Posts By: Studio Assistant

Member Interview: Margot Harrington

Margot Harrington is a visual artist working in graphic design, print media and painting. She is the owner and founder of Pitch Design Union. Her work explores the contemporary landscape of Chicago, as well as the Internet, intersectional feminism, gender identity, Japanese culture, Scandinavian design, Chinese medicine, meditation, and art in support of oppressed peoples. Her work aims to discover and uplift new role models.

Ali Tomek: To start, from looking at your website, your work seems to cross boundaries among fields like graphic design, illustration, and printmaking. How would you describe your work?

Margot Harrington: I mean, that’s a pretty great description. My degree is in fine art with an emphasis in graphic design. However, I do a little bit of everything. I have a lot of different interests. I’m more of a generalist versus someone who has a specific niche or very focused way of working. That’s how I’ve always worked, blurring lines across a broad range of mediums, which reflects my personality and keeps me from feeling too boxed-in.

AT: How do you find inspiration?

MH: The best answer is always, everywhere. I interpret this question as live a rich life. Say yes to things, go to concerts, go to shows. Sometimes I let myself work to the point of frustration before I step away.

I think a lot about this in terms of appropriation of cultures. For example, my dad and I, we used to email each other haikus once a week or so. Haiku led to Wabi-sabi, Japanese printmaking, and how Japanese people approach creativity in general. Obviously, I’m not Japanese, I am a white person, but I’m very aware of the privilege to learn about another culture and how important it is to be respectful of those historical practices.

Inspiration and appropriation are very closely related terms. Appropriation is rampant in the art world. That’s something I spend a lot of time thinking about for myself in terms of how to be respectful of other cultures and what is really meaningful to me: am I just borrowing for the sake of borrowing? I try to be super honest about it and approach it the best way I can.

AT: So what is it about Japan, specifically, that is so inspiring?

MH: Well, it’s a way of exploring my relationship with my dad. He passed away two years ago and studying Japanese culture helps me remember him. I will definitely say that he was appropriating Japanese culture in our home growing up, which I recognize now, but I learned about something different because of that. It planted a seed. I started to research all of these practices Japanese people have around making work creatively. There are terms for things that don’t exist in American culture that I think we could benefit from. Actually, there’s a few startups that have adopted some of these practices, with varying levels of success. One is the concept of Kanban, which is basically shorthand for defining your bandwidth to be able to complete or create a task. For example, do you have room in your Kanban for new work? It’s almost like efficiency is great to a point, but then you can become too efficient where you’re suffering or hurting yourself.

I also had a chance to visit Japan last year. I went there by myself for two weeks. In part, this trip was in honor of my dad, because he never went there himself, although he would have loved to. Also, I wanted to experience immersing myself in a place where I don’t know anyone or the language and where the culture is extremely different. You’re immediately labeled as an outsider.

AT: You mentioned printmaking earlier. How does your background in printmaking inform the rest of your work?

MH: The most printmaking experience that I have is in screenprinting, which is a similar approach to design in that you can collage a composition together and layer things. My work uses a lot of color, overlapping shapes, and abstract geometric forms, which I feel comes from a collage aesthetic.

The other thing that I didn’t mention is that I also paint. It looks similar to my prints when I’m finished with it, but sometimes painting to me is more urgent in that it doesn’t require as much setup or advance planning. You can just sit down and something comes out, which I find very helpful if I’m unable to make it to the studio. I can still do something with my hands that’s not on the computer.

I also always just loved vintage type and objects. I think that is what brought me to printmaking originally. I wanted to modernize a really classic traditional practice and do something new and fresh and vibrant with it. Also, my grandpa was a letterpress printer, which I didn’t know until after I started printmaking. It skipped a generation, but it’s in my blood.

AT: As someone who is studying graphic design now, I’m curious how you balance digital and physical making. Lately, staring at a screen for too long makes me a little sick.

MH: Yeah, it’s like you live your life by the glowing box. Like a weird episode of Black Mirror or something. I will say that I don’t always have a balance there. It’s not like I can have a perfect percentage or a perfect hourly breakdown everyday of what task I’m doing or if it’s on my computer or not. It still takes me a lot of discipline to be able to do both.

What I have at home — that’s my primary workspace — is a room with my digital desk, and then a similar version of my studio set up here at Spudnik. If I really need to, I step away from my computer for 15 minutes or so and do something else to keep my brain fresh. I also incorporate some illustration into my design work, so I’ll draw something, scan it, work on it in the computer, draw on it some more, scan it again — it’s somewhat of a cyclical process.

Harrington’s Spudnik studio.

And then here [Margot’s Spudnik studio], I really try to prioritize this space with my art, although as you can see I have another computer display on the floor. I take it off the desk most of the time because otherwise I just end up working on my computer. I try to visit my studio at least one full day a week and will come in more often if I’m working on a project. However, there are also some weeks where I’m just on a deadline and can’t do anything on the side.

Until I get paid as much to make paintings as I do for my design work or to build websites, they’ll be in conflict with each other, and I don’t know if that’s necessarily a bad thing. There’s always conversation about design and art and craft as these three opposing things, but I don’t think you really can’t have one without the other.

AT: Building off of that, I noticed a couple artist books on your website. I also make artist books and wondered how these fit into your practice? Additionally, how does writing and teaching inform your work?

MH: Through artists books, I can easily incorporate my painting, printing, and hand binding. It’s something I would love to do more of in the next year or two. I feel like I’ve fallen off that practice a little bit, but it’s super meaningful to me in that I also love publishing. Books were something I just fell in love with as a kid. I was one of those kids that always read, and my parents would tell me “Go, outside.”

One of my main clients and I also produce a quarterly magazine called Bitch. This, I think, scratches the same itch as producing artist books. I don’t know where this project will ultimately lead us to, but I like that it helps me feel like I’m connected to a literary community, and I get to produce a three-dimensional object that reads like a book that deals with social justice issues that are important to me.

I think writing is another important component of bookbinding or printmaking or comics or zines. There’s a very strong connection between these things. Through an image, you can share or convey a feeling in a way that’s sort of universal, but because words are so specific, to really say something bold, you have to have a clear vision of what you’re trying to say. It’s like a main line to your brain. I have a lot of respect for writers that are able to be so vulnerable and share so much of themselves with the world.

Teaching is a way to give back. I think I have a non-traditional path as an artist and creative professional, which I like to share with students and hopefully they can take something away from my experience and apply it to their own life. Teaching also lends credibility to my work and to my practice.

AT: What do you think it means to be an artist in Chicago? Do you feel like you are part of a larger artist community?

MH: Yes and no. I love Chicago because there’s less ego involved with making work here, which I think is a pretty known thing about this city. People live here as artists because they just care about the work. They’re not trying to move to Berlin and be a famous, capital-A Artist (although Berlin is great, and if you need to be there, do you, boo). Chicago has a kind of blue-collar approach to visual work or working in service of something, which I really love and connect with a lot.

However, at the same time because the School of the Art Institute is such a big part of the artist community in Chicago and because I didn’t go there, I don’t feel like I belong to it. That can feel like a little bit of a barrier at times. Yet this doesn’t stop me from establishing meaningful connections with other artists, even those who are part of the SAIC community. It’s more just a perception thing.

AT: Your perspective on Chicago is really interesting because I just came back from New York. I was there for two weeks and wondered what it would be like to live in such a pressurized environment all the time. It was thrilling, but Chicago feels more approachable.

MH: I could have moved to New York and lived with my dad and stepmom. I could have figured it out, but it would have been a lot harder. I definitely made the right call in hindsight. You can take more risks here because the cost of living is much lower. That, to me, takes a lot of the pressure off. It’s possible I would live in New York now, but it would require a major job change or a residency or a commission.

AT: As I was preparing for this interview with you and reviewing the work on your website, I noticed your riso print The Certificate of Safe Space. It seems like some of your work focuses on social issues/concerns, which you also touched upon in regard to Bitch magazine Bitch. Is that an important theme in your work? Do you feel like art can help build a better world?

MH: Totally. The piece you referenced was done for a show where every artist was assigned a topic, and mine was sexual harassment in the workplace. This was a couple years before the Me Too movement. At that point in my career, I had already experienced what it felt like not to be respected in the workplace. I definitely felt a personal connection to it. The idea behind The Certificate of Safe Space is that in the same way that spaces have to put up their business license, this is something someone could put up in their workplace that would tell employees they’re actively involved with creating equitable, fair processes or systems that would allow people to be treated with respect in their workplace, fighting microaggressions, racism, gender issues — really anything.

Harrington’s piece, The Certificate of Safe Space. Image courtesy of Margot Harrington.

The rest of my work is more abstract. You‘re allowed to project your own thoughts onto it. So when I’m projecting my own thoughts onto it, it’s always a mixture of what I would want to see in the future, but doesn’t yet exist.

A really concrete example of this is my painting, The Fifth Female President of Color. I knew the title of the piece before I had even started it. I created the painting in 2015 and during this time I wondered whether this was something that would happen in my lifetime. Because it’s an abstract painting, we don’t know who the person is, what they’re going to look like, or what the path is to get there. Despite this uncertainty, it’s a really happy, beautiful, and vibrant work. And while the results of the last election were not what I expected, I still believe that positive projection is really important in terms of manifesting what you want to see or be in the world.

AT: What are you currently working on, and where should people go to see your work?

MH: Today I’m working on some acrylic and acetate pieces I’m printing on slash painting on to use as photo shoot props. Also since the contract I have with Bitch is all year, we have one more issue left of the magazine that’s going come out in late fall.

Beyond that I have a couple feelers out for a mural that I’m still working on finding a location for. I ended up doing a small crowdfunding fundraiser for it since this type of work can be expensive. I’m hoping to secure a space and wrap up the project before the year is out.

AT: Awesome. And then a fun question: what are you currently reading?

MH: The book I’m reading right now is by Samin Nosrat. Salt Fat Acid Heat is the title. It is a cookbook, but not in traditional format. It teaches you how to cook and then sets up the variable types of dressings or flavor profiles to build your own recipes. The recipes are open-ended. Before bed, I read a couple pages. Usually I’m reading all sorts of things, but that’s the only one right now.

If you want to find out more about Margot and her work you can visit her website or follow margotharrington on Instagram.

Member Interview Series: Carla Fisher Schwartz

Carla Fisher Schwartz is a visual artist and educator based in Chicago, IL. Her studio practice investigates the relationship between the mapped image and contemporary notions of exploration, virtuality, and the simulated environment through print media, sculpture and video installation. Carla received her MFA in Visual Arts from Washington University in St. Louis. Her work has been exhibited at the Chicago Artists Coalition (Chicago, IL), Hyde Park Art Center (Chicago, IL)and the Kemper Art Museum (St. Louis, MO) among others.

Martin Feld : To get started could you tell me a little about yourself and your work?

Carla Fisher Schwartz:  Sure. I’m from California originally and came to the Midwest for Graduate School in Missouri and then ended up in Chicago. I took my first printmaking class in my sophomore year of college at the University of California Santa Cruz. They have a large lithography, intaglio, and relief studio overlooking the redwoods and the pacific ocean. When I first walked in, I instantly knew I wanted to stick around. I worked on my prints throughout college and afterwards interned at the Kala Art Institute in Berkley, California. Shortly thereafter I moved to Chicago for grad school. Right now, I would say my work has turned into many different things, but it’s definitely informed by the same thought process that I developed in my printmaking classes.

MF: Thinking about the work that does make use of print media, could you talk about the forms you are making with Binder’s board and speak to the shift from screen printing to using inkjet for those?

CFS: So I actually started those when I was a fellow at Spudnik in 2015. I was printing these open source textures for use in world-building video games, also known as sandbox games. I played these games in earlier iterations, such as SimCity, when the textures were pretty low resolution. While screenprinting the textures I experimented by turning them into more ambiguous forms, distorting them further and using halftones, without necessarily knowing what I would ultimately do with these. Eventually, I just cut one up and started folding and gluing it and that turned into a really fast way for me to work because I had access to screenprinting. I could print as many as I wanted without having to worry about technical specification. I let the process degrade the image instead of having to intentionally do it on a computer. At that time, I was just using paper to create these forms, so they had no support system and they would sink. In an effort to make them more archival and to be able to go bigger I switched to Binder’s board and started to use ink jet prints. This allowed me to work larger, and as quickly as I needed.

MF: Going back then, I was curious how your familiarity with printmaking informs the work that doesn’t fall within print media?

CFS:  The way I think about it is that the first art medium you learn is going to inform the way your brain works whether or not you keep on doing it. So with printmaking I’m thinking in terms of variability and testing variables and this often carries over into my other projects. For example, when I’m making a video or working on an installation with found objects, I’m still doing the same thing I might do with an intaglio plate. I apply the idea of a matrix being variable to my work, regardless if it’s a digital file or and installation. It may not be explicit in the end, but thats how I work through an idea. I also think printmaking informs how I think about images. I think of what happens when we multiply an image and how does that gain or hide its power? That definitely conceptually informs everything I do.

MF: In that realm, you are looking at older maps that are being produced with various printmaking techniques and I’m curious how your tactile understanding of producing those maps informs how you look at them?

CFS:  Well, I suppose there are certain conventions and styles of early print ephemera and mapmaking, for example, hand painted lithographs, that inform what I do. For a time, I was making images that were mimicking 19th-century print ephemera, like scientific and diagrammatic reproductions. When you look at that kind of image, you read it as a certain degree of truth. So there is some kind of authority there that comes with those aesthetic conventions.

MF: Thinking about truth, one of the things I was really interested in while I was looking at your work is the idea of “un-discovery” that you explored in an older series, We Do Not Profess to Construct Planets, and it seems to be a thread that is still evident in your art work? That was the first time I had ever seen that term. Could you talk about “un-discovery?”

CFS:  I don’t think I made it up, but it’s not a term that people necessarily use. In the age of discovery, exploration, and colonization, there was adding. The adding of places, adding of territories and adding of landmasses to the map, and then after there had to be the process of “un-discovering,” or removing from the map. For example, removing Atlantis from the map, or acknowledging that California isn’t an island inhabited by Amazons. So there was this simultaneous process of “un-discovering” happening in a time period we tend to associate more with the act of ‘discovery’. The reason that came up for me stems from a project I was doing about Sandy Island, a nonexistent island in the South Pacific, that spans many different works. In the case of Sandy Island, however, it’s not a unique event. That kind of thing used to happen all the time; removing an island when it was determined to not exist. What is interesting about Sandy Island is that it was removed in 2012, at a time in which we have become accustomed to that not happening anymore, which makes us question our confidence in satellite imagery as an authoritative representation of the world.

 

 

MF: In that realm and thinking about Sandy Island Travel Bureau, I was curious about the role that fiction plays into your work.

CFS: Oh, I love fiction [laughter].

MF: What is your working process like in relation to fiction, especially with something like Sandy Island Travel Bureau that is fictitious but very much real in its fiction?

CFS: I’ve always been very interested in the blurring of fact and fiction. One of my favorite examples of artwork that does that well is the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles. It’s a project by Dave Wilson, where once you are inside this museum, you’re never quite sure if the information in the exhibitions is factual or not. As a viewer, I love that kind of experience. The museum appears to present fiction as fact and then gives you information that is true, but seems like it is fictional. I think, in terms of my work, I’ve always been interested in how something that is fictional, like a place that exists on a map but not in the world, is in a sense real, because representations like maps very much inform our experience of the world. So for me, the line between fact and fiction, or physical and virtual, is indistinct. I enjoy artwork that uses tropes of science and museums to convey authority; Mark Dion, for example, does this so well.

MF: You toy with these ideas that have become absurd, like the mapped islands that don’t exist. I thought that piece were very funny in a certain way.

CFS: Thank you. That’s what I want.

MF: Can you talk about the use of humor in art and you’re approach to using humor given the difficulties it presents in terms of clear communication?

CFS: I I think there should be more funny art [laughter]. I guess I really enjoy funny artwork. Sometimes I struggle with this and feel this impulse that humor needs to be separate from art – that in order to have work that makes effective arguments and communicates ideas, my work should be serious. Yet it’s something I really try to emphasize in my own practice and really enjoy in other artists’ work. I think absurdity is a really effective tool for poking or exposing conventions that we have become accustomed to.

MF: Yeah, I’m a big fan of humor in art. I think of the ways in which humor is hard to control. The difficulty of knowing exactly how it works makes it a useful tool.

CFS:  That’s definitely something I’m still learning: How to not only make something funny, but make it funny in the way that I want to be funny.

MF: Thinking about being a virtual explorer and traveling across the globe from the comfort of your couch, how does that relates to your local context here in Chicago?

CFS:  In terms of the physical space of Chicago, it’s a place that’s full of hints of what the city used to look like. Even in little ways, hinting at how the street level of my neighborhood was originally at a different elevation, or the changing coastline of the city. When you walk around, you get these reminders of the city’s transformation. They are like traces of the invisible side of Chicago, and not totally apparent but really fascinating to me. I think it’s all part of the way we think about a place. A place is not just what it looks like; it’s all these stories, myths, maps and contexts that are layered within a place.

MF: Do you ever go around Chicago in street view using Google Maps?

CFS:  Oh yeah, all the time. You can do more now with the current Google earth. A lot of this work stems from me asking myself: is what I’m doing actually exploring in any way? What’s the space that I’m exploring? I know I’m not alone in that hobby. I’m a fan of physically traversing a space virtually and the slowness of the street level interface, while still being, of course, much faster than walking.

MF: As you mentioned, you were a studio fellow here at Spudnik in 2015. What were you doing while you were here? How was your practice influenced by your time spent here and how has it changed since then?

 CFS:  So I was a studio fellow here a couple of year after I finished graduate school. I I didn’t know a lot of people here in Chicago, and I didn’t have a connection academically to the area, which were challenges I encountered after moving here. My fellowship at Spudnik was really helpful, not just in terms of having access to the equipment, but also in meeting other Chicago print and art people. I had a little space at home to work from, but it wasn’t ideal. I know a lot of people like myself have trouble divorcing their art practice from their living space, so having this space to come to and not only get work done, but also work collaboratively was just what I needed. Being able to speak with the other fellows and studio users and bounce off my ideas was a huge boost and just what I needed in terms of getting going after school. I started making those sculptural prints and landforms and working through my ideas, figuring out what kind of images worked with what kind of forms. That was a large part of what I was doing here, and also getting to play with printmaking processes that I hadn’t had access to do in a while. I was getting back to my mono-printing, polymer plate lithography, getting some more time to play around with screen printing. Spudnik has such a comfortable place to do screen printing, and I needed to have a non-academic situation to play with materials. So that’s a lot of what I did, what was the second part of your question?

MF: How has your practice changed?

CFS: The fellowship at Spudnik was definitely a tipping point in terms of what came next. After the fellowship ended, I stayed on as a key holder for a while and that was when I started thinking about three-dimensional print as a place to locate myself. I think that happened here and started me going in that direction of visualizing these non-existent landmasses as dimensional forms, as well as the other tangents that have emerged since then.

MF: Does your teaching practice pertain to print media and how does that play into your studio practice?

CFS:  I largely teach art appreciation classes at Harold Washington College. I also occasionally teach printmaking there, which I love to do. I have taught at Spudnik and I’m also teaching an experimental print class this semester for high schoolers at the School of the Art Institute. To me, teaching and making are inseparable because it’s the same kind of output — drawing connections between ideas. I find that teaching always informs what I’m doing outside of the classroom.

 MF: Earlier we spoke about fiction and I was interested in your relationship to literary sources and their influence on your practice.

CFS:  Peter Turchi’s book, Maps of the Imagination, which uses mapping as a way to think about writing, was actually really important in framing how I think about mapping in my work, and also made me realize how much the fiction I read is important to what I do. I read a lot of science fiction and related genres. My latest obsession is the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer, which centers around this mysterious unknown territory, and I keep drawing all these analogies to the interests of my own practice.

I think a lot about how books are able to describe the kind of spaces I’m interested in, like how China Mieville’s The City and The City describes this idea of two cities coexisting in the same space. There is something about the way fiction can describe invisible spaces or spaces that exist and don’t exist at the same time, that are useful to me as I consider the spaces depicted through the visual representation of the map.

A lot of titles that I use are from fiction, and I look to a wide variety of texts for inspiration. These texts, for example Flatland, can introduce alternate ways to think about how we experience a place and how it can be radically different, or that show us how specific and limited our experience of a place is. I spend almost as much time looking at these sources as I do the historical records. Perhaps that’s how I would want to approach this kind of work if I had the aptitude for creative writing.

MF: What are you currently working on and what projects do you have coming up? Are you currently showing work anywhere?

CFS:  So my next project involves printed fabric and I’m thinking about it in relationship to a Jorge Luis Borges story about mapping, On Exactitude in Science. It’s still in progress, but it involves using printed textiles for installations, and will probably end up in a group exhibition at ACRE Projects here in Chicago. So that’s what I’m working on now and I’m hoping to do some larger floor and wall installations as a part of this project.

If you want to find out more about Carla and her work, visit her website or follow her on Instagram @carla_f_s.

Member Interview: David Alvarado

David Alvarado is an illustrator and cartoonist who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. A graduate from Columbia College, Chicago, David works primarily with screenprinting and risography to bring his illustrations and comics to life. His comics are characterized by dense illustrations, bright colors, and vast amounts of detail. In addition to making prints, self-publishing zines and comic books, he is also the artist behind “Life is Beautiful,” a comic series that runs on the back pages of Newcity, Chicago.

Manisha: How would you describe your work? 

David: When working on a publishing project I usually provide illustrations for editorial articles, cover illustrations, and comics for data reports. The content for my work stems from looking at the density of different environments, such as thick forests, cityscapes with overlapping buildings, and bodegas. I also like to create work with a touch of humor using silly concepts. I make goofy faces and characters because I love the idea of having the creative freedom to make a comic or character that I can place in embarrassing situations. My more serious work tends to be emotional and based on personal stories.

Manisha: How did you get into printmaking?

David: I was introduced to printmaking in high school. I took a block printing class where I worked mostly with woodblocks and linocuts. This really lent itself to my graphic style, which makes use of line art, thick lines, and solid colors.

Manisha: I see that in some of your print work you use heavy borders.

David: Yeah, it just made sense. I like the look of it and I like the crisp lines. So throughout college I continued to take block printing and screenprinting classes.

Clockwise: David’s cap, Plant Head, 2017 and 4 Rooms, 2017.

Manisha: What is your designing process like?

David: About ninety percent of my drawings and sketches are done by hand. But I do some of the sketching and all of the coloring digitally.

Manisha: When did you get involved with risograph printing?

David: I discovered the riso years after Columbia. I remember seeing it online. There was a lot of buzz around it at the time because it was being used to print mini-comics and zines. And then when I met Matt Davis at Spudnik I began to work on projects with him using the risograph.

Dirty Hands, Volume 4, 2014.

Manisha: Can you tell me more about a recent project that you’ve been working on?

David: I’m working on a mini-comic. It’s going to be roughly 30 pages. Half of the comic was made five years ago when I was still at Columbia. I screenprinted the cover and pages inside. The story was really short, only about 12 to 15 pages.

For the most part, the comic has retained its original look. It is green with blue and purple line art, and the story picks up where I last left off. Except this time, I decided to print it with the risograph because I didn’t want to do all that large-scale screenprinting again. The prints are slightly off-register but that is intentional.

A sneak peek of Today, Today, Better, Better, Second Reprint, 2017, David’s current project.

Manisha: What do you do when you’re not making art?

David: I have a full time job. I like thrifting and I run when I can.

Manisha: So what would be your top three thrift store recommendations?

David: The best one, in my opinion, is in the suburbs because everyone donates to this one spot. It’s a huge Salvation Army in Niles. That’s the one to go to. Then there is Family Thrift in Logan Square, which is pretty big. It has two floors and I’ve found some good stuff there, too. And then there is Village Discount on Montrose.

Manisha: Do you focus on something in particular when you are on a thrifting adventure?

David: I mostly look for clothing, weird art and books. I got a faded purple crew neck sweater recently. It’s so big and comfortable.

Manisha: What would be your dream project?

David: My dream project would be to work on a large illustrated accordion book. I was very inspired by Micah Lidberg‘s Rise and Fall. It’s a beautiful book about dinosaurs and was done entirely using the offset press.

Manisha: So does that make Lidberg your dream collaborator?

David: No, that’s just my dream project. I would love to work with Sammy Harkham. He is a cartoonist who does dense illustrations. I think his comics make really good use of space.

Manisha: Let’s end with a fun question. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

David: Peanut butter and chocolate. I always get that. You know, I feel bad for all those kids who have peanut allergies. It’s like a whole generation of them.

 

If you want to find out more about David and his work, visit his website or follow tuffasaurus on Instagram. He will also be an exhibitor at Comic Arts LA  later this month.

Member Interview: David Krzeminski

David Krzeminski is an artist and designer that has lived in the Chicago area his entire life. He received his BFA in Visual Communications from Northern Illinois University. His current body of work consists of black and white abstract drawings, that he then transforms into vibrant, optical illusion screen prints.

Tell us a little bit about yourself; what you do and who you are.

Well, I’ve been into artwork since I was a kid. I always knew I wanted to do something with it. I always felt like I was going to be drawing, but when it comes to jobs, graphic design has a bit more leeway. I currently work for a trade show company doing graphic layout; displays and graphics for conventions, trade shows, and what have you. That pays the bills and the drawing keeps me sane because offices can get a little… they can wear on you. I need to do something a little funky sometimes to get out of the rut of very monotonous work.

Having lived in the Chicago area your whole life—growing up in Palatine and going to NIU in DeKalb—do you feel you’re a part of the greater Chicago artist community, or are you simply an artist living in Chicago?

I think as of recently I’m feeling more like I’m part of the art community. Spudnik actually has a big part in that. This is because I’ve been meeting more and more people that also use the space at Spudnik who then introduce me to other kinds of events and art movements. I’ve also been more and more active with my artwork as well. It wasn’t until I was creating more regularly that I felt like I was a part of the community as opposed to just an artist doing my own thing. Now I try to work at least a little bit every day.

Do you want to talk a little about the work you’ve brought with you; give us a peak inside your sketchbook?

Sure. This is actually one of my first prints from when I started printing at Spudnik. It’s one of those impossible triangles with my abstract, squiggle pattern. This was while I was still trying to figure out how to screenprint correctly. I was basically reteaching myself because I hadn’t printed at this point for four years.

These are two of my most recent prints. A few of my first prints had a lot of streaks through them or the ink wasn’t quite as opaque as I’d like it to be. It was just a lot of trial and error. I figured out a lot was because of the paper or the squeegee I was using. I was like, “Oh they’re all the same” until one day I realized, “Oh, I’m getting streaks because I picked the same squeegee all the time.” Now I’m figuring out how to print correctly.

And this one is just fun. Whenever I’m using drafting pens I have a scratch paper just to keep the ink flowing, and sometimes they turn out kind of cool. I’ve got a thing full of those that I kept that I haven’t thrown away just because they turn out to be…

Kind of a piece within themselves?

Yeah. They have little interesting patterns. They’re just kind of a mess. Maybe one day I can do something with them. I just can’t bring myself to throw them all away. But some of them I can definitely recognize are garbage. [laughs]

Unfortunately I don’t really use sketchbooks as often as I’d like to. [flipping through pages] I like this one. The abstract doesn’t really have any dimensions so I’m not really quite sure how it works with the realistic stuff yet, or if I can make it work somehow. This is one where I felt it worked pretty well, though.

Here’s an actual concept done in a sketchbook where I was trying out patterns. I did it wrong actually, because the black squares are supposed to be opposite of each other; they’re supposed to go diagonal. But then I realized this plays with your eyes a bit because you want it to follow that pattern where each diagonal one is black, but it isn’t. That made me think I should make it bigger.

When you sit at your workspace to create something new, do you have a playlist you like to turn on or anything else to create the right atmosphere for your art making?

It depends. Sometimes I’ll put on a TV show or a documentary just as background noise. But, especially when I do my abstract stuff, sometimes I’ll make it a point to not turn anything on, and to just sit and do it by myself in silence. I don’t want to say it’s therapeutic, but the method I use to make the abstract shapes and whatnot is almost equivalent to brainstorming or freeform thinking. I have some set rules and some basic things that I repeat, but other than that, I never really plan the drawing out ahead of time. Sometimes I’ll work in silence to start a drawing, and then once I have a feel for how it’s coming together then I’ll put on some distractions; just kind of go on autopilot with something in the background.

Where does the inspiration for your work typically come from, and what kinds of things are influencing your work right now?

I’ve been really into optical illusions lately. That’s always been a big influence for sure. One of the big name artists I’ve always liked is M.C. Escher because I feel like he’s the master of illusion. He not only understood the illusion, but had the ability to execute it as well. His work is just super clean, super high contrast, which is huge for illusions. Then, I wouldn’t say I’m going too deep into it, but I’ve been reading some philosophy books. And that’s where I got my idea that if I’m going to be drawing, I need to almost think of it as a meditation. Let my mind go blank. Because I’ve repeated these patterns so much I can let myself do that. I probably wouldn’t have come up with that idea if it weren’t for the book Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung. (Which is a good read. I would definitely recommend it because it’s interesting and not too preachy.) It’s more an overview of a few of Jung’s ideas. There are five different authors and they all touch base on how they think the mind works.

Then there’s one guy in particular from Japan who created the pattern I used for the piece that was in the Spudnik Press benefit show. His name is Akiyoshi Kitaoka. He’s a psychologist that specializes in how vision is interpreted by the brain. He started pumping out this huge series of optical illusions that he created and put them up on his website for people to use. I put his name in the title of my pieces that use his images since it’s his base that makes the illusion work. Then I use my own color scheme and patterns. Kitaoka’s thing is based on high-contrast, vibrant colors creating a vibrating illusion that tricks your brain into switching back and forth between what it focuses on.

Do you start a drawing intending to make a print of it, or do you just create something first and make that decision later?

I think maybe only a couple of times I’ve done something with the intent of printing it as well. Even the pieces I wanted to print, I was also making as drawings that could stand by themselves. I’ll go through my collection every now and again with a certain pattern in mind, or an idea of a color scheme that I really want to try out. Then I’ll see which of my drawings is going to fit that best.

Since you like drawing in black and white, why do you use such radioactive colors in your prints?

With my drawings I’ve always been pulled to using black and white. Very rarely do I draw with color, or add paint to a drawing. So when it comes to screen printing, why don’t I just do the complete opposite and go extremely vibrant? Which also goes hand in hand with trying to create illusions. The extremely vibrant, high-contrast colors mess with your eyes the most. That’s why I like using them. I like it when a piece is almost difficult to look at.

What do you want people to take away from your work when they see it?

I’d like people who see my work to take away that life is messy. Even if you do it the same way every time it’s going to turn out different. Like whenever I do a piece of just the abstract stuff—no pattern, no shapes involved—even if I start drawing the same way it’s a little bit different by the end. Also, I don’t know how easily it comes across, but I’d like to make the world a better place. Not to get too cheesy. [laughs] Basically, you need to keep an open mind that maybe what you’re seeing at first glance isn’t quite what’s there. So many people, especially nowadays, are too quick to think they understand something after just a quick glance. No. Look a little closer. Get your face right up to it and actually look really deep at what you’re seeing because it might evoke something different or spark a thought you’ve never had before. Where if you look from across the room, it’s just a couple black spots on a page. That’s what I want people to take away. Just, think abstractly sometimes. Things aren’t so set in stone.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a couple of things. Right now I’ve got a three-color print I’m going to do. It’s another pattern by Kitaoka that I’ve done before, but the illusion didn’t really work because the colors weren’t bouncing off each other that well. For drawing, I’m working with layers. I do an abstract base drawing, and then I have an almost translucent Yupo paper that I put on top. Then I’ll draw on top of that to get a two-tone abstract drawing. That’s definitely a new, recent revelation that was actually inspired by screen printing.

And where should people go to see your work?

I have two pieces in the Spudnik Press member show. Then Hope for the Day, a suicide prevention and awareness organization, is opening a new coffee shop/community center. They’re having a benefit art auction for that on December 2nd at WeWork (20 W. Kinzie St.). I donated a couple of pieces to that. There’s also my website as well as Instagram where I post finished pieces and works in progress regularly.

Just to close on a fun note, would you say your cat, LD, is a furrvent (pun intended) supporter of your work?

Probably? She usually leaves my drawing table alone—especially when there’s a drawing on it—unless she really wants my attention because something is bugging her. [laughs] She knows she can get a reaction out of me if there’s a drawing on the table and she jumps onto it. So I don’t know if she’s a fan of the art, but she definitely knows it’s important to me.

 

If you want to find out more about David and his work, check out his website or visit @davekrz on Instagram.

Member Interview: Jenna Blazevich

Jenna Blazevich is a Chicago-based product & branding designer, calligraphy instructor, and feminist artist. She also owns a company called Vichcraft that creates and sells a variety of calligraphy and print-based work.

So just to get started, where are you from?

I’m from here. My parents are from the south side of Chicago.

Has living in Chicago impacted your art practice?

Definitely. I think it affects the way that I’m able to make art, and the way that I’m able to access certain things and learn from certain people and teach people. I make it a point to share the craft that I’m interested in and it affects the subjects that I’m creating as well. Being in a really big and in some ways problematic city, it is inspiring even though sometimes [the inspiration] is coming from a place of frustration and confusion. I don’t think that would be the case if I were from somewhere else, so I’d say in a lot of ways it does impact my art.

Do you consider Chicago to be your city?

It’s the city that I’ve felt is the most aligned with my internal pace. I’ve lived a few places where I felt like I was operating on a different wavelength than my surroundings, which is frustrating and leaves you without an ability to find your place. I think Chicago is that sweet spot in between a smaller city that’s a little less progressive and something like New York where it’s really hard to find your place. It’s been the best option for me of any city I’ve lived in, and as a pace to start my business. The cost of living isn’t insane and I have communicated with people who I can work with and be inspired by, but I’m not a “Chicago for life!” person. It’s a fine way to be but I know that other cities are great and I’m very biased. But that’s being a human.

What got you interested in printmaking?

I was very big into gig posters in high school. I wanted to learn to screenprint until I learned that while it is not necessarily labor intensive, it requires a lot of specific tools and spaces. The first time I went to Pitchfork Music Fest when I was around fifteen was when I first found out about people making gig poster art as a specialty. I bought my first print there. From then on I was obsessed with googling and researching all about them. It wasn’t until maybe four years later that I actually learned how to [print]. The first design job that I had where I learned how to screenprint was at a gig poster shop in between my first and second year in college.

What are some of your current influences? (Cultural, personal, etc.)

Instagram seems to be the consistent source of inspiration and information. I use instagram a lot to follow certain accounts that I think keep white feminists on their toes. This is something that I really try to be mindful of, and not fall into. It’s a common and easy thing, in some ways, to make things all about you and the way that you experience the world. I also go to a feminist book club every month that aims to highlight intersectional feminist voices, which is really great because every month I get to have at least one major discussion with a lot of different female-identifying people that are bringing their own perspective on topics which generally aren’t highlighted in traditional literature classes. There’s a lot of room to fill those holes.

In your member profile you are noted as being a feminist artist. Why is that important to you?

Well, [being a feminist artist] is super important to me because it’s something that I feel was one of the first activist things that I was able to really connect with and create from. It affects my and so many people’s lives in so many different ways. I wish that I would have known about feminism earlier on because maybe it would have affected the jobs that I’ve taken on or the things that I’ve done. Once I did find a groove where I could understand things from a personal perspective and let myself take off in that direction it really started to affect me personally in the way that I view the world. The way that I create work, and Vichcraft, has always been very tied to me personally because it’s only me. It’s been important for a long time and it’s been a part of Vichcraft since the inception of it. The reason that I wanted to start my own thing is tied in to sexism in graphic design as an industry. Obviously, once Trump won, I feel like there was a shift from creating this work for more personal and introspective reasons to sort of deciding if [Vichcraft] wants to be a feminist product store.

On a lighter note, what’s your favorite type of dog?

I’m really bad about remembering the names of different kinds of dogs, but my parents have a Vizsla. She’s really pretty and I love her. She’s the perfect size and very playful. Her name’s Seneca. I don’t have a dog of my own but I like to hang out with her when I’m home at my parent’s house.

What do you think dogs do when their humans aren’t home?

Well, she sleeps a lot when my parents aren’t there. She’s grown to love sleeping because she’s an empty nester dog. They got her after all my sisters and I all moved out, which is a bummer. Sometimes I bring her to the city and she just loves to smell all the different things and smell all the different dogs. But she does a lot of sleeping.

If you want to find out more about Jenna, or see more of her work check her out on social media: Instagram, or on her website.

 

 

 

Member Interview: Matt Davis

Matt Davis is a printmaker and occasional cartoonist, illustrator, and designer. He rents one of the six private studio at Spudnik Press, where he runs a small but vibrant risograph print shop called Perfectly Acceptable. He graduated from Oberlin College with a BA in Russian Language.

How did you get started in risography?

I got started in risograph printing when I was in college. I ran a student group, the Oberlin Comics Collective, that published a semesterly anthology of student work. For our first few publications, we printed with the school’s print shop – and were often disappointed with the results. We were aware of risographs as they were starting to become popular with alternative cartoonists, who were using them to print their comic books and minis. To our luck, we noticed one sitting in the back corner of the local UPS store, and were able to buy it for a low, low price. I totally fell in love with it (I wasn’t an art student) and suddenly I had unfettered access to a cheap and immediately gratifying means of printing anything I wanted to.

What led you to establishing Perfectly Acceptable Press?

It’s hard to say exactly when or what led me to establish Perfectly Acceptable. When I moved to Chicago I bought a risograph pretty much immediately, as it was a staple of my art practice in college. Word soon got out and I started getting emails from people asking if I would be able to print their projects. Though I don’t think I intended to become a regular commission printer, at the time I definitely needed the money. Business became more and more regular, so I thought I’d put a name to my services–Perfectly Acceptable.

What does Perfectly Acceptable Press do?

I continued doing commission printing from then on. Later, to keep myself occupied and “have fun” I started publishing books as well. So, rather than printing a book for someone for cash, I would work with an artist to develop a book, acting as an editor and designer, and then we would print it, and both sell the finished edition. This remains the two main branches of Perfectly Acceptable to date. We (royal we) also co-host a reading series called Zine Not Dead with our friends (royal friends) at Bred Press, Brad Rohloff.

Hotel Rompo by Talya Modlin

What is your favorite kind of work to make (art prints, comics, wedding invites, etc.) and why?

I’ve found that the clients for comic printing jobs are usually the most fun to work with, and that makes the whole experience better. I love comics, so I can really connect with the finished product.

Who are your current artistic influences?

My friends and people I know who also print with risograph always impress me. To name a few big influences: my friend George Weitor of Issue Press in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Colour Code Printing in Toronto, Canada. Knust Press in the Netherlands. A lot of the artistic use of Risograph printing started in the Netherlands.

What cartoon character do you most identify with, and why?

I don’t think I identify with any cartoon characters… I read a lot of Calvin and Hobbes growing up, and I guess I related to Calvin since I’m an only child.

Eg: Sausage Delivery Man by Matt Davis

 

 

What advice would you give to a new artist who is interested in learning more about risography?

You just have to find a risograph, get your hands on it, and play around with it! Risography is still pretty new as an art form, so the community is super unpretentious and approachable. It makes it easy to jump right in.

Gaylord Phoenix #7 by Edie Fake

How often do you create work for yourself (not something for a client at Perfectly Acceptable)?

I don’t do a lot of personal projects any more, since I’m printing for clients so much. I have found that the design element of publishing projects is more enjoyable than it used to be.

The Meaning of Life by Anja Wicki

Do you have any warm-up activities or rituals?

Not really. I try to go in relaxed and with low expectations. The riso machine can sense fear, and it’ll mess up more if it knows you’re putting a lot of pressure on it.

What is your favorite neighborhood in Chicago?

It changes as I discover more, but I recently moved to Bridgeport and I love the quiet and self-contained vibe there. It feels like a summer camp!

What do you do in your free time or when you need a break from creating?

I don’t really ever take breaks, to be honest. But I really like hiking, so whatever hiking I can do in Chicago. I like to find paths through parks to walk around.

To see more of Matt Davis’ work, follow him on instagram at @PerfectlyAcceptable , or visit his website!

I’m calling from a great distance

Featured Artists:

Alex Kostiw

Dates:

4/7/2017 – 4/29/2017

Location:

The Annex @ Spudnik Press

Corresponding Events:

Opening Reception & Artist Talk:

Friday, March 3, 2017
6:00-9:00pm

Press Release:

Spudnik Press Cooperative presents new work by Chicago-based artist Alex Kostiw. She is an artist and graphic designer based in Chicago. Her practice combines short stories and experimental comics with book design and printmaking. She is interested in themes of fragmentation, communication, and incomprehensibility. Using interactive book formats and minimal visual and textual detail, she crafts loose narratives that reveal something more felt than understood. Her work offers readers traces of subjects that remain largely inaccessible. Kostiw received an M.F.A. in visual communication design from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a B.A. in English literature from the University of Chicago.

The exhibition, titled “I’m calling from a great distance,” through a variety of miniature and postcard-sized prints, large-scale artworks, and an artist’s book of indecipherable texts, relates the communications between a lighthouse keeper and an interplanetary explorer. The work explores the tension between physical distance and the closeness that technology can create; memory; and the scale of humanity. The prints are divided into two series. One details a sequence of a woman turning around. The other depicts planets and abstracted landscapes. The gallery becomes as a space for this two-part story to unfold.

During recent travel, Kostiw’s interest in immeasurable spaces shifted from metaphorical interior or mental spaces to physical ones. She was drawn to parallels between explorers in history who crossed oceans and the speculative exploration of other planets. She finds intrigue in the gut-wrenching contrast in size between the ocean or space and the individual, as well as in exploration as an expression of, and cause for, longing.

Throughout her practice, Kostiw’s interest is as much in what a story presents as in what it does not—in what is not said or done, as in what is. Oceans and outer space are settings that sharply highlight the inconsequentiality of humankind, but also our need for intimacy and our yearning for connection at the heart of the story.

Paper to Plastic

Featured Artists:

Viraj Mithani

Dates:

2/3/17 – 2/25/17

Location:

The Annex @ Spudnik Press

Corresponding Events:

Opening Reception & Artist Talk:

Friday, February 3, 2017
6:00-9:00pm

Press Release:

Spudnik Press Cooperative presents new work by Chicago-based artist Viraj Mithani.  The exhibition, titled “Paper to Plastic” explores time and contemporary printmaking. It investigates the relationship between the hierarchy of print, painting and drawing by challenging the established norms of the mediums. By combining painting techniques with both traditional printing processes and digital prints, Paper to Plastic questions the historical segregation between the mediums. It further explores the fading practice of traditional printmaking processes and sustainable way of living with the oversaturation of digital technology. Responding to these phenomena, the constructed forms and images capture the permanence of constant change, and evoke feelings of inevitable destruction.

I Will Love You Forever/Hans + Eva Rausing 4/1/2012/7/10/2012

Featured Artists:

Jake Saunders

Dates:

3/3/2017 – 3/25/2017

Location:

The Annex @ Spudnik Press

Corresponding Events:

Opening Reception & Artist Talk:

Friday, March 3, 2017
6:00-9:00pm

Press Release:

Spudnik Press Cooperative presents new work by Chicago-based artist Jake Saunders.  The exhibition, titled “I Will Love You Forever/Hans + Eva Rausing 4/1/12-7/10/12” is a body of work by Chicago artist, Jake Saunders. In this series of etchings, the artist employs events surrounding a three month period in the relationship between Eva and Hans Kristian Rausing. These works mine for aesthetic tropes and symbolism while occupying landscapes reminiscent of European Romantic Era artists such as Fuseli, Gericault and Goya. Amalgamating these events and symbols with those of his own life, Jake conveys the deeply personal through the veil the Rausings. Merging the idiosyncratic with that of the publicly known, Jake contemplates love, anxiety, loss and the malleability of narrative.

Member Interview: Kevin Brouillette

Kevin Brouillette is a recent Columbia graduate and native Chicagoan who flies by the seat of his bicycle. He’s an entrepreneurial graphic designer who focuses on print and web design.

Spudnik Press Cooperative (SPC): Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

In general, what I do is a mix of print and web media. I’ve been trying to focus a lot on print lately­–which has been really good. What I do most of my days is work on designing service industry/restaurant materials that will help promote the café environment, from menus and signage to things that are graphic for the inside of a café.

(SPC): What do you do when you’re not working or designing?

I try to volunteer with charities if I can. I helped out with Food & Water Watch for a while. I like coffee culture and going out for cocktails. I bike a lot. I bike almost everywhere I go and just carry all my stuff with me. I kind of have a mobile workflow so I’m always on the move.

packaging

(SPC): How do you feel that being on the go constantly has affected your design practice?

I’ll have a day where I feel like I’ve done something very substantial. That is what drives me and motivates me to do more. Each day I like to get something solid done. Being on the go gives me the flexibility to jump from place to place whenever I feel like–which is really nice. It’s stimulating and helps me keep my mind and environment fresh.

(SPC): Tell me a little about Limitless (LMTLSS) Branding.

That was my original thing I started back in 2009. I worked with my friend Eric Youngberg to collaborate. Limitless was a brand name for us. I did the whole design concept for it and Eric did all of the back end coding and development aspects. We made a handful of websites together. Another aspect of Limitless is that we used to screen print t-shirts with my friend Clare Byrne who does illustration. Right now Eric and I are working on a brand new site for Dollop- but we don’t call that Limitless since I work for Dollop Coffee now.

limitless

(SPC): How do you approach print design vs. web design?

I think the approach is similar. With print I do a little more work with creating concept boards. With web I find a few ideas or concepts generally that I like in different websites that I see online and then start taking those ideas and apply them to what I’m working on. I usually start with a clearer end goal for web as opposed to a print project. I’m very pre-meditated due to the level of collaboration.

(SPC): What kinds of things are influencing your work right now?

A lot of time when I’m given a project I try to do some research to find some things to make references to. For a recent project, I started out researching old bakeries around Chicago with archival photos to use as reference points as how a bakery in Chicago looks- then and now. I look online a lot for influences. Particularly how other people are using type. Typography is something that I focus on a lot­–collecting and finding typefaces that I like.

(SPC): What’s your favorite thing about Chicago?

Chicago has a really strong design community. I try to go to different events because I really thrive off of inspiration from other artists. Everyone is very supportive of each other, which is something that I really appreciate. It’s a collaborative effort when you really get down to it.

coffeemarriage

(SPC): How did you get into designing for coffee brands? Do you think you’d be in a similar line of work if you lived elsewhere?

I don’t think so. It’s a very fun story how I got into working on coffee brands specifically. My whole time in Chicago has been cohesive with all of this. Back when I was 16 I started working in a café out in the burbs where I grew up. They serve Metropolis Coffee there. I developed a very strong brand loyalty to the Metropolis brand because I liked their design work and I liked their coffee. I worked for them for about 3 years and then started going to Columbia so I moved to the city to be closer to school. During that time I was looking for a new job but knew I wanted to work somewhere with Metropolis coffee. I had visited Dollop in Streeterville, which is our main location. While I was there I just happened to meet this guy named Dan Weiss, who is the owner of Dollop Coffee. About 6 months later I sent him an email and we got in touch to start working there. Everything worked out exactly how I wanted it. I did café work with Dan for about 2 years at Dollop. Dan slowly started shooting ideas my way since he knew I was interested in design. We started collaborating from there and started doing more and more. Firebelly Designs is a really great design firm that created the initial branding for Dollop back in 2012. I really look up to them. So now I fill in the gap and make things that stem from what that they created as the Dollop brand has become more established.

(SPC): Since you are rooted in the web world and branding, how do you feel about social media as a marketing tool for designers and printmakers?

I’m more inclined to follow a designer on social media that posts more about their day-to-day life and things they’re doing as well. Things that they interact with day-to-day influence their work in some way or another. I think design relies so heavily on culture, so for a designer to only post their designs seems less authentic.

dollop

(SPC): What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on?

Most of the past four months has been spent designing identities for new Dollop cafes as they expand. We try to design them around the neighborhood so that they shift with the audience. Right now my big thing is working on the new location for Dollop in Hyde Park. It’s on the University of Chicago’s campus. It is very graphic and interior design oriented. This project has been weeks in the making but we are now finally scoping out the space to decide what we want to do with it. Everything I design for the shop has to play off of contractor/ designer, Paul Leissen, as he builds and designs all the furniture and interiors. Basically I collaborate with him and take some of the colors and things that he’s doing and we work together to make it a well-rounded project. For example, we are doing a really cool wall installation that is going to be typography and illustration mixed together that will span across many walls. We are also building a potentially screen printed wall menu structure, as well as whole walls with graphics that were once on my computer screen. It’s pretty cool to see that blossom.

(SPC): If people want to see your work where should they go?

There are a few things that I’m working on for Metropolis that will be popping up across the U.S. in Metropolis carrying cafes. The Dollop café on Monroe is a great shop to see stuff we’ve been working on. I helped create the marquee sign and all of the wall graphics there, as well as menus.

A photo posted by Kevin Brouillette (@kevinbrou) on

To see more of Kevin Brouillette’s work, follow him on instagram at @kevinbrou, or visit his website www.kevinbrouillette.com!

Member Interview: Jake Saunders

Jake Saunders is an artist working and living in Chicago. He received his Masters in Fine Art at the University of Connecticut. He also received a Masters in Art, as well as his Bachelors in Fine Art at Ball State. Jake’s 2016 Exhibitions include work being shown at Jennifer Ford Art Gallery in association with the Wunderkammer Company  in Fort Wayne, IN. He has previously shown work at Blue House Gallery (Columbus OH), the Auxiliary Art Center (Chicago, IL), along with many other notable spaces.

Spudnik Press Cooperative (SPC): Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do when you’re not working on art?

I’m a printmaker: mostly etching, woodcuts, and linocuts. I screen-print for a living. For free-lance, I do graphic design for screen-printing, web design, coding, and stuff like that. I watch a lot of movies and hang out with my girlfriend and the cat.

(SPC): So I see that you work in different mediums- how did you come to printmaking as a medium?

Printmaking is just like an extension of drawing for me. While drawing is all fine and good–I love drawing, and I love seeing drawing–I think a lot of people who are drawers tend to want to have a way to refine their drawings. I think a lot of people gravitate towards painting for that reason–at least in my experience. Printmaking suited me because of what I was interested in as a kid. I got into printmaking when I was 17 or 18. It appealed to me because it looked like Frank Miller and some other comic book illustrators.

linoleum plates

(SPC): What kind of things are influencing your work right now?

Right now I’ve gotten really into Romantic period art work, like Goya. I’m a big fan of Caravaggio, Dürer, and German Expressionists like Käthe Kollwitz. I’m also big on living people like William Kentridge and Kara Walker. I just saw the Carrie James Marshall show–that was pretty amazing. Contemporary writers like Paul Auster and Salmon Rushdie are big ones for me right now. I think more than anybody, Salmon Rushdie has been really on my mind a lot lately.

(SPC): If you could own a piece of art from one living artist, what would it be or who’s would it be?

I don’t know of anything specific that I would absolutely need but I’d love to have one of those cut paper pieces of Kara Walker’s. I love those things; I would love to have one of her pieces.

various prints

(SPC): Are you a pre-meditated maker or do you just dive right into your work?

I believe that you could be a really terrible painter, drawer, printmaker, or whatever–but if you can compose then it’s going to be good. So I spend a lot of time doing that. Preparation is huge for me–I take a lot of photographs, and do a lot of studies. What I usually do is take a lot of photographs and collage it all in Photoshop. I do a lot of Photoshop collage work before I even put a pencil on anything. It’s a big process for me but it’s very regimented.

(SPC): For your personal art practice, when and how do you decide to take the next step to print and how do you decide which method you are going to use?

I think that the narrative dictates the media, for me. For the last few years when I’ve been doing these pictures based in religious narratives with religious symbolism. I just automatically went for Dürer, and renaissance and medieval prints. So if I am going to approach a new subject like I am thinking about [doing] now, that narrative has to inform the look and therefore the media used. That might be whenever the narrative took place or it could be like art historical references, or just the general flavor of the story that could inform those things. Also there are just the practical things. I didn’t have access to a press for a long time so if I was going to do printmaking I had to be able to do it on a table at home. So it was like- spoons!

Sodom and Gamora , Linocut on paper, 2016

 

(SPC): Has your imagery always been rooted in graphic narratives or has it evolved to this?

I think the short answer is yeah–I think it’s been rooted in narrative and always, for the most part, been figurative. It’s always been heavy on the craftsmanship and graphic stuff. I was a comic book nerd as a kid so it’s what I’ve always gravitated towards.

(SPC): When did you start using religious references in your work and how do you merge these themes with modern day imagery?

When I was young and growing up in Indiana I was inundated with religious stuff all of the time. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with it but I love the narratives and I love the imagery. I know it inside and out so it was always something that was a good reference point for me. So I started doing it right off the bat and it’s like a ready made visual vocabulary that I can use. It’s more or less [something] you can use it for almost anything. There’s an analogy in these stories that you can use for anything that happens in your life–love, heartbreak, and death, birth. Anything–it’s all there. I use narratives as a foil. So I use those images of two-three thousand year old narratives to talk about things that happened to me yesterday.

 

Pieta , Linocut on paper, 2015

(SPC): What are some recent, current, or upcoming projects that you’re working on?

I’ve been working on a series for a few years of Judeo Christian narratives. That’s kind of wrapping up right now. I’m starting to use more contemporary narratives and there’s one in particular that I’m toying around with right now about a woman named Eva Rausing–a British story from a couple of years back.

(SPC): How has living in Chicago as opposed to other cities affected your art practice?

It’s made it more difficult in some ways and easier in others. There’s a lack of space or a yard to use power tools where it was more accessible when I lived in more rural areas. There’s a lot more opportunities but it’s also a little bit overwhelming sometimes. I think being exposed to a lot of stuff here and the opportunity to have a bit more community is a big plus.

(SPC): Are there any processes or methods that you’re looking into or excited about using/learning at Spudnik Press?

It’s been a long time since I’ve done etching or intaglio at all. It’s been intermittent since I got out of my MFA so I’m just really pumped to be jumping right back into that and getting really good at again. It was something I did all of the time when I was in school. I’m really excited to put that back into my repertoire. I’ve also been playing around with cyan-red 3D stuff. I’m not sure where that’s going to go yet.

 

Finally finishing a few editions at spudnik today. #printmaking #print #linocut #art #chicago #spudnik

A photo posted by Jake Saunders (@jake_saunders_art_design) on

Magdalene Waiting at the Tomb , Linocut on paper, 2016

 

To see more of Jake Saunder’s work, follow him on instagram at @jake_saunders_art_design, or visit his website jakesaunders.net!

Member Interview Series: Tara Zanzig

Tara Zanzig is an artist working and living in Chicago. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts  from The School Of The Art Institute Of Chicago in 2001. You can find many of her murals throughout the city of Chicago. Tara has recently exhibited at Beauty & Brawn Art Gallery (Chicago, IL).

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

I grew up in Jupiter, Florida and moved to Chicago in 1998. I have an older brother, Blair, and a younger brother, Blake. Yellow and pink are my favorite colors. Im pretty straightforward. Not really interested in fancy things. What I do is try to make a sustainable life through art and its practice. For me this means allowing opportunity and experiences to feed my work and support my livelihood. In turn, I hope to contribute to this human experience and provide something to engage in. I feel I’m best able to connect with people through art – making, showing, viewing, collaborating, teaching…

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What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on?

I’m pretty excited to be designing and printing the posters and ephemera for Girls Rock! Chicago this year. I’m also working on getting some murals outside of Chicago.

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What kinds of things are influencing your work right now?

Scale. Juxtaposition. Capitalism. Peace.

What artists are you interested in right now?

Ruben Aguirre (likes_1) and Greve (knowtrespassing). They’re both Chicago artists. My perception and appreciation of what they do isn’t just what’s on the wall.

Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work?

Worst: Some one told me, “You can’t pull it off. You need to practice and learn some manners.”

Best: Whenever some one purchases the work to hang in their environment.

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If you could own a piece of art by any living artist, what would it be (or whose)?

I own plenty of art by living artists. Living Chicago artists at that, but I know you mean the unattainable kind so it would be The Physical Impossibility of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living by Damien Hirst. It’s the epitome of conceptual art. And irreverant.

 

What’s your favorite thing about your city?

Chicago style pizza

What do you do when you’re not working on art?

Hah. Sleeping?! Jk Tasting beers with my boyfriend Andy.

If people want to see your work where should they go?

You can find my work at popular street art spots from Bridgeport to Logan. However, the best stuff is off the beaten path or where you wouldn’t expect. I most recently completed a 3250 square foot mural on the corner of Wabash and 11th. I’ve hung in museums and galleries around Chicago and the midwest. Follow my IG (@tararchy) or friend me on FB to find new work and exhibitions.

A video posted by tararchy (@tararchy) on