There are some parts of one’s visual language that acts as the thread that ties years of work together. A style might shift, but a consistent element still remains. For artist and illustrator Laura Berger, it’s nudes. For as long as I’ve been looking at her art, Laura has always incorporated some form of the nude body—figures round and jovial, like they don’t have a care in the world. This visual mainstay has grown along side her as her color schemes change or explore an abstract world.
Lars Book Club Poster, featuring a quote by Mary Going from In the Company of Women, by Grace Bonney
The animated GIF made its debut to the world in 1987, but it remains even more relevant today. It’s common, especially for illustrations that live only on the web, that they have a motion-based element to them. Libby VanderPloeg is one of my favorite illustrators using this format to enhance her work.
Last year, illustrator Rachel Jo gave herself an assignment. “I decided to challenge myself to do a painting a day for a month in November 2016 to really get my style to show some consistency,” she tells me in an email. “The proportions of my figures were really wonky and my color palette was all over the place.” The 30 days were “difficult but rewarding,” and it’s been a big help in her current endeavors and overall career.
If you’ve followed my Instagram for a while, you’ve probably seen the work of Abbey Lossing. I became enamored with her portraits that combine stylish ensembles, a limited color palette, and nature-inspired motifs. By day, she’s a staff illustrator and animator at Vice News, but she also maintains an active portfolio of personal work.
I first met Hayley Powers Thornton-Kennedy when I visited the MFA Illustration Practice program (MFA ILP) as a guest critic and lecturer. In their cozy, well-lit studio, she showed me a selection of signage she had created for the Women’s March on January 21. I was instantly attracted to the bold illustrations and, above all, imagery featuring strong female figures. I had the opportunity to talk to Hayley more about her work, both in person and via email. The conversation and her illustrations seem especially fitting for today’s International Women’s Day and A Day Without Women.
I knew from the moment I received the third issue of Got a Girl Crush magazine that I would love it. After all, it has a Tuesday Bassen illustration on the cover and interviews with Falconwright (ladies who produce leather goods) and the women of Stuff Mom Never Told You (a great, informative podcast). The publication is a mixture of interviews, photography, illustration, and personal essays. Just the right amount to keep you interested.
I enjoyed reading it from cover to cover and learning things about roller derby, the impressive Rena Tom, having 6 sisters, and more. Meg Wachter, one of the founders of Got a Girl Crush, was kind enough to speak with me about working collaborative, a dream interview, and then some!
For those who aren’t privy, can you briefly describe how Got a Girl Crush (blog, magazine) came to be? Was there an a-ha moment, or was it a natural progression of both your interests?
Andrea Cheng (in San Francisco, California) and I (in Brooklyn, New York) started Got a Girl Crush, the blog, in 2009 after crushing on each other’s tastes and interests via TUMBLR for some time. A lot of our own posts and re-blogs revolved around women doing awesome things, so naturally GAGC started as a catch-all blog for both of us to share our admiration for other awesome ladies. The magazine was born out of my having too much downtime/free-time as a freelancer and needed a creative project to pour myself into and, as a photographer, proved to be a great tool to approach women I admired that I wanted to photograph and get to know better.
A strength of Got a Girl Crush is all of the voices featured in it (from both interview and interviewees). How do you tie the whole issue together with so many different people?
The magazine has really turned into a venn diagram of connecting talented illustrators, photographers, writers with other inspiring, self-starting women. Sometimes it starts from picking someone to feature, other times it’s asking the creative ladies we’d like to be involved who they’re currently crushing. I think the overall tie that binds is the sisterhood of exploring what other women are doing to independently to empower themselves and others. Or just fucking doing it! Broadly speaking, media trains women to be envious or other women’s fame, wealth, bodies, etc. It’s obviously not healthy and it pits us against each other. We need to encourage and champion each other to recondition ourselves as women and the girls that look up to us. “Crush” is an interchangeable, all-encompassing power word.
What do you describe the prevailing themes of issue #3? I got the sense of duality, coupling, mirroring… is that something you were thinking about?
It’s funny you noticed that because really there’s never been an overarching theme…but sometimes it magically conspires that way! There has never been a set decision making process for the blog since it’s a collaboration across the country, but the magazine takes some more careful curation to keep it broad and well-balanced (as to not have too many ladies who are designers or musicians, etc). But I have been scheming on themes for future issues…
Kirsten McCrea is the creator of Papirmass, an affordable art subscription service that she runs with her husband, Jp King. Each month, they thoughtfully curate the pairing of contemporary artists and authors and generally make the mail more fun! There’s a print on one side and a writing on the other. So, after you’ve finished reading, frame the print and hang it on your wall!
For those playing along at home, I’ve teamed up with Kirsten to bring you the Collage Scrap Exchange. Let’s get to know her better — read the longform interview below!
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came up with the idea for Papirmass. What was your initial inspiration for it?
I founded Papirmass after graduating from art school moving from Montreal back to my hometown. I was struck by the lack of access to exciting, contemporary art (that is so easy to take for granted in large urban centres). I was also working multiple jobs and had absolutely no free time, so I wasn’t able to make it out to the art events that were happening. I wanted great art to come right to my doorstep, and as an artist, I of course wanted it to be fairly affordable. I Googled ‘affordable art subscription’, and when nothing came up I knew I had to create one.
In the 5 years since then Papirmass has mailed over 45,000 art prints to people around the world! Each print features art on the front and contemporary writing on the back. It has moved with me back to Montreal, and now to my current home in Toronto.
You started Papirmass in 2009. How many different artists have you featured during that time? How do you decide who/what makes it into each issue?
By the end of this year we will have published the work of over 100 artists and writers! Each issue features a different pairing of art and writing, so it can be a challenge to find works that resonate with each other. We work well in advance, selecting pieces based on quality and waiting until we find the right artistic or literary match.
We have an open call for submissions, but with me being an artist and Jp King (our literary editor and my husband) having a background in Creative Writing, it’s also exciting for us to approach the long list of creative people we admire to ask them to participate.
So, I’m pretty excited about my new series, Illustrators with Ink. Tuesday’s tattoos got a great response, and it’s fun to see all of the different, permanent designs that people have on their skin. Today we’ll take a look at the tattoos of artist Rebecca Volynsky.
Rebecca lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where she’s both a practicing artist and an expressive arts facilitator at PeaceLove Studios. Her involvement with community art organizations began in high school, and she later worked as a resident teaching artist at Providence City Arts for Youth. These organizations and activities give people the opportunity to find their artistic voice.
Your name: Rebecca Volynsky
How many tattoos do you have? 4 (Bird, flax seed flower petal, bow and arrow, and anchor.)
How old were you when you got your first tattoo? 19
Do you have a favorite? If so, which one and why? All of my tattoos are personally meaningful, but the bow and arrow is a good reminder right now of how we have to struggle a little bit by pulling ourselves back in order to move forward in life.
Where did you get your work done? Good Faith Tattoo in Boston, MA and Redemption Tattoo in Cambridge, MA.
Is there any meaning behind any of your tattoos? I got the bird tattoo when I left college after my first year in order to take time off and serve as an AmeriCorps teaching artist. It was a huge change in my life that set the stage for everything I do now in community art education. The flax seed flower is the national flower of Belarus, which is where my family is originally from. It’s a reminder of my grandparents who still live there and why I work extremely hard. The anchor is actually in honor of my grandfather. He had a Soviet aviator anchor tattoo on his forearm that he got done when he flew fighter planes in the Soviet army. He brought my family to this country and was a strong leader, a quality I try to carry with me.
Do you see a connection between the type of tattoos you have and your illustrative work?There are many symbolic elements and details in my artwork that are inspired by Russian byzantine icon paintings. I feel that there is a similar style in my tattoo illustrations. I drew all of them, and see them as pieces of work that represent pieces of my identity.
Rebecca has a myriad of influences: Russian folk art, Byzantine icon paintings, lively colors, organic shapes, her experiences as a teaching artist, and much more. She’s inspired by the beautiful things and the people that surround her every day. Looking at her tattoos and work, you can see the correlation between the two:
Have ya’ll heard of Until Now? If not, then you’re in for a treat. It’s a publication started by illustrator/art director Alex Citrin and features stories about coming of age (AKA the transition from childhood to adulthood). Personally, I love these types of tales — they are by far my favorite subject to consume. So, needless to say that when I heard Alex was producing this for her graduate thesis, I was excited.
Alex was a cohort of mine in MICA’s MFA Illustration Practice program, where we’re encouraged to think about illustration differently and push the field to new places. As a result, the first issue of Until Now features a ton of great illustration showcased in gorgeous, large spreads.
I had the pleasure of interviewing her about being an art director and her love of coming of age tales. This is a long-form interview, but stick with it. Alex is hilarious and has some great things to say.
So, I’ll spare you answering a lot of questions that you’ve already covered, but for those that aren’t familiar with Until Now, how would you describe it? How long had you been thinking about putting a publication like this together?
Until Now is a magazine about coming of age, although I envision the readership to be broader than just those currently coming of age themselves. I suppose I’d been thinking about producing a collection of stories related to this topic for a while, though in different forms — collages, photo essays, a graphic novel…those ideas were reflective of my focuses at the time (a college art major, band photographer, and illustrator, respectively).
I’ve always been obsessed with documentation and I am also a believer in the traditional print magazine as a medium for communication as well as a kind of art object. Basically, I’m a complete luddite. Considering the vast cultural reach of your average mainstream magazine, though, there’s still something not quite serious about the format. I think there’s room to play with that contradiction. Similarly, coming of age stories are typically relegated to the “less serious” YA section of the library or within magazines aimed exclusively at teens. I’m still fascinated by coming of age stories at age 27.
If I had my druthers, I’d be in London right now and attending the opening for Home Sweet Home at Atomica Gallery on Thursday. The exhibition features the work of two artists: Angela Dalinger and Nicholas Stevenson. They collaborated and created a series of imaginary homes that allows you to indulge on voyeurism that we all love so much.
I find rooms really intriguing (remember how much I love Anna Valdez’s paintings?), so you know I’m into the work in this show. Plus, I had the opportunity to interview Dalinger and Stevenson about Home Sweet Home, which you’ll find below. Their answers are great.
The show is up from August 14 to September 11 of this year. Atomica Gallery is located at 29 Shorts Gardens, London WC2H 9AP.
Since this exhibition centers around voyeurism, do you find yourself actively people watching, too?
Nicholas: Absolutely, when you’re on the upper deck of a bus in London, you can see all sorts through windows… Usually it’s just real sparse and ugly decor, sometimes you think you see something really interesting but you don’t quite get time to catch it. Is he naked or just wearing a pink body suit? Is that a huuuge cat? I often look at anonymous doors and dull facades and wonder what goes on inside. My paintings try and imagine the more exciting possible scenarios.
Angela: I can’t say that it’s one of my hobbies to stalk people, I’m anyway always too afraid they might stare back, maybe from the corner of my eye. When I’m on the bus or train I always feel forced to listen to peoples conversation, even if its the most boring small talk you’ve ever heard.
I love the dark themes in these images. What do you imagine these peoples’ lives to be? Who has it worse off?
Nicholas: In my paintings there a few insects which appear to be facing persecution. Either the people are actually very small, or the bugs are very big, but at any rate they don’t seem to be getting on too well with each other.
As far as Angela’s work goes, she painted a giant being killed with a gardening tool in an allotment. It’s hard to say whether it was in self defence or not, but I painted the giant a nice funeral, because I got the feeling he might have been a little misunderstood.
Angela: I often try to paint stupid people but when I see the paintings I don’t think they are as stupid as they are supposed to be. They mostly feel misplaced and stuck in an uncomfortable situation.
I think the women in Nicholas painting that seems to have a relationship with a giant insect got it worse off, or maybe its my girl in the bathtub with a horrible case of trots.
Before this show opens, you’ve never met Angela face-to-face. How did you get to know her initially, and what do you think it’ll be like once you meet “in real life?”
Nicholas: We met through our blogs, and an obvious affinity between our artwork. There’s a certain kind of the very wild, painty brüt illustration were both championing and collecting. I really have no idea what it’ll be like to hang out in real life! But I’m hoping we can work on a few last minute pieces for the exhibition together and I can show her some good parts of London. I get the feeling we both really like painting, so if all else fails we can do that all week, ha.
How did you find the process of working virtually close with the other person? Is this your first time collaborating like this? Who started the conversations of the paintings?
Angela: Actually it was Nicholas that started the conversation with my paintings and its a very greatcompliment to get. He did a funeral painting for my dead giant and let himself also inspire
by my colour palette, although I didn’t know I have a specific one, but he told me so. I never collaborated like this before, I wish I’d have someone living near that would come around and spend the evening painting some crazy stuff.