Artist Interview: 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.




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 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.


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


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.


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.


Artist Interview: JUN CEN


Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman

We introduce to you another amazingly talented Illustrator from China, Jun Cen. He recently graduated from MICA’s new illustration Masters program, in the same class as previous artist interviewed Lisk Feng. Jun’s drawings and short animation Mutual Tunnels are mesmerizing. Perfect color pairing and textures, coupled with beautifully balanced compositions, create an emotional mood in each illustration. It was a pleasure getting an opportunity to speak to Jun, here’s how it went…


SHANON WELTMAN: What is your favorite medium to work in? It looks like you work digitally, but can you elaborate on that?

JUN CEN: I’ve tried many different mediums. For example, pencil, acrylic, gouache and digital. I kind of use them from time to time, but recently I’ve just focused on digital. I’ve been doing a lot of editorial illustrations, so I think digital is easier for me to change and edit.

SW: Because they’re so fast?

JC: Yeah, if you see my animation it’s hand drawn animation, done with pencil. I also really like pencil too, it’s very intuitive. That’s the reason I really like pencil.

SW: It also matches the gentleness in your drawings. In the personal work section of your website, are those ideas or stills from your animations?

JC: Yeah if you go to Mutual Tunnels, that series is stills of the animation. Original drawings from the animation, since the animation is all hand drawn.

SW: Can you walk us through your digital process? Where do you start and where do you end?

JC: Something very interesting about my pencil drawings, sometimes I use digital to do the sketches and then I print them out and finalize it with pencil. This is something I found very interesting. Usually some people will do sketches and then go digital, but I kind of did it the opposite way. For my digital illustrations I think it’s quite straight forward, it’s actually all digital. I do the sketches in Photoshop, I do different colors on different layers to mimic the process of screen printing. You can see colors, it’s kind of graphic looking. You can see when the two colors multiply together to create a third color. This is very similar to the process of printmaking. Especially when you’re using transparent medium. I was a printmaker before, I was kind of familiar with this process. It’s kind of good for me, to apply this technique in my illustration.

SW: Yeah, it seems really useful. That makes a lot of sense, your colors are so flat and they blend so well together.

JC: After I’ve done the drawings, I apply a texture to the top of each layer. I use a lot of layers masks. I apply the texture with the mask. It’s easier for me to edit the shape of the color and the texture since they are on different things.



Miss Minoes

SW: Yeah, so interesting. It seems like a lot of artists today are working relatively like the way you work, but like you said, you do it in reverse with the pencil. Everyone’s got their own little way of tweaking these new ways of creating texture for an older look, which is kind of funny. Do you think you’re going to do anymore animations like Mutual Tunnels?

JC: Thank you so much, actually I’m making another one. It’s an animated music video for a band, a Brooklyn based band.

SW: Have you done some album covers too? Is that in your website?

JC: I’ve done one, that was actually a collaborative project, I collaborated with a musician. I generated this project first and then invited the musician to participate. It’s kind of different from album design, because it’s a small conceptual project. Behind the project there’s kind of sophisticated concepts. As you can see the album is called Hermaphrodite, so we were very interested in things like… hermaphrodites. [Laughs] I’m not sure how to discuss it, it’s a project from a long time ago. It was two years ago, it was a very fun project.

SW: Did you do it in school or just on your own personally?

JC: Yeah, I did it when I went to the graduate program at MICA. In school we were allowed to do many different kinds of experimentation, so I kind of liked the idea. I don’t want to make a boring project, just for the assignment, just something. So I decided to do something fun, something I was very interested in. When I was in school I was very interested in psychoanalysis. That kind of thing. I took classes on psychoanalysis and film and some other types of causes. I was very interested in it. I came up with this idea, making a project discussing gender identity or something. That was something I was very interested in. My interest kind of changed a little bit recently. I focus more on editorial illustration, which is quite a different approach. I do both personal work and professional work, so I have two different approaches.

SW: MMhmm, yeah you can see that in your styles. They’re both beautiful, but you definitely feel a bit more free in your personal work. The other work is very good craftsmanship, really great concepts too, but you can see the clear difference.



Lohas Monthly Drawing

SW: What inspires your imagery and color palette? How do you choose your composition and those limited colors?

JC: I think everything I do reflects my personality. I think art really reflects the artist’s personality, so I think my decisions are very intuitive too. Let me see, inspiration… one of the inspirations was also related to my previous experience as a printmaker. I think what inspires the way I do the colors is very logical. I like to play around with colors and try to find ways to multiply the colors together to make a third color. Usually when I make a piece, the maximum number of colors is four. With just these four colors I can create a lot of colors. I kind of like to play around with this idea too, to use limited conditions to make something more than that.

SW: So I guess your answer is intuition. The one piece I was talking about, Lohas Monthly drawing, just orange and blue. The choices that you made like you said are very intuitive. The pastel and the pink and blue one, within the range makes so much sense. Same with the orange one, not too bright, the right amount of muted, it just works so perfectly together.

JC: Actually, what I told you, the purpose of that image was to really try and make as many variations as I can in this one image with those limited colors. So that was a very fun process, to me.



Starry Night

SW: Cool! So here’s a big question: What are the main differences, good and bad, between the American and Chinese illustration world?

JC: I think the big difference is the history. Illustration in China is kind of like a field with not that long of a history compared to America. I’m only saying that of illustration. I think that illustration in China started like… 20 years ago? But if you say illustration in America, it’s like a 100 years or something. I remember when I went to school, we took some courses about illustration history in America. We talked a lot about the golden age of illustration. Those were like early 20th century, but if you look at China, because everything develops so fast and so recently, I think the main difference is this point. The industry has a lot to develop. In China, we don’t have many categories for illustration. The one that we can see very often is editorial illustration, we also have a lot of comics but they’re manga, like Japanese manga. The style is very different too, the way the illustrators work is very different from the illustrators in America. Another thing, because the industry is so young, all the illustrators are trying to develop it. Also, experimenting, so yeah, it’s very exciting but also very hard for illustrators because a lot of times they have to figure out things themselves. Like me, it took a very long time for me to figure out the business side of illustration in China because not all the art directors would talk about contracts or copyrights with you, but in America every job you have to sign a contract to make sure things are right. You own all the rights of the image or something like that, but in China you have to figure it out. You have to remind the art director you have certain rights of these images. And then you have to protect yourself when you deal with clients very carefully. So this is also very different from illustration in America. Another thing is, because it’s developing and all the illustrators are experimenting, it’s also very exciting too. They don’t have anything to limit themselves. They can do whatever they want. Recently a lot of young artists in China are doing independent comics, they’re very interested in something more underground. Especially in Beijing. After I graduated from undergrad I went to Beijing for a year and then I met many illustrators and comic artists and also animators there. I think it’s kind of cool. Another thing is, this field in China is developing but it’s not developed by the government, so it’s kind of very hard to publish a book in China. That’s why a lot of artists decided to self publish a comic or something in China, which is actually more interesting.

SW: Ohh…

JC: If you go to a bookstore in China, you can see, especially when you go to the comics section or illustration section, you can see the books there are very boring, but people try to find a way to publish their work and also do what they want with it. This is interesting to me. [Laughs]

SW: This is all really interesting to me, over in the western world we think of China as this very old culture, that’s very established with ways of doing things. America, we’re the western crazy ones. So it’s like the opposite. We’re an established deity of illustration, you guys are like the wild west.

JC: [Laughs]

SW: That’s so funny, you have to remind the art director you have rights?? That’s crazy! [Laughs]

JC: Crazy! Yeah, I think so too. When I first started doing illustration, the one or two years after I started I experienced a lot of things. Like, I didn’t get paid for the job because I didn’t sign any contracts or something, but now I’ve learned to do what I do in America with the clients, so this way they also learn that illustrators should be respected too.

SW: Mmhmm, in America there’s a lot of times where people don’t get paid, but when you have that contract it’s like, ‘you can pay me late, or I can take you to court. You’re making that decision…’

JC: [Laughs]



Velvet Dream

SW: Alright, that’s cool to know. Can you describe what you like your studio environment to be like? Do you like to have certain music on, quiet, loud, messy, clean? What’s it like in your studio environment.

JC: Actually, right now I have two tables in my studio. The reason why I did that is I love to move to another table when I get the first one messy. [Laughs] I love to work in different places. Like you said, I have to have music on when I work. I don’t watch TV or listen to anything with talking because I can’t focus on the work, but I really need music to create atmosphere, mood or something.

SW: What do you listen to?

JC: I listen to Spotify. [Laughs] I usually have my music preference, mostly electronic or psychedelic, shoegaze.

SW: Last question: What is the last book you read?

JC: Hmm, let me see… can I say a comic actually?

SW: Yeah!

JC: I just finished Chris Ware’s The Building Story, which is an amazing book to me.

SW: He is awesome.

JC: It’s epic, amazing. It took me awhile to finish it, because I have to go through every page in a project, because he’s so great. When I was in school I even made an essay about it, because I was taking a film class. So I was using film theory to analyze the project, because I do think comics and films are very similar in a way. In the way that the artist uses the camera, the movement of the camera to tell a story. For comics, the artist use the frame as the camera to tell the story, so they have similarity. I did that, it was a fun project to analyze Chris Ware’s project.

SW: That’s really cool, that’s a good artist to do that for.

Building Stories, Chris Ware

Artist Interview: HEATHER CLEMENTS

Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman

Eco-conscious Artist Heather Clements is cutting millions of tiny shapes out of paper and making a name for herself down in Panama City. She is a master at the art of cut paper illustrations, and her style is certainly a cut above the rest (pun intended). Her language of visual and conceptual elements in nature, as well as her tight technical abilities gives her art a breath of life. Slow your roll, slip on some flip flops, and get into the mindset of this talented Floridian.

SHANON WELTMAN: Who and what are your artistic and life inspirations?

HEATHER CLEMENTS: Some old artistic inspirations would be Egon Schiele and Chuck Close, William Kentridge, Andy Goldsworthy. Kind of picking from some technical inspirations and some conceptual inspirations.

SW: What about inspirations unrelated to art? You talk a lot about how much you love nature on your website. Talk about that a little bit.

HC: My own backyard is an inspiration. People don’t often realize the whole world that goes on just within a bush in their backyard or something. Sometimes I just watch the lizards play [Laughs], as silly as that might sound. It’s amazing! You watch a small creature long enough you start to get to know them and understand why it does certain things that might seem odd at first, but then it just comes together. Y’know, the lizards with the red flap that comes out of their neck, what is that all about?

SW: [Laughs] Mmhmm

HC: And then you see a little lady lizard come up, and you’re like ‘oh okay, mating call, gotcha.’ [Laughs] So yeah, I definitely did a bit of a lizard ramble.

SW: I don’t see a lot of lizards in your art. [Laughs] I see a lot of trees, nature, foliage.

HC: I feel that the foliage kind of speaks more of nature in general. Sometimes I feel like using specific animals is a little bit too specific and people start to think ‘what’s the symbolism of a lizard, what’s the symbolism of a bird?’ When I want it to be general nature. I have thought about putting specific animals back in my work, it’s just kind of something to think about for me.




SW: So with symbolism aside, what is your favorite imagery to work with?

HC: People, I like drawing people and lighting and doing interesting things with shadows. That’s always appealed to me.

SW: If you were to do a few animals, what animals would they be?

HC: Well actually, I’ve done some, back when I did a series I called my “Ecocide” series, and ecocide means the destruction of the environment. So, I had these beautiful women with elements of nature that they had just kind of ripped out of their natural surroundings to make themselves look pretty. Parts of the vine would start to wither and die and in each piece there was a dead animal. I had dead birds, a dead snake, a dead dragonfly… things like that. More common things that most of us experience in more everyday life. Then there was a point where I decided that I didn’t want to be negative anymore. I didn’t want to be shoving something down everyone’s throat, ‘This is how you’re all doing it wrong!’ I wanted to shift to what could be done right. How we can be living, and to show how beautiful and great that can be. I think a message stated in the positive can be so much more impactful and received better than a message received in the negative.




SW: That’s a nice point. What is this new charcoal series about? Is it what you just talked about? Can you expand on that?

HC: It’s more just exploring the inner connection between humans and nature and embracing the elements of nature that’s coming with them. Like the ones with the shadows that I have a couple of, the shadows from the trees are really imprinted on the body and they kind of go along with the curves of the body and they start to become one with the body. I think that it’s more that exploring some sort of symbiosis between ourselves and our surroundings, so we’re not so separate from our surroundings. We’re not separate from nature, we are nature.

SW: Are all of the shadows from observation? Are they from imagination?

HC: From photograph references, yeah.

SW: How big is that piece?


Native II


HC: This one is 24” x 30”.

SW: How long does it take you to work on a drawing like that?

HC: I’ve actually slowed down in my drawing process lately, although I’m in general a pretty fast worker. This one I think I tallied at about 16-17 hours.

SW: Switching gears for a second to your other work, your paper cuts, how long does one of those take? They’re all different in intricacies, I’m sure you have more than one answer.

HC: The paper cuts definitely take a bit longer than just a drawing. That was kind of the benefit when people saw the paper cuts. People don’t always understand how long a drawing or a painting takes, but with the paper cuts it was so clear, so transparent. Every single one of the shapes that you see was hand cut out, so the process was a little bit more evident. People could definitely tell the time put into the paper cuts. I did some large paper cuts that took 30 some hours, and then y’know 16” x 20” ones would take maybe 15-20 hours. So, they definitely took a good chunk of time.

SW: What did you learn through that process? I’ve seen other artists do that same technique and really honestly, in just my opinion, you’re one of the best ones out there right now. I see a lot of, ‘They know the technique but they’re not really saying much’. I don’t see any clunkiness in your work, it looks like you’ve figured out the right kind of paper, how dull the x-acto gets or whatever before too long… it just really looks like y’know what you’re doing.

HC: Yeah, I mean, I went through times when I would use 140 lb watercolor paper, which is thick stuff, and I would cut through that with x-acto knives and have to replace my blade often. That was something I definitely had to get used to. It’s okay to throw away a blade and get a new one, because the cut really suffers if you don’t change blades often. Sometimes I would use black silhouette paper which was extremely thin in contrast, and so you have to adjust how you cut based on the kind of paper that you do have. I had some practice for my paper cuts before I started, from a commission that I did which actually got me into working with paper. A commission from the Visual Arts Center of Northwest Florida to make over 300 paper flowers.

SW: That’s a lot…

HC: Yeah, if I never see another paper flower in my life… [Laughs]. I think that got out of the way all of the beginner paper cutter things to get through. I had a good understanding of the medium when I started doing my personal work with it.


Ecocide VI


SW: Is the piece in back of you a cut piece?

HC: Yeah, this is paper cut… I did a few of these drawing paper cut combinations…

SW: The one with the hair, how many cuts is that — a guess?

HC: I made an estimation shortly after cutting that one and I think it’s over a thousand. I think. I saw a little section and counted and kind of estimated it. I made a little dragonfly once, and sometimes artists, we’re just like, suicidally insane with the things we take on. I made this dragonfly that was 5” x 7” and the wings alone had 600 squares in them.

SW: Each one? Or all together? It’s impressive either way!

HC: [Laughs] I think all together. The little itty bitty tiniest little squares I could cut out. That was from 140 lb watercolor paper, that would make my hand turn into this crampy claw by the end of the day, cutting into that thick paper.




SW: [Laughs] Just one last question about the paper. Some people can’t draw without seeing a reference in front of them and other people can just see a whole image and just draw on a blank sheet of paper. Which of those two people are you when it comes to the cuts? Do you have to draw first or do you just see it and you just cut?

HC: Oh god, I definitely draw it first. [Laughs] Yeah, especially with paper cuts, you make a mistake and you’re screwed. You can’t undo a cut y’know? Sometimes you can incorporate it and change your design a little bit, but the good thing about paper cutting is the cut looks cleaner on the opposite side that you cut the paper. So all the drawing gets to be on the back, and then the other side the cuts are cleaner and you don’t have any pencil or anything.

SW: Ah, that’s kind of like fabric. You can draw with chalk and then you use the other side… okay.

HC: Yeah, so the other side’s a mess, y’know? [Laughs]

SW: That makes sense. I was wondering how you were going in and erasing without ripping the paper.

HC: [Laughs] Yeah it’s all on the back.

SW: Do you have any advice for working as an artist in the real world? For any interested art students or soon to be graduated.

HC: Take yourself seriously, y’know? If you’re kind of trying to tip-toe into it, it’s not going to work. You have to understand that if you want to make a living as an artist, you do also have to be a business person. You have to be a finance person, a PR person, you have to do all of that. So take yourself seriously, be willing to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to say ‘Hey I’m an artist and this is my stuff’. Also, meet a lot of people, get involved in your local arts community in as many ways as you can. All of that stuff helps.

SW: Kind of a follow up to that… I grew up in FL and I know nothing of Panama City.

HC: [Laughs] I never heard of it before I was going to move here either.

SW: You were talking so much about how much you love your backyard though, I was wondering, are you there because of family? Is there some other appeal? Do you love the art scene there? It seems like you’re always involved in these contest or shows. Leading from what you just said, you’re very involved where you are…

HC: I moved here right after graduating from MICA. I looked for a job in Baltimore, but of course I couldn’t find one, and I definitely didn’t want to move home either.

SW: Where’s home?

HC: Northern Virginia. Not that there’s anything wrong with home, home is great. I just didn’t want to do that. My friend actually got a job down here, I said ‘that’s by the beach, that’s cool, I should move there too’, she was like ‘You should!’ and sent me all this information on the area. I emailed some galleries looking for a job and heard back from one of them, not about with a job, but they said they could give me a solo show, and that it would show in a couple of other places. I was like, ‘alright, I’ve got more going on down there than anywhere else’. So I came down here with my old high school friend and with Carrie. So then, I had lived here for just a few months and that same gallery owner was going to be giving up the gallery and long story short, I ended up taking over the gallery. So I owned that for a couple years, that was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was so amazing, it was the hub for the culture of the area and I had always thought if the gallery above ever closes I am out of this town [Laughs], but then I met my now husband, so that’s really why I stayed. But really the area does a have lot to offer. There is a nice, warm little arts community and there’s the beach and there’s a lot of amazing parks in the area. The natural environment of the area is completely unique and gorgeous, you have to love the weather.


SW: One last question, who is your favorite fictional sidekick?

HC: Crap. Favorite fictional sidekick… hmm… can it be something that I make up?

SW: [Laughs] Like in this moment, right now?

HC: [Laughs] Yeah, that is putting too much pressure. I’m drawing a blank, the only sidekick I can think of is Robin.

SW: Let’s make a graph real quick in the air. Do you read or watch movies more?

HC: I watch more movies. [Laughs]

SW: So, we’re in the movie realm. [Laughs] Do you like cartoons or more real life movies?

HC: I like unique animation and also real life movies.

SW: Well, of the Disney universe who would your favorite sidekick be?

HC: Ahhhh, let’s see… I really liked “Emperor’s New Groove” but I don’t know if Pacha would be a favorite?

SW: He’s a pretty good overlooked sidekick actually, he’s very responsible and a Dad…

HC: I know, I want someone slightly more entertaining… [Laughs]

SW: Right?

HC: [Laughs] Hmm… you ever see “Triplets of Belleville”? The Triplets they would be like a sidekick. The Triplets themselves… Can I pick 3?

SW: [Laughs] I think that counts, yeah, great.

HC: The Triplets of Belleville are really awesome sidekicks.