Instagram: @c.c.russo


1. What’s your story? Where are you from?

I immigrated here to the USA from Asia when I was about 4 years old, actually. I lived in the suburban chaos that is Bolingbrook, IL. and then ended up moving to Chicago when I was ready to leave the nest. I had always been a sucker for art as far as I could remember, all throughout grade school I would always draw nasty little monsters and guts. I mean that kid is still in me, but I’m glad I’ve become more tender since then.


2. Tell us about your aesthetic.

I’d want to name it something cool if it were its own thing, but all I can say is it’s just these scattered thoughts I have, weird visions, sometimes dreams. Dreams are some of the only places I feel real and alive, so I try to bring that into our world. It’s the least I can do, so I get these surreal compositions done. I have a bad habit of experimenting, so I try to turn unconventional things into art, or I get overly ambitious. I’m getting better with executing my thoughts though, which I think is how it counts. I love ideas that are striking or brilliant, and colors that are saturated and emotional. I go by the belief that less is more, but if I’m going to show something, it will be dynamic. And so there is architecture, or nature, or the digital, or spiritual aspect, like putting together a puzzle out of the powers that be. Mythology and art history also represent a lot to me. But then I can’t help but make a cartoon here or there, or something kitsch and crude, and mess with an urban design or two. I’m all over; I want to be this tattoo artist, that animator, a sculptor, a street vandal…it can be a real hassle to my identity sometimes. My art is just me trying to figure myself out, if that makes sense. All I know is it’s cheap therapy.

3. What is your favourite medium and why?

I’m working all digital for now. It’s the budget cuts. Nothing beats traditional’s charm, so I really respect painters and illustrators. Lately I find myself trying to get my hands on whatever I can lately to turn into something artsy.

4. What is your artistic process like?

I’m very devil may care. It does sound bad to admit, but I can’t help it. You’d think I’d be on better behavior, but I just can’t make art that way. I wish I was more organized, and more strategic, it would definitely save more time! It doesn’t help that I try to be a perfectionist too. I always commit to a theme which is like the anchor for the piece, and let it grow naturally from there as I work on it. A drawing has to either tell you about its world, or reveal something about your world, and the eye to me is more than just a window to the soul; it can be a weapon or an instrument, all some way to share a truth. Sometimes it’s enough to me just to make something amusing, to only turn something upside down if only for a minute…I guess I started making art because I don’t know what I’m saying half of the time. I remember a teacher I had try to dissect this thought by Kant, that all art needs is to “quicken” the mind, or make thoughts kind of play. It does feel like a mental game I want to play with the viewer when I make these, each piece has its own cues and meanings.

5. Who and/or what inspires your work?

Of course I love pop art, surrealism like Magritte, retro Americana, and cliche, psychedelic nonsense. All manner of art from way back when by the greats, it’s easier to say what doesn’t inspire me. I’m very involved with how different arts connect, so I try to get my art out into other forms like music, fashion, etc., because the commercialism is real nowadays. Brands and how they communicate to us also interest me. I want my art to reflect our times and our culture too, the youth and modern looks that is, while also being able to represent heritage. I believe that’s this generation’s fire, this do-it-yourself mentality to make ourselves known, is what really motivates me. Connecting with others like that is something else. It’s wild. As for style, when I was a kid I read comic books, and especially Mike Mignola who does the Hellboy series left an impression on me. He had such limited colors and this detailed, dark line work but yet the action and scenes were so fantastic, I was mesmerized. I studied animation practice and design when I was younger which still is in the backbone of how I draw and see stuff, but as I became more serious about art, I wanted to focus on taking it somewhere more realistic and individual. Portraits especially matter a lot to me, plenty of the best paintings, some of the holiest pictures even, are just portraits of a person in some time. Normally that person is the focus, the personality, but I guess I prefer using them more as the vehicle to get my idea across. It’s just my method.

6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?

I have an estranged relationship with art, but I’m thinking that’s normal. I sometimes wonder why I’m out here investing in this, putting my time in it, but I guess it’s just to express what I’m about, where I’ve been and who I’ve been and hope to be. It means a lot to see my thoughts, and the thoughts of others, in some tangible way. You really experience them through it, like art really does matter. It’s in the heart of everything we see. It’s so humbling.


7. Where did you study?

I’m all self taught. People like to think it’s a gift or talent, but it really is just from a lot of work. It’s not like art comes to you on purpose. I’m hoping to keep learning of course, it’s just about being consistent

8. Where do you see yourself in five years? Working in an agency?

That would really be an ideal. I’m trying to see where my art fits best, so I’m trying to represent at least the artists of Chicago, keep the love local. I’m working with some up and coming fashion brands and bands, designing covers, apparel, stuff along those lines. It’s enough for me to just get my art out there, but it only will become more of my life as I progress.

9. What about in ten?

In ten I’d love to have launched some large projects by then, or have made some iconic album covers or designs. Branch out into installments or gallery work, or travelling to promote myself around the country if I get the means. I want everyone I know to reach their potential and make it, to have their seat at the table. Why wouldn’t I? I can only hope to inspire as many people as I can by then, to accomplish as much as I can.

10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?

Being good at art is not a gift, the gift is giving it to people. I put it out in public half thinking that it’ll get lost in the void, so seeing masses react to it and like use it as their personal icons and stuff blows my mind. I remember idolizing artists like that way back, so it really hits me where I live. I only want to reach out to everyone in some way. Soft world domination.


11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?

Pancakes. I’m not even that into sweets but I can’t turn a stack down, it’s god’s food. There’s a reason it’s breakfast because you should start everyday with them.

12. Favourite book?

Paradise Lost, I’m old school. Borges and Calvino are some of my favorite authors, though.

13. Favourite genre of music?

Music I’m very uh tolerant of? I can almost listen to anything, or at least appreciate whatever it is. My favorite band’s got to be Surf Curse, and I’m usually listening to hip hop instrumentals and rock n’ roll.

14. What are your hobbies?

Outside of art, I’m really trying to be disciplined with cooking. My older sister loves cooking and would always make meals for me, so now that I’m on my own I’ve become kind of a critic about it. I watch Food Network too much honestly.

15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

I’d put everything I’d have into being a teacher. Teaching is one of the most honorable things worth doing, and deserves so much more recognition. Even if I don’t agree with how schools work, I thank anyone who has taught me.