looking to move from illustration to gallery work?
I do what works. My career direction has developed somewhat organically since graduating from school. Rather than immediately trying to get illustration jobs with my mediocre school portfolio, I lived on the cheap, got a part time job at a frame shop to pay the bills and spent all the rest of my time producing new personal pieces for my portfolio. Yet, I was very slow and too precious with each new piece to take many risks. I still had a lot to learn and there were few places to do it before IMC, Illuxcon, and other such events existed. So, even with a decent work ethic, my portfolio grew slowly. A year or two after graduation I began attending a weekly life painting portrait group. This really loosened me up and gave me the room I needed to experiment with and hone my painting skills. My drawing skills also needed a lot of work, but while living on a budget it was hard to afford too many life painting/drawing groups per week, so instead I became a regular tea drinker at a local coffee shop and spent every other night drawing people drinking lattes and staring at their laptop screens.

 

I always intended to do more marketing of myself as an illustrator once my work got to a consistently publishable quality. Yet somehow it has always seemed more important (and more fulfilling) to just produce my next painting idea and make it better than the last. This strategy left me with a lot of personal work laying around but no income. For many years, I was consistently getting rejected from Spectrum, and all of the portraits I was painting were starting to stack up. So I began to look for other competitions to enter where some of my work might be seen. I started to participate in fine art competitions like the Oil Painters of America, Portrait Society of America, Oil and Acrylic Painter’s Society, the American Impressionist Society, and the Art Renewal Center. I was expecting the same rejection I faced with Spectrum so I was amazed to suddenly be getting accepted and receiving awards. I do illustration work when it comes along, but lately gallery work has been offering me more opportunities.

 

As far as advice goes, I think it’s just about finding the right fit. Get to know what each industry is looking for and try the one that fits best. If nothing fits, see if you can forge a new path. Things are changing all the time. But for anyone thinking that galleries will offer complete freedom of subject matter, it’s not necessarily the case. For one thing, figures are a difficult subject matter to sell and there are comparatively few galleries that carry figure paintings.1b Rob Rey_Reaching Europa_18x24

 

7. How do you navigate being a fine artist and an illustrator? Is there synergy between the two fields, do they work together or create dissonance?
My primary interest in art has always been in figures. I’ve never minded what context these figures exist in so long as I’m able to make them richly emotional and narrative, which I find to be crucial to my happiness with them. But left to my own devices, these contexts have always been somewhere between the high fantasy of most publishing work and the from-life, non-fiction recording typically found in traditionally focused fine art galleries and markets. I like myth, allegory, and a strange or unexpected twist brought to an old theme, but I was having trouble finding a way to market these ideas. For a while, I began to make two portfolios that catered to each end of my interests, high fantasy and non-fiction.  But I think things are beginning to change in the art world. Perhaps because of forces like Illuxcon and the imaginative category at the Art Renewal Center, perhaps there are larger cultural forces, but I think the mild fantasy that I like best is becoming more accepted in both of the areas where I was splitting my time and work before.

 

8. One of the challenges we face as artists is in keeping things fresh. We don’t want the market to get tired of us. Do you agree? If you do, then how do you find new ideas and how do you decide which ones to pursue?
One of my greatest obstacles/assets as an artist is that I’m not content to just make pretty pictures. Not because I’m afraid people would get tired of them, but because I want to be able to look back and feel like I did something that made a difference in some way, or at least that I tried to. There’s nothing wrong with pretty-pictures for their own sake. Most of the images that I love, as well as many of the paintings that I make, could fall into this category, but I’ve always had a strong desire to do good and make a positive impact on the world. So, to truly be happy with my body of work it has to be saying something, whether that something be educational, inspiring, or relevant to current events and topics. This pursuit has slowed me down a lot over the years. It takes me a long time to come up with concepts that I think have a good message, but I feel better about my work in the end and I hope this contributes to people’s interest in my art.

 

9. You pull a lot from myths and folklore into your work. Is there an end goal for you with this? What do you hope to accomplish?
I do take great interest in the myths that have captivated humanity throughout our history and that shape our behavior even today. I try to understand their origins and how the myths have evolved over time, shaped by what their proponents both did, and did not know during each passing age. While I find the mystery and poetry of mythology inspiring in a way that I suspect is inseparable from humanity, I think that the popular mythologies of today are outdated and doing us more harm than good. To this end, I want my work to pursue the question of “what is the mythology of today and the future?” Or in other words, “in what way do we as humans poetically relate to the universe that we find ourselves in?”

 

10. Do you have an alter ego? Tell us more, or make one up.
I spend a lot of my non-painting time trying to learn new things. I like learning about everything, but especially anything relevant to how to make a positive impact on the world. We are so lucky to have the internet available to us and I try to make full use of it. I read articles, watch lectures, TED talks, videos and documentaries. I try to keep up on the latest renewable energy technologies, efforts to alleviate poverty, studies on sociology and economics, particle physics, history and as I said before, humanity’s various mythical traditions. I’m certainly not an expert in any of these topics, but I like to stay informed to the best of my abilities, and when I can, pass on information that might cut through the everyday gridlock of black vs white.

 

11. You’ve described your primary hobby as learning. How does learning and researching play into how you create images?
Since I want my work to make some positive impact, staying informed on a range of topics is important to help me figure out what I want my paintings to say. Translating what I learn into pictures, particularly into interesting pictures that I want to make, is a difficult and slow task, but it feels important to me. I often feel incredibly limited in what I can do and the impact my paintings could ever have, but it would be worse to not try.

 

3 Rob Rey_We Are Made of Stars_24 x 3012. You have an incredible work ethic. There’s this romanticized idea of the fine artist/illustrator working around the clock year-round eschewing social contact and just creating creating creating. However, there’s plenty of research showing the important of breaks, even short ones to move around, go for a walk, see the sun. What’s a typical work day for you? What kinds of things do you do to rest the mind and brushes?
Well, my work ethic isn’t always stellar. I don’t want anyone to be comparing their insides to my outsides. It may make it sound like I’m working more when I’m trying to learn things in my spare time, since some people might consider that work, but it’s what I enjoy. The fact about trying to learn things on the internet is that there are plenty of distractions and I’m certainly not immune to the gravitational pull of cat videos. These distractions do provide some quick breaks, but I make an effort to take plenty of walks too. If I have time, I’ll spend an evening sketching at a coffee shop or an afternoon exploring a nearby park or preserve. Above all, seeing good friends on somewhat regular basis keeps me mentally prepared for what’s ahead.

 

13. You have firmly established yourself on Every Day Original, with both your content and ability to sell work. Can you tell us more about your process, when it comes to making a piece for everydayoriginal?
More about my process, um… Paint isn’t always opaque enough to cover in one pass, so I often lay down a few thin washes of acrylic on my board before I begin with oil to get the values closer to where they eventually need to be. Usually, anything but the thickest of strokes isn’t as opaque as one might assume, so it helps to have some kind of an imprimatura layer, even if it’s thin. As I said before, my process is fairly similar whether I’m working large or small. All that really changes is the brush size and how much information I have to work from (whether I already have a study done or not).

 

14. What are you looking forward to most in your career within the next year or so? anything we should look out for in the future?
I’m excited to continue fleshing out and adding to my astronomy series, which I feel is accomplishing some of my long term goals. But I’m also really enjoying the mermaid series, which is liberating because I’m allowing myself to make some of those just-pretty-pictures that I haven’t allowed myself to make in the past. I do have a large and exciting commission in the works for 2017 but I’m still in the idea stage for that one, so there’s not much I can reveal about it yet.

 

15. Any last thoughts?
Ever wonder who named the planets? …Never stop learning!

 

 

ORIGINALS FROM ROB

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Featured Artist: Kelly McKernan

artist interview Kelly Mckernan

Kelly McKernan is a fine artist and illustrator who creates paintings of ethereal and fantastical women. We are so excited to have her as a featured artist on Every Day Original.

Be sure to check out her website, follow on her facebook, or continue reading our interview where we discuss the business of art, education beyond art school, and navigating gallery art and illustration.

 

artist interview Kelly Mckernan


1. Could you tell us quick information about your background and how you came to be an artist?

I was one of those kids that always wanted to be an artist. Thankfully, my parents were really supportive of my creative tendencies and let me go to summer art camps, experiment with paints, markers, and even chalk pastels (which, if you have carpet at home, I don’t recommend giving to a child unsupervised).

Things got going in a more serious direction in high school. I had an excellent art teacher that really set a strong foundation and she ended up inspiring me to pursue a degree in art education to become an art teacher myself. I went to a college in my same state that offered the program, but after a year, I decided to switch to a studio art major. I enjoyed painting too much and felt that I could somehow figure out how to make a career out of it instead.

I graduated in 2009 and I spent the following three years balancing part-time jobs with my emerging gallery career. In mid-2012, I was able to go full time after moving from Atlanta, Georgia to Nashville, Tennessee.

 

2. You also took a course at SmArt School, but you already had a huge following online and a successful gallery career. Why go back to school, and why online? We know “learning is its own reward,” but there is always another piece. What let you know it was time to get back in the student chair?

So, here’s the thing: while in my final year of art school, it became apparent that illustration was an actual, viable career option. It sounds silly, but I really had no clue. I was in a very insular, traditional program. I only became aware of contemporary artists with an “illustrative” style, such as James Jean, by doing my own research online. I picked up his Fables Covers book that year, brought it to my favorite professor, and he scoffed at the style. I came to find out that many of those I looked up to treated the word “illustration” or even “illustrative” to describe a style, like something dirty and beneath whatever higher form of expression they were there to teach (I sound so bitter, don’t I?). At the time, I had already veered off into my own developing style and pretty much spent my final year creating work for gallery commitments rather than assignments. I was really stubborn and wanted to prove that I could make a living with my developing “illustrative” style at the time.

When I took my career full-time in 2012, I felt that I had developed a formula for my work, had a recognizable style, and that my work was gaining traction in the gallery circuit. All the while, though, I had this nagging feeling that I needed to expand into illustration, but I had absolutely no idea how to accomplish that. Illustration has a language of its own, and it felt completely foreign to me. This was really frustrating since I’m typically a resourceful person and feel capable of self-teaching. But I just couldn’t grasp the concept to bringing my style over to the side of illustration.

For a while, I had played with the idea of returning to school for an MFA in Illustration. A couple of professors at SCAD Atlanta had encouraged me to do so, but I just couldn’t get past the amount of debt I’d be committing to. At some point, SmArt School popped up in my Facebook feed and it seemed like the perfect answer. I actually had just the right amount of money for the full mentorship leftover from an educational trust fund set up by my grandparents. So, I signed up for the Fall 2013 semester.

I chose Dan Dos Santos for a few reasons – his style was very different from mine, he works traditionally, I was interested in book covers, and his subject matter isn’t far off from what I was interested in exploring. What I really needed, most of all, was to be walked through how to take my current style and gallery art-tendencies and appropriately apply it to the realm of sci-fi and fantasy illustration.

As far as returning to the “student chair,” it was all about having an open mind. For three years, I had been making my personal goals as an artist and, as I said, I had found a formula. That’s relieving, but also a little unnerving – is having a formula really a good thing? My work was getting stagnant and I stopped really challenging myself. And when I did want to challenge myself, I didn’t know how to. So, stepping back into the place of a student had me put aside any pride from success that I felt as a gallery artist. By doing that, I learned more in a few months than I felt I had in years spent in college. That one SmArt school class really changed everything for me and I feel that even my gallery work is so much better for it.

 


kelly mckernan art3. You are making a transition now from gallery work to illustration. Is it correct to call it a transition or are you simply expanding? Tell us why the move and/or expansion?

I’m not sure that I’m transitioning entirely, but I’m definitely expanding. I think I’m in a unique position right now, actually. I enjoy working with galleries. I’m participating in a lot of fun themed shows and have had a couple of solo exhibitions, with a couple more around the corner. As a gallery artist, your goal is a solo show with a prestigious gallery and representation. However, you’re also sharing a large commission (usually 50%), and sometimes your work might not sell at all. You can be a total slave to the gallery system if you really want to. A lot of fine artists are okay with that. They don’t know how to market their work, or just don’t want to, and they let the gallery earn their commission for doing that part. However, I really enjoy marketing my work. Social media is a powerful tool when you learn to use it properly.

So, my unique position? I could probably quit being a gallery artist and sell my original paintings myself and make more money than I do by working with galleries. Private commissions usually pay a lot more as well. This is almost entirely due to social media. I have enough of a following right now that I’m able to directly reach a mass of people that enjoy my work, and a few in there are keen on supporting it financially. This is actually my long term plan regarding gallery work. I’m turning down more shows and only accepting the ones I’m really interested in being a part of. There are a few galleries I truly love working with, and I’m going to maintain those relationships as long as they’ll have me, but I’m otherwise going to slow down.

In the meantime, I’m going to focus more on illustration work. I’m really an illustration baby… I haven’t yet had a real illustration job with an art director. I’ve only just gotten to know a bit of the sci-fi and fantasy illustration community and attended SFAL 4 (my first convention!).

 

4. What do you see for the future of your work as an illustrator and fine artist? In your wildest dream, what big project are you pursuing?

Ideally, I want to see it split up like this: 25% gallery work/personal work, 25% private commissions, and 50% illustration. I think that the variety will keep me on my toes and

As far as a dream project, that’s so hard to say! I think I’d be pretty thrilled to get to do illustrations for my favorite fairy tales.

 

5. Let’s talk about family, you have one, it is growing! You have said that motherhood changes how you work and manage your time/career. I can relate, now with 2 small ones at home efficiency is the word of every. single. day. That said, has motherhood affected the content or narratives of your illustrations and paintings? If you’ve noticed changes would you attribute it to motherhood, or just a maturing and evolution of your work?

Oh my gosh, efficiency is definitely key! As far as it effecting content or narrative, I don’t really think so. I’m still interested in the same things, but there have been definite changes otherwise! I would say it comes directly from my time management, now that I have less time than ever to create. I’m taking more time on prepping a piece, gathering reference, doing studies, and making sure I’m going into a new piece at least 75% sure of how it’ll look when it’s completed. Previously, I was pretty lazy about this and realized that my work suffered because that. Since every minute I have available to work really has to count, I don’t want it wasted on a piece that I’m not happy with, or have at least learned from.

So, consequently, I feel like my work has matured a lot in the last year since becoming a mother and learning to work around my daughter’s ever-changing schedule and demands.

 

6. Is there more to you than work and family? Are you a political science hobbyist, backyard rocket engineer, undiscovered world-reknowned pastry chef?

Ha! Well, my napping skills rival that of my daughter’s. Beyond that, I really enjoy playing table top games with my husband (and family and friends whenever we find the time). Some of my favorites are Munchkin, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, and I’m really enjoying a couple new ones we just picked up, which are Coup and Five Tribes. Lately, I’ve been trying to allow myself to do something that’s entirely for me, since as a work-from-home freelancer and mom, it’s easy to feel guilty if I’m not using ALL of my free time to work. So, I’ve picked up a few games from Steam and I just finished playing Transistor, which was GORGEOUS. I’m definitely planning some fan art. I’ve got Child of Light to tackle next.

 

7. Back to art: Could you walk us the through the process of a piece? What steps do you take visually and what steps do you take conceptually/narratively?

It totally depends on the project – whether it’s for a themed gallery show, a personal piece, or a privately commissioned painting.

If the piece is conceptually or narratively driven, I begin with a lot of notes and a breakdown of symbolism and visual cues to create. From there, I work out a few small thumbnails to work out a basic composition with the subject matter in mind. If I need very specific reference, I’ll hire a model, or I’ll search for similar stock photos (deviantart.com is an excellent resource for this) and “frankenstein” what I need.

If the piece is more personal, and I don’t have a clear idea to begin with, it usually starts with the reference. I hire a model for my fine art work once or twice a year and take several hundred photos of various poses. I’ll return to those folders to find something that strikes my interest and that usually inspires the rest of the piece. The way the model’s arms are folded or the angle of her neck might tell me the beginnings of a story, and I move from there, building small, rough sketches to work out ideas, which I then narrow down into a composition.

Both processes then meet at the same place – I print out my reference images, sketch over the final surface, and then pick up whatever media I’m planning to do the piece in.

 

kelly mckernan art 8. Rather than ask how you price your work, we would love to know how you budget your money and time. Do you have a goal salary and work to make enough work to fill that number? How do you approach the business of being an artist?

I am terrible with money, so I leave the money management to my husband. Because he’s also a freelancer, how we set our financial goals every month are pretty much the same. We know the minimum that we need to meet to pay the mortgage and the bills, buy groceries, etc. I make about 2/5ths of our combined income, so I have a minimum goal to make every month. Most months, I reach that goal without having to stress too much about it. The majority of my income is through print sales in my online shop. I also know when to expect payment from the sale of a painting through a gallery or EDO, so I factor that in if sales are slow in my shop.

I also keep a close eye on my income and expenses with bookkeeping software from Godaddy, which I pay $10 a month for. I make sure all of my business-related expenses are done through Paypal, but I also am paid through Stripe (via Storenvy, which my shop is through), so I have both accounts kept up with through the software and income and expenses are both automatically kept track of. Any expenses are also made through Paypal, and any in-person purchases are made with the Paypal debit card to keep things simple. If I’m paid via a check for the sale of a piece through a gallery, I just make sure to enter that manually and save the stub in a folder of physical receipts. All of this makes tax time a million times easier.

As far as the business of being an artist, I feel like that comes very naturally to me. Ever since I was a kid, I was trying to find ways to monetize my interests and skills. I sold drawings on index cards and handmade bookmarks at our summer garage sales, made jewelry in middle school and sold them on the bus, and I even bought packs of candy at Costco to sell to my friends at school for a profit, haha. So, finding ways to do what I love for a living is a really fun challenge and I’m always looking for ways to do this better in order to maintain my dream career.

 

9. Where and how do you sell your work? How did this come together for you? Is it together?

The majority of my original artwork is created for and sold in various galleries. If it hasn’t sold through them by a certain amount of time, it’s returned to me and I list it in my online shop. I sell prints of most of my work in my online shop too, though as a general rule, I don’t make a print of an original piece until it has sold.

I began selling my work online in early 2008 when I started getting print requests of new work I was creating while in college. It felt odd to be doing that while still in school, but I found that the majority of people that enjoyed what I was creating didn’t have the expendable income for original pieces, so prints were, and still are, a great alternative. Doing this required me to work out some marketing skills and find ways to advertise that I had prints available. Things started out pretty slow, but once I had a hit piece in 2009 that garnered a lot of attention, I figured out that I could offer limited edition prints and raise the prices. People really seem to react to a print being limited, so those sell pretty well.

Things have picked up a lot in the last year and I’m fulfilling print orders a few times a week. I try to be really nice to my mail lady, since she has to come pick up a bunch of shipping tubes from my front porch often.

I’m always trying to learn and improve upon how I handle my shop. One of the hardest things to gauge is interest in a piece becoming a limited edition print and whether it’ll actually sell, because once I commit to offering it, that number of prints needs to sell. Working out shipping issues is tough too, but after a bit of trial and error, I have that pretty streamlined. Pretty soon, I’m doing a complete overhaul of my online shop and taking print production entirely into my own hands in order to have a greater profit margin since it’s a big part of my income.

 

10. In your portfolio you have a lot of original art, and you also have work that references well known myths, fairytales, as well as IP-based art (some call it “fan art”). Why work with other people’s ideas? Do you think that diminishes the value of the work? Why or why not?

That’s a really good question. Fan art and my original art feel very different to me, but all fan art (and art based on existing stories) have an origin before they go into the filter of how I want to visually interpret my experiences with them. Some of the story and character derived work that I’ve done has happened because I’m really passionate about it and want to get it out of my system. It’s fun and, frankly, sometimes easier and less pressure and therefore a break from some of my heavier, conceptual fine art work. As far as whether it diminishes the value of the work, I’m not really sure. I always feel a little odd selling any of that work, but when I know it’s going to someone that loves the character or story the piece is based on, I feel okay about it, because then it’s a shared experience, and I know they wouldn’t spend money on my interpretation unless they appreciated it too.

Most of the fan art paintings I’ve done have been for themed gallery shows with one of my favorite galleries, Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles. They’re known as the first pop culture themed art gallery, and it’s been a dream working with them and getting some fantastic opportunities (and excuses!) to create work for their shows.

 

11. You mentioned having synesthesia and being legally blind. If you do indeed paint with treble and bass, how can you see what you sound like? Kidding aside, tell us more about this and how you move past it to create your work.

Ha! I’ve never thought of them that way! Well, being legally blind is definitely a hindrance because I have to wear RGP contact lenses (a slightly more comfortable version of hard lenses), and my vision is 20/30 at best, even while wearing them. My eyes dry out very quickly and my vision is often very blurry by the end of the day from wearing these contacts, so working at night is difficult.

As far as the synesthesia, the strongest form I have of it is music – color, and it’s lead me to wonder whether what I’m listening to while painting or constructing a piece influences my color palette at all. I’m really unsure, because I’ve learned to tune it out for the most part, but I do believe that it gave me a strong sense of color use growing up and definitely influenced my direction as an artist.

 

kelly mckernan art12. Your work focuses heavily on the female figure, often inside a narrow set of archetypes (visually and narratively). Is this a conscious decision to represent this specific type of woman, or do you just naturally favor this imagery in your paintings/illustrations? Is there a narrative you have about how you portray women?

It’s never been a very conscious decision until recent years as I learned more about myself as a person. In my earlier years of developing my style, especially between 2009-2011, every piece felt like an exploration of my character flaws. I was heavily idealistic and learning from experience the dangers and disappointments that result from that. I was aware that every piece then was a bit of a self-portrait. From 2011-2013, I began to feel more confident, grounded, and steady. My idealistic nature had been purged. That began to reflect itself in my work, I think. I tried to explore that with my solo show work in 2013, titled “Cognitive Dissonance.” Since then, as my interests are favoring illustration, my personal work is less about discovering and reflecting upon my own nature and more about the experienced female, maybe. I’m not entirely sure. A lot of these things I don’t really understand until some time has passed. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a whole lot of opportunities to explore that with my personal work lately. However, I still default to my preference for painting women because that’s who I am, and what I understand. I hope that makes sense – it’s not something I’ve ever been able to put into words succinctly.

 

13. As an artist who has a foundation with traditional materials, and creates mostly traditional original pieces–what is your relationship to digital artwork? Is there a pressure to learn those tools, or is it not on your radar as an artist working in galleries?

For a while, there was definitely some pressure to be a functioning digital artist. I gave it a good shot in early 2013, but I just became overly frustrated that I couldn’t execute the same movements on a computer screen as I could on paper. I know it’s just another medium, but the barrier of the screen has been really hard to reconcile for me. So, now it’s just a tool for touching up scanned work, working with my reference photos, and occasionally working out a color palette.

 

14. If there was one message you wanted your audience/the viewer to get when they see and experience your work what would it be?

Hmm. That’s not something I think too hard about, because I don’t want to limit the viewer’s interpretation of my work, and I don’t want to tell them how they should feel when they see it. I only like to give a few clues via symbolism and the titles of my work (which I spend a lot of time carefully choosing). This has been really satisfying when I’ve receive really personal and heartfelt emails from people that tell me that a piece of mine affected them strongly in one way or another. One that really stands out is a response to a piece of mine called “Entropy” that someone felt really touched by because she was in remission from cancer, and her interpretation of the piece was comforting and personal to her. That’s really special to me, the relationship a viewer can have to something I create, when my own intentions and interpretation of the work totally doesn’t matter in the end. I was there for the journey, but once it’s complete, it’s out of my hands.

 

15. What are you most excited for, for the rest of 2015? What lessons have you learned from the first half of the year and what new practices are you taking on?

This has been an absolutely incredible year thus far! The first half has been all about learning to manage my time better and expanding my interest in illustration into making it an actual, feasible goal. The rest of the year is SO exciting, and I actually can’t share some of the best of it, but a few hints: a mini solo show, a crowdfunding campaign for IMC 2016, and creating official artwork for my favorite movie series of all time. (I’ve probably said too much, actually. Shh.)

 

 

 

ORIGINALS FROM KELLY

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Featured Artist: Wylie Beckert

artist interview wylie beckert

Wylie Beckert is a relatively new face on the genre art scene, and yet has made a very special mark in a short time. Wylie has refined a look that is unmistakably hers, and is one of the most prolific artists on the Every Day Original team.

 

You can find her on facebook, get lost in her portfolio site, or keep reading for some insight into what makes her tick, why she lives in Maine, and why night after night you can find her at the easel.

artist interview wylie beckert
1. So wait, you’re new to making original art pieces? When did you start creating fully traditional work? What got you to go full-in on original pieces?

I’d certainly handled traditional media before I got into digital work – but on a pretty basic level (think badly-drawn ballpoint manga colored with markers, not epic oil paintings). I’ve always been more of a draftsman than a painter, so adding what was essentially digital comic book coloring to my pencil drawings felt more natural than picking up a paintbrush. I think late 2013 is when I first dug out some unused oils from college and started trying to learn to paint; it probably took five or six months to get the hang of the basics – I had to do a ton of experimentation with different media and techniques before I started to get a similar look to my digital work.

 

2. How does your digital training inform your traditional work? Was it like starting over or did some lessons transfer? What did you have to learn?

There was a huge amount of carryover from digital to traditional – in fact, I started having better luck with painting as soon as I ditched my early attempts at direct painting, and instead tried to replicate my digital process in traditional media.

I already had a pretty good idea of how to go from a pencil drawing to a finished piece – the hard part was figuring out what combination of materials could stand in for the dozens of Multiply, Color, and Screen layers I was used to using in Photoshop, and then trying to sort out what order everything needed to happen in to get the same end result.

I’m still tinkering with the process – while I finally feel like my traditional work has caught up to my digital work, I know there’s a certain amount of redundancy at each stage, and I’m always looking for ways to give the underdrawing (my favorite stage) a bigger role in the finished piece.

 

3. You say you really kicked things off about four years ago, and you’re already moving focus from commercial to personal work. Tell us more about that. Will you keep doing commercial work? Will your personal work help pay the bills? How?

I’ve been consistently frustrated in the search for the right kind of commercial work – I seem to have a kind of an oddball style that doesn’t fit in much of anywhere (too whimsical for a lot of adult brands, too many skulls for the average bedtime story) and as a result I usually find myself having to tone down one aspect of my work or the other.

At this (early!) point in my career, devoting some time to my personal work is a chance to clarify the direction I want to take with my art, and boil my portfolio down to better represent the aesthetic I’m really passionate about. I’m hoping to come out the other side a better artist, and I’m optimistic that the new direction will resonate with art directors as well.

So, commercial work is still very much on the table for me (art directors, you still know where to find me!) – I’m just giving myself permission to be more selective about which jobs I take in the short term, in order to (hopefully) reap the eventual rewards of channelling some of my working hours towards my own projects.

 

4. I spent summers in Maine as a kid. In fact I saw Return of the Jedi three times in the theatre when I’m pretty sure my mother just ran out of things to do. Which is to ask, why settle in Maine? Does your location influence your art? Are you settled there or do you think there’s another move on your horizon? What would inspire a relocation?

I think your impressions of Maine are accurate! I followed a boy here, never thinking I’d be staying more than a year or two, only to realize that (like the formless antagonist of a Stephen King novel) Maine is a sentient evil that DOESN’T WANT ME TO LEAVE.

While I don’t think the locale has had a major influence on the content of my images (it’s not as scenic here as people think it is), six years of living in relative isolation definitely gave me plenty of reason to buckle down and focus on my art. It’s hard to imagine I would have made the same strides with my work if I’d been living in a metropolitan area surrounded by… people? Are those the things you have out there in the real world?

At any rate, I can finally say with 100% certainty that I’ve spent my last winter in Maine. I’ve got my eye on Seattle – the idea of a climate where “cloudy” is the most common complaint sounds like an impossible utopia, and the Washington forests and coastlines are some of the most gorgeous landscapes I’ve ever seen.

 

5. You have to have more living space in Maine than we do in NYC. Do you collect art? What kind, why?

I’m a pretty staunch minimalist (with an impending cross-country move hanging over my head), so there isn’t much room for decorative/luxury items in my life at the moment. Even my own art is generally taped up in boxes in the closet, safe from coffee spills, waiting for the next convention. I’m always happy when I sell a piece because it means that it will finally get to see the light and bring someone some enjoyment.

 

6. Like many of our artists, you have a really solid online following. Take your instagram, you average about 15% like engagement based on your following, where top brands average about 4.3%. In his article 1000 True Fans Kevin Kelly defines a True Fan as “someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce.” Numbers aside, do you have True Fans? How do you engage with these people and keep them engaged with you? How do you know what they want, and do you tailor your shares to them?

I like to think some of my fans are True Fans! I haven’t tested the theory on a large scale yet (at the moment there isn’t a ton of Wylie Beckert merchandise on the market) but I’ve got a few loyal followers who’ve consistently picked up the few prints and originals I’ve had on offer, and sent messages of encouragement when I start a new project.

As to whether I tailor my posts to my fans – I think it’s actually the other way around. I post a ton of works-in-progress, process posts, and tutorials, and as a result a huge percentage of my fanbase seems to be made up of artists, both aspiring and professional. I always feel a little guilty for not engaging more – I’ll read a nice comment someone’s left on my work, spend five minutes trying to draft a suitably clever and thoughtful reply, then give up and go paint. My hope is that my fans are aware that my social media negligence is almost always the result of working hard to produce more art for them to look at!

 

7. Why do people collect your work?

I’d say the two things that draw people to my work are the sense of movement – flowing, decorative shapes and elegant lines – and the emphasis on character and storytelling that I bring to my work.

I also believe that a lot of the value in my originals at this stage in my career is their uniqueness – because I’m so new to traditional media, and my process is changing so rapidly, each new piece represents its own separate moment in time – completely different from past and future work even when there’s an overlap in content or style. While I’m working towards a slightly more settled technical process, I’m hoping there will always be this element of growth and change in my work.

 

8. Do you have other passions other than art? I know some other Mainiacs/illustrators like Sam Guay who keeps her own bees. What has the power to drag you away from the easel?

My favorite non-art-related hobby at the moment is “reading” – which is what I generously call listening to audiobooks while I paint. My other hobby, which I developed specifically to drag myself away from the easel, is sitting in a stupor with earbuds in and a blindfold on (so I can’t peek at whatever painting I’m working on), listening to music. On the rare occasions that Maine weather allows, I also enjoy running (music/audiobooks optional). I told you I was boring.

 

9. You have a very unique style and vision in your art, and yet I’m guessing your sources of inspiration come from many of the same places as all of us: TV, movies, books. How do you translate the same sources of inspiration into your own narratives? Can you walk us through, from a specific source of inspiration to a finished piece?

I’ll use a recent example: the King of Spades from my ongoing series of playing card illustrations, Wicked Kingdom. My main source of inspiration here was the classic playing card art we’re almost all familiar with. My first decision was what part of the source material I wanted to draw from and build on; I chose to focus on the reversible composition (two faces for the same character) and create a character with dual identities – opposing each other (in a good/evil sort of way) but thematically interrelated.

With that idea in mind, I drew inspiration for the character from the Spade symbol – it made me think that the characters in this suit would have to be botanists, gardeners, or otherwise involved with plants. Asking further questions on this concept (why would a king stoop to being a gardener?) informed other aspects of the character (the King of Spades has let his kingdom fall by the wayside, and has turned instead to caring for his garden). By looking for parallels and contrasts (what other occupations could involve working in the dirt? What might be the opposite of bringing life out of the ground?) I hit on the idea for the other half of the character’s dual identity: a gravedigger. Doing some general brainstorming brought up some possible elements to include in my painting (types of plants, themes to consider).

This ideation process helps me narrow down the essentials I wanted to include in my image to get the message across (two opposing versions of the same character; cabbages, skulls, tombstones, and shovels.) I try to visualize the layout before putting pencil to paper; an extremely rough, not-even-stick-figure thumbnail lets me double check that everything will fit properly into a rectangular page; if everything seems to be in order, I move on to a slightly larger thumbnail on toned paper (around 3×5″) to establish a value structure – always designing the most important elements (in this case, faces, skull, and seed) to be the areas of strongest contrast.

From there, all that remains is the comparatively simple final drawing and painting! As you can probably tell, this line of thinking can lead interesting places even with a very straightforward source of inspiration. The potential directions you can take with more complex inspirations (an entire book, for example) are pretty much infinite.

 

10. Now, I’m completely biased as I teach and run classes for SmartSchool, but tell us about how and why you chose to enroll in an art course when your art is and was already at such a refined point. Why go to something like the IMC (Illustration Master Class)?

There have been various points where I was okay with my art, but then got a slight push and realized how much better it could be. It’s hard to define exactly why, but SmArt School was one such push, and so was IMC. I think once you’ve reached a level that represents your self-directed “best”, it can be hard to know where to go from there (or even to realize that there’s an “anywhere” you should be going)- it gets trickier to spot the areas where you need improvement. Outside instruction has definitely helped me get through that.

At Illuxcon last year, an artist I really admire was looking at two of my pieces side-by-side (my painting from IMC, and the one I completed immediately afterwards) he pointed to the latter and asked “Why is that one better?” (not a rhetorical question). I can’t really point to any one moment of instruction that caused that shift in my own standards and capabilities, but it definitely happened.

 

11. If you’re already working, what do programs like this do for you? Is it all professional or is there a personal/social element?

I’d say the two are pretty closely related. I think interacting with other artists has had a significant impact on me professionally – not by the expected route of “networking equals more jobs”, but rather because there’s a lot to be gained by seeing new art, talking shop, and finding out about other people’s experiences and methods(and stealing them for one’s own betterment). And better art DEFINITELY equals more jobs. Not to mention how much fun artists are if you put a large group of them in a small room!

 

12. You’ve been doing a bunch of conventions in the last year or two. How do you choose which to go to? How do you decide what to bring? Do these pay off? How? Do they make you money, get you jobs? How do you quantify whether a convention is “worth it?”

This year, I’m attending Spectrum Live and Illuxcon – I chose these two because although they’re fairly small conventions, there’s a great social atmosphere and everyone there is crazy about illustration – people are there for the art rather than for cosplay and celebrities (well, except for the art celebrities, I guess).

I try to keep it simple and bring a selection of my best/most recent work – a few originals and a portfolio – along with all the heavy machinery required to display it all. Because these are such small conventions, I don’t generally attend/exhibit with the expectation of tons of sales (I haven’t even decided whether or not I’ll be bringing any prints with me this time around). Instead, I look at it as self-promotion (cultivating some of those True Fans you mentioned) and a fun social gathering (whose expense I justify with “networking!”).

Financially, I consider the convention to have been worthwhile it if I break even with the expense of attending (either through sales of original work or commissions secured). Outside of my web presence & social media, these conventions are my main marketing effort, so I’m expecting to invest some money in them from the outset, and am okay with taking a bit of a hit to attend.

 

13. I’m reviewing the portfolio review sign ups for Spectrum Live and I see you signed up. First, congrats for making it in, we had to shut it down after 90 seconds. We were flooded. Second, you’re fairly well-established now and have a look people can count on. What do you hope to get out of a review from the ADs at conventions?

At this point in my career, I’m putting my work out there less for critique and more to reiterate my interest in working with these art directors; while I feel like I’m pretty well-known in the fantasy art community, very little of my work actually comes from within it. I’m still looking for that first commission from WOTC, Tor, Orbit. I want in! It’s been a year since I last cornered anyone for a portfolio review (for reference purposes, this was before I had any traditional media work to show) so the direction of my work has changed quite a bit; I’m hoping it’s more to the tastes of the brands these ADs represent, or if not, that they might be able to put in a good word for me with the rest of the art director’s cabal.

 

14. Artists throughout history have overcome what seem like career-ending obstacles, and some have turned these into assets. Beethoven was deaf in his later years, Monet had vision issues, Van Gogh is rumored to have been color blind, the famous singer Andrea Bocelli is blind. You have a mild case of Prosopagnosia (face blindness), and don’t always recognize people right away. Still, you illustrate your figures with facial expressions in an enviable range of emotions, ages, genders, and colors. Does Prosopagnosia affect your work in any way? Do you consciously work with or against it?

I think I first realized that faces were an issue for me because of my art – it took me a really, really long time to grasp drawing faces. By comparison hands – which should be harder, they have more parts! – come pretty easily.

I think most of the reason I draw reasonable faces now (in addition to the tons and tons of practice I made myself do) is because I spend a HUGE amount of time on them. I’ve improved to the point that now I can get the faces in my art right – the first time – about half the time. The other half of the time, it can take 8 hours of reworking to get something that looks more or less human, and even more time to make it anything like the appropriate gender, age, etc. If they need to actually be “pretty”… add more hours. When I start an illustration, I always draw the faces first, because I know there’s a chance I’ll destroy the paper by over-erasing and have to start over from scratch. It’s a pain, but I think it’s worth the effort – faces are such an important part of most images that doing them right isn’t really negotiable.

 

15. In an email exchange with me, you said you’re boring. Because you work a lot? As a parent and a freelancer I understand the kind of passion that keeps you out of the social scene and into things like art and family. Still, there are theories about the importance of getting away of work and home life, and how that will make you a stronger person and improve your work. My friends who do life coaching encourage the improvement of self and work in service of the relationships we have to others. How do you respond to the idea that in order to live a complete life we necessarily must relate to others, in person? How do you do this in your own life?

I’d generally agree with that; the need for social structure is hardwired in most people, and while I’m sure there are a few rare exceptions I wouldn’t say I’m one of them. I’m looking forward to having a well-rounded life someday!

I think my current location has a lot to do with how intent I am on my work – working from home in an area that gets six months of winter, it’s surprisingly easy to become a complete shut-in. On the whole, though, I don’t regret focusing on my art for the past few years. Living somewhere you don’t love is draining, and I think allowing myself to narrow my focus to my art – which has dual importance in my life as both career and passion – has been the right move. The skills you acquire in becoming a good artist (patience, resilience, grocery shopping on a budget) carry over to all the other areas of your life, and I think they conspire to make you a better person.

 

16. Any final thoughts?

Just to keep an eye out for more art! Everyone on EDO is steadily upping their game; I know I can’t wait to see what’s coming out next, and I’m hoping I’ll get to continue contributing in some small way!

 

 

 

ORIGINALS FROM WYLIE

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Featured Artist: Steven Russell Black

Artist Interview Steven Russell Black

This month we caught up with pencil-pusher extraordinaire Steven Russell Black. Steven has a large and committed and organic following online and manages to create work for his fans in every spare moment. He is also one of our top sellers here at Every Day Original. We wanted to know how he managed to build his fan base, how he produces so regularly, and how he turns his fans into collectors.

Follow his instagram to see his daily process posts, and if you like what you see you can probably find it on his Etsy shop.

 

Artist Interview Steven Russell Black

 

 

1. I’ve been a fan of your work for a while now, ever since I found you on instagram. Where do you find the most traction for your work, online or off? How do you most effectively boost your signal?

Online for sure. Instagram is my is my personal favorite, but its more difficult to drive traffic to a purchase as you can’t post links there.

 

 

2. You have a pretty committed following online and sell well both on EDO and eBay. That must feel really good! Do you have a strategy when you post online? How do you convert followers to buyers?

I’m thankful and humbled to have the support of a such a big following for sure.
My posting strategy is process process process, and the 3 busiest social media times of the day to post. Morning, noon, and night. In the case of a drawing I work pretty fast so I’ll post the start in the morning. Maybe just a head or start to a figure. Which is pretty science fact based, then at noonish I post the drawing almost finished revealing its fiction aspect, completing the science fiction and horror I like to inject into the work .Then at 5 or later I’ll post the final and a link to where it’s available for purchase.

 

 

3. With all of that said, I know a lot of people have this idea that artists sit at home in their underwear and work whenever they feel like it. Myth or reality?

Myth. I work whenever I have the time. When I’m drawing I can work anywhere. I draw on the bus, in line at the DMV, anytime I’m waiting for anything. I carry pencils, paper, and a sharpener everywhere I go. If I’m at home I draw on the couch while listening to movies. I don’t own a drawing board. I draw on a piece of foam core. It’s super light and I can carry it from room to room or out and about.

 

 

4. Does art pay your bills? If not, what does and how do you manage that with all the art you produce every day?

It pays most. I have a 40 hour a week day job at a printer, which is why I’m always looking to squeeze in a bit of drawing time wherever and whenever I can. The art is right at the edge of paying everything. Right now I’m just nervous to take the leap without a safety net.

 

 

5. Did you study art, where?

I had a high school art teacher who was incredible and giving to me. He let me do live figure model drawing as a freshman, and we went on several art trips to Chicago, NYC, and Washington D. C. I had a ton of material knowledge before going to college. I then went to The Columbus College of Art & Design in Ohio where I studied with C.F. Payne and John Jude Palencar. I’ve been lucky to have amazing instructors.

 

 

6. You mentioned to me that you used to be socially awkward. Do you think that cost you any opportunities? What has changed?

Yeah it definitely does before the days of social media and to a lesser degree now. There are two jobs of the artist, do good work and get that work seen. And if you aren’t comfortable networking and being social, the people who are will get called first, because often people refer their friends for work, or shows, or introductions to the right people happen just while being out in the community.

 

7. You seem to be well connected in the fantasy art world. Do you attend conventions? Which ones? How do you choose where to be and when?

I’ve never attended conventions. That is changing this year as Patrick and Jeannie Wilshire offered me a table at Illuxcon. Really honored and excited to do more shows.

 

 

8. Do you have any other loves other than art? Tell us about that.

I love biking and I’m lucky I live in such a great place to bike as Marin. So any time not making art is spent on the bike or taking tons of photos wherever I go as possible reference material. Everything I do feeds the art obsession though really. It consumes most of my thoughts in the day. It would be nice to have a real separate hobby. Not enough time in the day.

 

 

9. In our conversations you have said that your work is about “beautiful decay” and that “If I can get you to feel what I feel for the subject I’m not alone.” Do you feel alone? How so? Do you think your intended emotion reaches your buyers and affects them in any way?

I am alone most of the time. Art is a solitary pursuit and you are just alone for hours on end working on things.I think my intended emotions connect with the viewer for sure. Not always. But its always the goal to get a rise out of the viewer to lead them to where you want them to think or go or feel. You know while your making the piece though, you’ll be half way in and you can feel it swell and its pure joy all the way through to the finish on a good one that’s working. Then usually those seem to be the pieces the audience reacts to the most.

 

 

10. Tell us about your favorite pieces of art that you own and how you found them.

I have two Palencar pieces John gave me for helping him move and I traded drawings with Troy Nixey whom I love his work. He’s the reason I’m obsessed with fish and octopi and ocean life in general. He started following me on Facebook and asked if we could trade and I was honored and more excited than I tried to let on. I don’t think he knows how much of an impact his comics had on me. Unless he reads this.

 

 

11. Do you collect art? How do you decide what is “worth” buying?
The only art I own is art I’ve been given or traded pieces an artist I like. But what makes art worth buying for me would be a connection to the subject matter or the artist, and then the highest attention to craftsmanship and the art object itself being a thing of beauty. I think the way most of us live in smaller spaces. Its more fun to collect a larger number of smaller pieces rather than one or two really large pieces.

 

 

12. In many ways, collectors are investors. They are not just purchasing art they like but they are literally helping fund an artist’s career. At an art show recently I overheard someone say “I really love the piece, but I don’t know anything about the artist.” What do you feel about this? What would you want a collector to know about you to make them feel like they’re investing well?

My main interest in collecting a given artists work would first be a connection to the piece and wanting to know more about the body of work and their goals and aims and to know that the dialogue will continue, do they plan on making work for a long time to come. I am in this for the long haul, it’s all I ever wanted to do. I’m completely in love with making images and I’m always looking for ways to be better, to make a better product and to entertain my audience along the way.

 

 

13. We’ve talked a lot about making a living as an artist. Does the financial aspect of selling art affect your work? How?
Sure, it defines the playing field you are able to work in to some extent. If giant pieces aren’t selling you make smaller work. And you make work that is appealing at market, but I use that to define the playing field, never the content. I’ll also work larger or smaller or float between different media to fit a market. That feels like staying true to the vision.

 

 

14. If you could be besties with any artist living or dead who would it be and why?

I’ve been really lucky to get to meet some of my heroes and spend time with them. Mike Mignola and I got to meet finally at a show here in the bay area. I love that guy. So that would be the living.

As for the dead, We’re just dreaming so I’ll shoot big. I’d love to have known and partied with J.C. Leyendecker and Charles Beach. I’d love to have a drink and then fight with Jackson Pollock. Afterwards take Lee Krasner away from him to run my studio. Make collaborative pieces with H.R.Giger and Moebius. Hold Picaso while Dali punches him in the face and we both luagh and laugh. I’d love to adore women with Klimt while Egon Schiele looks on from the corner of the room and we tell him he sucks. I’d love to steal Frida from Diego. Told you I was dreaming big. I’d treat her right. And I would adore spending any amount of time with Durer.

 

15. Any final thoughts?
Thank you so much Marc and Lauren for creating EDO and giving my work a really great place to live online.

If you love an artists work, take a minute to tell them so and support them in whatever way you can. Buy a print or piece. Start with all the amazing work on everydayoriginal.com It really is the perfect place to start a collection and begin a dialogue with an artist you love.

 

ORIGINALS FROM STEVEN

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Featured Artist: Kristina Carroll

Kristina Carroll

For our first artist interview we reached out to Kristina Carroll to find out what makes her tick, how she made the leap from acting to art, and her main form of winter exercise.

 

Kristina Carroll

 

 

1. What are you working on these days? Paint us a picture 😉

I’m planning out my next several months right now. Spectrum Live is just around the corner so I want to try to have something new for the show. I also just signed on to illustrate interiors for a book project which I am very excited about because I’ve been eager to do black and white interiors for a while now. I am going to start working on a book collecting the best art from first few years of the Month of Love and Month of Fear challenges. I’m already thinking about the next Month of Fear challenge and how I can up the game even more on that. On the teaching end, I am looking forward to working with Gamblin oil paints soon, doing presentations and workshops around New England. (I get to fly out to Portland in June to visit them and learn more about how they make their products) I’ve been doing something similar for Strathmore for a year and it has been great. I love teaching and I’m a materials geek so working with these companies is perfect for me right now.

 

2. I met you when you were assisting Donato Giancola. Did you seek out that opportunity? How did you land that gig?

I met Donato when I was just starting to get back into art after a disappointing first career with theater. We were both interviewed for this documentary about Dungeons & Dragons and how it inspired people to be creative. Because Donato is one of the nicest and most supportive artists in the industry, he invited me to his studio to chat about the industry and what direction I wanted to go in. I had such a great time, I kept going back to the studio to talk and to paint and we became friends. It was the exact right moment for me to meet someone like him because I was just starting on a plan to go back to school for art and had to quit my full time office job so when I mentioned it, he offered me the position of studio assistant. For the 4 years of school and one year after, I worked with him.

 

3. How did that time influence your career and/or your work?

It was immensely important in my life. I don’t believe I am understating it when I say I would not be nearly who I am today (both as an artist and person) without his support. SVA is a wonderful school but Donato’s mentorship really pushed me to another level entirely. He took me to several conventions. As a result, I got to meet wonderful people. I started asking for portfolio reviews sophomore year in college. Donato taught me a respect for craft and method that I use to this day. He is a professional in so many more ways beyond his extraordinary art. That is a bar I continue to strive for. I will always be grateful for the experience.

 


nautilus4. Best client ever is _______. Why?

The next one who hires me of course! Actually, I loved working for Realms of Fantasy before it disappeared. Doug Cohen was art directing at the time and he was very supportive and enthusiastic. I got lots of creative freedom and just enjoyed the whole process. I am so sad that magazine isn’t around anymore.

 

5. After working with Donato, you moved to Boston. Why?

It’s the classic story: I met a guy. Scott lived in Boston when we met in NYC. Things were going well but long distance is rough so we decided we liked each other enough for me to give Boston a try. Here I am still 4 years later so I guess it was a good decision!

 

6. How much snow is too much?

When the snow piles become taller than me, and then I have to climb on top of the piles to rearrange them so we have room to put MORE snow…yeah…that’s too much. At least we broke the record this year! 2015 is officially the snowiest winter in Boston’s recorded history.

 


7. You started the Month of Love and Month of Fear projects. What are these projects and what pulled you to create them?

These are month-long art challenges twice a year in February and October where I invite a bunch of artists to join me in weekly art making. The goal is to set aside time to create a bunch of new personal work. I come up with new challenge prompts for every week and everyone creates art inspired by the prompt. While I do like to have a core group of artists who commit to the challenge, it’s open to everyone. I repost the best work I find via Tumblr to our page and I have discovered some amazing new artists as a result of this challenge. Many of these artists use these challenges to create standout new art and level-up in their work. It’s really wonderful what a little community and pressure can create. Many of these challenge pieces end up in annuals and get artists noticed on a larger scale. The first Month of Love started as a need to reconnect with the art community. I had a pretty vibrant social life in NYC but Boston turned out to be a very different vibe and I was feeling isolated and a bit stale. Plus it was January and winter out here just makes everything worse. I needed community and I needed motivation, so I had this idea for a big group art challenge and started sending out emails before I could talk myself out of it. Luckily a really great group of people thought it also sounded like fun! I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of artists to get this thing off the ground. The first MoL started as a daily art challenge. That was amazing but a bit intense so I changed it to weekly challenges when I did Month of Fear later that year. Now we are 3 years in and still going strong!

 

nautilus by kristina carroll8. Freelancer’s are understandably protective of their time, why start a project that features other people’s work?

Because being an artist is hard. Art is a self-sustaining community. This world is not kind to artists. If we don’t help each other, be each other’s cheerleaders, constantly strive to create an environment that makes it just a little bit easier to be these nonconforming creative weirdoes without starving- then who will? I could go on about the importance of community or the benefits of cooperation and shared experiences on happiness but I think the truth is pretty simple: We make each other better through engagement. Better artists and better people. Call it karma or enlightened self-interest or just good business but when you invest in the community, it invests back in you.

 

9. You’re dating another illustrator, Scott Bakal. Do you influence each other’s work in any way? How?

I don’t think you can be so close to another artist (or another human) without some things bleeding over. We’ve both introduced each other to new artists and I know my perspective has broadened considerably since being in a relationship with him because our tastes are so different. I love that. As far as seriously influencing the actual art, I really don’t know. We enjoy each other’s work and it’s great that we both like art and can talk about it. But our work and personal aesthetics are so different that there is not a lot of room for overlap. I think the way Scott thinks about art and looks at art (he’s a very conceptual illustrator) has certainly been influential. I love the way he thinks and he often comes up with ideas that knock my socks off. I think I’ve probably been more influenced by him simply because of where we are with our art and who we are as people. Scott is very comfortable in the way he creates since he’s been doing this longer but always striving to be better and trying new things.

 

10. Do you think you could date a non-artist?

I highly doubt it. I absolutely have to be with someone motivated, passionate and supportive so I’ve almost always dated some sort of creative person. Being a professional artist is sort of like being from another country. Relationships are hard enough without having to navigate a culture gap. And, as a woman, it is even harder. There are a lot of reasons for this and I think a whole book could be written about it. There’s generally a lot more scrutiny, jealousy and insecurity involved when the woman in a relationship is passionate and dedicated to an art career. Women are still fighting against a culture that is structured to give us less confidence and less respect, so take all the ups and downs of an art career and just put a magnification on it. Finding a partner who can be supportive of this life, especially in the harder times – because there are always harder times – is absolutely essential.

 

11. Do you collect art? What kind, and from whom?

I have a very minimal collection so far. I have not previously had a lot of space, stability or disposable income, so haven’t developed the drive to actively collect. Much of what I have is from trading with friends and a few very thoughtful gifts. The first piece of art I ever properly bought was an original from Ted Naifeh. It’s a beautiful page from the “Good Neighbors” Graphic novel he did with Holly Black. I have some precious gems from Michael Kaluta, Omar Rayaan, Charles Vess and a small collection of lovely cookbook art from Alan Witchonke (which is a long story) and I’m about to get another food-themed original from Anna Christenson, which I’m excited about. I guess most of my art collection is related to food and comics!

 

12. If you could have a piece of art from any living artist, what piece and from whom?

This is a really hard question and this answer will probably change weekly. Right now I think my answer will be something by Allen Williams. Apart from being one of the sweetest guys around, he is one of my absolute favorite artists currently. I have a few of his prints around the studio: Tree of Tales and his Minotaur drawing. I just get lost in them and would love to have the originals. He also started a painting at the IMC last year that I’m crazy about. I would kill to be able to look at any of those every day. (http://ijustdraw.blogspot.com/2014/06/a-new-painting-started-at-illustrators.html ) I think Allen would get a lot of my money if I ever started collecting in earnest.

 

house of leaves by kristina carroll13. How do you stay sane and keep from burn-out?

At some point in this career you do get burnt out and you do go a little nuts. I think the trick is to 1) Understand it’s temporary and 2) Forgive yourself and learn from it. I believe in order to grow you have to occasionally push your limits. This also this goes back to what I was saying earlier: If you have cultivated a good community and you realize you aren’t alone, this becomes much easier. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and treat yourself with respect. Mental and physical health are your business partners and they will screw you if you don’t give them their due. Practice mindfulness. Meditation is a wonderful way of exercising and strengthening mental and emotional self- awareness and control. Exercise regularly! Your body’s stress response system doesn’t know the difference between sprinting on a treadmill and running from a tiger. When you get your heart-rate up, you condition your body’s ability to deal with ALL stress among many other wonderful chemical reactions that make you smarter and happier!

 

14. There’s been a growing conversation around women in art. Do you have any thoughts on what it means to be a woman creating art at this time in history?

I have many thoughts. I’ve mentioned a few already but overall I think this a very exciting time to be a woman in the illustration industry. Particularly in the science fiction/fantasy genres because it’s fiction’s responsibility to give our collective conscious the tools to shape our world. Right now we are reaping both the benefits and some of the backlash from the previous women’s rights movements. There are some very important conversations being had that still need to be had. I am certainly learning a lot and very grateful for this community of so many thoughtful, smart and well-spoken women (and many men too!) The difference now is a lot of very intelligent and successful women are now in the upper ranks and becoming significant voices in many of these conversations, lending them an authority and perspective that is very important. I feel that I not only have the responsibility to affect change but I also have more power and confidence thanks to them.

 

15. Where can we find you this year? Conventions, coffee shops?

All of the above! I will be at Spectrum (table 15) and Illuxcon. Though whether I am able to snag table space at Illuxcon remains to be seen, I still plan on going. I’m hoping to show at Dragon Con this year as well but those jury results are not in yet. In the meantime you can always find me at the local Starbucks!

 

16. Any last thoughts?

Thank you so much Marc and Lauren for not only creating this terrific community in Every Day Original, but also inviting me to participate. Both personally and with the Month of Love crowd. I’m excited to see where all this goes next!

 

 

ORIGINALS FROM KRISTINA

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