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: CORIANNA BROWN

Corianna Brown

CORIANNA BROWN

Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman

We’ve talked with so many city folk, we felt it was time to interview a country mouse. Corianna Brown is bleached blonde Wonder Women, or she might as well be. She’s a mother of six kids, sells five or more commissioned paintings a week, and has a huge fanbase on Instagram that she inspires on a daily basis. She’s a true testament that you don’t need to live in a big city to make it as an artist, especially today. Her bright color palette and fun painting style will make your mouth water for tasty cupcakes — no, but literally, she uses a lot of pink, which makes you crave sugar. I’ve been lucky enough to witness her style evolve over the last 10+ years. Take a few minutes and read our interview and get to know Corianna.

 

SHANON WELTMAN: First question. How many kids do you have, and more importantly, how has it affected your art?

CORIANNA BROWN: Oh gosh. We have 6 kids. 3 of them mine, 3 are Glenn’s, so we’re kind of like the Brady Bunch. Honestly, it has affected my art for the better in the long run, not so much when they were babies, but it’s brought back making art for a living. It’s pretty easy to stay home and paint and keep your kids at home, vs. I used to work in the corporate world for 80 hours a week. I did that for 6 years as a district manager, and they had a full time nanny. So I’m making about the same money, really, at the end of the day, but now I’m able to stay home more. …I totally dedicated myself to AT&T for 6 years. Started as a sales rep, became a manager, moved to Asheville to be a district manager. Then shortly after I moved there it kind of fell apart, they ended up closing my store and they said ‘hey you could move across the other side of the world’, they wanted to send me to, like, Texas or California and work out there. They said ‘take this severance package’, so I literally took that severance package and stayed at home — this is when we were into sustainable farming at the time. It was 10 degrees outside pretty much all winter long and lots of snow everywhere, and I was painting in the little tiny cabin that didn’t even have power. I had to go down there early in the morning to start a wood stove so that it was a tolerable temperature to sit and paint. So now I’m totally in suburbia, living in a rental house and it’s easier for me to paint because I’m not chopping firewood and warming up my abandoned cabin, but I was doing that back then with kids. It’s pretty awesome.

SW: That sounds really surreal almost.

CB: Yeah it was really surreal, it was an awesome place to live with my own little magical 60 acres of fairy mountains and the Appalachian mountains. I’m so glad and thankful now. Glenn and I were just sitting the other day talking ‘this is awesome, we push a button on the wall and the heater comes on, and the U-verse TV, and high speed internet, and you don’t have to drive 50 miles to get to the nearest store, so we’re totally spoiled. It’s making it easier for me to create art, because I have all these luxuries of civilization. The art store, now, is down the road, before I had to drive an hour to find paint for sale.

 

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SW: So, between 6 kids, are any of them interested in art and are you teaching your kids about art, or they just kind of in awe of you?

CB: Actually they are all very interested in art, they all want to know what I’m doing all the time. I don’t paint in the studio, I use the kitchen table. I keep my stuff on top of the washing machine and dryer, and I have this multi-functional living space, but they’re always in the kitchen. I turned that into my painting studio. So most days I’m sitting at the kitchen table and doing my thing and painting, and they’re all sitting there doing their homework or playing with their Pokemon cards or whatever it is they do, and we have conversations while I’m [painting]. I’m like a multi-tasker, I’m painting and parenting, and sometimes I have to put down my paint brush because my 4 year old is like ‘mom, wipe my butt’ and then I wash my hands and go back to painting. It’s really what I want to be doing and what I’ve been trying to do for the last 10 years and just now figured out to make it work and make money off of it.

 

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SW: Next question, what are your favorite materials and art making processes?

CB:
For materials it’s always acrylic paint. I don’t care about oil, I don’t want to mess with it. I like to paint on wood panel boards, or any kind of wood surface, just because I really like how paint texture mixes with wood grain. So most of the paintings I sell are just on 1/4″ or 1/8″ plywood, and then I seal them, so basically it will last forever. Once I put that polyacrylic on there it’s completely sealed, it’s waterproof. You could soak it in water and the paint wouldn’t come off. So I like the paint durable, just from having kids I know that I need things durable, and I know a lot of other people appreciate being able to windex the surface. Or have something that’s not going to fade.

For art making process, because I’m doing so many commissions, about 5 or 6 paintings a week on commission, shipping them in and shipping out like everyday, so I use a light projector. I project the image onto my board and trace it proportionality and then paint it. I’ve made kind of this machine of painting so I can get all the proportions correctly and then create them quicker. I haven’t had one person upset with their final outcome. People are paying me in advance and saying ‘I want a kitty cat, this is my pet’ and I send it out the next week. I always have orders coming in.

SW: That’s great, it’s like how the old masters plotted out paintings with their light boxes.

 

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SW: What are some of your inspirations and favorite artists?

CB: My kids are really my biggest inspiration, I think for anything, and love. That’s basically where my inspiration comes from. Favorite artists, I would say I always like Gustav Klimt, and Francis Bacon. I really appreciate Janet Fish, even though she’s not really a well known artist, she does reflective still life stuff.

SW: I looove her… So, you just kind of answered this, but I want a more specific answer, how many paintings have you done on commission recently and when did you start doing this commission project?

CB: I started doing it a year ago and then the 10 first paintings I did were on really large scale canvases, really detailed. Basically I was getting really into hair and I was painting people swirled in their hair, swirled in their favorite things. I got the inspiration from my sister because her hair, literally, and she’s 5’8″, drags to the ground when she walks. She’s never cut it. I started out with her painting first and then this whole kind of thing just happened from it. I wasn’t even intending on doing it a year ago when I started out, but from doing those 10 pro-bono paintings, and them hanging up in cafes and people’s homes and their offices, I’ve just gotten so much referral business that it’s allowed me to make a steady 5 and 6 paintings a week. I’ve also been doing a little bit more recently ’cause I have a lot of orders for Christmas. And I’ve been doing smaller paintings recently, so that’s working out.

 

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SW: My next question you kind of already answered, but maybe there’s more to it, how has living in the country vs. a city influenced your art?

CB: Oh yeah, if you go back and look through my paintings from a year ago when I first started, they were very much more organic in colors and line and shape and subject matter. I was painting, like, women growing out of mountaintops, ya know, very zen. Now it’s more fun and edgy and little poppy, and a lot of people told me that my stuff reminds them of folk art. I think it has transformed in style, but then again before I was using Oops paint from Home Depot to paint with, and mixing it with pigment, because that’s really all I had. Now that I have all these art stores that readily available, I just have a broader palette, really.

SW: Oh wow. Were you using synthetic pigments or natural pigments?

CB: A lot of the stuff I started out using a year ago was left over from 10 years ago. It was stuff from high school and college. A lot of it was my mom’s old craft paint that she used to do painting with when I was a kid and I was just basically using up all my old stuff. Now if you’re doing as many paintings and being able to make a decent living off of it, I’ve acquired a whole new crazy set of colors. So, I think it’s helped a lot. Before we were living and eating lima beans and picking our own mushrooms from the forest to make dinner and stuff [laughs]. Spending $8 on a tube of Cadmium yellow just, like, was not an option.

 

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SW: What is your personal mantra?

CB: I would say that the love that you give is the love that you get. And probably one that I chant to myself a lot is just remembering to be grounded and humble and modest and have grace all the time. I try to remind myself that quite often and by doing that and by implementing those kind of mantras through my artwork I just randomly give free paintings away. I did one for a lady in England. She was telling me she wanted a painting of her three children, I think the boy was 8, the daughter was 4, and then the smallest baby was one year old. I later I come to find out that only the two older children were alive, the baby passed away when he was one year old. So I was like ‘I have to do this painting for free.’ She wanted her kids all painted together as superheros, so the other two children who are still alive could hang it up in their bedroom that they shared. So, sometimes I like to just do random acts of kindness through artwork. Even though it might not be something necessary to keep someone alive, having a painting made is like a novelty thing. I understand that a lot of people don’t have money for art or time for art. It’s like giving your time and your love.

 

SW: Okay, last question. If you could be a famous lady throughout history for one day, who would you be and would you pick a specific moment?

CB: I’d probably want to be Dolly Parton to be honest with you. Singing on stage with Willie Nelson or something, at that point. That’d be pretty awesome.

 

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