Artist Interview: XAVIER SCHIPANI

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XAVIER SCHIPANI

Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman

Austin, Texas resident, Xavier Schipani, is a drawing machine from the moment he wakes up each day. He’s got big near future goals of completely changing up the art gallery scene in the land of keepin’ it weird. Currently he’s happily busy with commissions, album covers, publishing his own zines, and local mural painting. Xavier is also a MICA 2007 alumni and shares his birthday with Bill Murray.

 

SW: What are the common themes or ideas you work with, and what are your current muses or obsessions?

XS: A lot of my themes have been queer themes, but just kind of like creating a fantasy world for a lot of those themes that can be super serious. Kind of making it more light hearted. Right now I’m really into Sol LeWitt, I’m going back through a lot. I’ve been working in color, which… I don’t ever work in color. So, that’s something new for me. Kind of been looking back at a lot of abstract paintings from the 50’s and 60’s. Block paintings, just kind of trying to introduce color slowly into my work. I’ve just been using primary colors right now. I’ve been looking at a lot of different things. There’s this one Japanese artist who did all of the posters for The Beatles and he did the Yellow Submarine, he did all the animating and all the illustration. So, I’ve kind of just been looking at as much color as I can.

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SW: What specifically are the queer themes, is it imagery, is it more idea heavy? Which hits you more, like ‘Oh I see what he’s trying to say’, or visually, like you just get it. I don’t know if that’s too confusing of a question.

XS: Well, the last show that I had was all pencil drawings. I was on Grindr for about 4 months and I basically went on and had an artist profile. I was looking for people to send me photos that I could work with, that I could draw from… and I got crazy shit. This guy was crouching naked on his dining room table with like a bag over his head. [Laughs] I just got all of these weird photos.

SW: [Laughs] Plastic bag or paper bag? Sorry.

XS: It was a plastic bag. It was pretty interesting. But that was kind of a way for me to explore the gay dating scene and see how aggressive it was and kind of just investigate some of that. So, that was more obvious. The theme there was that I was trying to expose this online dating style. I guess it’s true for straight people now too with Tinder and everything, but Grindr is super aggressive. I have a lot of friends that are on it and it’s just crazy. I was really curious about it. Being in a relationship, I couldn’t participate in any other way besides being curious about it. That was a little bit more obvious and playful. I saved all the headlines from the ads, I went on craigslist a bit too. Every time I got a really good photo from an ad, I would write down the ad title as well. That’s basically how I named each piece. That was more conceptual I guess.

SW: I think I saw those pencil drawings. You posted those right?

XS: Yeah, I posted some of them. I ended up doing about a 150 in four months.

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SW: Holy shit. So, that leads me to my next question… What’s your typical process? How big is a piece? How long does it usually take you? Do you do pencil and then ink it? What’s your process like?

XS: I’ve been working kind of in like a 9 x 12 format as a standard and then with some larger pieces as well. Like, that show is mixed between 9 x 12 and then I had some pieces that were 19 x 24 and then 24 x 48. I had some bigger stuff in there as well. I would say, for example I did about 25 drawings last week. They’re all about 9 x 12. Sometimes I sketch on tracing paper if I want it to look really clean, and then I’ll transfer it onto paper and trace the lines back, and then work on top of that.

SW: With a lightbox or?

XS: No I just flip it over and trace right on the back of it and it will just transfer the pencil. I do that a lot, especially if I’m working on something for someone, if I want it to be really clean. Otherwise I just sketch and I usually do a little bit of pencil, at least to block out whatever I’m working on. I’ll go in over with ink and kind of free form the rest of it. So, depending on what it is but that’s usually how I do it.

SW: So, how long does a drawing usually take you?

XS: I would say anywhere from an hour to 4 hours depending on what it is. Sometimes less. 9 x 12, I mean I can really knock something detailed out in 4 hours.

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SW: You work fast but that’s still a lot of work, it’s inspiring to hear. As an artist, I’m struggling to maintain that amount of work. What is your routine? How do you stay disciplined in that way?

XS: I watch a lot of really old movies that are kind of just like static noise. I get up pretty early, or I try to, and I just start working. I’ve been doing these color drawings and I’m really into them. I’m working on them a lot and I’m dreaming about them, so it’s crazy, I’ll wake up and I’m like ready to go. I just I don’t know, I don’t really think of it as being disciplined. I guess it is, I just can’t help it. I don’t have any discipline really for anything else. [Laughs] I don’t. I’m horrible.

SW: That sounds exciting.

XS: Yeah, I don’t really go out that much anymore, I don’t really party that much. So, I like drinking at home [Laughs] and working. I feel like now more than ever I don’t really care about anything else. People here are kind of weird. I have friends here but no one’s, like, really inspired to do anything here. This town is super stoner, just whatever, do nothing and that’s totally fine. It’s literally where Slacker was made and is just that. It’s like Peter Pan land, people never have to grow up here. I guess that inspires me to keep working. When I look around, there’s no gallery scene here, which I’m hoping to try and open something this year. Yeah, I don’t know, I’m not really engaged in the nightlife here or really any scene here. I think that’s helped me stay focused, for sure.

SW: That’s interesting, I’ve heard people be in similar situations and be influenced in the opposite way, of like falling into that slacker kind of mentality.

XS: I think it’s really easy to get like that. I think people move here from NY and they get like that. They’re so tired of hustling because they worked so hard they forget how to work. It’s crazy. Happens all the time.

SW: Hmm. [Laughs]

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XS: I mean I don’t blame them, when I moved here I was like ‘Damn, people are just chilling in the middle of the day. Does anyone work here?’ You just see people out at all times of the day just chilling. And you’re like, ‘Alright, I guess they’re not going to work. Whatever.’ [Laughs] But yeah I can’t really say anything. I am quitting my job as well.

SW: But you have a goal. [Laughs] You’re not just quitting your job to sit around.

XS: [Laughs] True.

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SW: Two more questions. What’s been the most exciting commission job you’ve done?

XS: I’m working on a possible collaboration with Nike, which is cool. There’s this guy I’m meeting later, he has two house boys and he’s married. So he has his house boy’s who are young and another whole dynamic going on. I’m going over to his house later to take photos of them all together so that I can draw their family portrait. I don’t know. [Laughs] That’s fun.

SW: [Laughs]

XS: I’ve been working with a lot of bands and that’s been really cool. I just worked with Double Duchess and I’m going to be doing something with Spank Rock possibly this year; this other band that’s really cool.

SW: Does your work circulate or are you friends with any of these people and they’re just like, ‘I want you to do this’?

XS: Yeah, sometimes. Like this guy, Klever, he’s a DJ. He’s on tour with Yellow Wolf. I met him when he came here. I did a portrait of him and by the next day I had like 400 new followers. Just because of that portrait, which is crazy. He’s got like a million followers. He’s actually gotten me a lot of work, because people saw that and were like, ‘Oh! Can you do this? Can you do that?’ I was like ‘yeah, sure’. It’s kind of been constant. I have Jenny, my Fiance, is my manager which is rad because she emails everyone for me. I don’t have to do anything, which is cool, because I suck at that. She does all my invoicing and emails, that’s been great.

SW: That’s awesome. It takes so much effort to do both.

XS: Yeah, it’s great.

SW: Last question, totally unrelated. What’s the tastiest food you’ve eaten in Austin?

XS: I’d probably say…  Well, I work at Paul Qui’s restaurant. He’s won Top Chef a couple years ago and the food there is pretty fucking banging. Pretty awesome. It’s Filipino and it’s just all over the place, it’s super good. I also love this little place called Julio’s, it’s owned by a family and is right in my neighborhood. Their chicken is killer, it’s just very traditional Mexican and it’s awesome.

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Xavier painting a mural at Qui

Artist Interview: APRIL CAMLIN

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APRIL CAMLIN

Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman

We bring you another amazing artist associated with the Baltimore art/comedy group Wham City, April Camlin. She’s somewhere between a fashion or textile designer and fine artist, and onced played Lex Murphy in a small stage production of “Jurassic Park”. Her current black and white textile series is so eye-catching we needed to ask her all about it.

 

SW: How long does it take you to come up with the designs and then create a piece?

AC: Well, I think that’d be the planning. I like to start out with an idea, at times it’s like an arsenal of techniques that are influencing the composition and I like to kind of intuitively work, so I think that the execution takes a really long time. Because I have that space, I can kind of change things as they go along. If I don’t like the way that something is working, I can undo it and then start over again. I definitely think that I spend a lot more time in the execution. I did an installation in August and I spent about 200 hours stitching. The design of it, maybe, I spent like a couple days just laying it out. I’ve been doing more with digital fabric printing. That definitely involves a bit more planning ahead and doing more design work on the computer. It’s been like a new thing for me, but I’ve been really excited about it. That stuff is a little bit more time consuming I suppose.

SW: You use like Illustrator, or something?

AC: I use Photoshop. I’m so technologically illiterate, but I’m probably using it in an incredibly inefficient way. [Laughs] So it probably makes it take longer. Every time I’m making work, I’m kind of like ‘I know there must be a better way to do this,’ but I’m very connected to the labor.

SW: So you’ve got needlepoint, weaving and digital printing? Is there anything else in the series?

AC: No, not at the moment. I’m drawn to working on anything that involves a grid. Mostly those three right now.

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SW: I see actually one piece that’s an infinity sweater, it says machine knit.

AC: Yeah, I kind of started out with this series of ideas that I’m working on now, with the idea of super exaggerated or forced perspective, sort of tricking the eye. Then it moved into something a little bit different. I was doing some stuff on the knitting machines, but not quite so much anymore.

SW: Where do you get your fabric printed?

AC: I’m very fortunate, I have it printed at school. We have a really nice fiber reactive printer, which means that it’s printing the ink. The dye, it’s penetrating the fabric instead of sort of just sitting on top and not being extremely durable. It’s a really high quality image that’s getting printed. It’s a great resource.

SW: Wow yeah, so the nylon is like this sheer black color? Is that what it is? Then it’s printing the white?

AC: Oh no, the opposite, it’s white then I’m printing the black.

SW: Wait, whaaaat?

AC: [Laughs]

SW: How? What??

AC: Crepe Georgette is the material and it’s backed, it has a paper backing when it’s going though the printer. When you remove the fabric adhered to the paper backing before you steam it.

SW: That’s amazing.

AC: Yeah, digital printing on fabric is so cool. I feel like because I’ve been very connected to these very labor intensive processes, like the needle point and the weaving, it’s kind of forced my scale to be a certain size. Digital printing really allows me to think about things on a larger scale than I have before.

SW: With all of these designs, are you thinking more like a designer or thinking more like a fine artist that’s putting practical use to these? I can’t tell, some of the closeups are so nice on their own, but obviously they make great patterns to use. What was the original intention?

AC: That’s a good question. [Laughs] I feel like I’m informed and interested, both in the fine arts and also in more of an industrial fabrication. I think ideally, when I see myself in the future, I think about working in some kind of industry where I’m working with fabrication and having that be something that informs my fine art. I think that for me, the two are inextricably linked.

SW: Why black and white?

AC: I think that black and white kind of triggers this vibration almost, with my eyes and my mind, that’s very appealing to me. For me, they are the two colors that have the highest contrast. I was at Haystack this summer in Maine, it’s like a residential Art School. You do, like, two week sessions. I was looking at the ecosystem that was around me and the relationship of all these natural elements to each other. Somehow, one thing led to another, I started doing research on all of the plants in the area. It seems kind of weird, but it kind of led me towards this binary relationship between the eyes and the mind that exists in Op Art, and how that’s its own little ecosystem. So I started doing more research into Op Art. There’s always been something about black and white to me that I’ve really responded to it. I feel like I kind of understood why as I was doing more research over the summer.

SW: Are there any other artistic or cultural inspirations? You said binary and I can see that perfectly, but are there any other cultures that are involved or influencing this?

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AC: Totally, I’m looking a lot at Kuba Cloth, which is this embroidered pile which is made of Raffia which comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Sub-Saharan Africa. I’ve just been really inspired by the way that the people, the women who are embroidering these designs, they’re kind of working with this really complex structure, but there’s also this kind of play on the structure. It’s really appealing to me, really interesting to me.

SW: Yeah, it’s really cool.

AC: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s kind of mind-blowing/boggling.

SW: What’s your process like? I can’t tell if this is something where you have to be really focused or can kind of have Netflix on and zone out? It seems like you do once wrong stitch and you’ve made a new pattern.

AC: Well, that’s kind of something that I’m interested in exploring too. The way that a pattern can be manipulated and be caused to interrupt itself. Those moments where it collides with itself, that’s kind of something that’s really interesting to me. I think it’s for different things. I listen to a lot of audio books, it is kind of this weird involuntary focus. It feels very natural to me to be working this way. It is highly focused work, but I don’t feel like I have to devote every iota of my mental processing to execute the design. Know what I mean?

SW: Mmhmm.

AC: I do enjoy some Netflix from time to time as I’m embroidering. I’ll admit it. [Laughs]

SW: Did you design this jumpsuit or did someone else design the jumpsuit?

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AC: That’s a pre-made pattern I got from a website that sells patterns. I didn’t design the pattern just the print on the fabric that goes with it.

SW: Also, where the seams would meet, you picked all that and everything too.

AC: Yeah, it’s known as engineered print so you’re kind of working with a pattern shape and designing the fabric to fit specifically into that shape and then you can do things like orchestrate where the pattern matches up on the seams and things like that.

SW: Oh wait, did this design come first or second? How did that overlap? Did you pick the jumpsuit first and then you were like, ‘I need to make a pattern for this jumpsuit’?

AC: Yes

SW: Ah okay, very cool.

AC: I kind of had an idea of what I wanted to do, I knew that it had to be a jumpsuit and so I kind of just looked for jumpsuit patterns.

SW: This back little piece, the dart or whatever that is, the fold, that came out excellent.

AC: Thank you! [Laughs] That fabric was… not fun to work with.

SW: It doesn’t look fun to work with, but it’s fun to look at.

AC: The funny thing about it, I kind of, like, smudged. You can see there’s some weird warping happening with the design, and that was something that I did intentionally, but as it was coming out of the fabric printer, the printer tech was like ‘Oh no! There’s a problem with the printer!’ I was like, ‘Haha! No I fooled you!’ That’s just my print! [Laughs] When things like that happen it’s really exciting to me. You’re tricking your mind. I’m really interested in the way that feels.

SW: Do you have any more big plans for this series or are you just kind of letting it go? Not go, but stop…

AC: I feel like I’m going to keep working in this series until it doesn’t feel right anymore. I don’t think too far ahead, I like to just focus on what’s happening and kind of let the work go where it wants to go. I try not to place too many restrictions on the direction. Sometimes these happy accidents happen and sometimes they can be just as inspiring as months of dedicated research, so I try not to impose too many time restrictions on it. It feels like a progression to me. I’m going to keep working within these parameters for awhile.

SW: I hope you do! It’s so fun to look at. Something about the way you worded something right now reminds me of this quote I wrote down the other day from ‘The Simpsons’.

AC: [Laughs]

SW: Officer Wiggum said, ‘Don’t censor me, it’s what stifles creativity.’ Something like that.

AC: Officer Wiggum said that? [Laughs]

SW: Yeah, he drew his gun and said something really bizarre. The other officer was like ‘…Chief?’ And then he said that. I thought it was kind of profound. [Laughs]

AC: [Laughs]

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SW: One last question, just random. What kind of vending machine do you think needs to be invented?

AC: This is something that already exists, but I don’t think there are enough coffee vending machines in this country. [Laughs] Probably not a cool enough answer.

SW: No! Bring them back! They had those in the 70s and 80s, they were kind of dying in the 90s. We need those back. [Laughs] That’s a great answer.

AC: It’d be pretty cool if there was a vending machine that just sold thread. That’s the thing that I’m always running out of and I’m always running out of it late at night. There’s nowhere to get it, when I’m working at night I’m like ‘what do I need to unravel to get these colors…’ [Laughs]

SW: Oh man, I would love that.

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Artist Interview: DINA KELBERMAN

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DINA KELBERMAN

Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman

She’s not sure what genre of artist to currently consider herself, but regardless, anything Dina Kelberman artistically creates is worthy of your time. She seems to always be involved in collaborative projects, including being a part of the art/comedy group Wham City, as well as her own independent creative pursuits. You can see her comics in Baltimore’s weekly City Paper, or online. Her astute observations make her a master at wit, and harvesting organized collections of internet images. Even the New Museum agrees. Dina took some time to talk to me about her recent projects, take some time to read about them.

 

SW: So first, what kind of artist do you consider yourself these days?

DK: I don’t know, I don’t really think about it. I’m definitely veering pretty heavily into a pure digital realm. I was focusing on comics for awhile and have kind of gotten less interested in that and just don’t do that as much anymore. I mean… I still have a weekly comic. But I don’t really draw outside of that. I’m addicted to the computer, so I’m pretty digital these days.

SW: The weekly comic, do you post it online or do you do it for yourself?

DK: It’s for the City Paper.

SW: Oh cool! I did see you posted some of those.

 

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DK: I’ve been doing it for awhile. I won the comic contest, like, years ago and they kept me around. It’s actually been like 5 years or something, which is crazy. I don’t long how much longer that’s going to last because every week I’m like ‘Fuck, I gotta do another comic!’ [Laughs]

SW: [Laughs] Cool!

DK: [Laughs]

SW: What were you saying about Adult Swim [earlier]?

DK: We did a thing with them about a year ago. Basically it’s my boyfriend, Alan Resnick, and our friend Ben O’Brien that are kind of the dudes heading up the stuff. They were doing comedy and going on tours and they started talking to a producer over at Adult Swim. We made a pitch for a show, we also pitched kind of a show version of an act Alan had been doing on tour and they picked that up. So, last year we made this one-off fake infomercial that aired at like 4 in the morning for a week. That was cool. Then we pitched another sort of 4am prank thing and we’ve somehow spent another entire year. It takes us 1 year to make a 10 minute thing, that’s our current schedule. We’re about to start to shoot our next 10 minute thing. On Sunday we start the actual shooting process finally, for a week, and it’s going to be crazy. [Laughs]

 

 

SW: Why does it take a year? That’s…

DK: …Because we don’t know what we’re doing. [Laughs] There’s so much back and forth with the network and so many people involved, that it’s like we’re still learning how to push things through and get everything organized. Moving with such a vast web of people that need to talk to each other and get back to each other. Hopefully that will speed up a lot [Laughs].

SW: Is it more like the ‘Red Tape’ kind of stuff versus the actual creative process?

DK: Yeah, the creative stuff, we’re pretty good at banging out. It’s just the administrative getting everything together, getting the network to okay things and then getting back and finding actors, it’s really crazy. I think when we have a bit more experience we’ll be able to make it happen a million times faster.

SW: Yeah, probably. Are you still involved with Wham City? Is there anything cool happening with them or any of the creatives you’re around now you’d like to share?

DK: Yeah, I mean, we don’t really do stuff as a group. This Adult Swim thing is pretty Wham City oriented, but it’s so far such a small thing that not as many people get to be as involved as we like. Hopefully that will expand and we get to include more people. Everyone is really doing their own thing a lot these days. Everyone was like ‘Oh fuck, I’m 30. I gotta have a life!’, it’s a lot less group stuff but we’re all hanging out.

SW: Alan is an artist also?

DK: Yeah, he does a lot of digital stuff. He’s really into 3D special effects, both the real and the behind the scenes aspect of it. The first thing we did for Adult Swim was this thing starring him, where a fake version of him created a digital avatar, a 3D model of his own head that he talks to and is trying to sell to people. But it doesn’t work.

SW: [Laughs]

DK: But he’s also actually building a 3D model of his head, so it’s this weird sort of blurred line with that. Then he does comedy with Ben, there’s a lot of comedy stuff coming up lately that people have been doing.

SW: That’s awesome. I don’t have cable, how can I watch this infomercial?

DK: You can see it online, if you go to AdultSwim.com. The easiest way to find it is probably the Adult Swim YouTube page. The other thing, the new thing we’re doing will be there eventually, too. It’s going to air in December, it should also be online. The 15th is our air date allegedly.

SW: Isn’t that pretty close to your birthday?

DK: Pretty close. You knew my birthday?

SW: I do. [Laughs]

DK: Wow

SW: It looks like, from looking at your website with Alan, you’re working on a bunch of projects? Which is really exciting. I’m just wondering, what inspired the ‘I’m Google’ and the ‘Our Findings’ database series? [Laughs] They’re really weird and I love them.

 

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DK: Oh cool! Well ‘Our Findings’ is like how Alan and I kind of became really good friends and then fell in love over the internet. One of our commonalities was that we were both obsessively watching ‘The Simpsons’ at all times. We started emailing with another friend of ours, Jordan Card, I don’t know if you knew her. She’s in Baltimore too. She was constantly watching ‘The Simpsons’, we were just all emailing each other funny screencaps. Alan and I both got really obsessed with the very abstract ones. We started focusing on that really heavily until we just decided to start collecting them all on this Tumblr. Which we’re still sort of doing, but now we’ve completely lost track of what we’ve already put up there. So, now every time we watch ‘The Simpsons’ we’re like, ‘Do we have that one? I don’t know. Did I get it?’ It’s become a really weird way to watch TV.

SW: [Laughs]

DK: [Laughs] But it’s very fun. ‘I’m Google’ is just the habit of wanting to collect stuff. Like, I have all of these folders of pictures I would find on the internet. I started making these silly Facebook albums of just batches of things and had sort of heard of Tumblr but didn’t know how it worked. I was like, ‘This seems like a good repository for throwing this stuff somewhere. I can transition them into this next thing’. That became the focus and I became obsessed with trying to do that as well as I could. I’ve just been doing that forever now. I still have like a million folders collected of all different stuff. I want to somehow get to these fifty pictures of pieces of squash but I can’t figure out how to get there. So. [Laughs]

 

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SW: Mmhm [Laughs] Have you worked on any part of that series and then discovered, like, the one perfect photo that you forgot about or found later?

DK: Oh God, that’s like my worst nightmare. [Laughs] It hasn’t happened too bad yet actually, surprisingly. I can’t remember. I remember one time I somehow ended up looking up a similar thing or I somehow was like ‘There’s the perfect squiggle of wires and I can’t go back and put it in.’ Sad, [Laughs] but that’s okay, I can move on.

SW: It sounds like you’re working on a lot. What is the most exciting thing happening in your life right now?

 

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DK: I don’t know? I’ve been doing this thing where I bought this Ice Cream truck kind of thing, a step-van like a UPS truck, and I have been converting it into a tiny house to live in/ art thing, which is super-fun. I had this dude that my friend recommended come down from Minneapolis. He cut the roof off and built a pointed roof, so it looks kind of like a Monopoly piece. It’s red. It has windows, I have a lofted bed in there, I’ve got wood floors and I’ve been slowly working on that. I’m basically, actually going to start living in it.

SW: That’s fucking cool!

DK: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s really fun! I’m so addicted to the computer I’ve been like ‘I like to build shit out of wood’, even though I’m not necessarily great at it. But it’s really fun! I’m building all these shelves and figuring out how to cram all my stuff into this little space. What I need and what I don’t need. That’s been the most exciting thing, it’s kind of life encompassing.

SW: Where is it sitting right now?

DK: Alan and Ben and I were all living at the Copycat, slowly building this. It was in the Copycat parking lot until basically yesterday. My friend bought a house a few blocks away from there and I’m going to start living in her backyard. Alan’s living in the house. I have a house I can go take a shit in if I really need to or like take a shower. [Laughs] If it’s getting too crazy in the van. But I’ll basically be out back. [Laughs]

SW: Cool!

DK: Yeah, we’ll see how it goes. It’s like we’re on the block right above North Ave, so I keep being like, ‘Is this insane?’ But it’s a pretty chill block, so I’m not sure how totally crazy this plan is going to end up being.

SW: Yeah… I don’t know, good luck.

DK: [Laughs] North Ave has chilled out a lot. At least over here.

SW: Two more questions. You’re kind of all over the place in a really good way. You said you’re not really sure what kind of artist you are. Who are your artistic influences? Throughout your lifetime, who has really inspired you.

 

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DK: Jessica Stockholder is my favorite artist of all time, for sure. Just because I love her use of color and space, formal stuff. I heard her talk a few times, she’s just very matter of fact. She’s just like ‘I love how these blue plastic buckets look and that’s it, that’s why I’m using them.’ I really get frustrated when people have these highfalutin answer reasons for things, I’m just like ‘C’mon you’re doing it because you like it.’ I don’t know much about Contemporary Art these days because I’m, like, in this weird bubble. [Also] James Turrell, Sol LeWitt, and Ed Ruscha.

SW: The last question. I might know the answer to this. If you could only wear one color for the rest of your life, what would it be?

DK: Wait, do you know that I only wear two colors right now? [Laughs]

SW: [Laughs] Yes, but I don’t think all the readers do.

DK: You’re making me pick between red and blue.

SW: Yes. You have to choose, which one? [Laughs]

DK: I guess I’d have to go with red. Blue is what I consider my favorite color, but I appear to like wearing red more for some reason. I’ll go with red. Let me know when I have to start doing it. [Laughs]

SW: No one is going to force you, but if you want to go ahead and do that, [Laughs] it’d be awesome.

DK: Yeah, once two becomes too much to handle. [Laughs]

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Artist Interview: JIMMY GIEGRICH

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JIMMY GIEGRICH

Intro by Shanon Weltman / Interview by Ray Jones

Happy Halloween, ghosts and ghouls. On this day dedicated to all that is scary, we bring you a master of cult horror illustration, Jimmy Giegrich. The mixed bag of (candy) 1990’s childhood influences ooze through his style, everything from punk rock to anime. Jimmy’s illustrations perfectly blend humor, horror, and hella impressive line quality and color palettes. Before you put yourself into a sugar and/or booze induced Halloween coma, take a few minutes and see what Ray Jones had to ask Jimmy.

 

RJ: To start, fill us in on your inspirations. They don’t have to be art related.

JG: I’d say that a lot of my inspiration for my illustration comes mostly from what I was into when I was younger. When I was a kid I was way into the usual kid stuff, like video games, comics and cartoons. All that kind of stuff.

 

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Ugs, Fugs, and Grossos: Joe

RJ: Yes!

JG: [Laughs] Yeah, and that definitely had a hand in me wanting to become a Creative and do illustration. Probably the most of all, comics had a huge influence on me. I was into Marvel, particularly 90’s X-Men, all that. I was obsessed with it, same thing with Ninja Turtles. As I got older, I got into artists like Ed Roth, Basil Wolverton, gross out underground artists like that. Then I got into punk music and metal, all those things kind of created this perfect storm of influence on me. [Laughs]

RJ: It’s true, your work is… very metal. [Laughs] I love that about it. I’m like, Oh man! Punk! I can see it!

JG: [Laughs] Thanks!

 

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Executioner and Friend

RJ: There also seems to be a very distinct 80’s vibe. How long have you worked this way?

JG: I feel like the way that I draw now is closer to the way that I drew when I was a little kid, than it was when I was in high school and stuff. It’s kinda like I draw the same things… like monsters and screaming dudes punching each other, veins and sweat, all that. I guess I’m a bit more skilled at it now? [Laughs] If that makes any sense. I’ve been drawing this kind of stuff forever, and when I got into college I wanted to be way more classical. I wanted to be way more detailed and realistic and realized I couldn’t do it. [Laughs] I was like, ‘Alright. Veins and sweat and screaming’. [Laughs]

RJ: [Laughs] That’s perfect though. You really came into this style, it’s really awesome man, I really enjoy it. Walk us through a usual day in the studio, what’s your day like?

JG: It all depends on what I’m doing and If I have client work. I’ll get up and work on whatever I have for the day, whether it’s sketches or finals, emailing back and forth between clients. Otherwise, If I’m just working on personal work or a comic or something, I’ll get up and work on that instead. Doing like preliminaries on characters, sketches for comic panel layouts, all that.

 

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Skips

RJ: Would you say your time is evenly split between commissioned work and personal work? How is it divided for you?

JG: I probably spend a little bit more time on professional work than personal work these days. It kind of comes and goes. Sometimes it alternates, sometimes I’ll be really, really busy for like two months at a time. I’ll have no time to do anything and then I’ll have like a month where I can just do my own thing, work on comics, that kind of thing.

RJ: Okay. How long have you been teaching?

JG: This is going to be my third year, I started in 2011-2012, something like that. This is my fifth semester, two and change years now.

RJ: How do you feel about it, comparing when you first started up to now?

JG: I feel way more comfortable now than I did when I first started. I started off always wanting to teach. I had been a teaching assistant for a couple teachers at MICA. Particularly Daniel Krall, who was my teacher when I was there. It was something I always wanted to do. I got hooked up with the teaching gig basically through my connections at MICA and from knowing people in the Illustration department. Going in I thought I was going to be doing really, really well and I had it all figured out. There really is a big difference between teaching a class on your own as opposed to being a teaching assistant where you’re just helping out around the class, interjecting and stuff. I feel I’ve gotten way better at it and I feel like it’s something that I’m much more comfortable doing now, as opposed to when I first started.

 

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Pizza Party Printing: Akira

RJ: Do you feel that being a young illustrator helps in terms of relating to the students? Like being contemporary enough to share your experiences.

JG: Definitely, I definitely do. I notice that there’s a really kind of positive response that I have from my own career and decisions, things I’ve done in my career. It seems like they respond very well to it. I’m kind of at this weird age where I teach sophomores and I guess they’re eight years younger than I am? So it’s a pretty sizable gap but I’m within the ballpark of being a peer of theirs. It seems like they can take what I’m saying to heart, which I think is really, really good. The other thing too I’ve noticed, just from my own experience at MICA, is that when a teacher is closer to the age of the students, I think that it makes it feel like the knowledge that they’re passing on to you is much more relatable and understandable. It’s also good to get the experiences of someone that is currently working in the field as opposed to somebody who was really big at a past point in time when the landscape of illustration was way different than it is now. That’s something that I wanted a little bit more of when I was in school, more present day illustration advice. Not to say I didn’t get that. I feel that this happens in any creative/academic situation… The more in touch the teacher with the landscape of whatever field it is, the better. Just because, again, the information is a little bit more relatable.

RJ: So much technology has changed in the last five years, if you were focused on just one thing, you probably missed a lot, so [Laughs]…

JG: Yeah! I mean, shit, I tell my students, when I graduated from school, Twitter was not the beast that it is today.

RJ: [Laughs]

JG: Things like Tumblr and Facebook, social media, it has changed so many thing for so many illustrators.

RJ: Going back just a little bit, who are your clients lately?

JG: I’ve been doing a lot for Boom Studios. They do comics for Cartoon Network. Have you heard of a show called Uncle Grandpa before?

RJ: [Laughs] Yeah.

JG: Yeah, I’ve been doing comics for that. I think the first one just came out last week or something, but they started a new series of those comics and I’m one of their regular artists on it, which is pretty cool. I’ve been just doing kind of like whatever comes my way. I used to do a lot of editorial stuff, and I haven’t been doing as much as I’ve been doing more comics. I’ve done a handful of movie posters, that kind of thing and then just working on getting my own personal projects off the ground. That’s what’s been occupying my time lately.

 

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Pizza Party Printing: Creepshow

RJ: Can you tell me about Pizza Party Printing?

JG: Totally, that’s my screen printing business that I started with a friend of mine. We do client work, screen printing with other people, but that’s more of my business partner’s end of the business because he’s a screen printer. I’m like the designer for the company, we do original t-shirts, posters for movies and patches.

RJ: Are they all horror themed?

JG: They’re not all horror themed, but generally if it’s a cult movie we’ll do something for it. We also hire out other illustrators. We had Andrea [Kalfas] do one for the Neverending Story. We tend to gravitate more towards cult movies, things that you wouldn’t usually see. We stay away from stuff like, Halloween or Friday the 13th, it’s all more offbeat stuff that we do.

RJ: Like the old, Old Boy, or something like that?

JG: Yeah, totally. We did a poster for John Carpenter’s The Thing. We did a Conan the Barbarian t-shirt for the Conan movies. We did one for Suspiria. We just did a showing of Wild Zero, which is like a Japanese rock and roll zombie movie. We did a t-shirt for that.

RJ: [Laughs] I really love all of them. The Creepshow one is one my favorites and the Ninja Turtles.

JG: That Creepshow one is crazy. I designed that for our very first movie showing. We showed Creepshow like two and a half years ago and that shirt has consistently sold better than any shirt we’ve ever done. [Laughs] It’s crazy, anytime we do that, we sell a million copies of it for some reason.

RJ: All the good ones are here, Hellraiser… are you going to do a Candy Man poster?

JG: We might, we kind of base the stuff that we do on the movies that we show. That’s definitely one we talked about showing.

 

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Executioner and Friend, Page 1

RJ: Awesome! Okay, well we’re on to the last question, and it’s usually kind of off topic, but might just be totally appropriate for you. In an Ultimate Monster Battle, who would you like to see go head to head?

JG: I feel like the little kid in me is racing to pick the two coolest monsters. [Laughs] Two monsters fighting each other? Man, I think two of my favorite ever movie monsters are the Rancor from Star Wars, the big thing in Jabba’s palace, and I mentioned John Carpenter’s The Thing earlier, I love that so much. I love that The Thing doesn’t have a set look. It looks different every time you see it, but it’s still identifiable as the monster. I feel like that movie, as well as Star Wars, had such a big influence on me. [Laughs] I guess those two guys.

RJ: I still need to see The Thing, I just know the ‘dog’ is involved… [Laughs]

JG: Oh man, that movie is one of my top three favorite movies ever. I would definitely recommend it. [Laughs]

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Artist Interview: AMY GUIDRY

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AMY GUIDRY

Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman

Keeping surrealism alive and thriving down in Louisiana is Painter Amy Guidry. She works in a photorealistic style, using incredibly personal and political symbolism. Amy’s veganism and relationship to animals and nature strongly influences her visual language. The details in her painted desertscapes and animal furs are so intricate it makes you want to reach out and pet that floating wolf head. Enjoy our conversation about Amy’s psychologically charged mini masterpieces.

 

SW: What inspires your imagery?

AG: I tend to work in series, so I’ll basically come up with ideas far in advance before I actually put them on canvas. So, I have an image come to mind while I’m half asleep or just doing random things throughout the day and I’ll make a note of it. I come back to it later and I try to add as much as I can, but still stay true to the original idea. And then as I start to build and see a direction forming, I’ll save it for a certain series that maybe I’m not working on in that moment but I am thinking about doing in the future. Or if it is something applicable to what I’m doing at the moment, then I’ll go ahead and put that into my rotation of what I want to do next.

 

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Wild West

 

SW: So I read that you are really into psychology and that shows up in your work. What do you focus on? Are you inspired by things that happen to you, or just life observations?

AG: The psychological aspect of my work is influenced by surrealism, which was influenced by psychology and Freud’s works, studying the Id, the ego, the super-ego. Really delving into the subconscious. Some of the surrealists artists, which I’m sure you’re aware, they would use imagery that at times was maybe more personal, sometimes maybe more of a reaction to what is going on in the outside world. That’s what I like to explore in my work, letting this free flow of imagery come from my mind, and really being open to new ideas and not hindering the creative process. Sometimes, I find it can be difficult to come up with an idea, to really try to force it causes a lot of stress. I find that if I can be open and free and not worry about what is going on in the rest of my day, if I don’t focus on what I need to accomplish tomorrow, and just really be open, I can have this flow of imagery come to mind and use that later as part of a series of work. There’s a lot of it that just stems from my family life. I’m a vegan, I’ve been so for 15 years now and that’s heavily influenced my work and my general reaction to things in the world. I’m constantly aware of what I’m wearing, where it was made, who has to make it, and what happens to them to be able to do that personally. It affects every decision I make, so I think that that creeps into my subconscious and a lot of my imagery comes to mind naturally. It’s really not a surprise to see that in my dreams, what not.

SW: Was there any particular piece that really stands to you or do they all, like you say, kind of flow? Do they all have the same importance? It sounds kind of like therapy in a way. Art therapy, the way that you’re making it. Maybe I’m not understanding it?

AG: [Laughs] There’s a lot that’s very personal to me that goes into my work and, y’know I want to be proud of every piece that I do. I have this relationship with each and every piece. I really hate to play favorites because of that, because I do have this connection to my work. So much of my content, like I said, is personal. It’s stuff that I think about all the time, and wish other people would think about also and end up taking action as a result. I have certain pieces that I might think of, that are more prominent just because they were the early pieces. It was maybe the first idea I had for a series, or a piece that I happen to be working on for a longer period of time than some of the others, but those might be milestones in their own right. Really, I like to think of the series as a whole, like this current series, In Our Veins. If I were to play favorites, that is, out of any body of work that I’ve done thus far. Just because it is probably the most personal thing, even if it isn’t evident to people when they view it, but for me, it means a lot. I felt like it was really taking my work to another level. I’m always trying to challenge myself with my work technically, conceptually. I felt like this series really hits that nail on the head. Not to say that I’m not always trying to constantly do more, or do better. Right now I’m in a good place and I’m really happy with the series as a whole.

 

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Exposed

 

SW: Yeah, this series is really beautiful. I was wondering and maybe it can be specific to this series, In Our Veins, visually not symbolically, what are your favorite things to paint? What is just satisfying to aesthetically create?

AG: I know a lot of people may comment on the mountain ranges that I do, those are very satisfying in the end result. As far as the process goes, it is challenging, but like I said I always want to challenge myself with my work. The end result makes it worth it. The mountain ranges, I’m really happy with. I like doing animals. I guess some could be more prevalent throughout this series, so I guess they’re kind of favorites. There’s actually a lot of deer, horses. It’s funny, because when I was a kid I would draw horses, so I’ve had a lot of practice on that one. Eyes, I’ve always focused a lot on the eyes, whether it’s a person in the painting or an animal. I don’t want to be cliche, but they really do tap into the soul of a being. You see so much in them. I think that, especially in a larger piece, I can make an entire landscape out of an eye, with all the shape and colors, patterning that you see in them.

SW: How big are your pieces?

AG: They range, the smallest ones are 4 inches square. Some of the larger ones are like 3 ft long. A lot are kind of in the middle range, they might be like an 8 x 10 in or 11 x 14 in , which [Laughs] depending on the person, may be small. For me, I feel like they’re a fairly significant size because when I’m painting really really small on a 4 inch painting then going up to 11 x 14 in, it’s like the size of a football field…

SW: [Laughs] I love to paint small, so I know exactly what you’re talking about.

SW: Who are some of your favorite artists?

AG: Salvador Dali, Kiki Smith, Magritte, Bosch, James Ensor, Frida Kahlo, Wangechi Mutu, Philip Pearlstein, Lucian Freud, Odd Nerdrum. There’s so many. [Laughs]

SW: It looks like you’re really good at promoting yourself, your website’s really well organized and it seems like everything you do, you document. So, I was wondering, and this could be a ‘both’ answer, but what is the most appealing thing to you about being an artist? What’s more gratifying to you, selling your work in galleries? I see you’re featured on these really big name art magazines and all over the press. What really is the most exciting to you?

AG: Ah, they’re all exciting. Anything. Positive feedback, I mean that’s all it is. Anytime I get some kind of positive feedback I’m always excited about that. I get excited just when I get an email from somebody from the other side of the planet and they say, ‘Wow, I really like your work’ and ‘It moves me’, y’know they took the time to write me. I love to have that interaction. I work in the studio by myself. I have cats in the room with me… but [Laughs], they’re not much on critique. Really, I’m making all the calls myself. On the other hand, it is nice to know what other people think, to get their reaction. I make the work for myself but it’s also just gratifying to know that other people agree with you and see what you see, even if it’s not quite the same, just the general idea. They’re with you and there’s this sense of community and understanding. That’s what I really like. Obviously if I could say work was in such and such magazine, or something like that, that if it’s flashy and that means a lot to people, because it’s something that they can recognize. They understand that this is good. But for me, it’s just really exciting to have anyone understand my work and really get it. It doesn’t have to be the flashy thing. I’m excited just to have people come to a show and know that they thought enough of my work to carve out time in their busy schedule to see it in person.

 

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Heads II

 

SW: You say you work alone in your studio, is that out of convenience? Is your studio in your house? I ask because there’s a lot of people in bigger cities that tend to, for economic reasons or for inspiration, share their studios with other people. Do you like working alone?>

AG: Yeah, I’m like that with everything I get [involved in]. Even in school, if I tried to do a study group it was always just playtime. I couldn’t really focus. The same reason I don’t go to a gym, I just can’t focus on it. It’s hard for me to go places like that. When I work alone, it’s quiet and I don’t have any distractions. My studio does not have a computer in it or anything like that, so I’m just totally in my zone. Also, it is convenient, it’s in my house. I don’t have to worry about y’know putting on shoes or anything like that. I just get up and get to work, I can work as late as I want, I don’t have to worry about driving in bad traffic or anything like that.

SW: Yeah, that sounds awesome. I have two more questions. You said that when you come up with ideas during the day, you’ll work it into an idea in a current series or you’ll save it for the next. Typically, on average, from the time you first conceive the idea to your last brush stroke on that same exact idea, how long does it usually take to complete a whole process?

AG: When I first come up with the idea, that can literally be years. A few years. There’s stuff that I’ll just sit on for awhile and y’know, sometimes it’s just not the right moment. It’s just a gratuitous process for me. I guess I work on a series and when I feel like I’ve said everything I need to say, then I feel like I can move on to another body of work. They all do have ties to me. It may not be as evident to others. When I actually feel like I’m starting on an official series, it can literally be two to three years before it happens.

SW: That’s actually really inspiring to hear. I’m an art teacher also and a lot of my students think that art happens immediately, especially with technology they don’t realize stuff takes a long time, and what you’re saying is really saturated in importance. It’s not just how long you’re taking on a piece, which actually our last artist we interviewed, he took a long time to work on his pieces and you can see how beautiful they are. I think that developing that concept is just as important, and as you said it might not be the right time. Never force something, sometimes you just get one shot. Sometimes you can express something multiple ways, but… I really like that.

AG: Like you said, the sense the of immediacy with the internet and all these social media sites popping up left and right. What you mentioned earlier about stuff that’s maybe old to me but new to your audience, it still applies. Just because it’s taking me awhile to work on a painting, doesn’t mean that it’s not exciting and new to a whole other audience. You can take that time to promote just your process, show how it started on paper. Put that online. Put photos of the work while it’s actually being painted, make a video of that. Speed it up, slow it down, whatever you want to do. It doesn’t always have to be this sweet finished piece to make a difference. When I’m coming up with an idea for a series, I’m always painting. Even if it’s not that idea at that time, I’m currently working on something else. I’ve always got something going. I just try to let it come organically whenever I’m working on what I want to do next. Sometimes I may just have an idea, but it might be better for later. Sometimes I just have something and it’s like ‘Wow, yes, this. I have to work on this right now.’ I’ll do that and generally I don’t work on two or so paintings at once. Sometimes, on rare occasions I do that. If I’m really that excited about something. It also gives me a big chance to sort of experiment with it. Just kind of see what it looks like fleshed out. If I’m working on something else as well, it allows me to have that playtime, but to everyone else they still see that I’m being productive.

 

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SW: Our last question, we usually end on a random note. Has anyone ever told you, you look like Dee from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, mixed with Avril Lavigne?

AG: Wait, is it the blonde girl?

SW: Yeah

AG: I have a vague recollection of what she looks like… but I have heard Avril Lavigne. [Laughs] I’ve heard that a few times actually. The best time was, somebody posted a picture of me and one of her friends said ‘Oh, I thought you were hanging out with Avril Lavigne in Jersey.’ [Laughs] I’ll take it as a compliment.

SW: Yeah! She’s pretty. She’s famous, whatever. [Laughs]

AG: [Laughs] I wish it was someone more classic like Marilyn Monroe, but I’ll take it as a compliment.

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