Studio Visit with Marisa Pahl

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Please meet Marisa Pahl! Marisa is an artist after my own heart. Her love for the natural world and her efforts to protect these beautiful wild places through her artwork is inspiring. I met up with her on a snowy day in February. Since then she's been creating lots of amazing new work. (Be sure to check out her solo show at Kafka's Coffee opening this Thursday October 12th at 8pm.)Without further ado, let's jump into the interview.

Q + A with MARISA PAHL
Studio Visit: Monday February 6th, 2017

Introduce yourself. How would you describe yourself as a maker/creative? How do you spend your days?

Hi! My name is Marisa. I'm a watercolour painter and expeditionary artist. Right now I'm painting miniature watercolour landscapes and colour studies that map human connections to wild places. I'm positive there is a connection between our individual wilderness relationships and the small daily actions we do in support of the environment.
 

 

Briefly describe your journey. Were there some pivotal things that helped propel you to where you are now?

An essential part of my creative journey is taking wilderness sabbaticals - regardless of perceived lack of time or the typical obstacles that can get in the way of these sorts of adventures. Solo hiking, solo travel and wilderness journeys with small groups have been necessary for me to become content as a creative person. This sort of intense "down time" also gives my mind a chance to ruminate on my dreams and realize they are absolutely worth acting on.

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The big, beautiful natural world seems to be an integral part of the work that you make. Was your love of nature fostered at a young age?

Yes! When I was 6 my parents asked me and my two brothers if we would rather go to Disneyland every couple years or build a log cabin together in the woods. The choice was unanimous. During this decade or so of building I had a ton of autonomy to explore outside on my own, sketchbook in hand. This cabin also became the base camp for many backpacking journeys, ski trips, paddles and day hikes.

Was there an 'aha' moment where you saw how you could combine your love for the natural world with you creativity? How important is research in your process?

Learning is huge for me. Writer Austin Kleon believes that problems of output are problems of input and I could not agree more. When I hit a wall creatively I read. The more I read, the more meaningful and interesting and satisfying my creative practise becomes. For some insight into the research for a certain body of work, visit my portfolio online - at the bottom of each collection of artwork photos there is a list of books that contributed ideas, information and philosophy to my process.  { www.portfolio-marisapahl.com ]

My love for the natural world is hard to separate from my creativity. The two go hand in hand and tend to fuel each other.

I want to live my values in an imperfect, ever evolving way. That means living in a way that treads lightly on the earth, constantly learning how to do that better and sharing my small victories (and epic failures) with anyone who is along for the ride. This approach is also present in my creative practise. I create as a way to refine and distill my own thoughts and knowledge of the world, often rooted in the state of wilderness environments and threatened ecosystems. My painting process mirrors and includes this ongoing learning.


What is your favourite thing about creating outdoors? What are some of the challenges?

Painting outside feels playful, honest and exciting. It can also be physically difficult - which depending on the day can be super annoying, or a creative enabler.

When I'm painting on a beach, my experience of colour and light is so overwhelmingly real, specific and unique to that moment. It feels impossible to capture anything remotely close to what's present - which takes the pressure off a bit.

My abstract colour studies evolved as a way to effectively map colour when I'm painting outside. Light and colour can be so tricky!

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Do you both have any rituals or a routine that help ground you & primes your creative mind?

I read. I walk. I cook whole foods at home from scratch. These are all times when my body is engaged but my mind is barrelling forward on it's own, unguided. For me, these small routine moments are powerful catalysts for creativity.

When I'm feeling stuck in my workplace in the city, I like painting in cafes. It makes me feel like time doesn't exist and the world ends at the sides of my table. Perfect equation for productivity!

Fear and uncertainty seem to be an innate part of the creative process. How do you confront your fears, instead of letting them stop you?

Building positive feedback loops by sharing my work with a wider audience has been unexpectedly amazing. When strangers are sending me positive vibes, engaging with my work in a meaningful way and investing in my paintings - it's difficult to let fear and doubt become too comfortable in my daily narratives.


What kinds of activities/interests do you have outside of your actual art practice, that you feel informs or inspires your work? (or maybe just contributes to a richer life)

I'm obsessed with tiny homes, architecture and design. I go on at least one longer remote 1-2 week kayak, canoe or backpacking trip every year. At home in Vancouver I like to paddle, cross country ski and hike. Gardening is a big one, though I'm a total amateur.  I'm a slow living enthusiast, an aspiring zero waster and a minimalist (who is slowly coming out of the closet.)

I'm not super into fashion but right now I'm falling in love with independent, Canada made + designed clothing. The excitement in this industry right now is contagious and so full of useful information for conscious consumers.

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I’m a sucker for good quotes. Do you have a favourite you’d like to share?

It’s easy for us to blindly consume, when we don’t see the effect it has on other places. The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life... most of the damage caused by humans is unintentional, I think. In response to people saying “you can’t go back,” I say “well what happens when you get to the edge of the cliff? Do you take one step forward or do a 180 degree turn and then take one step forward? Which way are you going? Which direction is progress?


— Yvon Chouinard

Thank you Marisa!

View more of Marisa's wonderful work here:

  • Marisa's website
  • Instagram
  • Shop
  • Marisa's Solo Show 'Coastlines' opening: Kafka's Coffee @ 2525 Main St. Thursday, October 12th at 8pm
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Studio 'RE-VISIT' with Sandeep Johal

Today it's time to take a peek into the studio of artist Sandeep Johal. I interviewed her over a year ago, and holy smokes!, she's created so much incredible work since then. I'm excited, inspired and deeply moved but the work that Sandeep is bringing to life.

(Just a little note, I meant to post this earlier in the summer, so some of things Sandeep mentioned have already been created and you can see the finished works on her website).

(I can't believe it, but our studio visit was in March 2016!) What have been some of your favourite projects since then?

I actually cringed when I looked back at the photos of my first interview with you - I felt like such an amateur/imposter! But you’ve gotta start somewhere, right? Ha ha! A year ago, I didn’t have much to show or much on the go, I could barely say “I’m an artist” out loud, much less believe it, but with a lil blood, sweat, and tears a lot can happen. I feel pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished in a year. 

I’ve done so many things in the past year that I’ve loved, but my most meaningful project, Rest In Power, is what I’m most proud of. It’s a body of work dedicated to 12 women whose murders, not deaths - because that’s a very important distinction to make - have impacted me deeply. It’s also my first solo show and will be up at the Gam Gallery on Sept. 8, 2017. (go see Sandeep's show, it's currently up!) Rest In Power was also featured in the spring issue of Gray Magazine in a spread about Creative Dissent, as well on Zee TV Canada’s BC Roundup, which was pretty exciting.

A couple of my other favourite projects were painting a concrete planter in Strathcona (at Jackson and Powell) and creating a Canada 150+ street banner for the City of Surrey. 

Some upcoming projects that I’m really excited about are creating a 4’ x 700’ design for the Front Street Mews Barrier in New Westminster and a mural for Vancouver Mural Fest. (Sarah's note: these projects are finished, check them out on Sandeep's instagram)

What or Who are you inspired by right now?

I’m inspired by so many artists right now: Tyler Keeton Robbins, Meera Sethi, Rajni Perera, Nep Sidhu, Nina Chanel, Robert Young, Tom Hackney, to name a few. I’m inspired by the positive, female-centred art community - Thrive Art Studio - run by artists Jamie Smith and Tara Galuska, which I'm fortunate to be a part of. 

Have you had any creative 'aha' moments?

Yes! 

Waiting for inspiration to strike is a waste of time. You’ve just gotta commit to showing up every single day; you’ll get better and faster, your work will naturally evolve, and your voice as an artist will become clearer. 

 

Do the work! It’s the only path to success. I basically have no life; I take care of my son, Safa, Monday through Friday, so my work hours are restricted to when he naps and after he goes to bed in the evenings. I also take him to work meetings and studio visits with me. The lack of time has definitely made me more productive and focused. 

Be professional. The art community is small and reputation is everything. A lot of my recent opportunities have come from people I’ve already worked with. 

Thanks so much Sandeep!

Are you inspired? I know I am. I'm blown away by all of the incredible, heartfelt, meaningful work Sandeep has created over the last year. What about you? I'd love it if you shared this post with your friends and family.

xo

Sarah

Studio 'RE-VISIT' with Priscilla Yu

Welcome to a studio 're-visit with Priscilla Yu. I interviewed her back in April 2016, where we caught a glimpse into her colourful, imaginative and playful creative world. Let's see what she's been up to since then...

I can't believe a year has flown by already! What have been some of your favourite projects?

Since our interview, I had the opportunity to combine my love of illustration with design. I got to design two book covers and I have also been designing some products. Learning a new skill is always my favourite! About a month ago, I created some illustrations for colouring t-shirts and tote bags for a colouring party at Vancouver International Childrens Festival on Granville Island. It was so much fun to create all the outlines and line work and I'm looking forward to watching people colour them in their own ways!

What or Who are you inspired by right now?

I have been really inspired by Iris Apfel ever since I watched a documentary about her on Netflix. It's incredibly inspiring for me to see a creative and vibrant elderly woman doing what she has always enjoyed and listening to her creative self. The way that she puts colours, textures, weights, and materials togethers to orchestrate an outfit makes me kind of jump out of my heart with joy. It's like when you look at a beautiful painting and you have to take a deep breath from its beauty. 

Priscilla was very generous in giving us a few things that she learned since last year:

1. If you have a long 'to-do' list, with items on it that only take 5-10 minutes, just do them first. Often I rethink and over-think my e-mails, when they are totally fine. It's amazing how a little boost of confidence in yourself will save you so much time. Instead of going in circles about my "tone" may sound too keen or too amateur, I just accept that I am who I am and where I'm at. 

2. Looking on the bright-side is crucial to a creative and freelance career. When you're juggling a part-time day job as well your art business, energy is everything. Circumstances can remain the same, but depending on your attitude and level of positivity/negativity, you can feel dragged down or optimistic about the present. This isn't just going to affect your happiness and relationships, but also your productivity and your art business. 

3. I am a creative person with valuable ideas and lots of experience in the art field. People do want to hear what I have to say. 

I think that people like being around creative energy and want to work with that. One of my favourite sayings that I have in mind all the time is

Dream Big. Then, whittle down.

That way, you don't miss any juicy ideas or diminish your creativity. All the good stuff that you harvest at that point on is without self-doubt and often brilliant, and you can let go of all the crazy ideas that aren't going to work afterwards.

Thanks so much Priscilla! Can't you just feel the electric field of her artwork! So amazing. Right now you can go check out her mural she's painting for the Vancouver Mural Fest!

Are you inspired? Did you appreciate Priscilla's creative insights and vibrant artwork? If so, I'd love it if you shared this post with your friends and family.

x

Sarah

 

 

Studio 'RE-VISIT' with Rachael Ashe

Photo credit:Trevor Jansen

Photo credit:Trevor Jansen

Welcome back to the Studio Visit series! As I continue to interview new artists, I thought it'd be fun to go back and see what some of the artists have been up to since our first visit. Today, I'm happy to introduce/re-introduce you to paper-artist extraordinaire, Rachael Ashe. Let's see what she's been up to!

I can't believe you were my first studio visit, way back in November 2015. What have been some of your favourite projects since then? 

One of the pieces I shared during our interview was a work in progress installation, hand cut from a seven foot long piece of tyvek. I finished it eventually and am very happy with the results, but it made me feel crazy while I worked on it. The design is made up of forty unique cut circles, and it was essentially multiple works from a single piece of paper. It really tested the limits of my patience, and the determination to see it through to the end. I showed it for the first time last fall in a group exhibition titled, Hammer Cut Stitch Repeat, at Circle Craft Gallery. The show also included my first foray into wearable art. I really enjoy working on the three neck pieces I created from paper for the show.

Photo credit:  Byron Dauncy

Photo credit:  Byron Dauncy

What or Who are you inspired by right now?

I am really inspired by Tiny Blade Project by Annyen Lam. I bought one of her pieces when I was in Toronto recently. Her daily paper cut project is amazing. I'm also super inspired by Kari Kristensen,  and all the intricate mark making she uses in her prints.

So, there you have it, a little glimpse into Rachael's creative realm. You can check out the original, and more in-depth interview with Rachael here.

Find more of her beautiful work here:

Are you inspired? Did you get drawn into the delicate detail of Rachael's work? If so, I'd love it if you shared this post with your friends and family.

xo

Sarah

Studio Visit with Laara Cerman

Q + A with LAARA CERMAN
Studio Visit: November 8th, 2016

Plants, plants, beautiful plants! Sigh. I first discovered Laara's work via instagram and immediately fell in love. Her work sits in the wonderful intersection of art, science and history. I love her focus on plants of the Pacific Northwest (an interest of mine!) and her meticulous observations and technical savvy when it comes to creating the pieces. Showing us the components and different stages of the plant, we get a glimpse into the poetic life of plants, little insights into what is essentially all around us, but may not slow down enough to see. So, without further ado, please meet Laara Cerman!

(Studio photographs by Sarah Clement, artwork with black background are from artist's website).

Introduce yourself. How would you describe yourself as a maker/creative? How do you spend your days?

Hi! I’m Laara, I’m an artist, freelance photographer and Photoshop guru. I live in the suburbs and split my time working from home or working at my office in Crosstown, Vancouver. I earn a living as a freelance retoucher and commercial photographer through my company Cake Imagery that I started with Kevin Lanthier in 2010. 

I’ll go through weeks where I might only work on commercial jobs with minimal, if any, time spent on my art.  I’ll also have weeks where I’m very intensely focused only on my art practice and not my commercial work. I try really hard to spend at least a bit of time everyday working on my art, even if that only means posting on instagram or looking through images I’m currently working on and taking notes on what needs to be done to finish them.

On a typical day I will first check my email to see what needs to be tended to and work on any client based commercial work first.  After that, I’ll switch over to retouching my botanical images; if it’s a sunny day and plants are in bloom I’ll go on a bike ride or go for a walk to try find one or two plants to scan.  I do all my scanning at home; at my Vancouver office I’ll retouch and print my botanical work, and do the bulk of my commercial work from there as well. 

Briefly describe your journey. Were there some pivotal things that helped propel you to where you are now? (Perhaps there were some struggles that you see, in hindsight, helped you get to where you are now?)

I studied photography at Langara College which was more commercially oriented.  I was lucky and got a full time job right out of school in 2007 where I worked for photographer Anthony Redpath as an in-house retoucher and digital tech for a few years. I became quite competent in Photoshop in a short amount of time. It was kind of a sink or swim situation and I guess I swam!  

The digital process is a really huge part of my art and I wouldn’t have the technical skills to do that if I hadn’t worked those intense few years as an in-house retoucher, nor would I have the skills to start my own retouching company. 

We both seem to have an affinity for plants, and more specifically, the plants of the Pacific Northwest. When did this fascination begin for you?

I can trace the start of my interest in wild plants to when I was 16 or 17 where I heard an interviewee in the documentary “The Corporation” mention how children could identify a vast amount of logos but could barely name 10 local trees.  I didn’t do anything with that thought for for close to a decade.  

In 2012 I bought the book “Plants of Coastal British Columbia” (an excellent field guide) and started making more of an effort to identify plants I’d come across.  Around this time I was also experimenting with scanning people using a flatbed scanner; for a different project I was photographing plants with a regular camera and would use these photos to build geometric designs in Photoshop. I wasn’t happy with the way the plant photos were looking, or with how much work it was to set up and take down a mini-studio each time I had a plant I wanted to photograph, so I decided to scan what I foraged as a record for identifying later.

Since the later part of 2015 I’ve been documenting different wild plants at various stages of their life cycle as well as dissecting them and turning these scans into botanical art; it has been an amazing way to learn about what grows around me as well as learning about the uses and culture surround these wild plants that so many people overlook and mow down.  I’m also working on a series where I create designs based on the golden ratio using foraged, common plants.

I’ve really enjoyed learning about the culture of different First Nations through plants; there’s just so much I don’t know and it’s really disconcerting how little I know about the people that have always lived in the Pacific Northwest, especially considering I was born and raised in British Columbia. 

I would love to know more about how you create your images. In order to capture a plant in it's different stages, this must take a fair bit of time and patience. I'm curious, what has this slowing down to 'plant time' taught you?

To create my images I’ll start by taking a few clippings of a plant that I want to learn more about. I’ll scan it immediately after picking it since most tend to wilt fairly quickly.  I’ll either put the plant directly on the glass of the scanner, press it gently with black paper and scan a few variations. If the plant is large then I will tape or pin it to foamcore and place the scanner face down, capturing it in multiple sections that I later blend together in Photoshop.  A majority of my time is spent in post-production. 

Once I’m happy with an overview of the plant I'll switch to scanning it's details at a higher resolution. I’ll also dissect different pieces and scan those; it’s quite delicate work as the small parts of the plant can get squished really easily and then be ruined.

I try to collect the different stages of the plant from the same area just to make sure it’s the same species. I'll check back every week or so until it seems like I've gathered the complete lifecycle. Most of the time I have no idea what the plant is when I first pick it and have to identify it after scanning; it's always a surprise to see how different plants transform over the weeks.  It’s fascinating to see the different ways plants go to seed, from feathery seed fluff to mutant-like seed pods to ones that burst open when you touch them!

There are plants that have always grown in the places I've frequented but never noticed them until this year!  This makes me wonder what else I might be blind to.  What I used to see as a sea of green is now filled with so much diversity of plants, animals, and food.

"Plant time" is teaching me to look closely, to look thoroughly and to not be afraid of bugs!

Do you have any rituals or a routine that helps ground you & primes your creative mind?

The one routine I’m religious about is breakfast.  I always have 2 eggs, toast, fruit, and a mocha where I count out how many dark chocolate chunks I put in.  I don’t really have any rituals; sometimes I’ll clean up my work space more thoroughly than usual before I start scanning but then it ends up even messier a few minutes later!

Fear and uncertainty seem to be an innate part of the creative process. How do you confront your fears, instead of letting them stop you?

I’ll let myself feel afraid without trying to stop it, but only for a short time.  In my mind, the worst that could happen is that I’ll die, and that’s going to happen eventually anyways so I might as well do the thing that scares me!  In most situations I realize the worst outcome probably won’t result in my death, so then I don’t really see the point in being afraid.  Both my fear and fascination with death influence my work. 

I’ll also try to take things one step at a time when I’m feeling overwhelmed.  I’ll do the most urgent or smallest, simplest task and not think about what else needs to be done; when that’s complete I’ll move on to the next problem; eventually the thing that was causing me anxiety has been overcome!  I think this is a great attitude for learning new things too.  There are so many plants in British Columbia, I’ll never be able to identify all of them, but I can start with 1 or 2 in my front yard, and from there move on to another down the street, and so on and so on.  It's like hiking up a mountain: you don't keep your eyes on the peak as you're hiking, you focus on what's immediately around you, on what is right in front of your feet; eventually you'll find yourself at the top. 

What kinds of activities/interests do you have outside of your actual art practice, that you feel informs or inspires your work? (or maybe just contributes to a richer life)

Knitting.  I really enjoy knitting sweaters, it’s a great way to learn and practice patience and it's also quite meditative.  It’s actually a really simple craft to do, once you learn the basics, but there are always little tricks you can learn to make your knits better and there’s different ways of doing something for the same or similar result.  It'll take a lifetime to master.  

I would love to get into dyeing yarn with natural materials; I’ve learned that mushrooms create really beautiful and vibrant dyes!  I also make wine with foraged fruit and so far have made wine with blackberries, apples, and dandelions; I also volunteer at UBC’s Herbarium once a week. 

I’m a sucker for good quotes. Do you have a favourite you’d like to share?

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

— Martha Graham

Thank you Laara!

Go check out more of her wondrous world of plants:

Studio Visit with Pellvetica

Q + A with SANDY PELL + STEVE PELL OF Pellvetica
Studio Visit: Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Please meet Sandy Pell + Steve Pell of PELLVETICA! I've bee enamoured with the work of this creative duo since I first saw it floating around somewhere on the internet a few years ago. I love the obsession with detail and pattern and the extensive, fluid visual vocabulary they have developed. Whether a print, mural, or a pair of skis, each piece seems to pulsate with energy and each element flows seamlessly and rhythmically into the next.

Both Sandy and Steve are strong artists in their own right, but as I have not come across many creative duos before, I was curious to hear what it's like to have a collaborative partner. I'm excited to share their work and words with you today, and hope you find it inspiring!

(Just a note about the visit, unfortunately Steve couldn't be there, but I got to hang out with Sandy and chat about art, life and creative process. The answers below are from both Sandy + Steve).

Photographs by Sarah Clement (except photos of murals by Pellvetica)

Introduce yourselves. How would you describe yourselves as makers/creatives?

Pellvetica is a collection of artwork that combines the styles and ideas of Vancouver-based artists Sandy Pell and Steve Pell through the use of pattern, proportion, space, and time.

As an illustrator, Sandy has been attracted to repetitive patterns since she was first introduced to Ukrainian easter eggs, spirographs, kaleidoscopes, and prisms. Inspired by these, she has become widely known for her unique and erratic, yet beautifully ornate pattern style.

As an experienced illustrator and graphic designer, Steve focuses on bringing an underlying order to chaos and is the yang to Sandy’s yin. His design philosophies, conceptual thinking, and artistic production process help bring his ideas from thought to form.

In essence, Pellvetica represents an alchemy that aims to reconcile Sandy and Steve’s opposing qualities. Their ultimate goal is to transform blank spaces into memorable experiences that challenge existing boundaries and encourage unfamiliar outcomes. 

Briefly describe your journey. Were there some pivotal things that helped propel you to where you are now?

Painting murals on tight deadlines could be compared to running marathons. An athlete needs the discipline to overcome mental and physical pain, especially in that last kilometer so they can cross the finish line with a time and effort they’re proud of. 

One story I like to share is the work we did with the Vancouver Mural Festival on August 20th. We had a mere 5.5 days to complete a full overhaul of the storefront at Kafka’s Coffee and Tea in Vancouver. Throughout the week, our muscles fought against us, and our minds battled our bodies. Discipline and determination moved us forward when our knees, feet, wrists, shoulders, and eyes were in constant pain... all while on a ladder, 20 feet in the air and while exposed to August’s hot sun. 

To overcome this mental and physical barriers, we would think about what we were doing, why we’re doing it, and how we could achieve success. This brought us back to thinking about our collaborative goal - to transform blank spaces into memorable experiences that challenge existing boundaries and encourage unfamiliar outcomes. 

So we would keep asking ourselves: “what does success look like?” 

In this particular project, success was following through with our commitment, and learning something new which would leave a lasting impression on the city block. 

Many unknowns began to surface which needed our immediate attention, and learning something when you are already tired is a major challenge, but it achieves our goals and motivates us. And in the end, we crossed the finish line with our collective chins held high, and minds open to even more possibility. In other words, we grow in strength and confidence. 

I'm curious about how your collaborative process was born and evolved. Do you hand artwork back and forth or are there very specific parts of the process for each of you? 

We have complimentary skill sets that overlap, but largely each of us tends to master and focus on what we do best. We conceptualize our works together, then the work will bounce between us until it’s polished. We have been together for over a decade, so many of our challenges have been fleshed out. 

Working together has many advantages, including our ability to harness a male and female perspective, as well as our ability to combine our greatest loves and talents to collaborate on a project we both like. And best of all, painting murals and working on illustration projects give us an incredible opportunity to spend time together. 

We’re creating experiences for our viewers while bringing our relationship closer together all at the same time. Both of us also easily fall into a flow state when we paint, as we’re in the company of each other. There’s a great trust in that.

You've been prolific muralists over the last little while. (I was especially excited to see one of my favorite coffee shops, Kafka's, have a facelift with Pellvetica artwork!). What do you love the most about the mural process and has it influenced your other work?

While we lay out a basic process to how we create our murals, the design of each artwork constantly changes and evolves throughout the mural’s lifecycle. Our murals develop in a very organic process because we design in an iterative way. This allows for us to easily adapt to any design challenge on the fly while working efficiently and quickly. The final product will have elements of the original idea, however, it will be significantly more polished with every detail meticulously thought out. This includes things like the placement of wall plugs, the colour of the ceiling, the surroundings to the left and right of the mural wall, placement of the doors and entranceways, windows, and even the teams of people which will sit near the finished mural. Each detail plays a vital role to the final artworks experience. 

The details are never established in advance and this is part of the fun of the mural process. The organic nature and underlying order of our works make for an interesting challenge every time we paint. We will always have a basic idea, theme, or story to go by, then we’ll organically grow this idea until it flowers into something we are both happy with.

Do you both have any rituals or a routine that help ground you & primes your creative mind?

A polished studio. A polished mind. Cleanliness is the key.

Fear and uncertainty seem to be an innate part of the creative process. How do you confront your fears, instead of letting them stop you?

When we have the vision to transform blank spaces into memorable experiences, we refuse to let obstacles stand in our way. We do what it takes to get the job done, and in doing so we put ourselves into situations that may seem impossible and cause fear. 

It is this moment when the active creative mind kicks into high gear, or fear tempts you to retreat. You are forced to think about how to solve the creative challenge before you, and what steps you can take to realize your vision. Often throughout the process, what we envision and what is possible do not align. Knowing that we must adapt to whatever comes our way helps us realize that these unknowns can benefit the outcome our art because they may reveal something we never anticipated and thus we will learn something new. By being flexible in our process and being open to its possibilities, we end up surprising ourselves and often grow as artists. 

It has taken a long time, and a lot of failures to get to where we are today, however, we now see fear as a positive thing. Fear is a sure sign you are about to enter into something unknown which is the basis of learning. We battle fear from a philosophical perspective and ignore our “flight” instinct. In doing so, we embracing all fear has to offer. 

When you face your fear and defeat it, there is no greater satisfaction in life because you feel reborn again, stronger, and now more capable of rising to new heights. Fear will gnaw at you and tell you to stop. It will do everything in its power to keep you “safe” from danger. You need to believe that this so-called safety is an illusion. By succumbing to fear, you will never grow and will become creatively stale, and emotionally static. 

Our method of facing fear is to break down a problem into manageable chunks. This will help reduce the anxiety of whatever daunting task you have ahead of you which will clear your mind and help you solve your creative problems. As you solve each chunk, the way forward becomes increasingly clear as your mind starts to make connections and see patterns of action you can take to achieve success. Fear is unavoidable and absolutely haunts us with each new project. We have only begun our journey but this mindset on how we perceive fear has been one of our most powerful tools for success.

What kinds of activities/interests do you have outside of your actual art practice, that you feel informs or inspires your work? (or maybe just contributes to a richer life)

Both of us love spending time outdoors and away from the distractions of technology. We’re constantly adventuring throughout the province with our puffy white husky, Link while enjoying lovely coffee shops and the sunshine along the way.

 I’m a sucker for good quotes. Do you have a favourite you’d like to share?

(Sandy's fav, above, Steve's fav below)

What we think, we become
— Buddha
Imagination is more important than knowledge.
— Albert Einstein

Are you working on any exciting projects or have some on the horizon?

A new mural work at a highly trafficked intersection of 4th & Burrard in Vancouver… TBD.

(Timelapse films are the best! Check out the process for the Modify Wolf Den mural below)

Thank you so much Sandy & Steve!

Check out more of their incredible work here:

Studio Visit with Leah Duncan

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Welcome back to the Studio Visit series! I'm excited to share with you a chance to peek inside the brains and hearts of some major talents as they trek along the uncertain path of creativity and make beautiful, impactful work along the way. Today I'm happy to introduce you to Leah Duncan! I'm not sure exactly when I first saw Leah's work, but I was immediately drawn to the beautiful colour palettes and playful motifs. A bit of that Texas sunshine really does shine right through her work!

This past summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend ICON9, an illustration conference that was held in Austin, Texas. Unfortunately timing didn't work out for Leah and I to do a in-person studio visit, but she was very generous to offer to do the 'studio visit' from a far. I find Leah's work and the numerous collaborations she has done to be infinitely inspiring. She also happens to seem like a pretty wonderful person too! So, without further ado, please meet Leah Duncan.

(A note about the photography: Normally I take the photographs for the studio visit series, but in this case, the photos are from what Leah sent me or from her website).

Introduce yourself. How would you describe yourself as a maker/creative? How do you spend your days?

I’m a self-taught designer and illustrator. I live in Austin, TX where I love the sunshine and tacos. I’m mostly inspired by my love of nature and my surroundings in my east austin neighborhood as well as the flora and landscapes of the southwest. I started out selling my work on Etsy and that quickly evolved into a textile and art collection that I sell in my online shop and in retail stores. I also release several fabric collections a year as well as collaborate with companies who license my surface patterns. My work has been in Urban Outfitters, Target, the Land of Nod, Schoolhouse Electric, Hallmark, and O’neill to name a few. 

These days I spend my time balancing motherhood with my 9 month old daughter and maintaining this amazing career I’ve worked hard to build. It’s been the very happiest time of my life but also incredibly challenging as I take on this new role as mom, which for me, will always take precedence over work.

Briefly describe your journey. Were there some pivotal things that helped propel you to where you are now? (Perhaps there were some struggles that you see, in hindsight, helped you get to where you are now?)

My career has been more about small moments than pivotal ones. Every day that I’ve woken up and done this thing that I love doing and kept doing it no matter what - that is what has gotten me to where I am now. Every struggle from sewing a broken zipper to switching to a new fabric representative have helped me get to where I am because as a small business owner and artist you face challenges almost every day. Not letting them stop you is what makes you successful, so you just have to keep going!

Your colour palettes and designs are so vibrant and full of life. Had you been developing this style through different mediums before you delved into the world of textiles?

I started as an illustrator selling my drawings in 2008. This was after working as a graphic designer for a few years after college. As a graphic designer I’d always found myself drawn to pattern and used it whenever possible in my work. As a child my doodles always seemed to be in groupings or with some sort of flow. Because I love seeing my work used commercially and on tangible goods it seemed like a natural progression to start delving into surface pattern design which led me to creating textiles.

What has your journey been like working with brands and licensing your work?

It’s been a big learning process! I decided ultimately to move forward without an agent after my first few contracts because I felt I could negotiate and handle that side of things on my own. That said, it’s taken many years to get a handle on all of the business aspects and navigating the many personalities you work with when working with a large company. On one hand it’s amazing because I get to create things I’m unable to do on my own, like bedding, rugs, and clothing. I don’t have to handle manufacturing of those things and payment is a simple royalty rate or design fee. The downside is losing creative control of the whole process which means seeing some projects end up differently than I would have intended. I think at this point I’ve built my brand so I’ve been able to get art directors to trust my point of view. That’s when collaborations have worked best for me. I hope I can continue on that path moving forward and focus on working with companies that are the best fit for my work and as a good friend once said,  "like my work for my work".

Do you have any rituals or a routine that helps ground you & primes your creative mind?

I used to run and do yoga which kept me focused and balanced. Now that I’m in mom mode I have less time for that, but a giant cup of coffee helps. : )

Fear and uncertainty seem to be an innate part of the creative process. How do you confront your fears, instead of letting them stop you?

I start every project with incredible anxiety over whether I will be able to translate my ideas or tell my story as I’d intended. Then, as artists, we put our work out in the world to be judged. It’s a very vulnerable thing art. It’s scary. So, yes, we artists really do have to overcome our fears to put pen to paper and create something we’ve put our hearts into. I’ve had many projects not turn out the way I’d intended, but for me, it’s all a part of the journey and most of the time I end up somewhere much more beautiful. Keeping that in mind and knowing I’ve always made it through in the past, plus pure love for my craft, is what keeps me going.

What kinds of activities/interests do you have outside of your actual art practice, that you feel informs or inspires your work? (or maybe just contributes to a richer life)

A lot of eating because I’m married to a chef! Traveling, spending time outdoors, dancing in my pajamas, and eating a lot of chocolate. Really just enjoying life as much as I can, soaking it in like a sponge, and wringing it back out into my work.

I’m a sucker for good quotes. Do you have a favourite you’d like to share?

Nothing will work unless you do.
— Maya Angelou

Any exciting projects that you are working on?

New fabric collections and a stationery line with a major gift retailer, but my biggest focus right now is being a mom.

Thank you Leah!

You can view more of Leah's beautiful work here:

Studio Visit with Tara Galuska

Please meet Tara Galuska! Funnily enough, Tara and I actually met when I was being interviewed for a Papergirl studio visit back in 2013. Since then, I am happy to say that we've become good friends and are always cheering each other on in our art careers. It's pretty cool to see where Tara's colours, shapes and whimsical creatures may fly off to next! There is much beauty, inspiration and indeed poetry to be found in her work. So without further ado, let's jump into thecreative realm of paper artist extraordinaire, Tara Galuska.

Q + A with TARA GALUSKA
Studio Visit: Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Introduce yourself. How would you describe yourself as a maker/creative? How do you spend your days?

I am Tara Galuska and I create poetry with paper! I am an artist and illustrator who works with paper to create work that is delicate, elegant and intricate.
I try to keep work to a Monday to Friday schedule so that I can run a sustainable business and also feel like a human. It breaks down a little bit like this- Monday, Tuesday and Friday I work on my art and business and on Wednesday and Thursday I work with my lovely arty business client on their social media, blogging and basically whatever else is needed.
A typical work day usually starts around 10am and goes till around 10pm with some breaks in between. I try and break down my tasks and make each day either a “computer day” or an “art day.” I like to be fully immersed in what I am doing and I feel like jumping from thing to thing is just not very efficient or effective for me.
Saturday and Sunday are for resting and spending time with my partner and friends!

Briefly describe your journey. Were there some pivotal things that helped propel you to where you are now? (Perhaps there were some struggles that you see, in hindsight, helped you get to where you are now?)
I was born in Zimbabwe, grew up in Australia and as an adult I moved here to Canada. I’ve found that so much of life has been trying this and trying that and hopefully learning and growing as I go. Only when looking back can I see the threads that have tied everything together.
I’ve been fortunate in my life to have lot of “great” luck and things that have gone my way and I have also been fortunate enough to have some really “bad” luck and things that have not gone my way. I try and look for the gifts in all of it and for me that is what it is all about.

Paper! So obviously paper is a big love of yours. A lot of your work is quite sculptural (flowers growing right off the page!) so I'm curious, when did you start to really explore paper in a more 3D way?
Yes paper is the best! I had been dipping my toes into the world of paper art for a few months when I created a self portrait in 2014. When I was finished it was like a total Oprah Aha! moment and I’ve been going, going, going since then.


Do you have any rituals or a routine that helps ground you & primes your creative mind?
A good cup of tea is the right way for me to start the day! Actually the very first thing to start my day right is my cat Bijou. She jumps into bed with me in the morning and has a little cuddle and says hello. I am not a “morning person” so a little aimless pottering at the start of the day helps me get ready for getting into worker bee mode.

Fear and uncertainty seem to be an innate part of the creative process. How do you confront your fears, instead of letting them stop you?
I don’t. I don’t confront them but I also don’t let them stop me.  I am scared all the time and I just do things anyway! There is no rule that you have to feel completely certain and fearless to take an action. I’ve begun to find that the more I focus on being gentle and kind to myself and to just begin “doing the thing” rather than thinking about “doing the thing” then uncertainty and fear have less of a chance to stop me!

What kinds of activities/interests do you have outside of your actual art practice, that you feel informs or inspires your work? (or maybe just contributes to a richer life)
Do cats count as an interest? Because my number one interest might be my cats Daisy and Bijou. I love pretty simple things - a good cup of tea, a delicious meal, good conversation with friends, baths and walks.
I’ve recently gotten more into seeing stand up comedy and I find it very inspiring for my art practice. I admire comedians so much. The level of craft and skill that a good comedian must develop inspires me to keep going and persevering in my own work. I want what I do to look that effortless!  

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 I’m a sucker for good quotes. Do you have a favourite you’d like to share?
 

A ship in harbor is safe
— but that is not what ships are built for.
— John A. Shedd

Do you feel that the creative community in Vancouver is supportive? Is there any way that you would like to see it grow? Can you list any events or an organization that you feel do a good job at fostering this?


Yes! I feel incredibly supported here. Community is essential no matter that you are doing and I’d like to share about Papergirl and THRIVE Studio as excellent examples of fostering community!
Papergirl- is a redefinition of street art combining Art, Philanthropy, and Bicycles! It’s an inclusive global art project that connects the community and celebrates art through the spirit of unexpected giving. I am one of the projects co- managers for Papergirl YVR and have been involved with the project in various ways since my second year of living in Canada. I honestly don’t know if I would still be living in Canada if it hadn’t been for the connections and friendships I made through this wonderful project.
THRIVE Art Studio is a community of female artists! I am a member of THRIVE Mastermind and the women in my groups are amazing! It’s so great to be able to share my artistic achievements and struggles with people who can relate. I find so much clarity and support for my art career and also a human being. The THRIVE Talks are also a great source of inspiration!

Favourite music or podcasts you like to listen to while making art?


I love listening to podcasts while I make art! I subscribe to quite a few of them but some very favourite ones include- The Jealous Curator, WTF with Marc Maron and the Mental Illness Happy Hour. I find them all deeply inspiring and beautiful.

Thank You Tara! (and Daisy + Bijou)

View more of her wonderful paper creations here:

Studio Visit with Alison Woodward

Please meet Alison Woodward. I think the first time I saw Alison's work was when I happened upon a photo of her grad piece from the graduation show at Emily Carr University. It's the most beautiful, intricate piece of work made up of layers of cut-out pieces of painted paper. A unicorn-like creature emerges out of the work and is surrounded by golden leaves (which kinda adds a whole extra level of magic to it). (See the second photo below) I was excited to chat with Alison and take a peek inside her studio. Oh, and if you're thinking about getting a tattoo, be sure to consider Alison and her incredible line work.

Q + A with ALISON WOODWARD
Studio Visit: May 11th, 2016

Introduce yourself. How would you describe yourself as a maker/creative? How do you spend your days?

Hello! My name is Alison Woodward and I am an illustrator living in Vancouver. I devote most of my time to tattooing and designing tattoos, but I occasionally get to work on personal projects. My work stretches from painting to paper craft, I'm a big fan of diversity of mediums.

My mornings are making coffee and taking our dog out, scrolling through instagram.
I ride my bike to work everyday. I usually arrive at the tattoo shop before noon to get set up, talk to clients about future projects, answer emails. I tattoo four or five days a week usually and draw my designs in my time off. After work I go home to my little dog Tali and my partner Lucas and we usually hang out for a bit a mellow!
....and then I usually get back to sending emails and drawing tattoos into the night.

My days off are where any extra curricular art work happens. I often have a painting on the go that I just stare at for months until I get a chance to touch it. Right now it's several zine projects that I need to assemble and a few primed panels.

There aren't that many days out of the year I'm not drawing at some time.

Briefly describe your journey. Were there some pivotal things that helped propel you to where you are now? (Perhaps there were some struggles that you see, in hindsight, helped you get to where you are now?)

I've always been into visual communication. I am very lucky that everyone has always encouraged me to follow that passion. I owe so much of my creativity to my parents. They have always done their best to let me try whatever I've been interested in ever since I was young. My Mom used to sew a lot and I learned a lot about crafting and making with her, and my Dad was a biologist before he became a librarian. When I look into my interests now I can clearly see that I'm a total blend of my parents!  I met my best bud, Brianne Tweddle , in grade seven. She was the first person my age that I had ever met that was as enthusiastic about everything, especially drawing, as I was. We entered every art contest we could, either together or competitively. In highschool we had our first art shows together, entered community art events together, and were part of our school's first art history club together! High school was also when we both realized that we wanted to pursue tattooing. We've always been catalysts for each other. We were both accepted to Emily Carr in 2008 and moved to Vancouver from the Okanagan together.

Art school was an amazing time of experimentation that made me question everything and why I was making art at all. I was able to go to Scotland on student exchange and that's when I applied for an apprenticeship at the tattoo shop I work at now.

Long story short I was chosen to apprentice at the Fall in 2011 and have been hustling there ever since!

I was cleaning my desk off a year ago and I found a letter I wrote myself when I was given the apprenticeship. I was going to school at the time and working at an art supply store. My family was supportive, but they didn't want me to ruin everything I had worked for and bail on my degree. This letter was me telling myself I could do it- I could work two jobs, make no money, and get my foot in massive door to the tattoo industry. When I read it now, it kind of seems pleading, but it reminds me of how hard I worked to get to where I am.

I would not be where I am today without the immense support of my family, my friends, and the community of artists in Vancouver. I can't sugar coat it, tattooing is the hardest job I've ever had, and without the support of other tattoo artists who believe in me I probably might have quit. Without the support of other artists and gallery owners, no one would have ever seen my work! And I may have never met you!

Your work seems to speak to old fairytales and has a strong sense of narrative. When did that fascination begin, has it always been a part of your art?

I feel that narrative has always been present in my work! From the small books I would make as a kid about magic cats to the paintings of animate decaying animals I make now... I'm a very sentimental person and I've always been interested in all types of narratives- the lives of creatures and things. This is why I love subjects like scientific illustration, because as objective as we can try to be, there is always the lens of the artist over every representation. I love old illustrations from zoologists trying to document animals from memory. These animals in these images are sometimes as fantastical as imaginary creatures!
I also love the narrative combined objects have. Viewers might all read the image differently, but it sparks stories about relationships.

Do you have any rituals or a routine that helps ground you & primes your creative mind?

A cup of coffee, a good playlist/podcast, and a quiet house. Even typing that, I feel a bit more relaxed.

Fear and uncertainty seem to be an innate part of the creative process. How do you confront your fears, instead of letting them stop you?

Tattooing has really put fear in the art process in perspective for me. I have never been more (professionally) scared in my life than I have been tattooing! You're collaborating directly with another person with hopes and fears, and that brings a tremendous amount of pressure. Mentors of mine with years of experience over me have told me they feel the same and that feeling never really goes away.

 It makes any other art I work on for myself feel so much more approachable. I get to be alone, in terms of creativity, and say things with my work that I'm personally interested in exploring.

On the other hand, I find the imagery that I get asked to work with a lot in tattooing seeps into my personal work. It can be a challenge to get back to a more freeform approach to drawing, without anyone telling you what to do, when all I do all day is work with other peoples ideas.

What kinds of activities/interests do you have outside of your actual art practice, that you feel informs or inspires your work? (or maybe just contributes to a richer life)


I love riding my bike! It makes me feel better about sitting around tattooing and drawing all the time. I love biking to work because it's a moment to clear my mind: no one can call me, I can't check my phone, I'm fairly alone and I just have to be present and watch for traffic. I ride my bike all year round, so right now (in the spring time) is particularly nice.

Being outdoors is an excellent stress release. I was lucky to get to go camping a lot as a kid and I love getting to make it out to the forest. I love living in the pacific northwest for that reason especially.

Another is music. Music isn't something I've ever been good at, but it's nice to have a hobby that has nothing to do with my professional goals and is just for me. A friend has been showing me around a banjo off and on for the last year or so.

Do you feel that the creative community in Vancouver is supportive? Is there any way that you would like to see it grow? Can you list any events or an organization that you feel do a good job at fostering this?
I feel that the community in Vancouver is so supportive! I should be more specific: I feel that the lower brow, local, more casual art scene is really rad and full of lovely wonderful folks doing amazing work! There are excellent galleries like Hot Art Wet City, The Gam, Untitled Art Space, The Fall Tattoo's Art Gallery, Seymour Art Gallery, just to list a small few, that are welcoming local and new talent to show in a gallery setting!
Folks working in comics have been so kind to me- cloudscape comics, Canzine west, the Vancouver comic arts festival, Word Under the street- all of these groups (and more!) have been so encouraging and I've met super inspiring people through. Snag at the Cobalt and Andrew Young who runs it, does a A+ job getting folks out to see local and emerging talent and supports a creative community that needs to look out for each other.
I am not a fan of gatekeeping, there should be no limit to the amount of people who get to participate in art! I'd love to see people continue to lift each other up- I wouldn't have had the opportunities I've been afforded without the kindness of others.

Any exciting projects that you are working on?
I am so excited that I get to work on a mural this summer in Strathcona! I'll be collaborating with another local artist, working in a team of many local artists to cover a local building.

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Thank You Alison!

View more of her awesome work here:

Studio Visit with Jori Van der Linde

Please meet Jori Van der Linde. I first saw Jori's work a couple years ago, as part of some sort of promotional material for Emily Carr University of Art and Design. I pinned her whimsical and wonderful illustration to my inspiration board I have above my work desk. Fast forward to just recently, when I came across her work once more and was completely enamored with it. I mean, her love for drawing plants and birds is obviously something I can relate to! So, I was excited when Jori welcomed me into her sunny studio and shared her story and illustrations.

Q + A with JORI VAN DER LINDE
Studio Visit: April 19th, 2016

Introduce yourself. How would you describe yourself as a maker/creative? How do you spend your days?
 
Hello! I'm Jori and I`m a freelance illustrator living and working in Vancouver.  It was only recently that I was able to give up my day job as a landscaper to start full-time freelance illustrating.  I now spend my days in my home studio and work away on anything from book covers and children's books to advertising, editorial, pattern design, and more.  I deal with imaginative and whimsical imagery inspired by nostalgic memories and details gathered from my everyday travels.

Briefly describe your journey. Were there some pivotal things that helped propel you to where you are now? (Perhaps there were some struggles that you see, in hindsight, helped you get to where you are now?)
 
I've always been a creative person, but I suppose my art journey really started when I applied and got accepted at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.  To be honest, I didn’t get much out of the first two years, but in my third year I took a digital illustration class, and I learned how to combine my traditional drawings with digital media.  I love having the ability to fix and edit all my mistakes in Photoshop.  From there, I sort of had a jumping off point to tackle different genres of illustration like children's books, editorial, advertising and pattern design.   In my fourth year, I took a class trip to New York, and I was completely inspired.  Our group, led by teachers Durwin Talon and Guin Thompson (also amazing artists) set up meetings with illustrators, art directors, and publishers.   I got amazing critiques and advice from so many creatives, and I left New York feeling motivated.  That trip basically inspired my whole grad project the following year, which I submitted and got accepted to many competitions and magazines including the society of Illustrators New York, the Society of Illustrators Los Angeles, Creative Quarterly, and 3x3 Magazine. 
 
One of the biggest struggles I faced, and am still facing, is the business side of illustration.  There was one class taught on it in school, and it was so vague.  It felt like someone teaching you the rules to a board game that you've never played , and then years later you have to actually play it without any practice.  It's been difficult, but by slowly through getting jobs and doing my own research I'm learning.
 
Some of the best advice I got about accepting jobs was from illustrator Zelda Devons who I met on the New York trip. She told us that if you get a client asking you to draw horses, or use a program you have no idea how to use, just take the job and figure it out.  Draw a hundred horses, and now you know how to draw horses really well!  You wouldn't believe how many times I've accepted jobs in illustrator, and have no idea how to use that program.  I'm a Photoshop girl all the way, but I`d like to have the option to be able to use illustrator if needed, and it`s definitely benefited me.
 

Your work has a wonderful whimsical quality about it, and a distinctive style. Was this something you were developing while in school? and how have you found the transition from 'student' to 'illustrator'?
 
Thank you! I suppose the whimsical quality of my work has always been developing, but it`s constantly changing and informed by daily experiences and interactions.  When creating, I often try to emulate different emotions or moments I've experienced.  I`m quite adventurous and quirky at heart, and I feel that often comes through in my illustrations.
Transitioning from student to full time illustrator, for me, has been generally quite a smooth process.  Because I got the hang of what I enjoyed illustrating in my final year of school, I felt no rush to drop everything and struggle without any footing.  When I first graduated I worked as a landscaper and actually moonlighted as an illustrator during the evenings.  That's what I did while working on my first children's book, Teatime by Tiffany Stone.
 
I don`t consider myself to be a great self-promoter in terms of sending out mailers and email promotions,  but I have worked on having a good website, entering competitions, handing out business cards here and there, some social media (which I`m working at being better at).  I also never thought about getting an agent, but when Kate Moore contacted me to be a part of her team, SullivanMoore,  I had to try... and it`s been very rewarding!  Eventually I had enough illustration work that I could quit my day job!  No more moonlighting haha!
 
 

Do you have any rituals or a routine that helps ground you & primes your creative mind?
 
For me, nothing says `get your butt moving` like owning a dog.  I have a high-energy beautiful German Shorthaired Pointer named Lilo.  I never used to be a morning person but that has since changed.  Basically she gets my day started. I get up around 7:30, make breakfast (which is now my favorite meal of the day), and we head out for a morning walk/hike.  I have found that I can get quite anxious and distracted, but if I complete some exercise, I'm more likely to sit down and get work done. I also indulge in my guilty pleasure of perusing Pinterest before I start work.  Sometimes I get crazy inspired, other times I get lost in pages of delicious recipes and fashion blogs haha.
 

Fear and uncertainty seem to be an innate part of the creative process. How do you confront your fears, instead of letting them stop you?
 
I would say one of my biggest obstacles so far has been confidence.  I've always struggled with it, and I've never been confident that my illustrations were something I could make a living off of.  I have to give a lot of credit to my close friends and family for constantly supporting and telling me that my art is worth it.  If they hadn't, I`d probably still be doodling in notebooks somewhere, too shy to show anyone what I`m working on.  Also, getting feedback and critique is a great thing!  Even as a professional, I still sometimes get things looked at before I send them off.
 

What kinds of activities/interests do you have outside of your actual art practice, that you feel informs or inspires your work? (or maybe just contributes to a richer life)
 
I love to hike with my dog! Getting out into the world and experiencing nature is a huge influence on my work, which is why I loved being a gardener.  I`m also a bit of a foodie, and love traveling, and I`ll easily drop most of my money on those things (I obviously need to work on long-term financial investment).  I also love the simple mundane tasks of shopping for groceries, watering my plants, or cleaning a room in my house.  Sometimes it`s the little things in life that help me feel accomplished.

I’m a sucker for good quotes. Do you have a favorite you’d like to share?
 
Oh man, I know too many; I can't honestly pick.  I don`t think you know of my superpower. I have the best memory for the most useless and pointless information, like movie quotes. Sadly, I can not remember anything I learned in school about history, math, or science,  but if you wanted to know who said that line? in that movie? with that guy? I know it.
 

Any exciting projects that you are working on?
 
I just finished working on a super cute board book about baby birds! A couple book covers are also in the works!
 

Thank you Jori!

If you want to see more of her fantastic work and more beautiful images of plants and birds (I do!) Then go check out:

Studio Visit with Jim Park

Please meet Jim Park. One thing I really love about experiencing a painting in person is that play between viewing a piece up close and then far away. With a close, intimate look, you enter an abstracted world of colours and shapes, you can see the textures made with thick viscous paint or soft brush strokes. Stepping back, a different world is revealed. Those same shapes transform themselves into a rugged mountainside, or a tangled stand of trees. Jim Park's paintings take you on a journey through the landscapes of BC and Alberta and his use of colour, his obvious skill with the paintbrush and his focus on the beauty of the natural world all culminate in some amazing work.

Q+A with JIM PARK
Studio Visit: February 10th, 2016

Introduce yourself. How would you describe yourself as a maker/creative? How do you spend your days?

My name is Jim Park, I am a Vancouver based artist. I am a representational painter whose subjects range from local seascapes to mountainous landscapes of BC and Alberta. I try to make a work of art sensitive to the local culture and highlight the uniqueness of the geographic features. I'm particularly inspired by the effects of the natural light on forms, colours and pattern.

Briefly describe your journey. Were there some pivotal things that helped propel you to where you are now? (Perhaps there were some struggles that you see, in hindsight, helped you get to where you are now?


I grew up in a small city in South Korea called Pohang, and I moved to Canada when I was 13. My dad was a metallurgical engineer, and my mom was a piano teacher. I feel I was pretty fortunate from the beginning. For starters, my parents were incredibly supportive of my decision to become an artist early on. When I was attending high school in Abbotsford, I really liked the idea of becoming an artist, and art was always the class I enjoyed the most. I liked the drawing assignments, and I liked making things out of raw materials, but still I wondered if I was good enough to become a painter. When I went to Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, I found myself in a world of painting and painters, and it was then that I realized this is the kind of world I wanted to be in. I’d rather do that than animation, graphic design, or Interactive media.
 

The natural world seems to be a muse for your work. Do you often find yourself adventuring outdoors to gain inspiration for the next piece?

I do enjoy exploring nature and will not shy away from a physical challenge, but I refrain from going too far into the wilderness, or trekking some exotic land to get into a survival situation or anything like that. Every time I am out in nature, I would take hundreds of photographs and bring back the experience with me. Around every month or two, I would have a look over two or three batches of printed photos and start working on small study paintings. Out of the bunch, I would then select two or three images which I feel are strong enough to be made into larger paintings.

Do you have any rituals or a routine that helps ground you & primes your creative mind?

I have a certain peaceful and quiet daily routine of coffee and reading, walking, napping and then work.
I try to prevent myself from the outside world the hours I paint, and try not to let anything in that could throw my concentration off.

Fear and uncertainty seem to be an innate part of the creative process. How do you confront your fears, instead of letting them stop you?

Last few years, I've been trying to develop a way of mark making more accidental, swift and fluid.  I try to approach each painting without any set of formula and make an effort to simplify the process. I find some paintings come together almost instantly and few others can present an incredible battle. This explains the reason why some pieces become heavily layered and show more texture than others. Incidentally, some of my works are characterized as thick paintings. However, my goal is to resolve each painting with a minimum surface treatment.

I’m a sucker for good quotes. Do you have a favourite you’d like to share?

No one ever changed the world by being boring

What kinds of activities/interests do you have outside of your actual art practice, that you feel informs or inspires your work? (or maybe just contributes to a richer life)

I go to a lot of concerts and music festivals. As a music lover, I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to electronic and general rock. At studio, I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk, acoustic rock, indie and classical music.

Thanx Jim!

You can swim through the waters and traverse the mountains of Jim's paintings here:

Studio Visit with Priscilla Yu

Please meet Priscilla Yu! Spring has taken over Vancouver, trees are bursting with blossoms and vibrant greens are finally painting the tips of the trees. I love this time of year, when we can slowly wake out of our winter slumber and embrace the colour and light once more. Priscilla Yu's artwork has that some kind of Spring energy, while reminding us that Summer is just around the corner. Her vibrant paintings seem to burst forth with energy and life and draw you into a magical world of geometric shapes and alternate universes. Priscilla had lots of insights to share, and many gems of inspiration are to be found in her words and paintings.

Q + A with PRISCILLA YU
Studio Visit : Friday December 4th, 2015


Introduce yourself. How would you describe yourself as a maker/creative. How do you spend your days?

Hello, my name is Priscilla. I'm an multi-disciplinary artist.

I make paintings of imagined worlds using geometric forms and lots of colour, while exploring geometry in nature and playing with perception cues. I also make zines, pop-up books, design t-shirts, and illustrate. I work part-time at a retail store/studio as a Visual Merchandiser as well.

What I do in my day varies quite a bit. Some months, I will be spend the majority of my week in my studio working on paintings for an art show. Other times, I take my portable art kit wherever I go and hang out in cafes. My boyfriend is also an artist and we like to do this on weekends. Occasionally, I find myself being overwhelmed with working part-time at the store and having deadlines for projects or art shows. I enjoy keeping my creative juices flowing and rarely go two days without doing a drawing or something creative.

Lately, I have been thinking more about getting involved in print licensing and printing on textiles so I have been doing lots of research into fashion programs in Vancouver and also looking into other avenues where I could use my illustration as print. My part-time job also gives me access to custom embroidery, digital garment printing, and laser cutting so I feel more and more that I should taking advantage of that perk.

The way I dress is a big part of my identity, I'm realizing or at least starting to admit that I have a knack for colour and pattern. I have had lots of comments from people about wanting to see my paintings on clothing, but I hadn't seriously thought about pursuing that. Fashion is something that I would like to explore further.

Describe your journey. Were there some pivotal things that helped propel you to where you are now? (Perhaps there were some struggles that you see, in hindsight, helped you get to where you are now?)
I spent a lot of time alone when I was a kid, being an only child with parents who were strict about me hanging out with friends after school. However, they gave me lots of art supplies, supported my interest in art, and tolerated my severely and perpetually cluttered room growing up.

I would spend hours in my bedroom painting, making colourful collages with textures that I found interesting, rearranging the furniture in my room according to colour and form, and also assembling different outfits. Sometimes I would even make “furniture” like a couch made from a cardboard box and towels. Rolled up towels as arm rests.

I spent as much time painting as I did assembling different outfits of varying colours and textures, and redecorating my bedroom. I'm almost embarrassed of how much time I have spent in front of a mirror in my life, assembling textures and colour to my outfits, and making jewellery from found objects.

I think that this time in my life really had an impact on my art and personal style. Colour, texture, and creating worlds that are expanding from room structures are a big part of my work. Carving order out of a cornucopia of colour and pattern and then adding more colour and pattern is something that I do a lot of in my paintings, and it reminds me an awful lot of cleaning my childhood bedroom.

I went directly into art school when I finished high school. In some ways, I wish that I had waited a little bit after high school to figure out more clearly what I wanted to take from university and use the time more effectively. I feel like I spent a lot of time socializing and partying in the first couple of years. It was fun though and it got me out of my shell more and gave me a network of other artists and friends. I have found that to be very important.

One very pivotal moment was fairly recent. I graduated from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in 2013, travelled in Asia, did an illustration internship at a product design company in Hong Kong, and then immediately found my first studio space.

Having this new space where I had to pay rent for, gave me a place to concentrate. It really grounded my art practice and took it to the next level. A couple of months later, I got involved in 'The Duality Show', where twenty-five artists were paired with twenty-five writers to create one piece of art and one piece of writing. Next, I started participating in shows almost every month. I had my first solo show in the same year, where I made lots of work that I really loved and that set into motion my new work ethic and obsession with seeing what else I could create and love.

In the past year, I had my first couple of commissioned illustration jobs and artwork commissions, a live painting gig for a private party with Loreal, participated in the annual 'Frontlines' show at the Robert Lynds Gallery, winning the Populist Award, and also participated in the TEDxVancouver exhibition.

With all of these new steps that I had never taken before, came exciting new work, better craftsmanship, better marketing, but also more encounters with “Imposter Syndrome” and social anxiety. I'm not sure how obvious it is to other people but these two things are actually boulders for me and I work really hard to not let them sabotage my life or get in the way. It's been a year of growth, with owning up to my accomplishments with self-pride and also handling new social situations like the shows and recorded interviews.

Where did your fascination with geometric patterns and bright colours begin, or has alway just been a part of your visual vocabulary?


The fascination with geometric line work came from math class. I doodled a lot because I had the hardest time understanding mathematical concepts taught in class. I was hooked on doodling organic vine-like patterns for a long time, and then I started extending the lines on the trigonometry worksheets in tenth grade and making “3D” forms. I was really obsessed with finding out how geometry worked, how to warp space on paper, how to angle lines to make it feel like you're inside or inside of a geometric form. I guess that I enjoyed exploring my perception of perspective and depth with drawing pretty early on. I took a lot of art classes in high school as electives where there was lots of freedom and full access to art materials. For someone who was fairly self-motivated when it came to art, it allowed me lots of time to explore and get carried away.


The bright colours that I use really are intuitive. I'm not sure how it works really. I think that this is where my hours of standing in front of a mirror trying on different colour outfit combinations, may have contributed to my natural way of making colour choices. To me, it's almost like temperature. If I concentrate and I'm really feeling my painting, there's always one objective answer of the colour I should use next. I feel it kind of in my gut even. It makes sense that this came from observing fashion and textiles because essentially, in my dress-up moments I am observing design choices that people have made in the clothing. I am internalizing the design involved in selecting and placing colour.

I love the tension and temperature of hot and vibrant colours next to muted tones! In more recent times, I've been researching into seventies era fashion and interior design. I am very inspired by the aesthetic of that time.

In the years later when I went to art school, I started exploring how to use geometric line work as a design constraint and how to create regular things like people and objects using only angular lines. I also began to explore the metaphors and psychological aspect of these forms. For example, a box shape can have lots of metaphors. Each shape has a frame structure, an exterior and interior, much like a person for. I looked into architecture for inspiration as well. Through all this exploration, I internalized a visual language that I can use pretty naturally. This has been especially useful when doing illustration work for a client because I can think in this visual language and create something in my own style while effectively conveying their information.

Do you have any rituals or a routine that helps ground you & primes your creative mind?

Before I begin, I do my mandatory procrastination or perhaps it's just warming up, which usually involves looking at nice interior design, fashion, and art blogs. It's nice to have some imagery for my brain to chew on beforehand. I allow myself about thirty minutes of that. Next, I set up everything that I need or may need later before I start. Some may call it laziness. I may even call it laziness myself, but when I'm painting or working on something, I don't like to have to move very far from my work. I like everything to be at arms reach. This includes my large coffee that I feel also helps ground me.

PriscillaYu_studio_5_960x640.jpg

Fear and uncertainty seem to be an innate part of the creative process. How do you confront your fears, instead of letting them stop you?

It's actually pretty tricky. I can be really hard on myself and I can place a lot of weight on some art shows. I often have that “Imposter Syndrome” thing that I mentioned earlier, when I'm stuck. I get thoughts like, “Did they just commission me because they like me and they don't know any better?” or “Don't they know that I'm unsure about my ability? I'm not actually an artist.” It's really silly because I should really give my clients and myself more credit.

One thing that I have found that helps, is accepting that not every single piece of work that you do will be your “best piece EVER”. That's the reality. It kind of helps eliminate some of the pressure. Sometimes, I get lucky and I produce two or three pieces in a roll that excite me, that I love, and feel like I've gone to the next level where I have learned something new. It's the most wonderful feeling, it's addictive, and I want that feeling every time.

What I started doing is beginning paintings with that mindset that not every piece will be the best. It helps me focus on what I'm working on rather than on the fear of failing. Often, this “no pressure” approach allows me to get into the creative process, and by the time I've gotten lost in the painting, I'm at a place where I am excited.

I also find with larger paintings, that it's almost always better for me to keep painting rather than sitting there and thinking about it too much. If I already know a certain part of the painting will be some colour, I paint it first. That helps because, a more covered canvas is more comfortable to look at and less daunting than a blank one. In addition, I use so much detail in my painting, that if I just keep painting a pattern when I'm stuck, it will keep me warmed up until I think of the next crucial part of my painting. It's never a waste because I always love more pattern. The more, the better. If I need to, I can paint over and carve out negative space.

What kinds of activities/interests do you have outside of your actual art practice, that you feel informs or inspires your work? (or maybe just contributes to a richer life)


I'm very materialistic but not in the usual sense. I'm not particularly interested in brand names or logos, but I have a passion for beautiful materials and objects. I love going through antique stores, and high-end interior design stores, just to look at the beautiful objects. I like seeing things that are really well made, especially vintage coloured glass. Hand-blown glass can be so beautiful with varying opaqueness and translucencies. I love walking up and down South Granville or hanging out in New Westminster. I definitely feel that these visits to these stores inspire my work. For example, I went to this really cute store just off of South Granville, on 8th Avenue called, The Goodge Place a couple of months ago, where they had gorgeous tiles. I took a photo of the tile design by their front door because I loved it so much and I have used that design in a variety of ways in my paintings since then.

When we have time, my boyfriend and I like to pick a destination in the lower mainland to explore for a day. It helps to unwind and be a stranger or tourist, and it's cheap! We also try to visit an island nearby as often as we can. During one particular trip to Mayne Island, I spent a lot of time looking at water patterns in the ocean. The way that the little concentric diamond shapes formed larger concentric diamond shapes worked their way into my paintings. I love drawing from the geometries and patterns in the water.

Turning off my phone for a couple of days to fully enjoy the island experience also feels wonderful and necessary. I think that it definitely contributes to a richer life. There's nothing like spending a couple of days on a mostly secluded island, without a phone, camping, and just being a human monkey on a piece of earth, looking at water and sea life run around.

One more thing. My boyfriend and I love inviting people over for dinner and making a meal for them. Whether it's an old friend or a newly made acquaintance, it's really nice for the soul and for the comfort of knowing that everyone goes through similar situations. When I feel discouraged or I'm really exhausted from juggling a part-time job with studio time and social time, it's nice to talk about it and hear other peoples' insight and similar experiences. I'm also lucky to have my partner be another artist. His name is Sean Karemaker, and I get to be inspired by his work-ethic, passion, and the way his brain work in his comics and art, everyday.

I’m a sucker for good quotes. Do you have a favourite you’d like to share?

Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one’s courage.
— Anais Nin

Any exciting projects that you are working on?
At the moment, I am finishing up a set of six small ink drawing commissions. These were super fun because I collaborated with the client on the theme of each drawing, reflecting different aspects of her life. I also set the limit of only using three colours so that has been a fun challenge. Next, I will be switching gears to designing, illustrating, and producing a series of narrative-based printed scarves in the upcoming months.
 

Thank You Priscilla!

You can find more of her awesome work here:

Studio Visit with Sandeep Johal

Please meet Sandeep Johal! I've known Sandeep since we were Langara Fine Arts students way back when. A time when we would spend endless hours in the basement of the school, etching metal plates in intaglio class, chipping away at a piece of soapstone or letting the charcoal fly across the page in a drawing class. It's been wonderful to see Sandeep's art grow and transform. Her careful penmanship, mesmerizing mandalas and her dedication to her art practice all inspire and excite me. Here is some of her beautiful work and a little peek behind the scenes.

Q + A with SANDEEP JOHAL
Studio Vist: November 19th, 2015

Introduce yourself. How would you describe yourself as a maker/creative? How do you spend your days?
I am a visual artist, educator, workshop facilitator, and new mama. I live in Vancouver, BC with my husband and our sweet lil son. I'm mostly known for making mandalas, but I also draw other things, paint, and print make. My days are spent hanging with my son and my nights are mostly spent making art or doing art-related things.

Briefly describe your journey. Were there some pivotal things that helped propel you to where you are now? (Perhaps there were some struggles that you see, in hindsight, helped you get to where you are now?)
As a child, I drew all day every day. As a daughter to South Asian immigrant parents, being an artist was not an option, so I moved away from art. But I always came back to it. There were definitely pivotal moments along the way that I ignored because I was too scared to move forward into the life I wanted. And now I’ve been presented with the opportunity to work on my art full-time, so I’m taking it! Getting to this point has been a struggle, but surrounding myself with good people who believe in me and support me has been everything.

Mandalas and the intricate designs within them seem to influence your work a lot. Where did this fascination with mandalas begin?
Mandala means circle in Sanskrit. My fascination with mandalas began in my early 20's, by accident, and through what I’m pretty sure was a cult. I’ve been making mandalas off and on for 17 years now and although I don’t actively meditate, drawing mandalas provides a quiet space for contemplation and reflection.

Do you have any rituals or a routine that helps ground you & primes your creative mind?
It's kind of weird, but purging and reorganizing is my grounding ritual. I’m constantly purging and then reorganizing my newly purged space to keep the energy moving. If things stay static for too long, then my mind becomes static as well.

Fear and uncertainty seem to be an innate part of the creative process. How do you confront your fears, instead of letting them stop you?
Fear is unfortunately an innate part of the creative process, and definitely an innate part of my own creative process. But one way to confront the fear is simply by asking myself : “What am I afraid of?”. Just by asking the question, I’ve now taken this huge, vague, scary thing and turned it into something more manageable. And usually when I go through my mental list of all the things I’m “scared” of, they aren’t really anything more than excuses. Fear also tells me what I have to do. Anytime I feel fear around a particular idea or project, I know I need to explore it.

What kinds of activities/interests do you have outside of your actual art practice, that you feel informs or inspires your work? (or maybe just contributes to a richer life)
Having a baby has inspired (and forced) me to really look at myself, my life, and my influence as a parent. I keep coming back to the question : “How can I encourage my son to go after his dreams if I’m not fully stepping into my own dream of being a full-time artist?" I’m also very fortunate to have a husband who’s always got my back and a super diverse network of close friends from around the globe who are all doing interesting things in their respective fields as well as in their personal lives. Conversations/ visits with them always leave me feeling energized and inspired and help me see things from different perspectives. I also like to take classes out of general interest and to expand my art practice. The most recent have been Letterpress and Paper Marbling.

I’m a sucker for good quotes. Do you have a favourite you’d like to share?
I like this quote because it’s where I’m at right now.

“Follow your bliss … If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” 

— Joseph Campbell

Any exciting projects that you are working on?
I recently published my first adult colouring book which was an intense labour of love/hate, sweat, and tears! And now, I’m finally taking a break from mandalas to work on a painting series inspired by Indian woodblock printing and textiles, as well as some more narrative work around gender justice - a topic very close to my heart.  
 

Thank You Sandeep!

You can find more of her beautiful work here:

 

Studio Visit with Jessie McNeil

I'm happy to introduce Jessie McNeil. As it turns out, we've known each other for many years, way back to highschool at Vancouver Technical Secondary, then we followed the same post-secondary trajectory, attending the Fine Arts Diploma program at Langara College and then Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Among other things, Jessie is a masterful collage artist.  I love her creative inquiries into pedestrian life and the way she extracts inspiration from people and place. When I visited her studio, the collage figures did indeed seem to be walking across the walls, carving out their own sense of place and creating new narratives. It's a treat to share with you some of her work here and give a little insight behind the scenes.

To learn more about the Studio Visit series and see the first interview with Rachael Ashe click here.

Q + A with JESSIE McNEIL
Studio Visit: Tuesday December 8th, 2015
Photographs by Sarah Clement

Introduce yourself. How would you describe yourself as a maker/creative? How do you spend your days?

I’m an interdisciplinary artist that spends a lot of time cutting paper and thinking about making miniature things. With my work (mostly collage right now), I gather impressions of the urban place through its people. I do this initially with my digital camera, then later in the studio by assembling bits of found paper to mimic the image I have captured out on the street. The camera and my scissors help me unearth meanings behind certain characteristics of a city that I visited or currently live in. When I’m not doing this, I’m in a blanket, or answering emails, applying for things, biking around or working a couple part-time jobs. Friends and Family somehow miraculously fit in there somewhere.

I gather impressions of the urban place through its people...The camera and my scissors help me unearth meanings behind certain characteristics of a city that I visited or currently live in.

Briefly describe your journey. Were there some pivotal things that helped propel you to where you are now? (Perhaps there were some struggles that you see, in hindsight, helped you get to where you are now?)

This past year has been a blur of successes and wins, personal hardships and losses. It’s been an amazing year. But a couple events since graduation (2013) come to mind... I curated my first exhibition a month after finishing my courses at Emily Carr. It was called “Libro: The Liberation of the Book” and was a seriously ambitious group show of 30 participants, each with their own art book or zine displayed in an interactive fashion. The school’s administration told me on the day of our installation that we would have to take down (and then put back up) our 10-day show for a “secret” (less one hour) public event in the space (the Concourse Gallery). It was an eye-opening and exhausting experience that really tested my patience and professionalism, really early on in my practice. I came out of it stronger though, and realizing the importance of communication, friends and community and knowing that it’s ok to accept help.  

A less dramatic event that brought me to where I am today is my artist residency experience in Tartu, Estonia in the summer of 2014. I had been out of school for a year and was still identifying myself as a “student” or that I “just graduated from...”. Tartu was the first place where I felt like an Artist. I feel like an adult-child a lot of the time, so when I’m asked my profession (by a stranger at a party or by a Customs officer), it feels really great knowing that I can call my life-long passion a legitimate career. It’s a part of my adulthood that is welcomed with open arms.

You’ve created quite an amazing visual vocabulary with your collage work. What kinds of materials do you use to create your images? What do you love about the collage process?

Thank you! I work with paper found in fashion magazines primarily. And occasionally I use graphite, paint or whatever is on my desk to give an essence of a certain city background. Collage is a very instinctual medium to me. I can’t remember I time in my life when I didn’t play with cut-outs or assemblage. I like the democratic or accessible nature of it. That you don’t need to go very far or pay much to play around with it. The process of making my meticulous collage figures is both meditative and frustrating. Like a painter or any other kind of artist, it’s a joyful thing being able to see something grow out of almost nothing.

Do you have any rituals or a routine that helps ground you & primes your creative mind?

Would it be terribly unromantic of me to say “deadlines”? Haha. Just like any day though, I must have a solid 45 minutes to make and eat my breakfast, a way of easing out of bed into my “artist/me day” routine of checking emails and then working in the studio. Deadlines (whether actual or made up) really do help me concentrate and give priority to studio time. I work from home, so I’m easily distracted by domestic tasks or letting my cat stay on my lap for another 30 minutes... Occasionally, I visit my dad in his studio and see what he’s been up to. (Now that’s a humbling experience!)

Fear and uncertainty seem to be an innate part of the creative process. How do you confront your fears, instead of letting them stop you?

I feel like I don’t confront my fears that often. I dwell a lot about the inevitable and things I can’t control. But then I just make myself busy with work and then I forget about whatever was worrying me before. Time is really valuable. So I try to spend as much of it as possible thinking about what is going well and why.

It helps to also keep an up-to-date website. Whenever I’m feeling doubtful of myself or a project, I look at my work there and my CV and realize, “Hey, I’ve accomplished a lot!  Obviously something is working!” It’s also a helpful tool to analyze your growth as an artist and how you can attempt the next 10% (Liz Magor at a review panel gave me that advice. “Keep on thinking about how you can improve this by 10%”... or something like that).

What kinds of activities/interests do you have outside of your actual art practice, that you feel informs or inspires your work? (or maybe just contributes to a richer life)

I contribute a lot to my Estonian community. My mom was Estonian and I feel quite connected to the culture even though I was born here and don’t really speak the language that well. So, I sing with the folk choir here in Vancouver and occasionally organize these little events through this initiative my friend Kristen and I founded called Nordic Culture Days. At the moment it’s just a facebook page, but for the last 2 years we were coordinating almost monthly events like workshops, folk dancing events or movie nights celebrating Baltic and Nordic culture. Like I said we can’t contribute to the community with our knowledge of the Estonian language, but at least we can provide a place for people like us who are interested in our culture and heritage that want to feel included in the local community. This involvement has inspired a collage series of mine that has been traveling from Vancouver to Toronto, to Tallinn (or the nearby city of Viimsi) and then to Tartu, Estonia within the last 11 months. Language and the issues of cultural identity are no doubt ingrained in my current artistic practice.

The process of making my meticulous collage figures is both meditative and frustrating. Like a painter or any other kind of artist, it’s a joyful thing being able to see something grow out of almost nothing.

Any exciting projects that you are working on?

In the next year I’m wanting to create a site-specific installation of my collage figures. Like 200 of them, without backgrounds, floating on the walls, and without frames. We’ll see how far that goes.

Favourite music or podcasts you like to listen to while making art?

Podcasts! I love listening to Monocle 24’s the Urbanist, Lena Dunham’s new one called “Women of the Hour”, Jealous Curator’s “Art for your Eye”, This American Life, a few on Gimlet Media and guilty pleasure: Travel with Rick Steve’s. I talk so much when I’m working my customer service jobs, that it’s great to just have my own time, making my work and listening to garbage-free stories about topics that I’m interested in.

Thank You Jessie!

You can find more of Jessie's awesome work here:

For even more insight into her process you can watch this video 'Open Studio with Jessie McNeil' by Zach Rampen

Welcome! + Studio Visit with Rachael Ashe

Welcome to the STUDIO VISITS blog series! I can't tell you how excited I am to launch this series...it's been a dream for a long time and I'm thrilled to see it come to life.

So what is it all about?

So much of making art is not actually about sitting down and making the art, it’s about all of the stuff that you have to do beforehand to get to that point. There are so many mental hurdles to jump (often set up by yourself), not to mention societal pressures, financial worries and whole slew of other reasons why your pen might not actually touch the paper, and your creative dreams remain caught up in a cumulus cloud somewhere over Vancouver. What I’m interested in is the different  rituals, strategies and support networks that makers have to get them to that place where they can actually create. How they let themselves have their heads in the clouds for a while, but they are able to pull themselves back down to the rich green landscape of action.

Where ideas are flowing through your veins, making your heart beat.


I believe in the importance of sharing and supporting each other in the creative community. That inspiration can be gained from seeing other people take their dreams and put them into reality, and that having some insight into this process is what can make it more real for you if you are sitting on the edge of fear, wondering if you should step into the unknown territory of the creative process. To borrow a line from my favourite podcast (Where's There's Smoke)... We are all in this together. Oh, and it also gives me an excuse to hang out and chat with some pretty amazing and inspiring people.

Stay tuned for more interviews with a variety of creatives, posted 2 times per month.

Photographs: Sarah Clement

Please meet RACHAEL ASHE! I was first introduced to Rachael's work when I saw her speak at Creative Mornings Vancouver back in 2013. Being a paper lover, detailed oriented person with a love for x-acto knives, of course I was immediately drawn to her work. Her delicate, precise, and skillful work with paper is breathtakingly beautiful. So without further ado, let's hear from Rachael herself.

Q + A with RACHAEL ASHE
Studio Visit: Monday November 2nd, 2015

 

Introduce yourself. How would you describe yourself as a maker/creative? How do you spend your days?
I describe myself as a maker, artist, and craftsperson working with paper to create intricate hand cut designs, and 3D installations. I split my time between a part time job with a tech startup, working on my own artwork projects in the studio, and dedicating time to volunteer obligations. My schedule is a bit all over the place at the moment.
On the days working for myself I typically start with twenty minutes of yoga, then breakfast while journalling, and a forty-five minute walk. When I get into the studio (which is the second bedroom in the apartment I share with my partner, Boris) I start by writing a to do list of tasks I want to accomplish. It’ll include things like writing a blog post, putting together a monthly newsletter, important correspondence, posting an item to the Creative Mornings Vancouver Instagram account, and notes on the piece of art I am currently working on. I try to spend the morning working on art and the afternoon working on administrative tasks.

Briefly describe your journey. Were there some pivotal things that helped propel you to where you are now?
Up until about seven years ago my creative outlet was photography, with a focus on creative portraits and self-portraiture. As I transitioned from film to digital, I felt drawn to more tactile work because suddenly everything I did was based around a computer, and I needed to do something more hands-on. I started by exploring collage work and over a number of years this eventually led to altered book sculpture, and paper cutting. I think the pivotal moment was realizing I did not need to limit myself to a single medium. I could be more than a photographer, and whatever medium I work with in the present doesn’t forever define what I do as an artist.

I think the pivotal moment was realizing I did not need to limit myself to a single medium. I could be more than a photographer, and whatever medium I work with in the present doesn’t forever define what I do as an artist.

Have you always had a love for paper? How important are the materials that you use?

Oh yes, I’ve always had a love of paper. In the days before it became the focus of my work I was always drawn to paper goods, and would collect things like notebooks, stationery, and random bits of paper I found interesting.
I’m inspired by the materials I work with rather than getting inspired and then finding the materials I need. I often prefer to work with white paper because the designs I create are so intricate they become overwhelming when colour is added.

Do you have any rituals or a routine that helps ground you & primes your creative mind?

I do a crazy amount of walking to the point where it’s how I get around 95% of the time. It’s an important part of my daily routine, and I get antsy if I haven’t had a walk. I think it keeps me mentally healthy on those dreary fall and winter days. It’s also a great time for working through problems, letting go of stress, or even thinking through ideas. If I’m stuck on a problem with something I’m working on I can often figure out a solution by going for a walk.
 

Fear and uncertainty seem to be an innate part of the creative process. How do you confront your fears, instead of letting them stop you?

Confronting fear and uncertainty is something creative people have to do on a regular basis. I think we all feel only as good as the most recently completed piece of work, and the more time that passes between projects the less certain we feel about how good we are. The time between projects is as important to the work as making the art.
I confront my fears in different ways, depending on what I’m worried about. Sometimes I talk to artist friends because I know they have similar struggles. At other times I just sit down and work on something and put aside my expectations. Sometimes I need to remind myself that I make art because I love it.

Confronting fear and uncertainty is something creative people have to do on a regular basis.

What kinds of activities/interests do you have outside of your actual art practice, that you feel informs or inspires your work?
I’ve been a volunteer with CreativeMornings/Vancouver for almost three years, and my involvement with the organization has inspired me in many ways. I learned how to overcome a lifelong fear of public speaking through the process of putting together a talk for Creative Mornings in December 2013. It’s led me to organizing my own speaker events, including an evening of eight artists participating in the Eastside Culture Crawl. Artists often hate to speak publicly about their work, but we need to do it because it makes what we do more accessible to our audience.
I love making things outside of art, and for the last few years I’ve been part of a Sewing Bee that happens every few weeks. I’m interested in textile work and sewing, and would love to become better at it. This past summer I was inspired by Sewing Bee to learn how to make yarn from old t-shirts, and I ended up making two braided rugs for our home.
 

MAKING LEADS TO MORE MAKING.
— Rachael Ashe

 Any exciting projects that you are working on?
I have two projects that got sidelined earlier in the year because of the artist residency I did over the summer. One is a paper cut installation made from a 7 foot roll of tyvek, that is only about a quarter started. It’s the second of three pieces I want to eventually create.
Another project is one I started during the residency which involved exploring pattern design centred around Japanese block prints, and designs used in Islamic architecture. This will eventually become a modular installation made up of small individual paper cut pieces.

Thank You Rachael!

You can find more of Rachael's beautiful work here: