Artist Interview: LOU PATROU

2238_1000
LOU PATROU

Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman

Looking at the artwork of Artist Lou Patrou, you almost wouldn’t believe his larger than life images are actually paintings, not Adobe Creative Suite digital masterpieces. He’s also designed an entire Patrou line of products that is not currently on the market, but hopefully will be soon. His kitsch-inspired art is equally sophisticated and bizarre, with killer craftsmanship. Seriously, I can’t believe some of these aren’t done in Illustrator – see for yourself.


SHANON WELTMAN: First question, what and who are your artistic inspirations?

priest
Priest

LOU PATROU: I like vintage toys, I like vintage ceramics. I collect a lot of old ceramics like old cookie jars, those kind of things that have a lot of anamorphic shapes to them. I also like old vintage glassware, things that have images printed on them or something. Not just simple glasses. Kitschy, bizarre things I’ve found over the years. I have a whole cabinet filled with that kind of stuff. [Laughs] I guess that has kind of rubbed off on me. If you look at the drawings, Hank and Sylvie, that’s where they kind of sprung from I guess.

SW: Ah yes, that was one of my questions. Who are they?

LP: A lot of the artwork on those old ceramics, the finishes are very, very smooth tones. Very pretty, smooth, rounded out tones. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was kind of [Laughs] really obsessed with a really slow, graduated tone. The black and white tones, which could be in any color. I did those with pencil, black and white. I’m actually doing a lot with Hank and Sylvie. I’m doing something right now, but most of the stuff I’ve done with them now for product applications and other things are all in color, even though the original is in black and white.

SW: How big are the originals?

LP: They’re 50 inches high.

SW: Oh wow.

LP: [Laughs] When I moved here [NY] from LA, I had more space. I lived in a really cramped garage apartment in LA for 20 years. I did a lot of good artwork there, but I couldn’t… the largest sheet artwork I did there on paper, was probably 24” x 30”. That was the biggest table space I could get in my kitchen there. I have a really large space here, I have two long tables put together. I like to draw on that, paint on that, lean over my work. I don’t know why, maybe it’s getting my face close to it. I never work with it straight up. I have a painting that I finished this weekend and I still haven’t seen it in any way but a flat, down position. I guess that would be weird to some artists. [Laughs]

 

BGHanksylvie
Hank and Sylvie

 

SW: Do you ever find when you do stand it up that it’s warped, or are you so used to working flat that it comes out the right perspective?

LP: I really figure that out well before I do it, I do a lot of practice drawings. I work from modeled parts and a lot of stenciled pieces for all the parts of the drawings and the paintings. I will take those and hang them on the wall and look at them.

SW: Ahh, that was my next question, to walk us through your process. What’s the next thing you do?

LP: Well, it takes a while to get to that. The whole beginning of it for me is just scribbling on a table. Doing spontaneous drawing and painting. That, for me, is when you just let everything go. You kind of act like your dowsing for water. [Laughs] You know, like those guys with the sticks, who thought they could find water. Just kind of empty their mind and walk around like they’re looking for something. I think most creative people that I’ve known do that same thing. Just kind of let your mind and your drawing follow whatever free flow, just to see what happens. You sort of pick up on that, analyze it and see if you like it or don’t like it, but you follow what your hand is doing and try to take after it. After I get a couple good ideas, I’ll try to see if it would work as a good idea for a finished piece of art. Each piece that I do, there’s probably about a 100 small drawings and then one of them you can see is the derivative. The whole thing came from that one idea. I think it’s the same for most people. See what you’re doing, find a way to scale that whole thing up and then polish it, see if you can make it into a finished beautiful piece.

 

Delegates_1
Delegates

 

SW: How long does it usually take you once you get to the part where you’ve enlarged it? How long does it take to knock out the piece?

LP: That is really slow. One of the reasons is I like to live with it a little bit. I have to watch out that I don’t live with it too long that I get bored with it as a concept and then get on to the next one or something. This painting I just finished, I started the idea about 6 months ago. It takes a long time, I don’t produce in high quantity.

SW: Do you work in oil?

LP: No, all the painting that I do is either watercolor or acrylic.

SW: Oh wow, it’s so smooth!

LP: Yeah, I like it because it dries fast. I can lean over it and I can lay in some color. It takes around, sometimes up to ten coats, opaque.

SW: Have you ever done any of your images as screenprints or any other kind of printing? It looks like it would translate perfectly for printmaking.

LP: I know! Interesting you picked that out, that’s exactly what I want to do with a lot of this stuff. Did you see the series called the “Raves”? That’s a complete step by step explanation of what I’m trying to say.

 

raves_4up
Raves

 

SW: Ah, very cool! Did you do any of these faces in Illustrator? Is it really just that clean?

LP: No, they’re all [by hand]. If you scroll down, the third picture down is the final concept sketch, where you see the little green face on the left, and then the big stencil on the right. That’s the scaled up stencil for that. Does that make sense?

SW: Yeah!

LP: That little thing on the left, I messed around with that probably around 40-50 ideas like that. Then I came up with the idea of the side faces, those laughing half faces on the cheeks. That’s when a lightbulb went off in my head and I thought, ‘This is what I’m going to do.’

SW: Wow, I am so floored that these are all done in watercolor and acrylic. It’s beyond flat, so amazing!

LP: These are acrylic, the little thing on the left is watercolor. There’s four of them and my whole idea here was… I didn’t know, I was going to do a series when I came up with the first one, but then I said ‘Whoa, there’s too much I want to fool around with’. I wanted to keep the same exact face, but fill it in differently, you know? Like a cool set of barware or something. If you scroll all the way to the bottom you see the four. I can scan those and then punch out the background and then turn these into what you said before. I can turn these into another color process for t-shirts, for huge screen prints or something. Even on glassware, or plates.

SW: Mmhmm

LP: My ideas have kind of merged into like secondary applications to the art, after. My first parameter is to make something that will ultimately be in a gallery somewhere, on a wall. That’s why I don’t make Photoshop drawings or something, I make a real painting on paper.

SW: When did you start working like this? So graphically, with patterns, in this style.

LP: It started happening I guess a few years ago, but I’ve always made either tattoos or patterns on faces, I’ve always done it. For like 35 years or something.

SW: Where are you originally from?

LP: I was born in Rochester, NY. A long time ago.

SW: Cool! You just mentioned galleries and I see you’ve been in a few, what kind of advice would you give to other artists breaking into the gallery scene?

LP: I’m still breaking. For the first 30 years, I was never interested in promoting my stuff. I just kept it kind of secret. You know those stories you read about some guy who has done photography for 25 years and then he died, and they open up his apartment and they find 500 boxes of pictures and negatives? That’s me with my artwork. For the first 30 years, I never thought about being in a gallery, I didn’t want to promote myself, I thought I’d end up being a jackass if I tried to say hey look at me, or look at my stuff. [Laughs] I was too passionate about the whole thing.

 

pub_preshow_3

 

SW: What was the turning point?

LP: When I moved from LA I just started. I have a lot of age on my face at this point, I don’t know how many decades left I would have, I just want to start. I want to make it as a full-time career and I want as many people to see my stuff as I can. That thing, whatever that bug is where you want to self-promote, it just takes over. You see it on Facebook and Linkedin, people constantly posting their stuff — that’s what I do now. I didn’t even get anything into a show until 2006, so I am way behind these other artists that have been out there for decades. Selling and doing everything just to be able to build their resume. You know these long long resumes, thousands of shows. I don’t have that. I have the work! But I don’t have the shows on the resume.

SW: But it sounds like as soon as you did make the effort you started seeing results. Like you’re saying, it was just what you were putting in, in terms of your output. Because if you’re still making the work…

LP: I’m still doing it. And the weird thing is, or the good thing is, I have all the artwork. All those other artists, they don’t have any of their artwork. They pretty much just sold it off for nothing, in exchange for putting another gallery name on the resume. That’s what a lot of them do. There’s a catch 22 in this business of getting to where you’re an established artist, getting a lot of money. I only know a few living artists that really make enough money to make a living like that. Ron English, people like that, Kenny Sharp, who get $125,000 for a painting. You know, before the gallery takes their cut. Those are the guys that have made it like movie stars make it. I see these other artists out there, I see it everyday. They’re really incredible talents and they’re selling off these things, it just depresses me how low they have to sell them. These galleries, they don’t care, all they want to do is get a big name in there. Get foot traffic in the gallery and then try to make something, which is totally understandable. They have to make something. If the guy comes in there who has work it’s so awful it can’t sell, they don’t want to use that guy. If another guy at the other end of the spectrum, another guy comes in and says I want ‘X’ amount of money for these paintings, the gallery says, ‘We’ll never be able to sell it for that’. You can’t use that guy. That lower ground is where all the artists end up going. It’s really depressing to me. I don’t see a future in it. These galleries, I get calls from them. They want me to work up an incredible piece, but I can’t just whip out quantity like an abstract artist, or spray artist. I can’t just make fast crap and just ship it out. ‘Just give me $500 or $1500.’ I can’t do that. I live with these pieces like this is my family, these are my weekends, these are my best times. I spend months and months on one piece.

SW: That makes sense, that you would want your stuff to also be on products. It seems like the last thing you just said, seems more important to you. Like, things being around, in your home.

LP: Getting the image out there.

SW: Exactly.

LP: What I’ve figured out, in this game of publicity and press is, the artist who makes the most press can win. He can still win, because his name is out there. It’s getting your name out there. I could get my name out there if I had a lot of money, I would just buy a publicist and I would just buy a gallery in every city in every month and just have my own shows. I would just pay people to put my name on stuff. Sooner or later it just sticks, it’s like Angeline out in California. If you put enough billboards of yourself out there, sooner or later you’re famous for that. You’re something.

SW: Right. Your stuff, it makes me think you could be another Marimekko kind of brand.

 

watch_layout_1
Watch Samples

 

LP: Everybody tells me those kinds of things. Here’s another idea, here’s some other stuff. Did you ever look at my product ideas?

SW: Yeah! The watches are amazing. I’d love one.

LP: I know, there are a lot of people who want to buy them. They email me, they want to order one.

SW: Do you have access to get those made?

LP: For me, it just comes down to money. Do I want to be a watch company or a t-shirt company? Do I want to have boxes of palates of t-shirts in different sizes in my room?

SW: Right.

LP: That’s what it comes down to, when you decide you want to be a manufacturer, then you’ve got to deal with returns, you’re a store. You’ve also got to market and distribute and fulfill that, that’s a whole business too.

SW: Oh I know. [Laughs] We also sell stuff, it sometimes takes a lot away from the artwork itself.

LP: And then you can make yourself look like a small timer too! Like you’re just a guy running an Etsy store too. I don’t want to do that. Plus, I don’t like selling. I like giving stuff away, I don’t like selling. I just don’t like it.

SW: I’ve got two more questions for you, they’re kind of unrelated to everything else. One, I was just wondering, what is your birthday?

LP: I’ll tell you the year, how about that? And month. It’s July, 1954. I keep the date just for identity theft…

SW: Are you a Cancer or a Leo?

LP: Leo!

SW: You seem like a Leo, from your art. Very fun, loud and colorful. Here’s the last question, on a super random note, also about a fellow Leo artist. What is your favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie?

LP: That’s a difficult question.

SW: [Laughs]

LP: The first one that popped in my head was “The Birds”. I don’t know how much it’s a favorite, I’d have to sit there and analyze myself over it. Know what I mean? [Laughs]

SW: I saw that when I was eight and it terrified me.

LP: Those movies! I don’t know how old you are, but when I was growing up and there were only three channels on TV, that stuff was big. Same with the “Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits”. You probably don’t remember those shows, right?

SW: I do! I do.

LP: Ah! [Laughs]

SW: I don’t remember them because I wasn’t alive when they were originally on the air, but I know them. I’ve watched them.

LP: “The Outer Limits” and Alfred Hitchcock, they were just pure quality. The whole family would just sit around and say nothing, just watch that stuff. It was good.

SW: Do you think you enjoyed his movies more or his tv show more? Hitchcock.

LP: Well, I think of his films… well they’re history makers. I worked in the film business for 20 years, I worked out in Hollywood. This guy is a history maker.

CINEMA-FILES-BIO-HITCHCOCK-BIRDS

Artist Interview: REBECCA BRADLEY

-6

REBECCA BRADLEY / LILLA ROGERS (Agent’s website)

Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman

On this last day of Mercury Retrograde (until June) we present UK born Illustrator and Professor, Rebecca Bradley. She’s currently living in Baltimore with her Artist husband Sam, teaching Illustration full-time at MICA, while raising two kids and still find time in the studio. You can see her loves of everything rainbow and Americana iconography unquestionably influence her colorful illustrations. Her style is somewhere between a more sophisticated folk art and vintage inspired — it’s fabulous. We had a great time catching up with Rebecca via Skype, seeing her beautifully organized wall of watercolor dyes and other fun materials art nerds would drool over.

 

 

-4

 

SHANON WELTMAN: Walk us through your typical process.

REBECCA BRADLEY: It depends on what I’m working on. Let’s talk about Surface Design, because I think it’s something new that people might not know about, the process is different. The way of being commissioned is different, you don’t get commissioned. You make the art, you make heaps and heaps of it and then you give it out. You go to Surtex or Print Source and make prints and sell them and they get used. How you go about making that is just collecting things, like color palettes that you like. I might get digital ones, but because I work traditionally I then try to mix those colors so I can work with them and go in and out of that and then things that I like to do, pictures that I collect: shoe pictures and flowers and old books. I like to go to The Book Thing. Remember The Book Thing? So I rip books apart…[Rebecca shows CC a torn vintage hardback drawing surface.]

SW:[Gasp] Ohh jealous!

RJ: So cool..

RB: Yeah! And then I draw on that because that is just… the bomb, that is so nice! But that’s when I know what I’m doing. Up to that point I’m just playing around with drawing things. I think I’m in the middle of perhaps changing how I work and trying to get a little bit more digital. Which is… I’m slow on this train, it’s leaving without me [laughs] it would just make things so much easier for me, to draw things on paper that didn’t bleed. There’s just something about drawing on this [paper] that I love, and I don’t want to lose that in the process. I’m trying to find out how I can blend those things. Come to terms with them. My agent will send me color trends or sometimes we’ll buy a packet so we know what’s coming up for next season. We will think about plaid or snakes or something and we’ll just work on making patterns or one design or characters. Whatever, it’s kind of fun! Not having a deadline is fun, it helps me, having kids as well.

[In my studio] …right in front of where I sit you can see [a large, large shelf of color organized watercolor dyes], this is my color picker. That inspires me, color always inspires me. I say to my students, ‘If I ever see anything rainbow-colored, I have to buy it.’ I just love it. It’s so seductive to me to see all of the color pencils, just all the different colors together. I just… gotta have it.

SW: [Laughs]

RB: I tend to do washes and color first and then line work, quick-like with pens. I just draw into the colors, either dry or wet, depending on how patient I am.

 

rebecca_1313534_tehranparkforweb

 

SW: Do you have any other kinds of rituals? Like a certain time of the day or music or anything?

RB: I have to do it when I have to do it, because I teach full-time, so that means I’m usually emailing anything up to midnight with students and staff. So the time that I have is, one day a week, until 2 o’clock, that I can get into the studio, on Friday. That’s my day in the studio. I just started to binge watch TV, have that on in the background [laughs] like “House of Cards” and stuff, while I’m doing it, but I don’t know if that’s very productive. [Laughs] ‘What shall I watch now?’ Friday becomes my binge watching day rather than my art making day. I might do a few color studies while getting caught up on what is going on in DC. I’ve got to find a new ritual. Something that is very caring. My rep is all about that. She is doing a lot of teaching now online. The first thing she says is get your space clear, make sure you’ve got your coffee, your snacks, you’re warm and free and able to work. I don’t want to show you what my desk looks like. [Laughs] It’s horrible, it’s not very zen at all. I wish I had a bigger space.

SW: Are you in your basement?

RB: Yeah, it used to be the playroom [for my kids]. See the Richard Scarry picture? We did all Richard Scarry and then almost a month after, we said ‘This would be a better studio.’ So we cleaned out and now we’re living with chickens and penguins.

SW: [Laughs]

RB: [Laughs] It’s alright. My husband is a painter, so he has this wall. He has a framework because he’s a realist, he paints neon signs and has to draw a lot of straight lines. It’s the opposite of me. If I spill something on my page I get really excited, because I can use it and he will have a kanipshin about that, you know? He’s all about control. [Laughs]

 

-1

 

SW: What are your favorite images or concepts to illustrate? What do you like other than fashion?

RB: I haven’t done fashion in a while, but I’ve started to get into children’s fashion and collecting a lot of references. Mainly because that’s what I’m around at home and I also think that it’s not a market that’s saturated as well. I always tell students if you want to do it you must have it in your portfolio. So I’m trying to follow that advice, and have more children’s fashion on my agent’s site. I can choose what goes on their site, so I try to make work for that. I teach a food class at MICA and I teach a map class. Those are things that I like to do and I like to make. Maps I wouldn’t do for fun, but they are fun when you actually get a commission to do one. You can make it fun. Drawing little icons and things is really nice. Little houses and little shoes, teeny. I like that.

SW: Do you have a favorite map you’ve done?

RB: Yes, I’ve done one of Brainerd Lakes, Minnesota a long time ago, and it’s got Babe the Blue Ox on it. I like that I just did it all green. I always say, ‘You don’t have to use green on a map.’ But I made it emerald green and it had the lumberjack on it. I like how I did the type. Because I’m not American, I get very seduced my Americana. When I lived in Cleveland, I just was like ‘Oo, look at that.’ There’s all these things that people just take for granted all the time. Painted on signs for parks and packaging on old timey bags and things, I just loved all that.

SW: A lot of people do take that for granted, it’s pretty cool.

RB: Yeah! I see it when I take the kids to London. I see it with them, going ‘Look at that! Look at that!’

SW: [Laughs]

RB: [Laughs] That’s cheesy! That’s chintzy!

 

rebecca_pv_100-yard-sculpture

 

SW: Did you have an interest in teaching before it came into your life, or did kind of fall into your life?

RB: I think, like a lot of people, it’s a means to an end. A beginning, but now it’s become my life and informs what I do. I don’t know how people who are not in a community stay alive creatively. To be a freelancer on your own and not have any kind of community. The school is just the best community, you have the resources, but then you have this great… you know what MICA’s like. You have all the ‘cream’ coming through and just doing great work and inspiring you and vice versa. As you know now, since you’re teaching. You sort of get a ‘Oh wow, I never thought of that’ and you would never have thought of that, in a hundred years it wouldn’t have come to you. It’s great. I know you guys got me right at the beginning…

SW: You were awesome!

RB: [Laughs] Thank you, I feel like I’m a better teacher now, but you know… the first time you do something…

SW: I was awful my first year! [laughs]

RB: My advice to first time teachers: you will never have that day again.

SW: [Laughs]

RB: Yeah, that first day teaching. It’s scary.

SW: Do you have a favorite assignment that you give?

RB: I’ve got one that’s coming up that I’ve given a couple of times now. It’s called 50 things. They have to illustrate 50 things. What I like about it is they don’t have to think about them being in a setting. They can just draw what they like, so if they just like doing monsters, they can do 50 monsters. Someone did 50 things from the post office, [laughs] it brings out the nerd in them. It’s large-scale, it’s really involved and it looks at style across different parts of the picture. It taps my thing about liking icons as well. I really like that. I think they like that too.

RJ: What scale do they work at?

RB: I do a UK size, a A2 Poster. A1 or A2. Big. They can work on whichever size they want obviously. One student made these monsters out of neon post-its. She just made shapes, she just made different ones. it was really lovely.

SW: That sounds really fun.

RB: Yeah! It’s coming up for my juniors.

SW: That sounds cool… we didn’t do that! [Laughs] We did King Lear!

RB: [Laughs] I know, assignments evolve as you see what’s needed out there and sort of what the gaps are. The concept classes have other things I don’t need to be covering. I do less and less narrative now actually. I did a lot of narrative stuff with you guys, I don’t really do a lot of that anymore. I do a lot of, what I guess people would say is, designy stuff, but design is in everything right?

 

rebecca_bradley_pots_1a_week1

 

SW: What is it like having kids, a full-time teaching job on top of freelance deadlines, and then your own whatever you have to do for yourself?

RB: I have to say, some things gotta give. A life might change, it might not be the same thing all the time. So, I finally realized I can only do one thing at a time. Right? [Laughs] It’s taken me 40 odd years, I’m with my kids and I can’t be thinking about school and I can’t be thinking about freelance. When I’m doing freelance I can’t be thinking about my kids and can’t think about school. It’s one thing at a time and something’s gotta give at some point. What’s gotta give is that I don’t have as much time for freelance as I used to when I was single and all that and I don’t get to get a pedicure [laughs], stuff like that. Sam works at night, so that’s useful, that’s when I do most of my school stuff. The kids are asleep and I’m down in [my studio] or in the lounge doing school stuff. When I’m at school I’m concentrating on the students. It’s compartmentalized.

SW: What is your personal mantra when you’re stressed?

RB: Scream? I don’t know. [Laughs] I just fall apart when I’m really stressed; my body does and I wish I took better care of myself because of that. My mantra when I’m stressed: You can only do this one thing and do it! Everyone has that little voice in their head saying ‘You should be doing this. You should be entering all these competitions and you should’ve done that piece yesterday’ and, you know, my kid’s throwing up, I couldn’t! So… just be kind to yourself.

SW: Last question: This is the shortest. Favorite Disney villain.

RB: I really want to say Maleficent because the look was just killer. Real Scorpio, you know [laughs], I know you like that stuff. That’s me. Actually, when I was kid I had nightmares about Cruella DeVil. Serious nightmares about her. Weird. It might be her!

 

Artist Interview: JOE WIERENGA

joe-1

JOE WIERENGA

Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman

Despite his hard to pronounce last name, Joe Wierenga will probably one day be a staple in the animation world. His gift of storytelling and drawing are also his life force, like in a videogame, but real life. When Joe creates a new illustration or animation, he does not simply walk into Mordor draw from his head. He’s almost like a method actor in that he gets into his stories and characters so deeply he starts to think like them. For example, when researching to create female gaming avatars he learned so much about women’s fashion that he could get a part time job as a stylist. I’ve been a fan of Joe’s artwork from the first drawing I ever saw by him back in freshman year of undergrad at MICA. Not only has he gotten steadily better as the years pass, but he also has barely lost any momentum since college, which is a challenge most artists face.

 

SHANON WELTMAN: Do you prefer when you’re animating, to animate for games or for just animation?

JOE WIERENGA: Hm, I don’t know. Games you tend to animate the same thing over and over. Games require the character walking, the character jumping, the character getting hurt… so with games you get really good at doing those things, but you don’t really get the chance to animate fire or waterfalls or birds flying as often. It’s nice to switch things up a bit.

SW: Are your freelance jobs mostly animated or illustrated?

JW: Mostly animation at this point. I tend to like animation jobs because they last longer. Freelance gigs, y’know… you work for a couple of days, and then it’s over and then you gotta hustle and find a new client again. Animation tends to last a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Promoting myself is the thing I’m least comfortable doing. It cuts down on the amount of that, that I have to do.

SW: Does it pay way better to do animation?

JW: My hourly rate is the same, it’s just each job tends to pay more because it lasts longer.

 

cheshirecat011

SW: Who is your dream client and why? or someone you’d like to work for if not as freelance?

JW: Whoever wants to pay me to make my own cartoon show is my dream client.

SW: Are you interested in any kind of style, like a kids style like Nickelodeon or a more adult style like Augenblick [Studios]? Or do you just want to start your own thing?

JW: I’m more interested in stories than in style, I find myself more attracted to the more sophisticated stories with character depth and plot. More so than simple episodic things. A lot of people have these interesting narratives. Nickelodeon’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is one of my most favorite things ever made.

SW: What other shows do you relate to?

JW: Sure, “Doctor Who” is incredible! I just got tickets to go see the 50th Anniversary in 3D at IMAX at Union Square! It’s going to be amazing.

SW: How would you connect that to your career? Would “Avatar” be the show most like that in that realm?

JW: [Laughs] That’s part of the million dollar question. As soon as I find out the answer to that I’ll get back to you…

 

identity001

SW: You always seem to have a few active storylines you’re working on. How many are in the works now?

JW: Three in an active way…

SW: Do you want to elaborate?

JW: [Pause]…No. [Laughs]

SW: [Laughs] Okay…

JW: That’s the thing, it’s always changing! The way I tend to work is, I will write until I hit a wall on a project, then immediately jump to another project. I’ll keep working on that until I hit the wall. By that time, the [problem] I was having with the first project, the answer will just sort of come to me. That’s how it works. When you’re not thinking about something, that’s when you find it. So, I find it’s easier to just move between things instead of just beating my head against the wall on one. That is a good way to paralyze yourself. Then you don’t do anything. I guess I did elaborate.

 

2013-11-08_watercolor02
2013-11-04_watercolor04

 

SW: When did you start working on the nude series?

JW: The life drawing, I was really fortunate to have a teacher in high school who really got me interested in life drawing. Up until that point I was mostly drawing superheroes and things out of my head. Demanding a more academic observational portfolio, turned out to be the healthiest thing for me. I started picking it up again a few years ago. I had a job that was really monotonous and I just kind of needed a more creative escape. So I started going to life drawing sessions. There are a million of them around NY, so it’s a really great place to do that. It was just the greatest, it was like going to the gym; I just felt better afterwards. Even when I have periods where I’m not feeling like I’m being so productive or so creative in other aspects of my life, having this weekly habit of going to a drawing session at least once a week, just always makes me feel like I’m doing something. It’s just a really healthy habit. I started putting them online a couple of years ago.

SW: What’s a couple of years ago?

JW: In 2011, at the end of the year I started feeling like I was at least reaching a high level of consistency with them and so I started a Tumblr for them and the Tumblr has also been really good, because it forced me to keep at it. I don’t want the Tumblr to go silent for more then a couple of days, so I always have to have new updates. It keeps me active.

SW: How many of the drawings do you think you’ve done so far?

JW: [Laughs] Ah..

SW: Just since you started the Tumblr. Ballpark.

JW: I don’t know… 800?

SW: So if you’ve gone once a week, you’ve gone 800 weeks? What?

JW: [Laughs] I go to the short pose sessions. And I never actually finish the drawing at the drawing session. I’ll do the line drawing or just put down some ink and some basic notes on where the shading goes. Then come home and work it up with color, or gouache and if a drawing session has ten minute and twenty minute poses, on a good week I can come home with 4 or 5 drawings worth finishing. It’s sort of become my morning routine. In order to warm up for my daily activities, I’ll work on a watercolor for awhile. I’ll get it to a good point, scan it and put it in the queue for the Tumblr.

 

SW: Do you have any advice for someone trying to do freelance full-time? Maybe just now stepping in to that.

JW: Whatever industry you want to go to, try to make friends with as many people as you can and try to make friends with people who aren’t also artists. If you want to go into comics, make friends with writers. If you want to go into games, make friends with programmers and game designers. Because those people are not going to be competing with you for the same jobs. I’d say 90% of every freelance gig I’ve ever gotten has been through a friend, like a programmer who I met on a previous job. Who then switched companies or had a project where they needed to hire a new artist and thought of me. So… make as many friends as you can and as wide and diverse a group as you can.

SW: Have you been able to maintain paying your bills? Do you have any advice towards saving? What you said is really good, but someone who is say an illustrator and doesn’t have freelance projects going for weeks. How would you maintain getting the work if not through how you described? Have you experienced that or have you been lucky enough to go job to job?

JW: [Laughs] I’ve been experiencing that more and more lately, I don’t know. Saving… some years I’m able to put a lot away, some years I’m not. I always use a professional accountant to do my taxes, because there are a lot of details and things about being a freelancer that are just way over my head and I have no head for numbers. So, usually my accountant will come and tell me, “If you put this much into an IRA, it will actually reduce the amount you have to pay by this much.” I tend to follow her lead on how much I put away.

 

monkey-king

 

SW: Here’s your last question and by far the most important. Who is your favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?

JW: Y’know, I gotta say, as a kid I was really boring and my favorite was Leonardo. But now I’m totally a Donatello fan. Especially in the new Ninja Turtles, they gave him a gap in his teeth–

SW: You saw the new Ninja Turtles!? [Laughs]

JW: Yeah! He’s really the only one with a distinguishing characteristic other then the color of his mask in the new series. He gets a gap in his teeth because he’s a nerd I guess? It’s supposed to make him look a little buck-tooth.

SC292 DONATELLO - TMNT

Artist Interview: GINA SCHIAPPACASSE

-1

GINA SCHIAPPACASSE

Intro by Shanon Weltman / Interview by Ray Jones

Do you love beautiful hair? Long beautiful hair; shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen. Unless you’re a hair stylist, Gina Schiappacasse probably loves hair more than you and you can tell from her fluidly ethereal illustrations. It’s a wonderful thing when a traditional fashion illustrator breaks the mold, while still maintaining that academic figurative structure. It’s like a photographer telling a model to “do you, be natural” instead of “be bolder, sexier, dahling” or “give me a roar”. We were lucky to showcase Gina in our art exhibition “Tooth & Claw” on Saturday 10/12/13 at The Living Gallery. We reached out to her because we’re big fans of her hair illustrations, but we ended up ironically showing one of her only hair-less illustrations, “Crystallized”. Sit back and read Ray Jones’ interview with the chameleon tressed artist.

 

RAY JONES: Who are your inspirations?

GINA SCHIAPPACASSE: It’s very broad, I guess. Because I studied fashion design, some of it is designers. I love Alexander McQueen. He’s very different from any other designer because he really has a complete vision, or he did have a complete vision about what he was doing. And it was more than just clothing, it was an idea or concept. I thought that was beautiful. I also really love a couple of fashion illustrators. I love Laura Lane, she’s incredible. She does all pencil, very tiny, all 8.5 x 11 on paper, just gorgeous. There’s so much movement in it, which I find completely inspiring as a fashion illustrator, because so many fashion illustrators are very boxed in to drawing things in a formula system. They don’t really think of it as a broader medium or idea you can experiment with. There are definitely some that are great at that, but not all. I love Danny Roberts, mostly because he’s a self-made fashion illustrator who just started a blog and people started paying attention to his work. He’s actually the reason why I started my own blog and started posting my stuff online.

RJ: You mentioned a lot of people that I’m unfamiliar with, I don’t really know the fashion illustration world.

GS: [Laughs] Yeah it’s a small world. There’s probably like… 6? 8? people who make money full time doing it. Maybe more, but the ones that are very well known and get most of the work or have a very distinct style, the people recognize them easily.

 

-5
Crystallized

 

RJ: How do you develop concepts for your work? And, what is the difference between your fashion illustration and your personal work?

GS: The best concept work I’ve done is usually more of a series and less of a one of. I do a lot of one off’s as they’re often based on fashion and photography images that I see and I like and I sort of replicate them with my own kind of style added in to it. Some of the best work I’ve done, I feel is more personal. It’s a very blurry line between my fashion illustration and my illustration. They’re almost kind of the same thing in some situations. I actually think they’re most successful when they are blurred line between the two. I feel like there are rarely fashion illustrators that cross over into a illustration realm, and it’s kind of a mix between art, illustration and fashion. I feel like the best concepts are when I give myself a deeper idea and try to interpret that on a visual level.

For example, I had one show, like years ago in a coffee shop. I just decided to do it, it was like I should try doing stuff that’s larger scale because I generally work small, 8.5 x 11, 11 x 14. I did really big, 20 x 30 something watercolors of women sort of suspended and completely nude, with my sort of signature flowing hair. The interesting thing about that is that it was based on a moment in time when I was a waitress and had just moved to this city and I was a fashion student. I felt so new to NY, I felt isolated in this little bubble.

RJ: What year was this?

GS: This is 2009, I think. Right as I was finishing school. And the women are all curled up in fetal position and hanging in the air. White backdrops, nothing interesting, just one little shadow beneath them to show that they’re suspended. The idea was that I felt like I was developing and cooking, like I was in a fetus state creatively and in my personal life– feeling like time was standing still and I was waiting for my life to happen and I was in this in between state: just moving to NY, developing my creative side, finishing school, figuring out what I wanted to do. It was like the incubation stage. It was really a successful project. I did 7 pieces, of the 7, 4 of them sold which was really cool for me. I hadn’t sold a lot of work at the time. I felt proud of that because it was very original, very conceptual for me. I should probably do more stuff like that. [Laughs]

RJ: Yeah, it feels pretty good right? [Laughs]

 
fromaustin

From Austin, With Love

 

RJ: How long have you been in NY and when did you realize you were “making it”?

GS: I’ve been here about 5 years and actually I really don’t feel like I’ve been “making it” until recently. I don’t know how you define that sometimes, but it started to feel like for the first time since I’ve been living here, I’m not scraping together, looking for work. People are coming to me and turning things on. There’s a lot of opportunities that I’m actually more excited about. It’s the first time in my life I’ve been paid solely as a creative and haven’t had to work a restaurant job or y’know, something on the side to pay the bills. It’s extremely fulfilling. It’s very nice to be able to pick and choose what you do. In your free time you don’t feel guilty, you don’t feel like you have to hustle all the time and try to find work. You feel like you can actually express yourself, developing your own personal projects and pursuing that.

 

RJ: Where do you work right now?

GS: I’m working full time at a company called “If You Knew”, it’s a hair products company actually. But it’s run by the guy who created Bumble and Bumble. He sold Bumble years ago to Estee Lauder and I think the non-compete clauses wore off, so now he’s developing a whole new product line. Non-toxic and eco-friendly and it’s all launching in the spring. I produce a weekly photo shoot for him and do hair transformations. We like, cast people, cut and color their hair, free of charge and take photos, documenting the transformation. I also do all of their social media as well. It’s kind of a multi-faceted job that is very exhausting, but it’s very cool. It’s my first real professional job where I have actual responsibility, but it’s a lot of things that I like. Social media, being on set with people because there’s all this creative energy from lots of different people that kind of share in that energy.  It’s weird because it’s not really fashion related, it’s not really art related.

I was explaining this to my boss the other day, it’s kind of hilarious because I remember when I was a little kid we had a terrible school system for art classes. In my high school there was probably 3 high school classes they offered. Drawing I & II, and Ceramics I & II, and they had crafts or handwork. It was very limited. Growing up my Mom would pay for me to go to these classes at an external school that was all these young twenty-somethings that got their arts degrees and were teaching little kids how to draw. She would let me go to these classes. I had this really sweet teacher that used to tease me all the time. He would be like, “You know Gina… if I could get you to draw anything half as well as you drew hair, you’d be amazing. ” [Laughs] I find it hilarious that now I’m working for hair people, because I love drawing hair. It’s actually the reason why my boss first started talking to me. We had a conversation when I was a hair model once and then he went and checked out my artwork and he was like, “This is AMAZING. You’re so talented!” Then, apparently, somebody told me he’s very critical of like everything. At the time I was like, that’s a nice compliment, that he likes my artwork. And then, eventually I ended up getting a job out of it.

RJ: Whoa! That is really awesome.

 

calendar8

 Scales

 

RJ: What kind of clients have you worked with?

GS: Wow, all over the board. I’ve been doing a lot of work recently, and this is kind of annoying…it’s not very creative when you’re doing ad illustration. I’ve been doing a lot of the storyboarding work for ad agencies through an agency I work with, but it pays really well which is nice. It’s like drawing Chobani yogurt and storyboarding Downey ad’s, which is kind of… it feels like “Aw really, I have to draw this shit?” but then the cool thing about it is that as an Illustrator I probably wouldn’t choose to draw things like that. So, I’m challenged to do things out of my comfort zone. Which I really find appealing and now I have this great portfolio of random images. My other stuff has been kind of everything from like a silkscreen t-shirt collection with a friend of mine to some people asking me to do logo design. Though I don’t think they know the difference between Illustration and Design. They’re like “Oh, you must be able to design logos too!” I just finished a mural, that was cool.

RJ: Are those the pictures on your blog?

GS: Yeah.

RJ: Those are great! Very big.

GS: Thank you! It was so weird for me too, I’m used to drawing so tiny, I had no idea how it was going to work and how it would translate. And it was crazy how natural it feels because it’s like the same movement but instead of using your wrist, you use your full arm, your full range of movement. It was really cool, and reminded me how much I love drawing on anything.

RJ: Would you do more work like that?

GS: Definitely, I loved it. It was really fun. I finished it in like 3 days too.

RJ: How did you come across those Downey ads?

GS: I had a little coffee shop show at Variety Coffee off the Graham stop (L), like two years ago. This guy saw it and he gave me a call, he works with this agency call Warsaw Blumenthal, and they’re not very big, they don’t have any named artists or anything, but they do all storyboarding work for ad agencies. He saw my work at Variety and he lived in the neighborhood. He called me and was like, “Hey, do you want to try this?” I’m like I’ve never done it, but I guess I could do that. [Laughs] It ended up being great! I got a lot of work the situation which has been cool.

RJ: Nice. So you just had to put yourself out there, pretty much?

GS: Yeah! Exactly.

 

 -4

 

RJ: Last question. Who do you relate to more, Bowie or Jagger?

GS: [Laughs] Oh, that’s kind of hard!

RJ: Is there a third option for you?

GS: I probably relate most to Bjork. Can I answer that way? If I had to choose between the two of them, it’d be Bowie, because he’s weirdly fashion eccentric. Which is probably why I like Bjork too. What she wears and her presentation on stage is almost more interesting than like her music. I love her music! But the costumes add like a whole other element of weirdness. The video project she did with MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA, it’s like this very odd futuristic/ primitive video on like a green screen of her sitting in this pit of sand up to her waist. She has this crazy blue fluffy wig on and they did puppets that are like rock formations with human faces that were like cgi.. and there’s an exploding volcano at the end. It’s really cool! I like how weird she is. She’s so eccentric and always does good work.

RJ: Yeah, consistently weird for as long as I’ve heard her music. [Laughs]

GS: And yet she always reinvents herself a little bit. Like every album, I feel has a slightly different sound. I feel like she constantly gets better, the musicality is really amazing too. It’s not just weird for the sake of weird, it’s actually well done.

 

bjork1

Bjork

Artist Interview: ELLEN T. CRENSHAW

photo

ELLEN T. CRENSHAW

Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman

I’m excited to start off our Artist Interview Series with an inspirational Boston-based Illustrator, Ellen T. Crenshaw. Ellen and her husband, Matt Boehm, who’s an Animator at Irrational Games (creators of BioShock), co-founded Tumblr super-blog FANARTICA with an impressive current 200,000+ followers. I have known Ellen since we were 8-years-old, but I’m a huge fan of hers regardless. Each of her illustrations look like they could just spring to life. She’s a watercolor master, a rare gem in this digital age. Her anatomical drawings skills and way of capturing mannerisms are impeccable, even when the figure has jellybones. She’s one of the 25 amazing artists you can check out at CLAW CLAW’s Launch Party at The Living Gallery on October 12.

 

SHANON WELTMAN: What are your favorite materials?

ELLEN T. CRENSHAW: Brush and ink, number one. Watercolor paints, and I work digitally too. So, Photoshop, I’ll say Photoshop.

 

Mean Green Mother From Outer Space

 

SW: How have your environments influenced your work throughout your life?

ETC: Omg that’s a hard one! Um… I’m not sure if this counts, but an upbringing on tv, movies, cartoons, and newspaper strips certainly influenced the direction of my work—story-based compositions with a cartoony style. It wasn’t until I came to Boston that I noticed a shift in my interests. Colonial architecture. New England trees. City skylines. And winter clothes!

 

byob78-NaturallyWild,huge.1406529376

 

SW: This question I added specifically for you – what do you listen to while you work?

ETC: I listen to movies. I usually use a movie that I’ve seen a million times so that I know what’s happening. I listen to music too, but I dunno, I get bored with music. A movie activates my brain enough to keep me interested somewhat. It provides enough of a distraction, but not enough to make it so I can’t work.

SW: Do you want to give a shout out to that website you use [to listen to movies], or do you put on actual movies?

ETC: I do both. Listentoamovie.com is where it just has the audio and I’ll do that sometimes. Other times I’ll be working on my laptop or in my sketchbook or on paper, or what have you, and I’ll have a movie playing, like a DVD, but I’ll turn the screen away from me at a weird angle so I can’t get too distracted.

SW: Do you have any advice for anyone just starting out? Literally fresh out of school.

ETC: Sure, I would say if you haven’t already, have an online presence, start a blog. Find reasons to work, find reasons to give yourself a deadline. If there’s a contest or an event coming up that you want to have a piece done by or something like that, continue to give yourself deadlines. Be nice to everyone and keep in touch with your peers. It got really lonely after school because you’re so used to having constant support and stimulation by people all around all the time. Then after college people go home or move away for whatever reason, and it’s not even gradual, it instantly goes away and it can be very isolating. So, keeping in touch with people and maintaining a network of support is super important. It keeps your work from getting stale, you can be influenced by other people. Oh, and be nice to people because it’s a really small world. The Art world is smaller than you might think, and that’s how you get jobs. Be genuine, but be nice to people.

 

Screen shot 2014-02-07 at 7.26.35 PM

 

SW: Question number six, fun question. Favorite artists, inspirations and ideas?

ETC: Fashion is a big inspiration for me right now because of texture, color combinations and patterns. I draw characters so much, how they’re clothed shows who they are. I feel like there’s a lot to be said in fashion and there’s a lot of fun [in fashion] as it relates to illustration.

As far as artists are concerned, Dupuy & Berberian, Bill Watterson, and Peter de Seve serve as my standard go-tos whenever I’m feeling lost, have a problem to solve or need particular inspiration. I’m otherwise inspired by a lot of my peers, people whose work rotates in and out of my radar depending on what I’m currently working on—right now it’s Craig Thompson, Jen Wang, Emily Carroll, Graham Annable, Ryan Andrews, Kali Ciesemier, Carolyn C. Nowak (still a student!), and Sam Bosma’s latest piece is rocking my socks. Then, of course, there’s Claw Claw Studio!

 

SW: Nightmare moment with a positive solution [within your career]?

ETC: I had this one client, we didn’t work well together. It turned out to be a nightmare because I didn’t want to offend anyone, but I had to get out of it. Then there was an issue with getting paid once I left. It was a really good lesson in the end, it was kind of a low stakes opportunity to be able to stand up for myself, and be able to seek money that I’m owed. To learn how to bow out of something respectfully. It was a really important experience to have to learn how to handle that type of situation. So, I think it was a positive thing in the end. Like how important it is to have a contract to refer to once something like that happens. To have interpersonal skills, to be able to talk to somebody and be firm without being rude.

 

Screen shot 2014-02-07 at 7.30.55 PM

SW: Demo or walk through a technique.

ETC: I know a handful of my peers sketch on paper first then bring those drawings into Photoshop and proceed digitally. I sort of do it backwards, sketching digitally, then printing those sketches and lightboxing them to ink on paper. It’s been especially helpful to me since I bought Frenden’s brush set, as the penciling tools are excellent. First, I sketch a rough thumbnail with the blue pencil tool. Next, I tighten it up with the red pencil tool. Once I’m happy, I change the line to black and print it. I tape the printouts on the back of Arches 140lb hot press watercolor paper, pop on the lightbox, and ink. What’s great about this method is if I screw up the final, I can start again without losing the sketch—which means I can be much looser and spontaneous with my inking.

 

GreenEagle_p1_thumbGreenEagle_p1_sketchGreenEagle_p1_ink

SW: How do you generate ideas?

ETC: Oof, I struggle with that actually, but usually my best ideas come to me in the shower. If I need to work on something, like an illustration for an article or something more direct and concrete, I’ll just read the article and then kind of ruminate over it for a while. Go outside and walk around and just let it toss around in my head, and usually given some time my brain will put something together. If it’s something kind of abstract, like making my own work or trying to find inspiration to do anything, to do something self driven, I’ll take a shower or go for a walk. Basically, something where I have no distractions. No TV or computer or anything like that, I have to be quiet with myself and just let my mind wander over things—that’s usually where ideas come from for me. And of course certain stimuli like being outside and actually experiencing things. If I’m working from home several days in a row I find inspiration to be really difficult after a while, because I have no stimulus. Going out with friends, going to a museum or the movies, just being out and experiencing something. Reading.

 

SW: Name a few people living or dead you’d like to have dinner with.

ETC: Mark Twain would be number one, he’d probably be the coolest person to hang out with for a day or have coffee with. He just seems cranky and sarcastic and hilarious. If Katharine Hepburn wanted to walk in, that’d be cool.

 

Mark_Twain