Artist Interview: DINA KELBERMAN

dina-k
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.

 

775IMPORTANT3-12-14_braintalk

 

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.

 

imgoogle-1

 

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]

 

imgoogle-2

 

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?

 

IMG_2958

 

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.

 

762IMPORTANT6-25-14_poem

 

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]

11WCCT-Dina-Kelberman-Small

Artist Interview: JIMMY GIEGRICH

jimmy-g
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.

 

947abe97bf27eed1-giegerich_joey

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!

 

72f7c3e42e3c1a08-giegerich_executioner

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.

 

a803a5c58a002c65-giegerich_skips

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.

 

akira-poster

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.

 

432c7572cd055ed9-giegerich_creepshow

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.

 

f71d61a499b59dd9-giegerich-eaf-1

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]

thethingvsrancor

Artist Interview: CUN SHI

2
CUN SHI

Intro by Shanon Weltman / Interview by Ray Jones

Illustrator and current New Yorker Cun Shi (pronounced SHUN, not KUN) might be a new kid on the block, but he’s ahead of the game. His portraits capture an incredible realness in both likeness and essence. His surreal illustrations look like stills from experimental anime films, or frames from an old timey comic strip like “Little Nemo in Slumberland.” Ray Jones talked with this recent SVA MFA alumni to see what it’s like to be Cun.

 

RAY JONES: What is your earliest memory of wanting to be an artist?

CUN SHI: My earliest memory… I would probably say my earliest memory was back when I was a kid. Both my parents are artists; my dad is a painter, my mom, she was a ballet dancer. My dad was always working at home, he also collected a lot of stuff. Junk that he found all over the place, y’know antiques, stuff like that. So, at the time when I was in that environment, seeing that stuff, that was probably the first memory that I can recall thinking, ‘This is really cool’. I wouldn’t say it was like a serious consideration at the time, but I think I was more keen to becoming an Astronomer or something. [Laughs] But, I didn’t really give it any serious thought despite the fact that I grew up in an artistic environment. Until I was around 21.

RJ: So wait, wow, what were you thinking of doing up until then?

CS: I got into graphic design way before I started to really seriously do any kind of drawing or doing any kind of formal training. It was something that I picked up, just as a kid, when I wasn’t playing computer games. I got my first PC when I was… I can’t even remember how old. I started playing Star Fox and Doom on it, specifically Doom. [Laughs]

RJ: Ah yes [Laughs]

CS: Somewhere along the way I got a copy of Photoshop and started messing around, y’know. That’s what I was mostly doing before I ever considered drawing, up until then it was mostly graphic design, self-taught. Sort of just playing around and experimenting with stuff.

 

Demon-w
Demon

 

RJ: Was there a particular artist that woke you up to ‘Hey I can do this for a living, I want to do this?’

CS: Yeah, definitely. My father being among the first, but at the time I wasn’t too aware of anybody that was well known. It was mostly local people that I met. One of the huge artists that had an influence on me at the time was a really good friend of mine who was a local artist in Beijing. He was making a living doing art and selling his paintings. He wasn’t incredibly well off but he was very dedicated and he loved what he did. Actually, when I went back to Beijing after high school, we actually went on a road trip. We kind of backpacked our way half way across the country. I brought a sketchbook with me and we spent six months on the road. It was during that period where I found my wake up call and realized that this was something I really enjoyed doing. It was there with me all along growing up, even though I was more interested in graphic design as a profession. I was always doodling, sketching. Even when I was in high school, I was more or less known as ‘The Art Kid’. I didn’t play sports or anything, I was pretty scrawny and nerdy [Laughs].

RJ: [Laughs]

CS: I think that was always there, it just took a little more to bring it out.

 

Wu-Tang-Cun-Shi-Illustration-Art-Comic-Ink_1_1024
Wu Tang Clan

 

RJ: What artists today do you feel are speaking a similar sort of visual language as the one you’re expressing now?

CS: There’s quite a few, but most recently I’ve been looking at a lot of work by a lot of Japanese artists. One artist that speaks a lot to me is a Japanese graphic designer by the name of Tadanori Yokoo. He’s been influencing my work quite a bit. I got to know his work through David Sandlin, it was during the [SVA] MFA course. Another artist that I look at a lot is Peter Doig, who I believe is Scottish. He does a lot of very surreal watercolors and things like that. I also have a library at my studio, I have quite a few in there. It’s a little bit all over the place, I try not to focus on one specific artist. Sometimes I’ll see paintings that really hit the spot for me. There’s another Japanese artist, his name is Makoto Aida. He did this huge painting with all these people in a blender. Blended. It’s pretty… bloody. [Laughs]

RJ: I think I’ve seen that one!

CS: Yeah, visually, it’s a very powerful painting. When I saw it I was like ‘Oh my god, [Laughs] this is crazy.’ I get inspired by stuff that’s on the edge a little bit. You know, not your everyday contemporary serene landscape or stuff like that. If a painting has a very powerful visual punch to it, I’ll definitely check it out. Another artist that really inspires me is Giger. H.R. Giger, the guy that did Alien. I really enjoy his work. I got a book of his a few years ago at a flea market somewhere. It was a pretty extensive book with a lot of interviews. I was aware of his paintings before, but I never really actually learned about him until that book. Just, wow, this guy is a genius.

RJ: Let’s talk about work now a little bit. Do you have any rituals or common practices before you start a piece?

CS: I clean my studio. [Laughs] Yeah, I try to keep my working space clean, not too cluttered. It wasn’t always like this, but I kind of discovered that when I clean up my studio before I start a project, in a way, it’s almost like getting rid of whatever, the negative energy, or just anything that’s lingering in my mind. Just sort of starting a fresh template. At some point while I was working I realized it really helped. I kept at it and it became a ritual.

 

Cun-Shi-New-Yorker-Electric-Zoo3_1024-w
Electric Zoo Festival, The New Yorker

 

RJ: Cool, cool. How about walking us through your process? Picking one piece in particular if you wouldn’t mind telling us more about it.

CS: Yeah sure, my process differs a little bit, depending on if I’m doing personal work or commercial work. Commercial work, for example, a piece that I recently did for The New Yorker. The project was for the Electric Zoo Festival, which was a huge electronic music event. So basically, what I do for a commercial project once I get the assignment, and I’ve read through the copy and have a good idea what the director is looking for, I’ll usually start doing pretty heavy research. Read books, look at photos, anything that I can get my hands on that’s related to the project at hand. I try to find something that will start a chain reaction in my mind. At this point, sometimes I get an idea instantly, other times I rely on this process to help me find that idea. Once that happens, I’ll start sketching and there’s more notations rather than actual drawings. They’re pretty rough. When I start to refine it, it’s usually started very rough, kind of gestural, structural forms. The composition and what not. Sometimes when I draw, I will draw and then flip it over because when I stare at a drawing for a very long time, it sort of gets engraved in my head. I start to not notice how bad it actually is.

RJ: Ah [Laughs] yeah, I understand that.

CS: I guess the drawing phase, getting everything down until you ink it… you ink your stuff too right?

RJ: Yeah

CS: Yeah, getting it to that point takes a while. When I flip it over and get a new perspective on it, then I’m like ‘Oh, shit, I have to redraw this and that’. Eventually once I’ve refined the drawing, I’ll use a lightbox and refine it again. Then, I’ll finally ink it. Once I ink it, I’ll start coloring. Most of the time I color digitally, usually with just two colors, or sometimes I will start with just one, and try to keep things simple. Depending on how I feel, I’ll do a value study with just that one color, kind of letting it carry on from there. I rarely have a color scheme in mind when I start working, sometimes I do, but most times I work on the go. For personal work, I usually let the idea come to me instead. Going back to what I was saying about having ideas accumulate through research, I try to be on the lookout for stuff that inspires me out in the world. It could be a book, a line I read somewhere, a photo in a magazine, it’s tough to predict but when it’s there I like to make a mental note of it. Sometimes I will actively search for it, other times it will accumulate to the point where the idea just comes out. Usually when that happens, it happens very automatically. I could be at least where I don’t expect. I could be sitting on the toilet, [Laughs] going for a walk somewhere, and it just hits me.

RJ: [Laughs]

RJ: Looking back at this Electric Zoo illustration, did the art director think about all those little creatures down at the bottom and all that? Or is that all from you?

CS: That was from me, but I think the AD contributed a big part. This particular art director is Jordan Awan. You know, when I did it, it was part of the rough sketch I sent him. He liked it a lot. I didn’t know whether he would go for it because I gave him three sketches. They were all really different. He really liked it and encouraged it. For this particular project and the other pieces that we work together on, he gives me a very good amount of freedom to do what I want. Which is something I really appreciate from Jordan. And, for some reason he very often picks the sketch that I want to do the most.

RJ: [Laughs] That’s good.

CS: [Laughs] Yeah, so I was very fortunate that he picked this one. It was the one that I wanted to do the most.

RJ: Well it came out great, man, definitely.

CS: Thank you.

 

Illustration by Cun Shi
Nico

 

RJ: What is one crucial piece of advice you’ve learned over the last few years? It could be art related, it could be otherwise.

CS: One of the most important things I learned when I was in the MFA program. It was a big help to push my work to another level. I would say, learning to do the kind of work that I really wanted to do. To set up the work I should be doing. When I first got into the program, I don’t know if you felt the same way before you got in, but my work was kind of all over the place. At the time I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. I brought a bit of skills I’d accumulated but I just didn’t know how to put it together. I would see people’s work and I would be like, ‘this is what I should be doing’. Basically, I think at the time, I was seeing through other people’s labor. I really didn’t have a clue as to how to make that true on my own. I think seeing people’s hard work come to fruition, the research and the stuff they’ve done, it was in a way kind of intimidating at first. I kind of felt lost and really was kind of driven by other people’s work ethic. Something that was internal. After I got through the program I realized just having the courage and confidence to go internally and draw from yourself. The result that comes from that is much, much better, than anything I’d done in the past; it feels right. I’m being true to myself and my voice, what I want to express, rather than something that comes from elsewhere. I would say, learning just to do things that I wanted to do and not for the sake of trying to get jobs. I remember having an interview with Nathan Fox and he sat me down and was like, ‘What do you want to do?’ This was like the beginning of the first semester. [Laughs] I didn’t have a damn clue. I was like, ‘Editorial?’ [Laughs] You know? I don’t even think I knew what editorial was at the time. I would start to do stuff, thinking maybe this is what will get me work and what not. I was totally heading in the wrong direction and I didn’t realize it. It took me sometime to realize I should really just do what I want to do to get enjoyment out of it.

RJ: That’s really good. I really connect with a lot of that. That was definitely a lot of my experience too during MFA. A lot hero worship from afar and ‘Yeah! I’m on the same track, so I must be heading to the same destination.’ [Laughs]

CS: Yeah, yeah [Laughs]

RJ: But I didn’t see all behind the scenes thinking and planning like you’re talking about. Definitely. [Laughs]

CS: Yeah, it’s crazy. Sometimes it’s like you don’t get a chance to meet these people and you feel like they’re kind of doing the same thing, so you must be headed in the right direction. Yeah, there was definitely a lot of hero worship. [Laughs] Just seeing people’s work, I was just like ‘Ahhh! I wish I could start doing stuff like that!’ Not realizing at the time, it was completely the wrong mindset and thought process.

 

Cun-Shi-Illustration-Outkast-Art-w
Outkast, The New Yorker

 

RJ: Alright now, we’re on to the last question. This one is kind of off topic. Not related to anything else: What was the last physical plastic music CD that you bought?

CS: Last physical plastic music CD?! [Laughs] Oh man, you mean like Sam Goody type? [Laughs] For me, maybe when they had Tower Records?

RJ: When was this?

CS: I think it might be a West Coast thing, it’s like Sam Goody, just more of an exclusive record shop.

RJ: Is it like Virgin Records?

CS: Yeah, a little bit similar, not as big. A little bit more Mom and Pop sort of, which is cool.

RJ: Oh, okay.

CS: The last hard copy music that I bought… Actually, the last piece of music I bought was an old Art Tatum composition from a street vendor on Prince & Spring, when I was on my way back to the studio from a live drawing session.  There were at least ten crates of records and I couldn’t help but take a look.  I’m not a huge Tatum fan but I really dig the cover art… and I got a great deal for it.

Art_Tatum,_Vogue_Room,_New_York,_N.Y.,_between_1946_and_1948_(William_P._Gottlieb_08321)