My shelves are covered with every array of product and brand, I try something new almost every time. Experimenting has been a very important part of my process, and I always encourage others to try mixing and matching to find what feels right to their own work and style.
I’m not currently taking on personal commissions. Rather I’m trying to carve more space for making personal work and support my income through print sales and commercial projects.
I try and release prints quarterly, with special exceptions when I get to work with amazing print companies. Prints are usually limited editions, signed and numbered. I always promote print drops before they happen on social media and in my newsletter, so those are good places to be in the loop.
Sure! I'm not currently taking on custom tattoo commissions but if you see something I've already made that seems like the tattoo for you, go for it. However, I do ask that you pay a tattoo contribution in my web store. “Why?” you say. Think about it like this: It took time and careful thought to create that image you love, and when you get it as a tattoo, you’re paying a tattoo artist money for putting the image on your skin (beautifully I might add) but not paying the artist who created the image. “But I bought a print,” you say, “isn’t that the same thing?” No, and here’s why. Prints cost money to create, and time to sign, package and ship. Purchasing a print covers the cost of a print. But when you get a tattoo, you’re affecting the entire culture of art makers everywhere. Supporting the creation of that work which is forever licensed on your body should be worth something. To keep ideas coming we need to take care of our creatives and not assume that the honor of having art on your body is enough. When artists are struggling to simply get by, I prefer to respect their work and give them both credit and compensation. When I make my first million, free tattoos for everyone!
I’ve always held my pencil like this, and as distressed as it made all of my grade school teachers, I was stubborn enough to keep it through all the grip retraining. It’s named an interdigital brace, and as far as I know there’s no perk to drawing this way, it’s just what’s most comfortable for me.
That seems just as reasonable.
Style is something that develops over years. When I first started drawing I was making these elaborate, whimsical children’s illustrations. Over time I started rendering the creatures more, refining things, and as the years went on, the rendering became more realistic and the whimsical transferred into the realm of surreal. I started with a lot of play, trying out a lot of different mediums and just seeing what felt good— what I enjoyed working with. I experimented with different materials, with different textures, different subject matters until I found things that started to click with the deep inner workings of my mind. I found it helpful to examine what parts of the process I really loved and amp them up, and then figure out what parts were really stressful or uncomfortable (standing all day at an easel with oil paint that gives me a headache) and tone those down. Some of it is pragmatic, some of it is trusting that deep inner voice and learning how to listen to her.
As far as developing that deep inner voice—ask lots of questions, read poetry, don’t make up your mind too quickly, allow yourself to perceive new possibilities. Developing your creative and critical thinking in your every day life will automatically transfer into your process. The work of developing your art is the the same work as developing your life.
This can drastically vary piece to piece, ranging from 20 hours (something small) to 100+ (maybe something 22x30 in). I tend to draw slowly, building things up a little at a time, and while I’m sure there are faster and more pragmatic approaches this seems to give my pieces the feeling I’m after; during those long hours I’m pouring whatever I’m parsing into them. This question becomes even trickier to answer when I try and peg the amount of time it takes to come up with an idea, which for me is directly tied to compounding life experiences.
Sometimes I start with a sketch-a split second blur of scribbles on a shit piece of paper. Sometimes it’s laying in bed and allowing my mind to wander, seeing what ideas come forth from the stranger nooks of my mind.
Sometimes I pull out a nice sheet and just star at it until something comes out of it. I look to see what’s already there.
Then I spend some time working out the idea on the paper, loosely mapping the form, asking it what it wants to be and what emotion it wants to evoke. The feeling desired of a piece effects the composition, so I try and figure that out first. For the kind of work I make it’s the most important part.
Once I have the form laid out, I’ll do lots of research, figuring out what animals I want to use, if they have any symbology, what colors the piece should be, and be open to allowing the form to change if I find something interesting in my search.
Then I begin to refine, working both from several different image references and memory. I like to mix and match. Refining can look like a lot of different things depending on how Im going to finish the piece. If it’s going to be a pencil drawing, I start light layers of shading, mapping out the dimension and form. If it’s going to be a painting, I make crisp outlines and clean the paper up so the pencil doesn’t dirty the paint.
I build layers slowly, pushing the work a little at a time. I don’t do it the same way twice. What I love is trying to solve each piece as it’s own problem while experimenting with the process in the same time. Something about laying down the colors in a different order, or mixing materials allows my brain a kind of creative play and I also learn more about my craft as I go— sometimes discovering a new trick that opens a whole pocket of possibility.
I don’t always know when something is done. After the layers have been added, I like to hang it up for a couple weeks and just keep an eye on it. I tend to work on several pieces at once, so there’s a kind of conversation happening between the pieces, and sometimes I notice something should be added to tie it to another piece. Sometimes I ask friends to take a look at it, artists and non-artists— they all tend to notice different things and it can help offer a kind of clarity in how the piece is being understood, and if it is indeed accomplishing the task I set out for it.
My drawings in a strange way are an autobiographical journey through the questions I’m asking. They are a reflection of my current conversations, struggles, and are my way of contextualizing myself in a larger history and community. As someone with chronic pain, a lot of times my work is influenced by the reality of my body. As I learn how to move through the world differently, my realizations and perceptions work into the ideas for my piece; art tends to be the place I work out my daily reality.
My drawings are like my diary entries, incredibly personal and my way of parsing my thoughts about my life experiences. It is where I sort my health issues, my loves, my faults, my rage, my denial. It's where I sort being a woman, beauty, and letting go. The whole point of my work is that it is internally connective, both to me and to those who look upon it.
Sometimes by the time I get near the end of the piece it can begin to feel a bit mentally stale. I might put the piece away for a little while and bring it back out when I'm fresh, or try and find a way to create it form the beginning that avoids things I find monotonous. But I never get bored with the creation aspect -- of coming up with ideas and finding a way to breath life into them. It's a way of moving more than a way of thinking.
Usually I have an idea of what I’m looking for before hand, a feeling I’m chasing. If I know the species I want to use, I’ll do a thorough web search and I’ll save 30 or so images of that animal from different angles. I also have a huge library of old books, and do a lot of research on the species I’m drawing beforehand. The goal is to create something new, so I’ll use the images I find more as a tool of learning how to see the subject— What is it’s form? How does it move? Where do the pieces of it fit together? What are the color variants? Sometimes when I draw I’ll use tiny portions of several images that I stitch together with a made up perception of what I think it should look like, to add that odd feeling of it not being quite right. Sometimes I draw the whole thing from memory after spending time analyzing the animal’s form. I like when things have a bit of an off kilter feel and also am very careful about not duplicating a photographer’s work (that would be stealing).
The most helpful thing for me when I’m feeling discouraged is to disconnect from the digital realm and get outside. Usually the discouragement is coming from someone else opinion or a bad system, so I need to separate from that and find space to reconnect with my inner self. Only there canI look inward and see if I trust what I’m making, what I’m curious about, and what I have to say. It is not an easy process, but because art making is entirely connected to the creator of the work, self care makes a lot of sense to me.
I think her name was Clever Girl.
Just keep making. Log your hours, trust your instincts, and fight fiercely for the freedom to move sideways when everyone else wants you to move forward.
If you’re prone to comparison, don’t look at other people’s work. You’re not them and shouldn’t make what they make.
If you’re not satisfied with the piece, make another. That’s the way it should be, because you should always be learning more than you are able to put down. That lack of satisfaction doesn’t mean the work is bad but rather is the drive to push you further. Learn to trust it.
When you do something well, don’t undermine it. Congratulate yourself. Enjoy it. Half of making is curiosity, and curiosity is mostly play. It should be fun too.
You’re work should grow and change over time, just as you grow and change over time. Don’t get stuck in a thing if it no longer fits, that will only breed resentment.
Experiment a lot. You don’t have to figure out your style immediately. Art isn’t a perfection game, it’s a question game. Ask the question. Try the thing.
Give credit where credit is due. If you borrowed something, that’s okay, mark your references, show how you got there. Build friendships and collaborations, don’t take. Turn the world into one of brainstorming and growth rather than competition and consumerism.
Do your homework. Learn your history. Figure out where the things you’re making are coming from and why. Being pretty isn’t enough, the work needs to be smart too.
There's no shame in having a job on the side, sometimes it's even better for the work. Remember, it's not art's job to support you, its your job to create circumstances to make room for art. Do whatever works best for you, but don't associate success with art paying your bills. Art paying the bills comes with it's own sacrifices. I love this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Andrew Wyeth has my heart forever. His Helga series makes my heart pool on the floor.
Andrea Kowch with her delicate surrealism and narrative.
Arthur Rackham for reminding me that magic can be in anything.
James Fenwick Lansdowne for painting the most magnificent birds.
Jenny Saville for not making the disturbing palatable but still enigmatic.
Walton Ford for bringing back naturalism.
Tiffany Bozic for her constant encouragement and steady hand.
Lucian Freud for painting people how I see them, with color and shape and complexity.
Shaun Tan for making the Arrival, the most sensitive and ethereal book ever created.
Amy Cutler for quirk, charm and discomfort.
Herbert Baglione for using two tones to transport me into the world of shadow and light.
Chaim Soutine for a feeling I can neither describe nor shake.
I read about 15 books at a time (very slowly I might add), here's what's currently stacked next to my bed:
Mary Oliver - Every book
Marie Howe - All her books
Jan Zwicky - Songs for Relinquishing the Earth
Naomi Shihab Nye - Kindness
Maria Papova - Brain Pickings
The Great Discontent -- interviews with creatives
On Being with Krista Tippett
Isabel Wilkerson - The Warmth of Other Suns
John ODonnohue - Anam Cara
May Sarton - Recovery
Dorothy Allison - Bastard out of Carolina
Rebecca Solnit - The Mother of All Questions
Andrea Wulf - The Invention of Nature
Edward Abbey - Desert Solitaire
Ester Perel - Mating in Captivity
Joan Didion - The Year of Magical Thinking
Ray Bradbury - Dandelion Wine