Artist Interview: Summer Pierre

Summer Pierre (Brooklyn, NY, USA) is a talented artist and illustrator (plus writer and musician to boot – Her creative energy makes me dizzy!)

I am so thrilled to be able to share this interview with Pikaland readers as Summer has a great deal of goodness to share both within her art itself, and through her eloquent and moving responses to the interview questions.

If ever you needed somebody to give you a push in the right direction, I think Summer’s your lady!

Website: www.summerpierre.com
Blog: summerpierre.wordpress.com
Etsy | Flickr

Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cook Book

Hi Summer, how are you? Could you tell us a little about yourself and your art/illustration work? Are you working on anything at the moment that you could tell us about?

I am an artist, writer, and musician, although right now I am doing way more art and writing than music. I am the author and creator of two books, The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week and Great Gals: Inspired Ideas for Living a Kick-Ass Life. My hobbies are yearning and soul searching.

I am currently working on several illustration projects and a bigger life project I call 100 Things in 2011, where I am trying to do as many items as possible from a list of 100 things I want to do/experience in 2011.

german chocolate cake

I thought I’d begin by asking, since inspiration and ‘the everyday’ seem to me to be a huge part of your work; what is your art/work space like, and what images or objects keep you company on the walls/surfaces?

I used to have a narrow studio in our apartment, but then my son came along and now his crib is where my desk used to be. So now I have a corner of our bedroom where my desk, which is an old door on filing cabinets fits perfectly. I have a clothesline of pictures and objects that hang above it—including a sign I made for myself that says SUMMER PIERRE HEADQUARTERS. I have old photos, my own prints hanging, and I collect vintage looking food packaging and surround myself with it.

How do your surroundings/environment, and your attention to the details of them, affect your art and creativity?

How do they NOT affect my creativity? My home life, as in my apartment, is pretty colourful and lively and I love that it feels like an ever-evolving extension of my creativity. Where I live in Brooklyn is really becoming more and more a part of my visual language—I love the many cultures and how it shapes even what our grocery store is stocked with. I love the different streets and the architecture. I have always been a very visual person—and this can be wonderful and stimulating as much as it can be overwhelming and exhausting. Right now, it feels wonderful.

miranda

What is your artistic history? How did you get started, and how long have you been creating art, embracing your creativity, and working towards developing your current style and output?

Well, I’ve been drawing since I was very very little. This part isn’t unusual, but I guess the unusual part is that I just kept going. Then I started writing as a kid and in college I started playing music and writing songs. I would say that even though I have been doing it a long time and identifying myself as an artist, it has been a long and rocky road of finding my voice and sticking with it. Creating the books changed my output considerably—they were valuable teachers in trusting my vision and it’s just kept coming and growing since then.

How easily did learning to draw come to you?
Do you think drawing, and art in general is something that becomes easier the more you practice and the more you do?

Like I said, I’ve been drawing since I was very small and I was always good at it, but there have always been people better than me, so I never felt REALLY good at it. I went through a long phase of drawing on the side while I wrote & played music, then I kind of came back to it like an old friend and the more I did, the better I got. I am a STRONG believer that the more you do, the better you get. This has been true for me with all three of my mediums, but none more striking than drawing. I have actually been toying with doing a blog entry about this very subject—showing some of the earlier drawings I did when I got back to drawing vs. the more current ones—just so people can see you can grow, you just have to keep at it. Honestly, part of doing is gaining trust in yourself. The more you do, the more trust you will have in your abilities.

Eggs

What techniques and materials do you employ most often in your art and illustration work?
Journal, pencil, pen. Then I use the scanner and design software to color in.

I know that you have a background [and to some extent it is still a current medium for you] in zine making, and self-publishing (e.g your zines such as ‘Artist in The Office’, and ‘Forgive Me: One Page Stories’, and your self-published calendars of great women.)

What is your history in independent self-publishing and zine culture – how did you get in to it?

I always made homemade books when I was a kid and the desire to make zines is the same desire I had as a kid—to see my ideas take form in something real that you can hold. I stopped doing this for a long time until I started making one-page stories as a thing to do in a creative slump. I had 30 of them and then made them into a zine. I got that feeling of seeing something of mine outside of me again and I was hooked. Whoever invented the copy machine, my hands to you! I love reading other people’s zines for the same reasons I love to make them—they are personal, arty, and real. I always feel less lonely when I read a zine.

grocery store faves

How and why did/do you self-publish your artwork within zines and other self-published ventures?

Because I wanted to make something “real” and I wanted to see it immediately. Also, I didn’t know how else to produce anything.

As an artist what role did (does?) self-publishing hold for you, your ideas, and your art work? And do you think zines are a good way to share art, to display art, and to reach (new?) audiences or artistic communities?

Oh my golly, how much time do you have? I think zines are more important to me than ever. I love publishing books and will never sneeze at a chance to get my work out there in the formal way of publishing, but zines are powerful, simple ways to make one’s work real and outside of your head. It’s also something you can make without a sales team, editorial committee, or anything else that might curb your vision or idea—all things that you do encounter when working with a publisher. No idea is too small for a zine and no one is going to tell me, “there just isn’t a market for this,” or “you don’t have a name, so who cares?” I will continue making zines as long as there are copy machines! I absolutely think they are a great first step to going from idea to book. Zines will teach you how to do it! Then you get to trade them or mail them to other people who get to read them and share their ideas. I can’t say enough good things about zines.

Based on your original zine, a book has now been published, The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week collecting together interviews with working artists and artists working. It has been described as, ‘An inspirational, interactive book for any artist living in the real world […] encouraging small acts of creativity and a simple shift of perspective to help readers bring their artistic selves into the workplace and thrive in all aspects of their lives.’

Either from your own experience(s), or those of your interviewees, what would your top tips be for people struggling to juggle their daily commitments/day jobs with their creative endeavours?

Give yourself a break from the pressure and think small. Write a page, not a novel.
Consider your art a legitimate job and that you are in fact juggling TWO jobs.
Always keep in mind what you ARE doing, and don’t focus so much on what you aren’t. Acknowledge the work you do, the life you have, the reasons you work, etc.

Also, Ayun Halliday said this in my interview with her, which I think is so right on:

“Remember that it’s ultimately your fault if you end up frittering away those precious non-job hours. Don’t spend them all on the internet, or in front of some video. Take your work to a coffeehouse (and forget about your facebook page while you’re there). Then, when it’s done, don’t let timidity, or other people’s indifference consign it to a drawer. Self-publish and sell it yourself too. Hang it on street signs. Provide free entertainment on a busy corner. Even though I spend a lot of time wishing that I had cohorts, handlers, yes men, and fairy godmothers, I do derive enormous satisfaction from looking back and realizing that the finished product wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t participated so fully.”

More recently you have published ‘Great Gals: Inspired Ideas for Living a Kick-Ass Life’ which is based on the illustrated calendars of great women that you produced for six years.
As well as being packed with optimism, affirmation, ideas and inspirational figures for (predominantly female) readers to hopefully take something from, the main crux of the book is a series of portraits of women that you find inspirational.
In creating such a visual documentation and celebration of women’s lives, and in bringing womens history and female achievement to life, how important to you is the project in terms of activating and connecting us with the past, the present, and helping to make sure that there will be a future which contains such creative and pioneering female action and activity?

I do hope the book introduces people the readers might not have known about before and connects them with a larger sense of being part of a long tradition: the human condition. I am not so worried about women continuing to be powerful participants in the future. I am more worried about how much we, as women (and let’s face it, men too), lose our current lives to worry, to overwhelm, to a sense of inadequacy so that we don’t participate in the NOW fully.

In an interview you once gave the following advice to others wanting to pursue their creative goals: ‘PLEASE DO IT NOW. You will never be adequately prepared, or have time to get ready to live your dreams. Start now. Also, if you work to create the world you love, people will respond.’

How did you first learn this lesson yourself?

I can’t remember the first time I learned the part about doing it now and not later—there have been so many times! I think one of the first inklings to this idea is when I took a writing class with a long time idol, someone who I had worshipped a far, and I secretly hoped she would anoint me into whatever magical world I believed she inhabited. It was a 5-day class and she never once learned my name! It was devastating, but powerful. It was the first time I got it: no one is going to anoint you, you’re never going to hit the perfect time to start, or meet the right person to give you permission—whatever it is you are hoping for to happen so that you are ready is not coming. You should consider yourself ready now.

carol shields

The world you love part came to me with The Artist in the Office. Once I acknowledged what I was living and loving, it turned out there were so many people out there who were also living it and would love to know about. Coming from a place of THIS IS WHAT WORKS is so much more powerful than coming from a place of lack—and most of us do come from a place of lack. Shifting it to the positive can be a profound way of shifting perspective and a way to feel more able to do what you want to do.

By making statements such as the above quote, and by producing books such as Great Gals it maintains my belief that in your work there is a strong idea of us as individuals building our own existences ourselves everyday, and taking or forming individual ownership of our own worlds.

How do you think creativity and artistry can promote this idea?

I think creativity and artistry at its very basic level can often give voice to things we didn’t know how to say elsewhere. It has the potential to speak truths about ourselves and the world in profound and direct ways. With that in mind, it can only help us understand and name our experience. So much of life can be quietly passed without a thought or urgency—but it’s all we have. Creativity is the exact opposite of this—it wakes us up and engages us with our very lives.

In relation to the above question, something that I find and feel in your work is the overwhelming positivity, hope, inspiration and affirmation. Whether this be passing on positive messages and ideas, the sharing of your own creative journeyings and plans, the encouragement of individuals, or the sharing and belief in the notions of ‘doing’ and ‘being’.
Why is it important to you to pass on these good vibes?

Well, I try to come from a place of creating what I most want to find myself. This is especially true with the blog and my two books. My compulsion to share whatever it is I am learning myself is out of a need and a hope to find it myself.

apples and oranges

The work that I respond to the most is work that is honest and true and that’s what I hope I come across as. If people find comfort in that, or see themselves in that experience, I am utterly grateful. I will say that a theme I have in my work, which I hope people do pick up on, is that I think its not enough just to be comforted or to be inspired by someone else—it can get you only so far. Eventually, if you want real change you have to acknowledge yourself and your own experience as valid, as worth your attention and your inspiration. You are your own catalyst.

Have you always had people in your corner to support your artistic ventures and to tell you it’ll be ok?

Yes and no. I’ve always been seen as an artist by both friends and family, which has been great, but that hasn’t always meant being supported. Like everyone else I have had to manage expectations, challenges, and sometimes outright discouragement.
Like a lot of people, I have found the people who mirror back to me not just my artistic worth, but my worth as a human—and that has been more valuable to me than anything.

*_I find it interesting how and where people gain access to their own confidence, and self-belief. Particularly in terms of how they are able to produce and create with a sense of assurance, belief and certainty, or taking the leap to making art their central focus.
What is your personal relationship with confidence?_*

Oh, THAT. I have struggled MIGHTILY with confidence and thought that if I just had x, y, or z I would be confident. Nope. It didn’t work. I think I am just now realizing that confidence is really self-trust. If you trust yourself, you are confident. I am feeling and learning this every day more and more these days—it’s a new experience for me, but I want to recommend it to everyone! Trust yourself, people! You’ll just feel better if you do!

Change

From illustrating your favourite cakes and your favourite books/cook books, to illustrating all the things you love about your city at the moment, it seems that there is a strong desire for you to put at the centre of your art all the things that you love. By doing this, and by focussing on your favourite things could you imagine your art ever becoming a chore, or by doing this does it become a delight for you?

I can imagine it becoming a chore because it has been a chore in the past—-so why not the future? The thing is about the creative life (and I am going to forget this as soon as I write this down) is that there are times you are full of love and ideas and flowing like the Mississippi river and then there are times when you are in a drought so bad, that anything presented to you is just HARD. WORK. Each time either of these things happen, you are convinced that you will never feel otherwise again. Just you wait! Love always helps, and I am overflowing right now with creating from all the lists of what I love, but I also know this is the rainy season and the dry season will come again.

I read you say recently that ‘There is SO MUCH I want to capture, draw, investigate visually on any given day’. As testiment to this, over the years you have produced many voracious one-a-day style illustration projects, and have created lists of creative goals you wish to achieve that are ticked off as you are successful.

Do you think there is a power in making art everyday, finding creativity in everyday things, making our every day creative, and allowing people to see the creative potential of their lives?

Yes, absolutely. I am a big yearner—I am always pining for the far away & the yet to be attained—so creating from a place of what’s in the now, what you have has been a powerful spell breaker to my tendency to yearn. Also, I am a big procrastinator, so doing something quick and in the now is a powerful way to create more impetus to show up again and again.

I know this is the sort of question that ‘Artist In The Office’ hopes to provide answers to; but personally, how do you manage your time in order to devote as much time as you’d like to your art, especially since you have a young baby?

I think small. What can I do in the next 15 minutes? What can I do with the time I have? That’s also why I work from lists—I never have to think about ideas or ask, “now what was it I wanted/needed to do?” I always have something to work from. Thinking small, putting away the computer, having a running list are ways that I get things done. Having a baby has dried up a lot of that I just need to get in the mood—I have time now, so I am doing it now whether I feel in the mood or not. Having a baby has been a hard adjustment, but in some ways I fantastic task maker.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

You seem to maintain a pretty prolific outpouring of ideas, projects and creativity. Other than your obvious love for making art everyday, what is it that makes you burst with energy, keeps you inspired enough to keep going, and makes you want to continue being an artist?

I have a truism that goes like this: acting on your ideas creates room for more ideas. This is totally true for me. The more I do, the more I want to do. This is why lists and the crossing off items works for me. I see progress and I just want to do more. As far as wanting to be an artist—love. I love creating, I love engaging with the world. I love dancing with experience through drawings, writing, and music. It is the most profound and long lasting relationship of my life.

Which contemporary artists and illustrators do you currently loving?
Stefan Sagmeister
Ray Johnson
Dora Carrington
Maira Kalman

Artist interview: Sara Guindon

Sara Guindon (USA) is an amazing illustrator, animator, paper-puppet maker, and one half of the creative duo Pin Pals (alongside Samantha Purdy).

Sara Guindon

Blog: missguindon.blogspot.com
Website: saraguindon.com
Pinpals Blog: thepinpals.typepad.com/
Shop: etsy.com/shop/thepinpals

Hi Sara, how are you? What are you up to at the moment?
Hey! I’m doing well. I’m typing my answers in a really good neighbourhood coffee shop. At home I’m working on some rough illustrations for a children’s book about a loon.

How did you first get started in art, is it something that you’ve always been interested in and excelled at?
When I was little I used to sit outside my mom’s aerobic classes at the Y with a big shoe box of markers and lose myself doodling. I was always a big daydreamer and liked to make up stories and draw them out. My mother draws and encouraged me from a young age so it’s always been something I was interested in.

Sara Guindon

How long have you been creating art, embracing your creativity, and working towards developing your current style and output?
Throughout art school I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with myself. I stopped drawing all together and became more interested in contemporary art and design. In my last year I started drawing more and that is probably when I really started drawing the way I do now, in around 2004.

Your current exhibition, Nightcap, is soon to come to a close at the Assemble Gallery in Seattle. The show pieces looked so great! How has the exhibition been?
Nightcap was a lot of fun! I really wish that I could have gone to Seattle for the opening. It was exciting to show my work so far away in the USA and the ladies at Assemble are the bee’s knees.

Sara Guindon

I read that a lot of the ‘Nightcap’ exhibited work is ‘a collection of collaged drawings depicting loners, drifters & night owls experiencing silent intimacy with one another or with the artificially lit world that surrounds them’, and I got to thinking, does such work mimic the life of you as an artist? Is art creation for you a process of solitary or lonely pursuit?
Around the time of my show at Assemble I was going through a particularly lonely time. We had just moved to Denver and we were adjusting to a new city where we didn’t know a soul. I was feeling displaced and especially shy. On top of that, I went from working in a studio with others to working from home. That circumstance may have contributed to my description of the show. A lot of the settings and imagery I use are from my past. The first memories that come to mind right now are a lot of waiting around in donut shops and bus stations when I was younger. I like those places where you can be surrounded by people and still be alone, I find it really comforting. I guess you can apply that thought to most situations in life but certain places bring that feeling out for me more than others.

You regularly use collage and mixed media within your work, and I read somewhere that a large portion of your time is spent drawing, painting, cutting-up illustrations and putting them back together again. What is it about these techniques and mediums that most suits you? Do you love the process of working in these mediums? What stages, from start-to-finish does a typical piece of your work go through, and over what time frame?
I like a lot of ephemeral things like comics, food packaging and the mascots and cartoons on its labels, and I like the fragility of paper. Watercolour and gouache suit me because they’re light and seemingly less permanent than acrylics, like stains that fade. My process is kind of random and I have a really hard time planning a piece exactly. I need to draw little bits and see them placed together first. I often spend a long time on drawing parts that don’t end up working out, so I have a box of random heads, wheels, shoes and other silly things. I like my process, I’m not always sure what I’m going to get in the end, but I enjoy watching a piece come to life. It’s hard to say how long it takes me because I’ll work on a few pieces at a time, some take too long and some are not so bad.

Sara Guindon

I’ve always wondered about collage and mixed media… do you find that working in this way frees you up from certain pressures of perfection over the piece as a whole, since you can cut away and re-add or reposition aspects of the work before it is complete, in a way that is not possible when working in alternative mediums, such as straight canvas work? Do such elements of experimentation and reduced demands for immediate perfection suit you well as a person and as an artist? I know for sure that for me, being faced with a blank canvas to ‘get right’ first time would prevent me from feeling creative at all.
I definitely find it easier. I need to be relaxed when I’m drawing, if I’m feeling hesitant or uptight things get all stiff and it doesn’t look right. Whenever I work on a piece as a whole, as one flat drawing, it seems to lose something. I also like that when working with smaller parts each piece has my full attention.

I am completely in love with the dresses and other clothing that Supayana has made using your illustrations printed onto cloth. Did you ever imagine people would we wearing your art? How did the project come about?
Aw, thanks. I love Yana’s clothes too! We’ve been neighbors in plenty of Montreal craft fairs and eventually became friends. I think the Pin Pals have always felt a special kinship with Supayana because we both have an appreciation for thrifting and nostalgia. Yana and I decided that it would be fun to collaborate on a project. She makes these adorable tops and dresses using thrifted scarves and bandanas. I made some illustrated bandanas and had them printed with Spoonflower and Yana worked her magic. I love that there are cute ladies wearing my drawings.

Sara Guindon

Not so long ago you moved from Montreal to Denver. Have you noticed differences in the art scenes/cultures between these two locations?
Denver is definitely different from Montreal. It’s hard for me to describe the Denver Art and Culture scene since I haven’t been here too long. So far the way that I’d describe Denver is that there are a lot of old cars, old bars and food trucks that sell biscuits and green chili (not together) and there are some great thrift shops and really adorable turn of the century houses. Trains “choo choo” through the city all night long and there is a bar with leather booths and a juke box where they give you a free shot and a single rose with your drink, that’s my kind of city 🙂

I don’t know if you’ve been there long enough to know yet, but are there any Denver, Colorado artists, events, galleries, projects, magazines (etc) that particularly excite you right now?
I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t explored Denver galleries too much yet. I know that there is a lot going on here and I can’t wait to discover new artists. There is a sweet craft shop in my neighborhood called Fancy Tiger and they offer free craft nights where you can craft, chat and snack with a fun bunch. Craft night kept me sane when I was going through intense periods of isolation.

Sara Guindon

Now that you’ve moved to Denver, how is your arts and crafts collaborative project, Pin Pals, working, long-distance? Could you explain what Pin Pals is all about and what you’ve got up your sleeves?
The Pin Pals are a business that I run with Samantha Purdy. Sam cross-stitches and I draw and we’ve been collaborating and selling crafts together since 2005. The long distance has been an adjustment for us. Things have definitely slowed down on my end, since the Pin Pals are Montreal based. We’re working on a new plan for the future but it’s hard to say how things will turn out right now. I really miss being in the same city. We had a lot of good times hustling to make deadlines and rewarding ourselves with balti paneer and wine at our favourite restaurant in Montreal.

I love that your work has been described as incorporating ‘mature women with great hairdos and smart outfits’, that your work is ‘inspired by grocery stores and tan-coloured nylons’, and that you expect to be ‘creating scenes that include more discount bins, vending machines and anything bottled and canned in the near future’. If I wasn’t already in love with your work, I’d have fallen head over heels with it from those descriptions alone! How important is ‘the familiar’/’the everyday’, and such daily observation to your art work?
The familiar and everyday are important to my work. I also like movies, and productions that are fake or put on. A lot of my work is inspired by memories and objects and since I piece it together, I approach my drawings as if they were a set or a play, in that way they’re less everyday. Cans, nylons and vending machines are inanimate objects, yet they bring about feelings of emotion for me. They remind me of scenes from real life and ones acted out in movies. I guess I’m a sentimental drama queen.

Sara Guindon

There’s a strong feel of nostalgia about your work, whether it be the tones and hues, the materials used, or your subjects and their clothing/style. As such I find your work to be really approachable and it gives me somewhat of a warm feeling. Are aspects of nostalgia, vintage materials/techniques/sources, and folk art important inspirations to you and to the style and sort of work you wish to produce?
Most of the things I surround myself with are second-hand. Vintage children’s book illustration and craft books from the 60’s and 70’s are definitely a source of inspiration for me. Lately, I love getting lost on YouTube and watching older music videos from all sorts of genres. I’m inspired indirectly by a lot of random stuff.

One of my favourite aspects of your work are your paper dolls and paper puppets. Where did your interest in dolls and paper puppetry come from, and when did you first start making your own?
I’ve always liked having toys and dolls around. I started making paper puppets back in school, probably as a result of working in pieces. I brought some to a zine fair to sell a few years back and I haven’t stopped since.

Sara Guindon

Some of your paper puppets have appeared in animations you’ve made. How did you get in to animation, and what sorts of animations have you produced?
Animation seemed to make sense for me as the next step from paper puppet making. My first animation was produced by the NFB as a part of an amazing internship that I did there called the Hothouse. Last year I made another short from home called Dropkin with the help of some talented musicians and with some funding from the NFB.

How do you manage your time in order to devote as much time as you’d like to your art?
That was always an issue for Sam and I with Pin Pals. We loved our business but we wanted to work on our own art work too. It’s to justify spending time on art when money is tight. Luckily, my hours were pretty flexible and I could devote certain days to personal projects. My house gets pretty messy at times but I try to squeeze in as much work as I can.

What’s your relationship to confidence, with regards to making and sharing your art?
I feel more confident now than ever with my artwork but putting myself out there has always been a challenge. I’ve never been good with the business side of things.

Sara Guindon

I’m presuming that (like most artists) you make art because you like doing it, and you’re good at it – so, what do you do on the days when the art doesn’t come easily to you – how do you fight off creative blocks, and/or are there any rituals or routines that get you into work mode?
Moving usually helps. Sometimes I go for a walk or a bike ride or I’ll turn on some nineties hip hop and do a few rounds of aggressive air punching. Reading art, fashion and illustration blogs on the internet is always a help. And I can’t forget thrift shopping; I recently bought an amazing hairdo book that I’m looking forward to sketching from.

What gives you the incentive/confidence/push to continue making your art?
It’s too late to turn back now!

What’s in the pipeline for you for the rest of 2011?
I’ll be drawing loons for a little while and I have a few fun projects in mind for the Pin Pals. I’m also planning to get some new work together for another show hopefully in the fall.

Artist interview: Kristyna Baczynski

Kristyna Baczynski (Leeds, UK) is an illustrator and creator of small-press sequential art projects; drawing, screenprinting and animating creatures, cartoons and comics. I’m lucky enough to live in the same city as her and have been able to see first-hand a lot of her crazy-talented work.

Kristyna Baczynski

Kristyna is a firm believer in her tried-and-tested technique of listening to Chromeo and/or Kiss on headphones and taping pens to her hands in order to banish creative blocks – thank goodness, as she’s got a lot of talent to let loose from those hands!

She’s is currently exhibiting work at the group show, Over Them Hills at Common (Manchester, UK) until May 12th 2011.

Blog: kriskicorp.blogspot.com
Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/kriski

Hey Kristyna, how are you? Are you currently working on anything you could tell Pikaland readers about? I get the feeling you have lots on your plate and up your sleeve at any one time?
Yes, currently working on a jumble of projects (your hunch was right). I’ve been painting the walls at Common in Manchester (UK) this week for an exhibition called Over Them Hills which runs until May 12th. It’s a really talented group of Leeds (UK) artists involved; Matt Saunders/Rabbit Portal, Fon/The Pern and Lord Whitney. I am also contributing to a few more comics collections/anthologies and will have a comic strip out globally on Free Comic Book Day – but can’t really say any more than that. I also just opened my Etsy store this month, too.

Kristyna Baczynski

What was your favourite project that you worked on last year? (You seemed so busy, productive and prolific in 2010)
The whole year just ramped up in activity as it went on, a little art shuttle rocketing off into the unknown. So much came my way; incredible people and projects.

I’ll have to make this selection more than one, though. Indecision is a terrible affliction. My favourites would certainly be contributing to Issues 2 and 3 of Solipsistic Pop and my debut solo show From Pictures To Houses. Being asked to speak on the Self Publishing Masterclass panel at Thought Bubble was just magical, too.

What is your artistic history? How did you get started, and how long have you been creating art, embracing your creativity, and working towards developing your current style and output?
From building toys and scribbling in colouring books as a little girl, to reading comics and painting terribly as a teenager, drawing and making have always been things that I loved to do. It may have all started with the Crayola carrycase my mum got me when I was 7. But, continuing to make habitually through to adulthood means I’ve kept exploring pictures and found my own process.

I started taking illustration more seriously after I decided not to follow my original plans for a further education in BioChemistry (The UCAS form was filled, clutched awkwardly in my ink-stained, sweaty palms) and jumped ship to set sail for creative shores.
Through University I worked hard and developed my addiction to productivity, then after graduating I’ve worked harder and harder to keep improving.

Why do you create? What is it about being creative that makes it something important for you to do?
Creating is an absolute necessity. It makes me happier and more satisfied than anything else. It’s an addictive cycle of learning and achieving, criticising and improving. Being creative may well be a learning process, but you should never stop learning. There is an infinity of knowledge and information to discover about the world.

I’m often overwhelmed by how much I will never see, but by equal measure remain perpetually fascinated. Being creative can translate this wonder into something very personal and unique to you and means you can be continually engaged with the world by interpreting it into something completely new.

Kristyna Baczynski

How easily did learning to draw well come to you? I recently read a theory that says no one is born able to draw well but that some people just pick it up quicker than others, and run with it.
I’m sure this theory is absolutely true. Most people use pens to communicate through writing every day. Drawing is an extension of that communication. A pen nib migrating to the page margins for a quick doodle – This is just the start!

A lot of people discourage themselves by being too judgmental of what they think ‘drawn well’ looks like. Just change the standards by which you measure this. You don’t have to be able to draw a photo-realistic still life to make beautiful pictures. Someone like Jeffrey Brown, who has a loose, immediate drawing style, still makes compelling images that tell funny, moving stories. His style isn’t technically challenging – simply black pen on paper – but he achieves perfectly wonderful pages of drawn comics.

Don’t be put off by expectations and keep drawing every day.

I’d like to ask about the sorts of stuff you like; what images keep you company in your studio / place(s) of work, for inspiration?
I am a book junkie and hardened collector, so my studio is bulging with visual stimuli. It is also rapidly reducing in size as the walls are continually layered with more shelves, prints, books and oddities.

Lets do a 360 swivel and pick out a selection…
So, at 12 o’clock we have: a memo board with giant Cilla Black and speech bubble uttering inspirational reminders. At 2 o’clock is a collection of Metropolis film posters and 1920’s postcards. At 3 o’clock hangs a Japanese embroidery of birds and cherry blossom, with a James Downing (COUK) illustration perched underneath. At 6 o’clock we have the Vinyl Will Kill card set and a myriad of Ukrainian wooden toys. 8 o’clock might be my favourite – comics bookshelf topped with a 1996 Charles Burns calendar found at Lambiek (mega-cool Amsterdam comics emporium). Onto 10 o’clock which is a collection of framed owl pictures, a bakelite tray and harlequin wall hanging. Back to the centre… woo, a little dizzy here.

Kristyna Baczynski

How would you describe your artistic techniques and materials; what processes does your work go through to reach a ‘finished product‘?
What role does computer technology play in your art work?
Have you always worked in this way?
My technique is quite traditional. I start with a sketch, draw a few more until I’m happy. Then draw bigger, to an appropriate size/composition depending on where it will end up. Then I outline and ink the sketch onto paper using a home-made lightbox that gets pretty warm and cosy. Inked drawing is finished and scanned, then digitally colour it in Photoshop.

My computer is a secondary tool and comes after drawing to colour and finalise. It is essential though, as almost all of my work is sent around and compiled digitally (for papers, books and zines).
I haven’t always worked this way – I used to be very faithful to painting and drawing, using analogue ways of reproduction (photocopies, printmaking). I used to think that computer aided/generated art had an aesthetic of it’s own and feared it would influence my own drawing style. But as my body of work and confidence grew I wanted to move on and broaden my skill set, so began to venture into the digital playground. Keeping my right hand in the ink well, I dipped my toe into electronic waters.

Processes migrate and expand as you keep working – I’ve started using Illustrator and am learning After Effects, both computer based programs, but equally I want to continue learning traditional printing techniques. There is a place for both, you have to try them to see what works.

You hold a first class arts degree. Does your art education play a key role in the artworks that you create today?
How crucial do you think arts education is to creativity, and yours in particular?
My degree really set me off on my way to being an illustrator. It affords you 3 years to saturate yourself in art and learning, and I loved how much I developed during that time.

However, I have progressed more since graduating, working even harder and being more focused. I’ve built on the things I tried out at University, but my portfolio now is 95% new work.
University is a great start, but it is what happens after that is crucial. When you’re on your own, making your own decisions and being your own critic – that’s when I really blossomed. I was also very poor and sad a lot of the time, but you’ve got to work past that!

Kristyna Baczynski

How important are narratives to your artwork? I ask this as I find that your work is very often involved in story-telling, or introducing fantastic characters.
I love stories and history, especially how this relates to characters.
In illustrations I enjoy adding detail to build the feeling and personality of a character; visual clues and hints that suggest a narrative.

This is probably why I like comics so much, as they can push the storytelling part of illustration even further. Through both these media the most important thing is that anything is possible. You can create any kind of creature, that has a history of its own and can go on to act out its illustrated fate, whatever that might be.

I first came across your art work via your small-press sequential art projects (comics and zines). Where did your skills and interest in illustration and comics come from – did you grow up enjoying comics and cartoons?
How and when did you first start making your own comics?
Cartoons were the spark, definitely. Ren & Stimpy, Penny Crayon… actually, just mix those two up and it’s pretty close! I’ve always had an affinity for animation, it is just magic. Completely created worlds and characters, gripping stories to boot. Comics are very similar; drawn stories that happen through time. I got into indie comics a little later on, when I started working in Leeds in my teens, then got hooked.

I made a few comics at University, alongside animation, but only started self-publishing once I had graduated. When you’re at University you have an outlet to show your work, other students are your arena. At first, after leaving Uni it’s just you in your bedroom, that platform disappears and you have to find a new one. I braved Thought Bubble and made some comics and zines, which confirmed it was a damn fine thing to keep doing.

Kristyna Baczynski

Do you think comics/zines are a good way to share art, to display art, and to reach (new?) audiences or artistic communities?
Absolutely! They are small, sweet mini-books that are taken away by their audience. If you were sharing your art by hanging on walls, behind glass you immediately remove your audience, limit where and how they see your work. With zines and comics your audience gets to keep your art, spend time with it, stash it in their satchels and physically hold it.

By selling my own work as well as exhibiting and publishing I get to meet the people who want to see it and also other artists that do the same. This has been a way to meet so many amazing artists and cool comics buffs, which is more than good.

Have you employed skills learned via self-publishing/ DIY publishing (skills perhaps of networking; working independently – utilising the skills and talents you have; creating/printing things yourself, from scratch; working in a handmade way; honing your skills, interests and ways of working outside of mainstream constraints; approaching interested and interesting parties yourself; exhibiting in communal ways, on collaborative projects and exhibitions, etc) in your everyday artistic practice?
Do you find the worlds of art and DIY self-publishing intersect in such ways?
They totally feed off each other, yes. I’ve met artists through self-publishing, that I’ve then gone on to exhibit with.

By making things for yourself you learn how other practitioners work, too. When you’ve prepped and paginated your own work for a mini-comic you know what to do if you’re submitting to something bigger, like an anthology or paper.

It’s a great way to improve, because you make all the mistakes beforehand on your own stuff, then waltz out a seasoned professional!

Kristyna Baczynski

You’re become quite a regular stall holder at Leeds (UK) comics, small press, and craft fairs, have exhibited in independent spaces within the town, and done various pieces of local design work.
Alongside your presence in Leeds, you’ve also collaborated with, and have designed for/contributed to many UK publications and events.
How important to you (both artistically, and personally) is such a local/national artistic community?
I feel incredibly fortunate to be known within Leeds and am delighted that I’ve been published nationally/internationally. It really is a snowballing effect – you reach more and more people by making more and more work. Locality can mean your street, or the people you follow on Twitter.

The artistic community is really welcoming, but is essentially a group of talented people who all sit alone in a room, making their respective pictures. It is this, mixed with the magic of the internet that makes a community possible. It is also encouraging, because if you are an illustrator or self-publisher and feel ‘unknown’ you are even closer to meeting more like-minded artists than ever before. I was pretty much unknown before Thought Bubble 2010, where I met some lovely people and scraped together my first snowball and set it rolling.

How (if at all) did an established DIY art/small-press/craft/comics/illustration community/scene in the UK help in the early days of your art making?
Did/do you feel accommodated by it?
I was intimidated at first and spent my time making work and not showcasing it. I had to have a lot of work behind me before I felt confident enough to sign up and start making friends, so very early on I was working alone.

Once I felt I had enough good work I made the intrepid journey to Thought Bubble in 2010 and set up my first stall. I still feel very much in my early days, only having attended 4 fairs to date, but it was through this event and others like it that I got encouragement and interest, and also sales and published work.

Kristyna Baczynski

When and where did you first learn to screenprint, and how do such printing techniques enable you to independently produce and sell your work at events such as the aforementioned fairs?
I tried screenprinting at college and then again at University, but I was keen to be self-sufficient in preparation for the lone, post-grad trek and didn’t really use the facilities all that much. I’ve taken it up more seriously in the 2 years as a beautiful alternative to digital prints/posters.

Screenprinting makes a print much more unique and desirable. It has a tactile quality and I love how you can pick ‘n’ mix colour in a hands-on way. I use it in addition to digital printing, as it can be time-consuming and is much more costly, but adds a lot by being hand-made and limited edition.

I read that you’re a self-taught animator.
What forms of animation do you most regularly produce, and where did those skills come from?
Animation was a way to combine illustration and drawing with storytelling. It was something I spent time on at Uni, but since then I have animated less. I have collaborated on a music video for Being 747 with Eclectic Schlock and also won a Northern Design award for my animated short Java Jive, which allowed me to work as a freelance storyboard artist for 2 years after I graduated.

Making comics now is very similar to animation, sketching panel compositions is like framing a shot and each page is like a scene.
I’m certain it is something I’ll be returning to in the future… but there won’t be a Baczyixar Studios getting set up just yet.

Kristyna Baczynski

Which contemporary artists and illustrators are you currently loving?
Oh boy – Lots and lots!
I’m pretty enamoured with Ray Fenwick at the moment. I love how he can straddle typography, design and illustration while dipping into comics too. Lilli Carre is super-cool, her comics are mystical and wondrous and I admire her for flexing into illustration, animation and design.
Charley Harper is not-so-contemporary, but utterly timeless – I’m just in awe of his drawing logic.

What are your top tips for others who wish to be creative but feel stuck, don’t know where to start, or feel like they aren’t ‘good enough’ to do so?
The first hurdle is your own expectations. When you’re starting to draw and make, you constantly measure yourself against other people’s work, which can be demoralising (not that this changes… I do it all the time). Focus instead on your own skills, passion and flair. Build on these and when a project doesn’t work, learn from it, improve and most importantly, keep going. Draw every day and follow your nose, it will take you down the rabbit hole!

Kristyna Baczynski

What are your thoughts on the nature and exclusivity/inclusiveness of ‘art’ — Do you believe everyone can be creative in their own life?
I think everyone SHOULD be creative in their own life. It’s not exclusive at all; it’s a universal occupation that is gratifying and valid for everyone.

From stitching patches on your denim jacket, to knitting a tea cosy – this is creativity. If you enjoy making, keep doing it and go off on tangents. It only becomes ‘art’ when someone else decides to call it such. The essential part is the making and creating. The rest comes after.

What is your favorite part of artistic creativity? Why do you keep on going and doing what you do?
Making pictures is the most enjoyable thing I do, it is integral to my everyday life. Knowing that my pen marks and personality have crafted an image that has never been seen before is totally magical!
It is hard work; you have to be open to criticism and never rely on 8 hours sleep a night. But, ultimately it is more fulfilling and rewarding because of the challenge. What could be more wonderful than paving your own way, drawing your own footprints?

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