1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
I moved around quite a bit as a kid. Born in Georgia, lived in Tennesse, Florida, Texas, and then Rhode Island before finally moving back outside Nashville about five years ago.
Honestly, I thought that I would pursue apparel design or animation, but I randomly saw an illustration presentation freshman year of college and was really attracted to the vast possibilities that the field had to offer. After graduation, most of my work was editorial and publishing, but in about 2007 I became interested in art licensing and surface design (where art is used on products such as a tote bag, stationery, or dinner plate). There were far less online resources for the market when compared to now, so at the time I decided the best way to learn was to go work at a company that was part of the industry. That brought me back to Nashville as I worked for C.R. Gibson for a couple of years before striking out on my own again. That first year out I showed at Surtex, a large surface design expo in New York City, and also got representation from Jennifer Nelson Artists.
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
I like to say my art is awkwardly whimsical or whimsically awkward.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
Right now I’m experimenting with some new materials, which keeps things interesting and fresh. I enjoy acryla gouache and am playing more with the look of markers and colored pencils combined with the paint.
Honestly, working digitally in Photoshop with my wacom tablet has really helped me explore my work since I can be so free with it. It’s fun to mix different textures and looks, which usually bleeds into my pieces when I work in traditional mediums. My painted work can be a little timid at times, but the computer has allowed me to loosen up and be more confident. The joke is that my digital work looks way more painterly than my actual painted stuff!
4. What is your artistic process like?
Sketching something out real quick, scanning it into photoshop, and then using digital brushes on top of it. There is a loose idea of colors and what the end product will look like, but I try to allow it to be an organic process to some degree.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
I try to find inspiration from pop culture and folk art- everything from vintage textiles and wallpaper to graffiti and clothing. When it comes to artists, my favorites are Egon Schiele, Alberto Giacometti, and Yoshitaka Amano (particularly his concept work for the Final Fantasy franchise). These three have always influenced my work since I was pretty young.
A lot of what is catching my eye currently is not in my country (The United States). Many fellow contemporary illustrators in other parts of the world- France, Brazil, England, Japan, etc- are doing really great work that you can tell is influenced by so many different things and it comes off as fresh and eclectic. This is just a working theory, but I think in The States we sometimes get held up on labels and what is “illustration” vs “fine art” vs “design”, which might prevent some people from adopting a more experimental aesthetic in their work.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
People probably assume my art is is just me being happy since it’s so cheerful, but I realize that my art comes out as some sort of manifestation of both creativity and- for a lack of a better phrase- survival instincts. My productivity can ramp up when I’m having a bad day, because I need to make art in order to make my surroundings better. Many comedians say they are their funniest and write their best material out of bad experiences, and I wonder if it’s a similar dynamic that I have with my art at times. I create art to make my world more beautiful; not BECAUSE my world is beautiful. That probably sounds a bit melancholy, so let me just add that I am an overall positive and happy person!
7. Where did you study?
I studied at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and have a BFA in Illustration.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years? Working in an agency?
I’m very happy to be with Jennifer Nelson Artists, and I hope to continue getting awesome projects through her. It would be great to do something completely new and different, like funky packaging or an ad campaign for a big company. I’d love to do bedding so I can have it in my house!
9. What about in ten?
Oh boy. I just hope I’m happy, with my husband and our future family, and still teaching (I currently teach at Watkins College of Art Design & Film). Big goals, but I would love to speak at ICON (The Illustration Conference) if I am worthy enough!
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
A happy life. Have fun making my art and make money with it so my husband and I can live the life we want to.
On another note, I consider the work I do to be sort of a modern folk art- it’s accessible to the public, and I like to think my art makes me people smile when they come across it on products.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
I really enjoy tuna sashimi.
12. Favourite book?
Chloe and Maude by Sandra Boynton, especially when my mom does the voices.
13. Favourite genre of music?
That’s tough! I seem to listen to a lot of chill ambient music or danceable things without many words…a lot of synth, 80’s influenced stuff….or funk inspired. My playlist is pretty varied!
14. What are your hobbies?
I do enjoy cooking and playing games with friends. Does hanging out with people count as a “hobby”? I truly just like spending time with friends after being in the studio.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
Theatre and performing has always been a love of mine. I’ve been on stage as several silly things, including a singing Selina Kyle, a wind up doll, and Betty Page. My love for characters is not only in my art, but what I create for performance. The more ridiculous, the better.