Artist interview: Caroline Paquita

Brooklyn, New York–based artist, Caroline Paquita, is the DIY-spirited artist behind the zine, ‘Womanimalistic’ and the yearly Paquita Calendar (which Pikaland featured in our rundown of the best 2011 calendars).

Her accessible lo-fi visual work is regularly produced with her own Risograph printer, lending it a distinctive and characteristic appearance and impression.

Caroline’s work takes much inspiration from nature and our environment, and her daily life and lifestyle feature heavily in her artistic practice. Her work helps create visual reminders for keeping motivation and everyday actions afloat. It aims to foster an environment and a positive space where the imagination and one’s intuition are actively encouraged, and where people can feel empowered via real objects, such as zines, prints and other tangible art.

Caroline is currently raising funds for her latest venture, Pegacorn Press, via an Indie GoGo funding drive. More details of this art publishing house (alongside a really great video showing Caroline’s art and printing processes [plus her chickens!]), can be found here.

Etsy shop | Pegacorn Press

Hi Caroline, how are you? Could you tell Pikaland readers a little bit about yourself and your art work?
Hello Melanie! Hello Pikaland! I’m doing great because I love summer a ton and this one in particular has been pretty amazing!
In regards to myself and what I do? First and foremost, I’m an interdisciplinary artist, who has dabbles in music here and there when the spirit takes me. The two meld together when I’m in bands and do artwork for fliers, records and whatnot, but predominantly, I’m more inclined to say that visual art is where my heart and soul really reside. Though I’ve done everything from drawing, painting, printmaking, photo, video and sewing- my mainstays this past year have been working on drawings for my zine, sketching up new paintings to work on this winter and learning animation.

What are you currently working on?

A couple projects that are on the table right now are: working on the yearly calendar that I have drawn and printed myself for the past two years, developing new comics and also putting together Pegacorn Press. The Press has been a project long in the making and something that I’m extremely excited about and like a mother, feel very proud of. It’s a small, queer, feminist, total-art-freaker publishing house that will specialize in small-run art books, comics and zines. The calendar, as well as a comic compilation (that will feature roughly ten different artists), is scheduled to be released this fall. All that being said, there is a ton of work to do in the meantime!

Caroline Paquita

What is your artistic history, have you always drawn from a young age, did you go to art school? How did you first become interested in art, get started in making and creating art/embracing your creativity, and realise that it was something you would like to pursue?
As long as I can remember, I’ve always created objects, drawn, and been engaged in some sort of artistic practice/process. It’s something that keeps me alive and refreshed as a person. My childhood in Miami was spent in special public school programs for “artistic” children and I feel fortunate that I was encouraged to develop my skills at such an early age. My mom, grandma, and great-grandma all were/are crafters/artists to some degree and to have a lot of supplies around the house, wear clothes that someone in your family actually made, and in general, have evidence of handmade things all around our house definitely instilled the DIY attitude in me by an early age.

I have a BFA in Creative Photography, with a minor in Art History. While I was in college, besides the photography, I worked on a lot of printmaking, comics, zines and played in a band that toured here and there. I travelled around the country fairly often and began to meet more and more folks who were artists/makers. It became more obvious to me that it was okay to live a more “unconventional” lifestyle (AKA, I could live however I wanted- I could create my own destiny!) and I’ve been working on setting that up for myself ever since.

I’ve always known that I’d be an artist (in my mind, I’ve always identified as one), but it’s most definitely, a difficult thing to try to make an income from. While the money from art comes in periodically, at some point soon, I’d like to attend a graduate program so that I’m qualified to teach on a college level. I’ve had so many truly amazing teachers in my life, that I honestly grew up thinking that all artists were teachers. Obviously, that isn’t the case, but hopefully it will be for me. I thrive off working with others, creating together and love to help problem solve. Without a doubt, I’d still work on my own practice!

Caroline Paquita

How did you personally learn to access your creative and artistic talents, and gain the confidence to make, sell, and exhibit your art?
I’ve always felt a certain confidence in showing/sharing my work, so that hasn’t necessarily been something that I’ve had to learn as an adult. I do believe, however, that I could still “tighten up the ship” a little bit, and still strive to learn the best, and most proper, ways to create and exhibit my work. It’s an ongoing process, you know? It would seem stagnant if I supposedly just had everything figured out, with no room for growth in any way.

In regards to selling, that’s definitely still something that I’m working on. I have an Etsy store, sell to independently owned stores around the US, and also have the necessary tax identification number to legally sell art on the street in New York. I have gone through phases of trying to street sell, but usually my stuff is so specific that most people are either shocked or weirded out, that I’ve rarely made much in these adventures. It still can be fun to head out there though and I’m working on a new set-up, complete with a new bike cart that I’m welding myself!!!

I’ve gotten a lot better with getting my zines (and yearly calendar) in stores around the US, but find it difficult (and annoying) to keep track of my accounts with them and usually end up having to seemingly beg to get paid. I wish that there was an easier way to do this (particularly one where you don’t have to compromise your work too much), but I still feel better about managing all this myself, rather than working with some of the somewhat too-dominant distros here in the States.

Caroline Paquita

What prompted your move from making and working predominantly within music, to your focus on your zine, illustration, printing and design work as well?

The reverse is more true in this case, as I would say that first and foremost, I’m a visual artist and always have been. As an adult, I’ve learned to play music and it’s one of my main focuses, but visual art always ends up being the core of what I do. Playing music often requires other people and is obviously a collaborative endeavour- which is a truly an amazing and unique process. It can be very cathartic experience not easily re-created alone, but it can also be a terribly public, which at times can be unnerving and distracting for me.

For myself, making my own work is a means for me to sit alone, process my emotions, think about the state of the world, time travel and meditate! I can do it whenever I want, and am not dependent on anyone else’s schedule. Trying to juggle the two, however, is a job in itself, but there are times when I’ve found a good balance and a way to bridge the two together, in the forms of fliers, posters and album art.

I’d like to ask about the sorts of stuff you like; what images/artefacts keep you company in your studio / place(s) of work, for inspiration?

My room is full of objects and I’m continually in a state of moving things around to keep things fresh. Specifically around my desk, currently there is a framed antique embroidery, a print from my deceased Granny, another print by an old friend, photocopies of old beekeeping etchings, and a shelf full of pens, markers and other most commonly used tools. While I’m working, I keep picture files and collect books of images and patterns as reference close by. The rest of my room is full of antique bottles I continually find at this old dump from the early 1900’s, bones, herbs I’ve collected and tinctured, plants, trinkets and friend’s art.

I’m about to move my studio into my partner’s bike frame-building shop and the plan is to construct a little shack within the shop. It will be the clubhouse that I’ve always wanted! It’s exciting to think about not working in my bedroom as much and to create an environment that is all about art, where I can’t get so easily distracted.

Your art has regularly featured powerful work around themes of nature, herbalism, bee keeping and DIY health care, amongst other things.
What are your thoughts on the politics of sharing such information within art?
For example, do you see your art work as an opportunity for the creation of an insightful space for dialogue and communicating ideas: promoting accessibility of ideas and participation/engagement with them; or perhaps as a way of engaging viewers with inspirational politics; or simply creating a visual reminder of the power of human energy/creativity and what we are possible of doing and responding to within our everyday lives?
In every way possible, in my daily life and in my artistic practice, I’m all about trying to create a space where all of the above is possible. How else do we learn, create/develop relationships, change our lives and environment- unless dialog and information sharing is possible? I definitely believe in visual reminders to keep the positivity afloat, the message alive- to keep the “magic” circulating.

In regards to the recurring themes of herbalism and DIY health care? They both have basically saved my life. I was ill for a long time and have fought for years to get my health back. Repeatedly, doctors told me that the repetitive stress injuries in my arms were untreatable and that reoccurring battles with MRSA staph (that would land me in the hospital on an IV for a three-day cycle of antibiotics) was just something that I just had to deal with. That there was nothing to do! I just refused to buy that idea! My health was in a terrible place and honestly, when everything else doesn’t work, that’s when folks get into herbalism. That’s exactly what happened to me and it’s not like I wasn’t living a relatively healthy lifestyle before all these complications started occurring.

Since I don’t have health insurance (like most Americans), I’ve learned to depend more so on self-diagnosing and from self treatment for non-life threatening conditions. I’ve also heard a lot of really bad advice about self-treatment, which is what inspired the comic, “Punk Medical Myths.” Multiple people have told me that the comic helped push either themselves, or a friend to go seek professional medical health. Whew! This is where art can be helpful to the public and save lives, even in the humorous format of comics.

Caroline Paquita

Your most recent zine, Womanimalistic is terrific. Are you planning a second issue?
What does the title ‘Womanimalistic’ mean to you?

Womanimalistic #2, tenatively called The Coochie-Party Issue, is in the works already- I’m super excited to enter that creative space again. It may be easier to explain the concept of the WOMANIMAL, which is a larger body of work that I have been working on for the past four years now. The zine is an extension of this project and is an easy format for me to easily share with others.

“WOMANIMAL” is a platform for me to engage in critical thinking from a “queer, woman-centric point of view,” that investigates the current state of modern culture and that also helps foster an environment where the imagination and one’s intuition are actively encouraged. Through this process, my work seeks to inject more constructive criticism, absurdity, sassiness and fierce energy back into all things queer, feminine and deemed feral!”

I’m tired of the negativity that has surrounded my generation and the hopelessness that war, consumerism, and modern culture has helped promote. I’m not a luddite that lives in a cave (though I jokingly call myself an “urban primitivist,”), but I feel that so many people right now feel really distant from THEMSELVES. I often find myself wondering WHY? Is the cell phone, the Internet (or the combination of the two, the I-Phone) to blame? I don’t have the answers, but I do know that people are so distracted these days that it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on. Making art is one of the ways that I feel like I can contribute to creating a more positive space where people (particularly women, queers, and their allies) can feel empowered via real objects, such as zines, prints and other tangible art. This is the core of what WOMANIMALISTIC means to me!

Do you think comics/zines are a good way to share art, to display art, and to reach (new?) audiences or artistic communities?_*

Zines and comics are one of many ways to reach out to a larger audience, though it seems that people mainly under forty seem to be the one’s paying close attention. I’ve noticed a renewed interest in all things printed- particularly if it borders the line with artists books- that has extended into a whole different realm of makers and other folks that have tapped into that world through sites like Etsy. I think that some of what I’ve been working on does fall into all these different audiences/communities, particularly gauging on the response that I’ve gotten since putting Womanimalistic out. So long story short, yes!

What techniques of illustration do you most prefer to use; what are your tools and materials of choice?
What stages, from start-to-finish does a typical piece of your work go through, and over what time frame?

For my illustrations/comics, I’m pretty lo-fi in many ways, though I’ve recently started incorporating the computer in the final production stages. Pencil, a couple Rapidiographs/Microns, and some Bristol board are my main stays- though I sometimes delve into brushes and quill-pens. If the work is being sent to a printer, I might use some Chartpack grayscale pens to get some gradation, otherwise half-tone pattern is something that I often use.
A lot of my personal work these days has been one color, mainly due to the fact that until recently, I only had one working color drum for my Risograph duplicator. Like most people, I tend to work larger than the expected dimension, scan for resizing/layout and to also possibly add patterned backgrounds/halftones. It’s a pretty straight-forward in many ways, but always seemingly time consuming!

Caroline Paquita

The majority of your work that I have seen has been printed/reproduced using your own Risograph duplicator. I love the printed effect that this creates. How useful is it to have your own means of printing and duplication available at your disposal? Has owning the Risograph affected your productivity and prolificacy, or perhaps affected the type of work that you now most regularly create?

Getting my own duplicator has definitely changed things: I’ve never been in a position where I could afford to send things to the printer and now I can print things in my house whenever I need it. After the initial cost of the machine, I’ve basically just had to buy the ink and paper to keep it going. My Risograph is from the 1980’s and has made over 2.5 million prints before I got it, but it’s still working- I say this with fingers crossed!

There are some definite limitations though with the quality that you can achieve, but that’s the trade-off. If I know that a piece is Riso-bound, I may simplify some of the line work in my drawings and avoid having large filled in areas, since it will eat up ink and make printing harder. That challenge has made me work differently, but I’ve appreciated the fact that it’s made me have to think a lot more about my drawings, way before I even start them.

Caroline Paquita

What are your thoughts on your ability to personally turn out your own prints, zines, exhibition materials yourself by hand, and the effects this has your sense of actual human participation within, and attachment to, every aspect of your work’s creation?

My involvement with every part of the artistic creation of an object definitely makes things seem really “real” to me. For every page that I print, I’ve probably touched that single page about ten times (or more) before it’s made it’s way into someone else’s hands. I print in large stacks, use a hair drier to set the ink faster (and to prevent “ghosting” on the backsides), reload the stack to print the other side, blow-dry again, then collate and staple- all by hand.
Maybe people can feel that? I know that I can tell when I pick something up whether it’s just been pulled out of the box from the printer and sold, or made by the artist/printer itself. I know that it’s not an option for everyone (due to time, money, resources), but it’s been a conscious effort in the past couple of years to set myself up with my own printing equipment. It’s been worth every penny spent and has made it so much easier to distribute my work than ever before.

Your work has featured in independent publications such as ‘Maximum Rocknroll’. To what extent does the punk and do-it-yourself spirit drive your artistic creation, production and expression?

It’s the backbone of my work, but definitely not the whole, as my life is more varied than just being a punk who is very much DIY spirited. I’m still very much involved in that community and will do art for MRR at the drop of a hat, but as I’ve gotten older, my ideas of punk and the DIY have definitely changed and developed over time. Most of the world isn’t too fond of anything queer and/or feminist and unfortunately, the world of punk is no different in many ways. So while punk is an old-mainstay, I don’t feel limited to that identification.

These days I’m more inspired by people who are just straight-up DIY; the weirdos who just want to figure out how to make things themselves, who avidly learn how to live without all this technological nonsense. Folks who are retaining the spirit of creativity and want to dork out with other people about what they’ve learned. As a beekeeper, the doors to a netherworld have been opened to a lot of insanely great, but extremely weird folks, who also keep bees. For some reason, only true weirdos get into keeping these tiny insects and I’ve pulled a lot of inspiration from them, as well as from my other “special-interest friends,” the wild-crafters who gather herbs and wild-edibles. To eat wild rice, maple syrup, seaweed, or to drink herbs that you or your friend’s harvested, is inspiration in itself!

Caroline Paquita

Community (artistic and otherwise) and support appears to be something that drives a lot of your work, its themes crop up a lot in both the subject and overall ‘feel’ of your work, as well as often in the medium of your work (fliers for local events, band art and posters, local signage)
How important to you is working within and for a community of (creative) people?
What does ‘community’ mean to you, as an artist?

On a micro level, community is all we have. I don’t want to live in this world alone: not be close to anyone, not learning, loving or sharing with others. I’m definitely not scared to spend time alone (my work does keep me locked up at times), but what I mean to say that I want to engage with others and help work to have a larger, supportive community that people can depend on. I’m into sharing my skills and art to people who want or need it. I’m a part of a larger artistic community (that spans across the whole world!) and it means a lot to me to be able to share that with not only other artists, but with everyone who appreciates art.

I’m fortunate to live in a more collective-like home, owned by two of my roommates. We do a lot of urban homesteading (keep chickens, bees, we garden), run a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture- a farmshare) out of the house and several of my roommates are in Bread and Puppet, so there’s always theatre props around the house. Someone is always making something around here and there’s usually a group of people who’ve come over to help make it happen. That’s community! That’s our “chosen family,” being supportive and enabling each other to keep making great work. So, so, very important!

Caroline Paquita

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?
*_What are your thoughts on the nature and exclusivity/inclusiveness of ‘art’ — Do you believe everyone can be creative in their own life?

I do believe that everyone has the potential to be creative- it’s just a matter of harnessing that energy and going for it. Most people are naturally curious and if you practice anything enough, you have the potential to become a master at it. I’m a true believer in this, but it’s sometimes hard to help people understand that this process can take A VERY LONG TIME. It’s often not an over night endeavour at all, unless you are naturally inclined and can just automatically pick up new talents. Most people do not fall into this category (including myself), so don’t be discouraged and just keep plugging away!

A large, and often overlooked, part of making art is learning the craft. That process can take a long time and you just need to try, and to forge ahead with an open mind. The challenge is to push yourself and your boundaries- try new things! Check out every book in the library and read everything you can about whatever it is that you want to create. Practice using the tools, ask other people about their process and put aside a regular time every day, week, whenever, that you’re going to work on it. Just like they say, “Practice makes perfect!”

Caroline Paquita

I once read you claim that it is important to you to make your art financially accessible to everyone. What is your personal motivation for this?

It’s less of a claim and is an actual statement on my website: if people desire my work, but don’t have the financial means to pay for it, I’m totally open to trade/barter. My life is very much based in this world and when I’ve been super broke and needed things, I’ve often traded art/art services for everything from a computer, haircuts, medical services to help building a bike.

While it would be nice to live a life where, “I can be leisurely and just create art, la, la, la…” I’m a total realist and still work “real-life” jobs to pay the bills. I don’t want to compromise my art/vision by depending on big ticket spenders to be the only ones with the means to buy my art. I also don’t want to cater to that community. I work as an art handler and see on a daily basis how insane the “art world” is. It’s often been an alienating and disenchanting environment for me- and I’m someone who is very appreciative of other artist’s and their work. Over and over again, I’ve witnessed how an artist’s work can easily change when money becomes too entangled in their process and I can’t say that that is something that I’m necessarily attracted to. I do believe that people should be able to live off of their talent and skills, but sometimes things get a little too decadent/bourgeois for my personal tastes.

All that being said, when I’m selling in person, often my prices are sliding scale and everything is negotiable. This can be confusing for some, but it does open up a dialog and challenges why art often has quite a large price tag. Since most of my items are paper, I’ve printed them myself and I’ve often already covered my basic costs, I do have the option to be more flexible in this regard. With items where there aren’t multiples, yes, prices go up- but it’s still usually “affordable” for a one of a kind piece. I truly believe that everyone should be able to have art that they love around them, so if someone is really wanting something that I’ve made, there’s usually some way that they can have it!

I was looking on your website at the photographs from some of your past exhibitions. They look like the most fun exhibitions I’ve ever seen; so very far removed from the idea of a ‘stuffy art gallery exhibition’ and completely up my street! Totally jam packed with colour and texture, and often over-spilling from the walls. How much fun have you had exhibiting your work, and how important to you is showing and creating work in a way that is true to you?

All the shows that I’ve done have taken a lot of energy from me, but have been totally fun to set up. It’s really important for me to be able to show the work in a less “formal” environment- meaning that the walls don’t have to be flat white, everything hung straight in a line and framed with mat board. I’m scrappy, the work can be spilling everywhere and also, it’s just not in my nature to hang only a few items. My shows often are comprised of a whole era of work and have a lot of things going on within them. They’re very much representative of my life and personally, so it’s really important for me to show in places that I care about in some way or another.

Looking back, it seems that I’ve shown more in non-profit art spaces, and very rarely in privately owned galleries. I feel like that says a lot about me, my work and the audience that I’m seeking to connect with. I’m a fairly “no-frills” kind of personality and it means more to me to show to people who really appreciate what I’m doing, rather than just to show at the best gallery to “be seen” at an opening, etc. There’s a lot of apathy that surrounds the art world and that turns many people off from wanting to learn more about art/artists. My main mission as an artist is to create environments that are inviting and that make people feel inspired, whether that be artistically, politically, etc.

How do you manage your time in order to devote as much time as you’d like to your art?

Time management had been hard for the past couple years because I was in a very time-consuming band that toured quite a bit, which made it difficult for me to do my own art as regularly as I wanted/or needed to. Since I recently quit the band, I’ve been able to immerse myself back into my personal art world and it’s a really positive and rewarding feeling. I work part-time during the week and try to come home after work and put in some hours, if I’m not too tired. Days off are usually spent drawing and flushing projects out. It kind of seems like I’m always working? It’s a form of entertainment, I guess, since I don’t watch TV, go to movies or hangout in bars that often.

What is your favourite part of artistic creativity? Why do you keep on going and doing what you do, and what gives you the incentive/confidence/push to continue making your art?

I’m a maniac, like most people who make art. You get the FEVER sometimes and just can’t stop working. You’ll stay awake for hours on end, drawing, making- YOU HAVE TO DO IT! Says who? Why? I have no real idea where it comes from, but I can’t stop it (and don’t want to anyway), so why fight it? I can’t turn it off and it’s what comes naturally to me, so voila: Here I am! Here is my art! I have a feeling that this is what I’ll be doing my whole life and I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world.

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!

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.


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.


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!


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

Pinpals Blog:

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.

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