Posts Categorized: Member Interviews

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: Grace Makuch

Grace Makuch is an artist living and working in Chicago, Illinois. She is interested in the dissemination of language and information amongst fellow millennials. Makuch makes work that is a call and response to being a young person feeling helpless, manic, and confused in the 21st century. Makuch holds a BA from Columbia College Chicago and is an alumna of the Spudnik Press Studio Fellowship Program. She is currently a studio holder at Spudnik Press, where she continues to work in various printmaking techniques.

Lydia James: What was your experience like as part of the Studio Fellowship at Spudnik Press?

Grace Makuch: The experience was awesome for me. I was four months out of school, twiddling my thumbs, thinking: “what am I going to do?” I didn’t have studio access and I knew I loved printmaking, but I didn’t really know how to keep doing it. After school you go from having so many resources to none at all, so I applied for the fellowship at Spudnik Press and I got it! During those seven months, I was able to structure and lay the foundation for the work that I am making now. I didn’t really produce huge concrete things during my fellowship, but it definitely opened up a career path for me.

LJ: You said the Studio Fellowship allowed you to lay the foundation for projects you’re working on now. What does that look like?

GM: So this is a print that I made during my fellowship.

I had been doing the @polenta_girl thing, which is my drawing project and I had been trying to figure out how to move forward from there. It was not serving me anymore, so I started thinking more about writing as a practice, and then I made this print during my fellowship, which perhaps is nothing and everything at the same time?

I was really interested in exploring the finality of the monoprint in congruence with the finality of language. I started writing, and if I messed up I had to scratch it out and keep writing and writing and I did it all in one take.

LJ: It’s almost like an exercise.

GM: Yeah, for sure. I started making more of these writing pieces, or exercises, and then I created a series of work in response to the thought: “if I could talk to God, what would I say?” First I made the monoprints, and then after my fellowship I made a triptych of paintings called Conversations With God.

LJ: Oh wow! I hadn’t realized those were paintings.

GM: Yeah, they are about 4 feet by 9 feet when they are all hung up together. The paintings are from my perspective talking to God, from a businessman’s perspective talking to God, and from a baby’s perspective talking to God—but in the end it’s all me, calling out to God. The conversations get cut down to be abstracted, which makes it difficult to decipher for the viewer. I’m still figuring out why, but I have these two constant conflicting urges to either make something really confusing or make something abundantly clear. So this was me doing a visually confusing project.

LJ: As a viewer, it’s such a natural response to want to be able to finish the sentence, to figure it out.

GM: Yeah! I’m so glad you said that. That’s a huge part of my practice now. I’m currently making work that revolves around the idea of making one good sentence. If I could just make one ‘good’ sentence, what would it look like? What would the language be like? How would it sound coming out of someone else’s mouth? I think it’s a very millennial urge to want to be brief about something – 140 characters or less.

LJ: You said you’re working on a new etching series. How is that going?

GM: These are the plates for my etchings. They’re in the Twitter font, Helvetica Neue Light, but it’s hand lettering that I’ve done. They read “You took a shower” and “I watched a 20 minute Vine compilation on my phone,” and it’s about feeling sad after you have sex.

LJ: Why is it important that you replicate the font by hand?

GM: For me, the Twitter font is super important because […] I think of it as my number one source of inspiration. The people who know me best are the people who follow me on Twitter. I’ve had a Twitter account since I was 14 in 2009. I’ve tweeted nearly 25,000 times. I treat it like an encyclopedia of every thought I’ve ever had that I felt was important enough to share. I think a lot about the millennial disposition of knowing that the people who read my twitter might be able to speak more to my daily state of being than my employers, family members, and even certain close friends.

LJ: Beyond Twitter, what are your biggest inspirations or driving forces behind your work?

GM: Right now I’m reading all of Maggie Nelson’s work and she’s blowing my mind constantly. The way she writes and her ability to move from one thought to the next are effortless. People have referred to her writing as genre-bending and I agree. People need to read The Argonauts!

Also, meme culture is a big influence for me. I think people of different generations are really quick to discredit memes as an important and unique form of communication. I think the way that our generation disseminates crucial information and knowledge is really incredible because it’s visual now, and I think about that all the time. We shouldn’t discredit memes.

LJ: I agree.

GM: Thirty or forty years down the line I don’t know if people will still be making memes, but right now it’s this creative burst of: “Let’s only talk to each other in pictures!”

LJ: Let’s talk about Chicago. Are you from Chicago originally?

GM: I’m from a suburb about 30 minutes north called Northbrook. I went to school in Austin and I really missed Chicago the entire time I was there. There are some things about this city that are super unique to it that I just really missed. I think it’s a great place to live especially if you’re into printmaking.

LJ: Yeah, it seems like there’s a lot going on here.

GM: There’s a ton of printmakers everywhere! I went on the Chicago Print Crawl recently and was blown away by the number of printmaking spaces that exist here! I love living in Chicago. I have a small 5 year old dog and we love the city, we’re just two city girls.

LJ: You already touched on this briefly, but I’m pretty interested in the role your identity plays in your work. You mentioned striving for this sort of intense clarity and when I was looking at your drawing projects some of them struck me as very vulnerable. Yet the way that you’re putting your work out there sometimes makes it seem more like a statement. It’s an interesting balance that I also struggle with in my own work—how intimate do I get with this anonymous audience, the Internet?

GM: It’s interesting that you say that because I get super vulnerable on Twitter and then I refine it with my art. When I say Twitter is a big part of my process, it’s huge. I really do use it like a personal encyclopedia.

Touching on the humor as part of my identity, I come from a family that is really goofy and makes fun of each other a lot. There have also been a few really traumatic things that have happened in my life within the past five years. My dad got diagnosed with Parkinson’s when I was in High School and when I turned 19, I ended up becoming his primary caretaker. So, in addition to working two jobs, and trying to be an artist, and going to school, I was taking care of my dad. That’s a huge part of my identity that a lot of people don’t know about and informs a lot of my personality, and who I am, and how I carry myself. I have this blind optimism all the time because—and this is why I think a lot of my work is funny or really vulnerable—I always think you have two options: you’re either going to laugh or you’re going to cry. And for me, I always prefer to laugh. I make a lot of work where I can open up about things to an extent, but leave it after getting to a certain point and then I cover it back up with humor. It’s a really fine line.

LJ: Right, how much do you give, and…

GM: …how much do you keep to yourself […]. Yeah, my dad, has this great phrase that I think everyone should hear. He says: “It’s all going to be okay, how could it not be?” It’s not necessarily good advice [laughs], but it’s that sort of blind optimism thing can really get people through the heavier stuff.

LJ: Right, sometimes you kind of have to lie to yourself a little bit to push through things.

GM: I’m actually working on a new painting right now that’s just going to be the words “faith beyond reason” over and over again. It’s going to start out as a regular font, and then I’m going to make it italicized, and then bold it. I’ll keep adding layer after layer, which represents my total mentality that sometimes you have to do things without asking why.

LJ: How do you juggle all the different mediums you work in?

GM: That’s a great question. I used to be really scared of sculpture, but for the first time this past year I’ve started to make work that’s not 2D and it’s blowing my mind to be honest. I don’t know if I’m just doing it with faith beyond reason.

LJ: Sometimes it just takes being out of a classroom setting to explore other things.

GM: Yeah, there’s so much pressure in school. Honestly, I think a big turning point for me has been this recent piece I made out of children’s letter blocks.

You know how I was talking about this overwhelming urge to make one good statement or sentence? So far I’m just getting fragments, but I think that’s okay. I’ve decided to allow myself to just keep making fragments.

LJ: Maybe it’s not really a fragment because you are the subject of everything you’re writing.

GM: Yeah, I think it’s interesting. It says: “In a rush to find comfort,” but it’s also not easy to read and that kind of goes back to the paintings I made. I want to say something, but then I feel the need to mask it either through humor or confounding it some other way.

LJ: Do you have a favorite memory associated with Spudnik?

GM: There’ve been a lot of good times, but the most memorable I think was during the 10th Birthday Bash when me, Yewon, Jess, and Jazmin (they were part of my fellowship cohort) were competing against Hoofprint Workshop in a screenprinting competition with a mini squeegee and a big screen. We did the worst job ever! It was pitiful and we were all trying pretty hard, too. That was pretty funny.

LJ: Do you have an artist(s) that inspired you to want to become one?

GM: I don’t think there’s a specific artist that inspired me. My parents met in grad school in an MFA writing program. My dad’s a painter and my mom writes and is actually writing plays right now which is so cool – she’s really getting back into it. I grew up around all that energy and my parents did a really great job of taking us to museums. I remember seeing my mom’s favorite painting, Time Transfixed by Rene Magritte, at the Art Institute of Chicago when I was young. I’ll always remember her asking me these wonderful and specific questions about it while we stood there looking at it together. My parents did an amazing job educating me about art and they just really wanted me to be an artist. I know that [my family] will blindly support me no matter what. I say that from a place of incredible privilege and I’m very thankful for that. Also, I’m thankful for my family’s goofiness in general.

LJ: What are your current obsessions?

GM: Oh, yes! Here we go: anti-inflammatory diets, Phoebe Bridgers, reading Barron’s SAT vocabulary flashcards, following mid-century modern antique companies on instagram, my dog, Oscar Chavez’s show Fashion Nova Presents: Carpe DM at Chicago Artists Coalition, and of course, Dolly Parton.

If you want to find out more about Grace and her work you can visit her website or follow @gracemakuch on Instagram.

Alumni Highlight: Julia Arredondo

Every year, we welcome three amazing artists unfettered access to our studios through our unique Residency Program. We are excited highlight an alumni from this program, our 2015 Resident Artist, Julia Arredondo and share her post-Residency trajectory.

Julia Arredondo is an artist, writer, budding entrepreneur, and zine maker. She runs two publishing entities, Vice Versa Press and Curandera Press. Arredondo is originally from Corpus Christi, Texas and her mixed Latinx-Italo background has inspired a lifetime of exploration. She cut her chops early by making show flyers and organizing community events; and now she designs, creates, and produces artwork both for aesthetic and functional purposes.  She is currently pursuing her MFA at Columbia Chicago.

Angee Lennard (AL): What were you up to before your residency at Spudnik Press? Were you making lots of art or more in an incubation phase?

Julia Arredondo (JA): Before my Spudnik residency, I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with my Mom in rural Oklahoma. I like to consider my time in Oklahoma an incubation period, where I worked on my websites and developed the vision for my DIY business, Vice Versa Press. I documented old work, re-examined half-written zines, cooked meals for my Mom, cleaned. It wasn’t the most pleasant of times, which is why the residency provided me with such a pivotal opportunity for my practice. There was no future for me in Oklahoma.

AL: During your residency, your main project was developing the zine Guide to Being Broke & Fabulous. Can you talk about your goals for this project?

JA: I had been wanting to write Guide to Being Broke & Fabulous for at least a year. I’d done some time interning at Island Press in St. Louis (which is where the idea initially came to be) and traveling from residency to residency had provided me a life of freedom, but without much cushion and without any luxury. People always asked me how I was able to get around so efficiently, and I wanted Guide To Being Broke & Fabulous to detail the lifestyle that I had grown accustomed to but which was very foreign a concept to a majority of people. My goal was to express the lifestyle of instability, which I think a lot of people romanticize, but to express the ups and downs and the magic that is intertwined with the politics of cool and socio-economic disparity.

AL: Now that it’s been a few years since your residency, can you talk about if or how the Spudnik residency impacted your artistic trajectory?

JA: The residency pretty much put me back on track to having the art career that I worked so hard to attain. I’m still working at it, but the residency provided me with the space and tools necessary to see my vision through without having to pick up and go for the zillionth time. I’m still located in Chicago, and I attribute that to Spudnik Press completely. I’m pursuing my MFA at Columbia College and I’m part of a creative community that would have been near impossible to penetrate without the help of the Spudnik residency. The Midwest art circuit is insular in many ways; Spudnik Press welcomed me into the community, no questions asked.

AL: After your residency, you stuck around Spudnik as a studio artist and are now working towards a masters degree at Columbia College. You’ve mentioned how you’ve enjoyed “infiltrating academia.” Can you share a joy and challenge of heading back to school?

JA: Academia is full of opportunities and this I recognized early on having grown up in a poorer part of the country. Academia was my ticket out of the lifestyle that I had grown up in, and I didn’t want to struggle the way I had watched my family struggle in order to get by. Sure, I struggle in my own way, but the life I’ve chosen is pretty much that…MY choice. Academia has classist and racist tendencies which are obviously problematic, so it’s difficult at times navigating those spaces. And as a person without support from my family, getting a leg up in the art world seemed to require me to talk the talk even if I wasn’t born to walk the walk if you know what I mean. But I’m here regardless, here to infiltrate the bourgeois systems and have a decent time doing it.

My favorite part of going back to school is learning how to read again. I hadn’t realized that I’d lost so much focus in my artistic research practice.

AL: Your work includes DIY zines, punk fliers, craft, and fine art objects, and often it’s hard to tell what category to place your artwork. Is it important to you that these often isolated art forms are brought together? 

JA: Ugh I don’t know, I’m still struggling with all of my different practices that vary so widely. My answer to this dilemma is branding. I have Vice Versa Press, which began as a counter-cultural publishing entity but is transitioning into a lifestyle brand. I have Curandera Press, which is a web shop that specializes in handmade ritual and magic goods. And then I have Julia Arredondo, fine artist and designer looking to make the big bucks. Business is a huge part of my practice, and I’m trying to incorporate my making practices into a sustainable career.

AL: Speaking of sustainability, we recently were talking about the conflict between “punk economy” and sustainability and how value is perceived in different economies. Is your priority to find a way for your own economic sustainability? Or are you more focused on tinkering with these established value systems? 

JA: Hell yes my priority is carving out a sustainable career for myself. Otherwise I’ll be at the mercy of a global economy that places little value on labor by women and people of color. The odds are against me in that market! However, I’m also interested in exploring the alternatives that exist within our capitalist system and playing within that realm that is so incredibly oppressive. Maybe I’m here to troll. It’d be great to bank, but mostly I’m here to work and push boundaries–hopefully without going to jail. That is my real goal.

AL: Do you have any shows coming up soon? Where can people see your art in person?

JA: I’ll be exhibiting with Curandera Press at the Slow & Low lowrider fest in September, but I’m pretty much just working and reading and trying to center myself for the next big project I’m planning to release this year titled “Addicted to the Money”. It’ll be a poetry suite documenting my time working as a Sugar Baby. I’ve got plans to release a cassette tape this year, but I’ve gotta get back to my musical roots for that. It’s been a while. I’m currently off the grid for a month, so the best place to view my art right now is on Instagram via @cop_charmer_69@viceversapress, and @curanderapress.

Where can you read more about Julia?

The Overlook, June 2018
ReMezcla, December 2017
Bmore Art Blog, April 2016
Project Nerd, September 2015
Clocktower Radio, September 2015
Citypaper (Review of Baltimore Breakups), February 2015

Member Interview: Colleen Hardison

Colleen Hardison is a Chicago-based freelance illustrator. She graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design with a BFA in Illustration and moved to Chicago in the summer of 2015. Her illustrations and drawings are raw, dark and vivid, often making a subtle reference to current social and political issues. Her process is very iterative and often builds off of old sketches or evolves from a collage of her previous ideas. She works primarily out of her sketchbook, rendering drawings with ink pens and then developing them through illustrator, before deciding to print them out. She is currently learning how to incorporate screenprinting and risograph printing into her practice.

Manisha: How would you describe your work and what medium do you primarily work in?

Colleen: So I would describe my work as naïve and graphic. I like to use gouache, which is unfortunate because it’s really expensive. I also enjoy flat and inky things. When I first started school, I was focused on executing my renderings in a realistic style and worked primarily with oil paint. But then one of my professors at the time told me: “Great job, but this is boring. Your sketches are finals.” And that stayed with me because I like to work pretty fast and loose using a lot of colors.

Manisha: That’s something that caught my eye about your work. While it may be loose and painterly, it can be interpreted both as a work in progress or something that is finished.

Colleen: Yeah, because if I mess things up from the start, I don’t feel married to it so I can keep pushing the idea until I like it or just throw it out. Mostly I just throw it out. So I have a graveyard of scraps from previous sketches. I also like to work on five different things at once. What usually happens with most of my projects is that I draw something, thinking to myself “well, this looks good enough,” and then end up re-doing it until I’m happy with it. Or sometimes I scan my work and play with it in Photoshop. I like ink and Photoshop a lot. So I would say I work with a combination of the two. However, something that I do try to keep intact in all of my work is the initial sketchy feeling.

Manisha: Have you worked with any other forms of printmaking?

Colleen: When I was in school I tried etching and monotypes. I did a little bit of offset, which I really enjoyed. But because of the way my school was set up, you couldn’t be a print major and an illustration major. So I stopped printing at that time. Later when I found Spudnik I decided to become a member and take up printmaking again.

Manisha: Does your work deal with specific themes or subjects?

Colleen: I like the idea of combining two disparate things together as much as I can. I am also drawn to things that are goofy and childlike, but at the same time weird and a little off-kilter. For instance, I am a fan of outsider art and I like how things are unexpected, and sometimes brash.

Manisha: What kinds of things are you reading or looking at that are influencing your work right now?

Colleen: Right now I am looking at old tattoo flash art from the 40s. I keep a close eye on anything that strikes me as an odd quality in the sketches. In some ways, the tattoo flash art reminds me of American Folk Art and how artists then would create paintings and figuring things out as they went along. It’s all about the little imperfections for me. And on the opposite end of that, I am also studying Japanese woodcuts because they are so precise and mechanical. I am also looking at the way they separate colors and compose an image.

Manisha: Is there a project you are working on right now?

Colleen: I brought home a DIY silkscreen kit because I am trying to re-learn how to use screen filler and create a reductive print. Most of it is off-registration so of the twenty prints I made; I am happy with maybe just two of them. I’ve also been spending a lot of time adding new and interesting things to my portfolio. I’m at a stage where I am just forcing myself to draw and keep going. But I made something goofy this morning. My friend showed me this Facebook group called “Show Me Your Aspic”; aspic is similar to jello and the old term for gelatin. But it’s also a play on the more vulgar reference it’s making. So I made some art for that. It’s really kitschy and funny and I am obsessed with that stuff.

Colleen Hardison, a sketch for ‘Show Me Your Aspics,’ February 2018.

Manisha: There were two illustrations on your website that stood out to me because of the social message in them. One was called Serving Size and the other was called Bad Dog. Are those things that bother you or that you are consciously making work about?

Colleen: I’d say both. The Bad Dog piece was part of a larger series of work I did about child abuse. For this series, I was inspired by my interest in editorial illustration. I was focused on making something tangible out of a big idea. The Serving Size piece was for Tufts Magazine and it was about how portion sizes at Italian restaurants are inherently big. Those are just two takes on social issues that I try to represent in my style. But I do want to be an editorial illustrator someday so I constantly take up social issues and try to create images in response to them.

Colleen Hardison, ‘Serving Size,’ n.d.

Manisha: Do you have a pre-studio ritual?

Colleen: I linger. I linger a lot. I talk myself into it. Usually my pre-work routine is to watch a video of another artist doing something and then I’ll tell myself: “That’s what you could be doing if you weren’t sitting in your pajamas!” I have to psyche myself into it. I have this thing where my brain doesn’t turn on until nearly 10:00 p.m. at night. Sometimes I’ll draw something I enjoy, but most of the time I scrap it and then try again and it goes on. And that’s my process. It’s kind of insane.

A peek into Hardison’s sketchbooks from college.

Manisha: It feels like a frustrating writer process.

Colleen: It is annoying because sometimes I would have spent all day trying to come up with something and not accomplish anything. My process has never been easy.

Manisha: Did moving to Chicago influence your practice in any way?

Colleen: I like the artist community of Chicago and I want to be part of it. But occasionally, social anxieties get in the way. There are so many artists here and it’s overwhelming at times. It’s like being a freshman again and having to make new friends. But then this year I found spaces like Spudnik, and I pushed myself to try new things.

A selection of Hardison’s sketches.

Manisha: Where can people go to see you work?

Colleen: In April I am going to have my work up at Atomix Café in Chicago.

Manisha: And one last question. I know you love everything pastry. What would you say is your favorite kind of pastry stuffing?

Colleen: Ooh, oh there are so many. I love a buttery flaky outside and a really tart middle, maybe blackberry or raspberry. Something I didn’t experience until recently was Matcha. I think I got it in Chinatown and it was delicious!

If you want to find out more about Colleen or her work you can visit her website or follow dammitcolleen 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: Sula Medovoy

Sula Medovoy is a recent graduate of Ohio University with BFA’S in Graphic Design and Print Making. She currently is working as a graphic designer.

Tell us about yourself and what you do?

I’m Sula. I am a printmaker and graphic designer from Cleveland, Ohio. I’ve been in Chicago for one year, and am currently working as a graphic designer with a focus on packaging and branding.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career of art making?

I spent most of my life categorically against a career in art. My mother is a painter and my older sister is a graphic designer, so I wanted to defy that path and do something else. I was always an avid doodler, but avoided getting into any serious art-making until right before I had to apply to college. I realized then any other field would make me want to jump off a bridge after five years.

What is your favorite printing process and how were you introduced to it?

Screenprinting, by far. I saw it for the first time at university. I was primarily studying graphic design, and I didn’t know anything at all about printmaking. I ended up in the screen shop one evening, saw someone pull a print, and thought it looked like actual witchcraft. I decided I also wanted to be a witch.

It seems as though some of your art has some visual similarities to Western European post soviet illustrations. Has this influenced you at all?

Hugely. My parents are immigrants from the Soviet Union, so I grew up surrounded by Russian animations, children’s books, posters, etc. There’s a very specific but subtle visual humor in Western European art and media that I try to infuse into most of my work.

Your portfolio is very well rounded in the way it included fine art as well as more design oriented art. Do you prefer fine art or design oriented commissions? Why?

I’m drawn to design because I like visual problem solving. Even my “fine art” pieces are usually informed by some form of graphic challenge. I like what I can do with limitations.

You illustrate many goofy little characters, in your mind do all these characters live on the same planet in your mind or are they in separate entities?

All of my creatures exist in separate but comparable universes. Their paths will never cross.

Has the art community in Chicago had any affect on your success and the way you create art?

Living in Chicago has been a huge shift in my creative process. I studied art and design in Athens, Ohio, so I learned to eliminate trends and outside influences when thinking about art because it’s a more isolated area. Going from that to working in a big hip city gave me the best of both worlds, where now I can see how design functions in the world and think about my work in that context.

Are there any places in Chicago you find yourself going to when you are in need of inspiration?

I’m often drawn to the lake at night when I need to have a good thinking session. I enjoy a complete mental vacuum for coming up with ideas. Day to day, I look at branding and restaurant design around the city. I’ve also been talking to printmakers at various art festivals, seeing what their work set-up is like. I’m trying to build my own studio in a few years so I can lock down a hermit lifestyle.

What fun things do you find yourself getting into when you are not creating art?

I like biking around the city, and I’m also a bit of a pianist.

If you could have dinner with three artist who would they be?

I’ll try to choose artists that I’d imagine would be compatible with each other, so the conversation at the table isn’t awkward. Parra illustrates a bunch of voluptuous naked bird people. His work is sharp-witted, clean, and he is really good at contorting bodies.  Olga Capdevila’s work is very cozy and hilarious. Her style is colorful and nostalgic. Yoon Miwon makes deliciously clever hand-painted loop animations.

Who would you want to collaborate with after dinner?

Olga. She’s the sort of artist that isn’t so concerned with perfectionism, and is more interested in trying as many techniques as she can. I think it’d be neat to do a mural or a series of animations with her.

Are there any exciting projects you are working on now that we can expect to see in the near future? And if so where can we check them out?

I’m working on a huge lobster print right now. That should be ready in a little bit. I’ve also been developing my animation skills. Everything will eventually make its way to my website, sula.medovoy.com.

If you want to see more about Sula and her art. Visit her instagram, @sulaissula, or website , http://sula.medovoy.com/site/ .

 

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!

Member Interview: George Porteus

On Election Day 2016, I sprinted up to the Press to meet with Spudnik Press member and cartoonist George Porteus. I had the opportunity to meet George when he was a guest artist at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, in Kaylee Wyatt’s class. George greeted me with a large smile and his long bouncy hair, saying he was more than happy to be here at Spudnik to be interviewed. Wearing his, as he calls it, “iconic Grimace purple jacket”, George also kindly complimented the modest comic I gave him upon our last meeting.

Former Maryland resident and MICA graduate, 32 year old George Porteus packed up his drawing supplies and moved to Chicago, Illinois four years ago. Upon sitting down in Spudnik’s Annex, he brought up how crazy it was that four years prior he was voting in the 2012 election. Although George was a practicing printmaker and cartoonist before moving, he attributes a lot of his success to the opportunity-filled midwestern city in which he now lives. Despite the fact he has had a rough few past months trying to get to the press to print, George has in the past year debuted Enter to Exit at CAKE 2016 and is currently involved with many collectives within the city such as Zine Not Dead and Trubble Club.

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With an understanding of how financially, being an artist is always taking a risk, especially within publishing, George has a undeniable passion for making. Comics and self-publishing became his calling upon moving to Chicago. He credits Brain Frame performative comix reading for allowing him to be involved and truly understand how close knit we all are in Chicago.

Porteus: Brain Frame [was] place full of people where I felt where I belonged a little more than the outside world. My practice has been good ever since. It sorta oriented me in the right direction. Before that, artistically, I was um, I’ll say, unfocused with my efforts. I was drawing a lot but for no particular reason. So comics provided a really great context that requires very little, you know, prerequisite.

Howell: Totally!

Porteus: You don’t really need a degree. You don’t need anything more than a pen and paper and soon you wont even need that. Just an iPad pro or something like that.

Howell: What kinds of things are influencing your current body of work?

 

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Porteus: Well, since starting to do comics in earnest maybe four years ago, I had a very fixed idea of narrative things I wanted to explore with comics. I have been honoring that, getting a little more ambitious each year with the lengths of the stories and how complicated or involved they are. And also the dialogue; the first few one-page narrative pieces I did for Lumpen [Magazine] were more or less one-sided so it was like a monologue, or silent, devoid of dialogue. [I have been] trying to improve my story telling abilities with a representational straightforward comic style. [This style of comics] interested me before starting to make comics myself. [Comics] where the story, um, does not alienate people. Like I think about the Simpsons. It’s a high bar to reach! Its funny, it goes down easy, but there is typically something a little more to it than that! The ability to appeal to a general audience and not alienate them, while still being subversive is kind of the magic trick. That is a though that I have had for a long time, since high school. Parallel to that is the practice I have observed within the comics community in Chicago. Comics work that [is trying] to bend everything I have just talked about as far as narrative art.

Howell: Your work speaks on behalf of a more highbrow art form in my opinion. You use beautiful techniques you don’t see often in comics now a day.

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Porteus:  Actually it’s interesting because, you’re right, you don’t see that these days so often, but the technique I use I completely ripped off from Her Block and political newspaper cartoonist predating World War II. Bill Mauldin who was a cartoonist for Stars and Stripes; you look back and it was all ink and crayon, which is all I use. It echoes the lithographic feel, which is something I was always into. It clicked to start using a crayon because I could better refine pieces but it’s still very much from the cartooning well. I was very excited. It opened up a lot to me. Prior to that I was a compulsive cross-hatcher, and it just took up too much time. I was going to get arthritis very soon. It didn’t excite people or myself. It was very easy to ruin a drawing by cross-hatching. The fact that it took twice the time to ruin a drawing by cross-hatching made it a easy decision [to use a crayon].

Howell: I’m aware you a member of Trubble Club, Lumpen, and have worked for Newcity, so how has being in publications around the city influenced your work?

Poretus: Trubble club was a great. I lucked out encountering them early on. I started publishing in a bi-monthly publication that ran for two years called Landline. I picked up the first issue while I was a Pilsen kid in the scene and noticed every artist and musician I knew was in it. The first issue had an open call so I submitted some work, and they rejected it. I added in my submission if they needed any editorial illustration work for articles I would like that opportunity. They gave me an article to illustrate and it was published in the second issue. Grant Reynolds was included in the issue. He was a great voice for getting me involved with Trubble Club. Also, my good friend Ben Marcus vouched for me and opened the door for me to get involved, not like its the mafia or anything, since you must be invited to join. I got to meet Joe Tallerico who edits the Lumpen comic section, and does a fantastic job, and that’s how I became apart of that. Aaron Renier put me in his Infinite Corpse project within meeting him twice. These are incredibly generous people with these types of opportunities. The first pager I did for Joe was the first comic I had published anywhere. It was a big deal for me. It felt good to see my work in print. The backend path of cartooning has always been the struggle. Everything that happens with the art when you’re done making it is an uphill battle. I have always been grateful and blown away to see my stuff in print, in a real newspaper, like Lumpen. Getting over the fear of putting something [in the public eye] that felt unfinished or less than what I thought it should be was paramount to moving on with my life and career. I’m thankful for everyone who has published me at this point. I have read that no matter how big you are, it’s nice if people can look at the progression of your work.

Howell: Let’s talk more about community. Spudnik is a big co-op where people come to create and there are tons of cartoonist that are actively involve. Do you feel a specific draw to working within these essentially collaborative environments?

letstalk

Porteus: It was weird finding Brain Frame, walking into that room, because [collaboration] was not a need I had consciously recognized yet. I more or less put a premium on working in a bubble. Prior to that, I was not socializing with anyone doing anything related to what I was trying to do. In that way I never received useful or critical feedback. It was a vacuum. At that time I thought, “Oh I won’t be corrupted by other people or blended out by others style,” but I think now that was bullshit. I was rationalizing the position I was in. Once I found groups I could join, I was faced with the fact I couldn’t do anything without them. I really have benefited from people who are better at championing other sorts of art and other ways of working. Max Morris has just this massive comics library and private collection. He used to have parties where there was basically a giant pile of comics on the floor and we would spend a few hours talking, reading, and living comics. If you wanted to make comics, which was the absolute best place you could be. It was really easy to meet and talk to people that way. It’s a collegiate atmosphere and that is important! As much as you think, “I don’t need those things,” you absolutely do

Howell: Who are some printmakers who you are reading and looking at currently?

Porteus: A lot of local artist. Occasionally national artist will break through to me. As is in keeping with a lot of my other interest, I look into the past a lot for influence. Previously, I brought up Her Block. Newspaper cartoonists from between WWI and WWII also influence me, but also pre Comic Code and pulps stuff is a huge influence on me. I also really love jazz music and record covers, which is very cliché for comic artist these days. I’ve been looking at Blue Note record covers from the 70’s. I’ve been into things that have been flattening the cartoonist library and trying to mess with that so it’s no longer about conveyance, but something more. Local people like Jessica Campbell. She just released a new book…

Howell: I adore Jessica!

Porteus: Her work is always operating on many levels. Andy Burkholder remains a guy who I’m always impressed with, especially in terms of messing with vocabulary. That dissonance is what I’m very attracted to. The Zine Not Dead guys, Bred Press and Perfectly Acceptable. They are picking up the Brain Frame torch. You need to bring people together. It’s very important.

Howell: I feel like there is this missing step between people who make a living from comics and us. There is a dissonance I have been struggling with upon entering this world of comics. Everyone is very loving and open to give feedback, as long as said feedback is never negative towards the artist. Why is everything seemingly so unspoken?

Porteus: Both Chris Ware and Art Spiegelman are quick to say, “Oh I never expected to make a living off comics and I don’t recommend it” as they recoup many befits from having done what they say is completely impossible. Part of the nepotism within the upper crust of alternative comics is caused by the tiny patch of land that a lot people are fighting over. People are very nice while also extremely competitive. I remember fondly the second time I met Anya Davidson. She told me “I checked out your stuff,” and that was it. There was a conspicuous missing second part to that sentence, and that says she’s really good! I thought that was really cool. She’s not putting her opinion out there she will later regret. Now I’m hungry to impress Anya Davidson.

Howell: What is advice you would give to people just beginning to self-publish?

Porteus: Don’t be afraid to really put work out there, but always be honest with yourself about what you’re putting into it. It will always take more than it gives back, but most artists I know wear this as a point of pride. I’m all about self-righteousness. Work really hard! [laughs] Have that be enough. It won’t matter what happens externally because you will be proud of the work you have done. In my mind that is my fail-safe. At the same time, never be afraid to show people. I think the only way to improving visibly is by doing.

You can find George printing at Spudnik and selling work at Quimby’s, CAKE, and other various zine fest and comic events around the city.

 

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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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!