Kit Kite

  Kit Kite,   The X Install Portraits 2014

Kit Kite, The X Install Portraits 2014

I first learned about Kit Kite while journeying down a rabbit hole through the world wide web, searching for something I can't remember. In a sea full of selfies, Kit Kite's self portraiture immediately struck me as being different, as more deserving of attention. Her work does not pester or persist with the usual demands selfies often scream at us - "Tell me I'm pretty! Tell me I'm worthy! Tell me this hair cut was not a mistake!" The portraits in both her "The X Housewife Portraits" series and "The X Install Portraits" series - simply ask, "What is home?"

Though she admits to taking more than 11,000 selfies over the course of a year (laughably small by the standards of the average tween no doubt), her self-portraits are not merely vain snapshots. They turn the idea of a portrait around on itself, obscuring what is usually the most prominent and most important part of a portrait - the face. The objects become the main subject and the self becomes lost, relegated to the background where it is merely a prop.

I met Kit Kite in person at Smiling Elephant back in March. It was right after our "snow-pocalypse" and she made a funny joke about the potholes that littered the roads. She was incredibly open and kind. In spite of her admitted lack of sleep, she had a fervent energy when talking about her work and before I knew it, she'd taken me on a 45-minute journey through her world that I would have sworn had happened in the blink of an eye. Below are some highlights from that conversation.

  Kit Kite,   The X Install Portraits 2014

Kit Kite, The X Install Portraits 2014

VBB | What artists do you most admire & look to for inspiration?

KK | I love Bernhard and Anna Blume, the conceptual artists. Their main work was photography but they were husband and wife and their whole process was in isolation and they did all these vignettes and strange narratives and photography that was amazing and bizarre. They did it all alone by themselves in their studio or in their house, so their life as well as individually was kinda eccentric. It’s a little bizarre, but together I love, love their work. I like Francis Bacon’s paintings, he’s been a huge influence. I don’t know if in my own paintings it would come across, but he’s really impacted me just in how he communicates through the visual and subconscious level. I feel like I can feel him in his paintings. Whether that’s good or bad i dont know. But it’s like it resonates with his work. It's almost like you're there sort of looking inside his head. There’s a lot of painters like that, but him especially. Maybe because it is so in your face. 

VBB | So you still paint, right?

KK | Yes.

VBB | Even through the whole X Housewife series, you still found time to paint or is it something that’s kind of on the back burner?

KK | No, I’ve worked a little bit, it’s mainly just in the sketchbook, working that out. How I drafted that last series out was through photographs instead of sketching, I think that’s how it segued into photography and the video because otherwise I don’t think I would have ever done it that way.

 Kit Kite,  The X Install Portraits 2014

Kit Kite, The X Install Portraits 2014

  The X Housewife Portraits

The X Housewife Portraits

VBB | Did you go into making the photos with a plan? 

KK | Yea, sometimes there was a lot of intention, like there was a specific object I wanted to use and it would take me between 3 and 4 days to construct whatever device it was out of those objects to then pose with. I was shooting for a year and a half that way. It was always very obviously effected relationally, something would happen and I would be like, "I’m gonna go in my room and shoot." And it was actually very therapeutic. Where I didn’t feel like there was anything present, I could be present with that and know how to execute it. I got real familiar with it. It was like this routine and it was like every other day or every day sometimes or several in a day I would shoot.

VBB | Was there ever a time, maybe early on, where you were like, "Uhh, what am I doing? I have a headdress on made of Q-tips."? When did you first share the work with someone else? Was that nerve-wracking or were you pretty confident?

KK | No, because I don’t think I ever had intention of it becoming anything more than it was. It was like, you know, when you sketch in a sketch book, you don't think about what people are going to think. You’re at your safest. 

And posting on Instagram - when I started it, I had just gotten an iPhone, I didn’t really know what that was, so in my head I didn’t even really realize that people could see it. I mean I did, but I was thinking, "Oh, this will be a great way to catalogue my images and then refer back, and neatly organize and keep up with what I’m doing."

And then on Instagram a lot of those Instagram galleries wanted to host it or publish it or whatever which I wasn’t familiar with either. Some of them wanted me to write about the work and others just asked several questions or didn’t say anything at all, they would just post it or feature it or whatever, so in that time it was great because I think it was challenging to me because it was helping me to find what the concept was.

  Kit Kite,   The X Install Portraits 2014

Kit Kite, The X Install Portraits 2014

VBB | What is your studio time like?

KK | I probably need a better schedule. I do need to find slots of time and be a little more intentional because I’m literally working on that project [Domestic Smudge] which I haven't even really started, but I wanna really make sure with this next series I develop the concept fully before I even make the first thing, so that I don’t stray away.

With this ex-housewife series, I started drafting before I really even knew what the concept was. Traditionally the practice of conceptual work isn't like that, so I’m going to do it a little differently. There’s a lot of down time that’s not real productive looking. People can’t go visit my studio and really see anything happening because it’s mostly been writing and researching and sketching so it’s kind of slow production at this point.

It’s hard because I’m also writing an art play. It’s a performance piece that’s going to be shot as a short film, so I have deadlines on that to write and then I’m working with this artist out in L.A. on a project that came through Instagram. And then I've been working on another thing in the last 2 months with Burlei records. 

VBB | Wow you’re so busy! You have so many cool things going on.

KK | Yea, and I have two children and I work a pub job. 

VBB | Do you sleep? 

KK | I haven’t lately. I’ve been staying up writing. I’ve been writing so much lately which is really what I love. I think a lot of conceptual artists are really like writers. I love the idea of the research, honing in and just condensing to a paragraph this whole visual study and so I’ve been writing a lot. And I’m really interested in play writing and script writing and film. I love film. So I'm busy and I don’t know how to always manage the time as well as sleep, but I do need to sleep because I have to rise in the morning with my children and be mother.

  Kit Kite,   The X Install Portraits 2014

Kit Kite, The X Install Portraits 2014

VBB | You said it takes a little bit of time to produce your work, but you’re sharing your progress throughout that production phase. Are you ever worried that someone in that timespan is going to steal your ideas?

KK | People posed that same question to me when I was posting the drafts on Instagram. I think I’d just really bottomed out and didn't care anymore and was like, "You know, if someone steals it - fine." I think what made me confident going into it and exposing it visually was that my story, the content itself, was unique. I was living it, so I felt that nobody could take that.

The way that I would write about it or the way that I would look at it and interpret it, they just couldn’t. There are people that have put stuff in front of their face and shot a self-portrait. It’s not necessarily an incredibly unique sort of thing, but I think what causes my work to maybe be different is the concept and that’s really it.

The way that you would interpret your idea, even if it’s a concept that someone else could talk about, it’s going to be unique and no one can take that - especially if it’s a real story. When I work on a series, it's usually something I'm living in that moment and I really want to talk about, so it's a pretty fresh, right-off-the-press kind of thing. Right now, it's sort of about accepting the fact that I'm, you know, a single mother and it's loneliness which has been talked about, but in the last series it was isolation and now it's kind of about "How does one look at themselves alone or when they're left on their own and then only have sort of a memory of something that might have looked like their was company kept?" What does that look like? And then translating that and I've been writing about it and trying to figure that out. 

I live in the suburbs, so it's visually all around me - the domestic, suburban landscape. That influences me and I'm submerged in that.

  Kit Kite,   The X Install Portraits 2014

Kit Kite, The X Install Portraits 2014

VBB | Do you identify with the suburbs or is it more like a world you're living in as an observer, in it but not of it?

KK | Yea, I felt like that as a kid. I'm just observing here. I'm just here for showtime wherever I'm at.

VBB | It doesn't matter where you are?

KK | No, and I'm really easily amused, so anywhere I'm out I can say like, "Let's talk about this very sort of boring backdrop and let's try to pull or find the unfamiliar in something so very familiar, there's got to be something."

  Kit Kite,   The X Install Portraits 2014

Kit Kite, The X Install Portraits 2014

  The X Housewife Portraits

The X Housewife Portraits

VBB | That’s cool to hear you say that because I feel like I hear so many artists say that they have to be in the city near the action.

KK | Individuals can be heavily influenced by their atmosphere and I know that there are certain people that have to have a certain feel that's around them to be able to work. And I guess because I haven't really had that luxury in choosing what that is, it's kind of been like you don't make anything at all or you find something to say and make out of this place. It's been a good practice. I have no surprises and a limited budget or no budget and I don't have any equipment and I live in the suburbs so, "Ok let's make something!" [laughing] "Let's feel that, let's sit in it, absorb it and make things out of garbage or whatever we can find." It's a simple way...I hope I never lose it either if things were to change. I mean everything always does, but even then I hope that I can always touch down in that place wherever I'm at and be present and learn to be content wherever I'm at.

  Kit Kite,   The X Install Portraits 2014

Kit Kite, The X Install Portraits 2014

VBB | How do you feel about the idea of investing in art and how would you feel if your art was acquired as an investment rather than for pure enjoyment?

KK | There's a business side of art that I think is important and has its place. That is not the end all and it doesn't dictate what I make. It’s not the fuel that creates the work, but I wouldn’t mind people collecting my work. I ultimately would like people to be moved and interested but it is a business.

VBB | Have you ever made anything to personal to sell?

KK | Yes. I have. I have it hanging in my living room and it's just one painting. There was no series. It's just one painting that I did when I was 22 - so 12 years ago and I've never really painted anything like it. It's very different and I think it hits right where I was at and it’s very personal and it will always be with me. I can never sell that. 

*All photos property of Kit Kite and used with Artist's permission.

Follow Kit Kite on Instagram


Miranda Herrick

Miranda Herrick is a Tennessee based artist whose geometric art, created from a mix of materials that includes recycled trash, is mesmerizing. She describes her work as both systematic and intuitive and today she shares with us details about her process, her thoughts on being a working artist, and her latest work.

geometric marker art miranda herrick tennessee

VBB | Tell us about your work & creative process.

MH | My most recent series of work consists of larger scale pieces made from recycled bits of aluminum cans nailed to MDF board.  My process tends to be very meditational.  Whether I am making a small drawing or starting a large aluminum piece, I usually begin by penciling off a grid and letting my pen decide what path it wants to take from point A to point B.  That decided, I simply repeat that action X number of times and go with the flow.  It is a meditation in action and I never know what a piece is going to look like until I am finished.  

VBB | What led you to start creating your colorful, often geometric series?

MH | I can't remember a time when I didn't draw patterns and shapes.  It is a very intuitive action for me.  About 15 years ago I started creating mixed media pieces.  These included quilts made from Starburst wrappers, rugs made from Wal-mart bags, ransom letter type copies of Bible verses whose letters where cut from magazines.  I brought these ideas back to my patterns about ten years ago and started making my geometric images out of cereal box- type recycling and then aluminum cans.  The cans work great because they bring an unexpected rich luster to the patterns.  

geometric marker art miranda herrick tennessee artist
organic marker art miranda herrick tennessee

VBB | What's the best part about being an artist in Nashville? Is there anything special about this city's art community? 

MH | Nashville is a wonderful city and we are getting to experience it during an exciting time of growth and transition.  There is definitely a lot of momentum in the art community right now.  There is a great deal of energy and many exciting events occurring at new venues in the Wedgewood Houston area and at Oz Arts.  Community minded artists like Megan Kelley of Haus Rotations and entrepreneurs like Chuck Beard of East Side Story are doing everything they can to make the Nashville arts community both larger and more intimate by spreading the word about happenings and giving folks opportunities.  This, of course, barely scratches the surface.  

geometric marker art miranda herrick tennessee
geometric marker art miranda herrick tennessee

VBB | I feel that often times people have a vision of the artist secluded in a studio apart for normal life, but in reality many modern artists have day jobs, families, volunteer work, etc. etc. How do you schedule time to work/when do you work on your art? Is it hard for you to balance being a working artist with the other demands of daily life?

MH | Yes, there may be artists out there who are cloistered in their studio, but I know that my friends and I all struggle with the balance of day jobs, family and finding time to be creative. I feel fortunate, to a degree, that the artwork I am currently creating is fairly systematic.  I think that makes it easier for me to work on art for an hour or two in the evening after the day job and commute are over.  Maybe I can get in 'the zone' a little more quickly.  I don't wait for inspiration.  

VBB | Your work can be seen in Bennett gallery in Green Hills (and other galleries?), what advice do you have for artists just starting out that might be seeking gallery representation?  

MH | This could be part two of your last question, because this is another thing to add to day jobs, family, and other things that compete for an artist's time.  Networking, applying to galleries, maintaining a web presence, and a good deal of self promoting are all things that an artist should probably be doing to try to get her work seen.  And I've always felt that if you are making visual art, it may as well be seen!  

geometric marker art miranda herrick tennessee
geometric marker art miranda herrick tennessee

VBB | What's next for you and your work?  

MH | Right now, I plan to continue working on my aluminum can series, Reflective.  (I have attached a picture of Reflective IV, @ 53" x 53" as well as a picture of my shelf of accumulated cans.)  I may create a second Works and Days series in 2017, ten years after the first series.  I am going to pursue representation out of state and continue the attempt to have my artwork seen.

Reflective aluminum can art Miranda Herrick
 Before and After 

Before and After 

VBB | One of your artworks, Works and Days is a gorgeous series of drawings that was turned into a book - one for every day in 2007. Tell us about that particular project. What did you learn from the experience of creating something for the same project every day for a year? Is that sort of discipline important for all artists?  

MH | I had created a small series of drawings in 2006.  They were 4" x 4" pattern drawings.  They seemed too small for titles, so they were only labeled with the date I completed them.  I was surprised by how people reacted to knowing the dates the works were made.  I kept hearing folks say things like, "Oh you drew this on my birthday!"  So I decided that in 2007, I would complete a drawing for everyone's birthday (Sorry, not a leap year.)  I tied the works together as a series by gradating down the color wheel.  All the pieces in January were red; February drawings were red-orange, etc.  So the end product was an elaborated 365 piece color wheel.

The larger goal of the series was simply it's completion, the sheer numbers.  But for me, for my art, the outcome was more than that.  Pushing myself that far lead to lots of discoveries for me as an artist. The creation of one thing leads to the next.  You have to make that first thing, before the next thing can be fully articulated.  Eight years later, I still find fodder in the completion of those 365 works.

And yes, last year I was very lucky to have been helped by over one hundred people in the creation of a book of those drawings.  I launched a successful crowd- funding campaign back in September of 2014. (WARNING:  Here is some of that shameless self promotion I mentioned earlier!)    That book is currently available in Clarksville at the Custom's House Museum and in Nashville at The Frist Center for Visual Arts and Bennett Galleries.

See more of Miranda's work at her website.

*All images used with artist's permission

Stephanie Jeanne Hardy

Alfonso Stephanie Jeanne horse art

I came across Stephanie Jeanne's work while visiting Bennet Galleries in Nashville a couple Saturdays ago and her bright compositions featuring the simplified figures of horses stood out to me (which says something because basically everything in Bennett Gallery is awesome). 

Stephanie has spent 25 years of her life riding horse and grew up competing as a show jumper. She still rides and competes with her horses Rory and Snuffles when she can. In addition to having her work at Bennett Galleries, Stephanie also has her work in Griffin's Studio in Hopkinsville, KY. She is also a part of the Art of the Horse feature in May's issue of American Art Collector Magazine and will be part of the "Creativity Found", Volume 03 of Trouve magazine in June. 

When I reached out to Stephanie to talk about sharing her work, she shared this quote from Ronald Reagan with me, "There is nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse." and followed by saying that, "Horses have been a significant part of my life, my soul and my well being. I only started painting them 4 years ago and found that these animals were translating onto the canvas in an authentic, soulful way, different from my previous work. However often I choose to paint different subjects, I always come back to the horse. Someone asked me recently if I am going to get sick of painting the horses that I've been working on in my current collection, and I thought...'how could I get sick of this??' I absolutely love painting them. I love the challenge of capturing them in a deliberately abstract way and I love how each piece takes on a personality of its own. My work naturally evolves over time into new styles, but for now I am in my element painting my favorite creatures on earth using vivid colors to celebrate their beauty and spirit."

Check out Stephanie's work online at her website (where she currently has sale items from her studio listed - original horse painting for $50!) and in person at Bennett Galleries or Griffin's Studio.

Scuttle Stephanie Jeanne bird art
Kelpie Stephanie Jeanne horse art
Augustus Stephanie Jeanne horse art
However often I choose to paint different subjects, I always come back to the horse
Bright Country Stephanie Jeanne horse art
Epona Stephanie Jeanne horse art
My work naturally evolves over time into new styles, but for now I am in my element painting my favorite creatures on earth using vivid colors to celebrate their beauty and spirit.
Ollie Stephanie Jeanne bird art
Peach Blossom Stephanie Jeanne horse art

*All images used with artist's permission and are the property of Stephanie Jeanne Hardy

Charles Clary

Charles Clary Paper Art

It’s 7:30 on a Wednesday night and I find myself on the square in downtown Murfreesboro. It’s chilly and the rain is misting slightly. I’m waiting outside of a restaurant, noticing the stillness and utter lack of college students that usually fill the square’s bars. As I ponder the empty streets, the man I’m meeting arrives.

Charles Clary looks like the quintessential college professor - complete with beard, glasses and newsboy cap - and he greets me enthusiastically. Clary is, in fact, a professor in the art department at the nearby Middle Tennessee State University, but we aren’t here to talk about academics or the work of his students. We’re here to discuss his personal artistic endeavors.

If you pay any attention to the Nashville art scene, you’ve probably had the pleasure of seeing his intricate paper installations in a gallery or in print or in the new Music City Center. We’re seated near the bar and we begin our candid conversation.

Cut paper art Charles Clary
Wallpaper Art Charles Clary

VBB | You’ve been working with your hand cut layered paper for several years, how do you feel your work has evolved and what are you working on now?

CC | Oh man. That’s a big question. I moved to paper in grad school, more out of necessity than anything. I was doing these very flat, kind of street art paintings on the wall and they were begging to kind of live a little bit more and not just be wall, pictorial representation of fictitious space.

I actually wanted to make that space physical. So I had an internship in Brooklyn and then I was coming home one night and I stopped at a paper store. And it all started with Martha Stewart scrapbook paper. I’m a little ashamed to admit, but she had great colors at the time, the paper was big. And then I started noticing that the knife moved like a paintbrush. And it was still focusing on this idea that music was this viral entity that we get over a period of time and then we as the viewers move it to another place and it contaminates or infests that space and so on and so forth, but it’s this really playful, bright fun kind of disease.

viral paper art

So I worked in that for a long time. And it stayed with that type of work right up until 2012, so I have two bodies of work going on: one was the installation work and one was the boxed pieces that were almost petri dish explorations of the bigger work and then both my mother and father got diagnosed with cancer in 2011. And then they both passed away in February of 2012, two weeks apart. So I didn’t make work hardly at all through that time period.

She died on February 15th and he died 2 weeks later. So it was really kind of traumatic experience but then I started coming back to my work just to kind of deal with it, it was the only thing that got my mind off of the trauma of it all. And then I started thinking about nostalgia and my childhood and how it wasn’t like most people’s childhood, like it was a really rough childhood.

My father was a pretty raging alcoholic and my mother was a functioning one. So a lot of those childhood memories didn’t exist for me, like I had to grow up way too quick. So I started thinking about nostalgia and what that means and how it fades over time and it’s not quite what we remember, so I started working in drywall and painted the drywall and beat the crap out of it with a hammer to expose holes so it looks like it’s violent kind of experience which is what my parents’ deaths were.

And then filling that void with my paper sculpture from the back so it becomes this kind of beautiful scar that eventually heals itself. Everybody carries around those kind of scars from life.

Wallpaper layered paper art

Then I started digging deeper into it and started using wallpaper on the surface of the drywall, still doing the violent openings and tearing those openings open and I just remember my childhood home being covered in kitchsy wallpaper, so I bought out a lot of stores of wallpaper - every Goodwill and thrift store that I could think of.

Again, it was kind of speaking to the environment that I grew up in and how my house was probably could’ve been condemned if somebody had come in and looked around.

Recently, I’ve moved to game board boxes and what those kind of memories are and how childish and playful they are, but for me I didn’t play those games or we didn’t have enough money to buy those games and then recently I’ve started on probably a 6 month long project where I’m going out and buying every VHS tape from my childhood that I can remember - horror films, sci-fi films, cartoons, buddy comedies all those kind of things and then each VHS box is becoming a piece, so eventually I’m going to recreate the illusion of a movie store and all of these things will be on the wooden runners along the wall and you have to take the little metal clip off the nail to say, 'Hey I want this piece." So it will be like you’re renting it, but really you’re buying it. So I'm only on 24 right now, but I have 500+ sitting in my apartment.

VHS Jurassic Park Art
VHS art


VBB | And you remember all those movies? All 500?

CC | I remember every single one. I mean, I used it kind of how people use books as an escapism, so for that hour and a half or 2 hours, I was somewhere else. I wasn’t living the life that I had to live everyday. So they were like my, I don’t want to say saviors that makes it sound weird, but they were my saving grace.

Just to have those moments where I could escape was priceless for me. And it just so happens that 15 layers of paper plus 14 layers of matboard equals the exact same size as a VHS tape, so I can just slide them into the box.


VBB | Between making art and teaching, you don’t really have time for much else, but do you have any other creative outlets or is this pretty all consuming?

CC | It’s pretty all consuming but my fiancé and I make time to go hiking and camping. We love to be outdoors, so as much as we can be outdoors we will. I like going to see music shows when I can, we’ve started going to the theater.

dry wall paper cut art
punch hole art

VBB | How do you feel about artists' collaborations with major brands? Would you ever consider doing that sort of collaboration?

CC | I would. I would. I think nowadays fine art’s a scary thing. A lot of people don’t go into the galleries because they feel like they’re not smart enough or they just don’t get it or they don’t have the fine arts background to understand the work and somebody’s going to look down upon them. And I think artist’s collaborating with some kind of marketing campaign or to produce some type of utilitarian object or to brand a company or something like that, I think it’s a smart move.


VBB | What role do you think art galleries play in today’s modern society? You mentioned that maybe people are a little intimidated by them. Has the role of the art gallery changed in the past 50 years?

CC | I think they’re a little more accepting now. I think they’re a necessary thing, especially if you’re a fine artist and you want to advance your career. I think there are ways to do it without getting gallery representation, but it’s a heck of a lot easier if you have the representation because they have an extensive client lists that only they have or people that they work with, they can promote your work on your behalf to clients or public projects, or collections or museum exhibitions.

You always get the question, "Why do they take 50% of your commission?" Well, they pay the rent, they pay the utilities, they make the flyers, they mail out all the flyers and all you have to do is show up and hang your work and be able to talk somewhat intelligently about it. They provide the opportunity and the staff to make that stuff happen, so it’s kind of a symbiotic relationship,

I don’t want to say it’s a necessary evil because I don’t think it’s an evil thing. I think a lot of galleries have a stigma behind them that make them sound pretentious or elitist but they’re not. A lot of them are just super friendly. You've got to kind of think of it like a manager almost. If you’re a movie star [you] have agents, if you’re a musician you have a manager that has your schedule set up and all that kind of stuff and gets you the gig. All you have to do is play the music and give them a cut and that’s kind of what a gallery is. I think they’re a great place for experimentation and they’re a great place to expose new talent. It can set artists on a really great path.

wallpaper fish art charles clary
cut paper art charles clary

VBB | You’re an established artist, you’re work has been acquired by private collections and shown in many galleries. What advice do you have for artists that are just starting out?

CC | Always keep it as professional as possible. Don’t make it personal and you know I hate to sound cliche, but work your ass off. And be somewhat smart with digital technology. I hate every minute of it, but I have a tumblr, I have a twitter, I have facebook, I have my professional email, I’m on all kind of art sites just for that possibility of an opportunity. I have an Instagram now. I didn’t have one until 2 months ago and it’s awesome. I didn’t realize how awesome it was. So you’ve got to be as business savvy as you are creative savvy. The difference between a good artist and a great artist is how well you can promote yourself and how much risk you’re willing to take. One thing I struggled with a lot was not being afraid of success when it happens, take advantage of it.


VBB | What do you mean?

I was always fearful of success because it would put me in the limelight and I was always a really shy kid growing up and even in grad school I was still super shy. It took me teaching to become less shy. Be ok with the success because the more confidence you have with it, the better you are going to be able to market yourself and to be able to sell your work to a gallery and say, "Hey - you should really take a chance at me and here’s why." And it’s not a bunch of umm and maybes or self-deprecation it’s, "I’ve done some really great things, I feel like I’m going to do some really great things in the next few years, I think this is going to be the start of it and I don’t care what kind of deadline you give me i’ll meet it."

It’s also work ethic, I hate saying that but it is. During the summer I’m on 8-10 hour days in the studio every day but the weekends. The best piece of advice I ever got was once you become that kind of emerging or established artist always have 2 exhibitions ready to go at any point in time. It’s not like you only have 12 pieces and [when someone approaches you] you say, "Oh well, I only have this." You’ve just shut down an opportunity immediately without even getting your foot in the door.

So I usually have 2 or 3 exhibitions on stand by, ready to go because there have been times where I’ve been in 5-6 shows all at one time and one might be a solo show and 4 or 5 might be a group show and another one will be a two person show and you have to have the work to be able to be in all those shows or you just shot yourself in the foot.

pink paper layered art

VBB | When you’re reaching out to galleries, what are you sending them?

CC | In the beginning, when I was reaching out to galleries, it was very straight to the point, like you don’t need to know about my dead parents, you don’t need to know about this, you don’t need to know about that, "Hi my name is blank, I’ve enjoyed your artists that you represent in your gallery for many years, here’s a link to my online portfolio, I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to my newest body of work all the information is on my website, if you have any additional questions" and then send it. They don’t want to know your whole personal story.


VBB | That’s interesting because I feel like that would really influence your work and makes your work more interesting, so you wouldn’t tell them that up front?

CC | No, not up front because they don’t know you from Adam. It would be like walking up to a complete stranger and saying, "Hi my name is Charles, did you know my parents died two years ago?" They’d be like, “Whoa this is too much." 

It could be in your artist statement. All my information is in my statement or it’s on my website, but you don’t want to come on too strong. I look at it kind of like a date, you don’t want to come on too strong in the beginning because you don’t want to scare them away, but you also want to entice them so you want to put your best foot forward.

You also want to look at their submission policy, if they’re not taking blind submissions, don’t submit. Follow their protocol because that shows that you’ve researched that site and you’re not just blanket emailing everybody. You’re going to know the work that they show so if you're an abstract painter and you just submitted work to a figure painting gallery, well of course you’re not going to get in. And then that’s going to put a damper on your confidence level and then you're going to think, “Oh god i’m terrible." No, you just submitted to the wrong gallery. You didn’t do your research.


VBB | Do most galleries categorize themselves that way?

CC | No, but the staple artists can give it away on what type of work they show. A lot of west coast galleries show a lot of street artists or pop surrealism or some kind of reference to pop culture or graffiti or something like that. A lot of east coast galleries are a little bit more into abstraction, modernism to some extent. It just depends on the gallery. And you have to click through all the artists to find that common thread.

So it’s all about the research. You’ve really got to do your research just like with anything else to prepare yourself for success. I haven’t submitted to a gallery in a little while only because I’ve been lucky enough to have representation, but even that can be very tumultuous at times. You still have to keep as professional as possible.

layered cut paper art nashville
drywall cut paper intricate art

VBB | How do you maintain those relationships with galleries?

CC | You make sure you go to their openings if you’re in a location that’s close to them, you stay in close contact with them and you let them know if your work is changing. You always email them to say, “Hey, here’s some new work." Just a nice cordial professional relationship. You don’t want to overexpose yourself and show at the same place 5 times in one year, but generally with most galleries every two years you’ll have a solo show and then there will be intermittent group shows just so that they don’t saturate the market with your work because then the interest in your work can go straight down. It’s an interesting dance. It can be stressful sometimes.


VBB | How do feel about your collectors? Have you ever met with any of them at the galleries?

CC | I’ve met with some at the galleries. I’ve thanked some in person for purchasing a work that was in a solo show or a group show. I have a couple of really great collectors in North Carolina that have a ton of my work and I keep a constant relationship with them that’s a very friendly, cordial kind of relationship. I think I’ve only had one sour collector relationship and it happened really early on when I was in grad school. I can’t even remember his name, but it was almost like, “I’ve discovered you” kind of thing.


VBB | Like you owed him something?

CC | Yea a little bit. I ended that one pretty quick.


VBB | How do you do that? Just say, "No, you can’t buy anymore"?

CC | Or “Unfortunately, I’m going a different direction" or "I’m going to go ahead and end this relationship." You do it in a very polite, non confrontational, non bridge burning way. It’s only hapened once and it was really young in my career. I didn’t know how to deal with it either. But again, I knew to stay professional because you never know where someone is going to end up or whose ear they’re going to have later on in life. Don’t take any of it personally, no matter how much you want to, never take it personally.

horse art cut paper nashville

VBB | It seems like you’ve created a lot of work that’s very personal. Have you ever created any work that’s too personal to sell?

CC | No. I use it mostly as a process. It’s the thing that drives the work and whether the viewer gets that or not, it’s not a big deal. I can talk about it on 50 different levels. If you want to know the back story, if you want to know the personal stuff, we can talk about it all day long, but if you just want to talk about how pretty it is, that’s fine too. For me, it’s the thing that drives the work. It’s the impetus behind the work and it’s not super important that you get it just from the visual. I’m such a workaholic that once a piece is done, I’m just moving on to the next thing. It’s a compulsion now. I get down if I’m not working.


VBB | I feel like a lot of artists or creative people feel that way like, “I don’t know why I have to make this thing, but I do.”

CC | Yea, it’s just a weird thing, but I enjoy every minute of it and it never really feels like work.

wallpaper art charles clary

VBB | What have been the most pivotal moments in your career?

CC | I think there are three or four. There was the moment that I decided to take the leap into grad school. I didn't care how much I was going to go into debt. That opened up a lot of doors when I was in grad school and then because I worked so hard in grad school, I got my New York residency for 3 months. Through that residency I got to work for Pierogi Gallery in Brooklyn. Then I got to be an assistant to Joe Amrhein who owns Pierogi and he’s an artist as well so I got to be his assistant helping him paint his paintings, so that opened up all kinds of doors.

Then I got to work Miami basel for several years and it’s forged a really good friendship and relationship with that gallery and I'm not represented by them, it’s not anything like that, it’s just a really great place and a good example of how a gallery should be run.

Then, my solo show that I had at the Rymer in 2010 was a really pivotal moment for me as a Nashville artist because I had some really large scale installations, some of the biggest I've done. And the biggest installation in that got modified and is now in the Music City Center in Nashville as a permanent piece.

And when my parents passed, that took the work in a completely different direction. It took the work in a direction I don’t think it would have gone had that not happened and it was a terrible time, but the work that I’m making now which I’m really excited about would not have happened without that and it caused me to do a revaluation of my life, of who I was, who was important to me.

And then you know when I met my fiancé I think that was another pivotal moment because I think she’s a good balance of me. She’s super organized, she’s very very professional and business-like and she helps me a lot with that stuff. She’s super super supportive and is a good driving force to keep me going when I get down about stuff.

And teaching! My students keep pushing me forward. Because the better I am, the better they’ll be, so it’s this kind of nice push and pull between the two of us.


Nashville Artist Charles Clary

VBB | You mentioned in your last answer, an important moment in your Nashville artist career. You’ve been an artist in Savannah, NYC and other places. What do you think is uniquely special about being an artist in Nashville. Is there anything special about being a Nashville artist?

CC | I think there is. I think we’re at this precipice of exploding as a great kind of art hub and there are really great galleries, there are fantastic artists. I would put Nashville artists up there with NY artists any day of the week. I think we have a good collector base here, they just need to realize how great Nashville artists are. I think that the artist community in Nashville is growing, especially out near Zeitgeist and David Lusk and some of the pop up galleries that are in that area. I think that’s going to be a really great place for galleries to be.

The Avenue of the Arts on 5th is pretty fantastic and has some great innovative shows. Not just pretty things, but pretty great installations, sculptural things, immersive exhibitions and a lot of people are starting to notice that. At art crawl you’ll have 1k or more people come out just cramming the streets and it becomes an event as it should be. The arts have been big in Nashville for a while, but I think people are starting to recognize it now and I think there’s going to be a pretty great explosion of it and people are starting to notice what Nashville artists have to offer.

*All images used in this post were used with permission from the artist

Grace Eunmi Lee

Grace Eunmi Lee Interview // Viva Bang Bang

Grace Eunmi Lee, born and raised in Seoul, Korea, is a ceramist who has been working with clay for 11 years and now lives in Ontario. Her work reflects her interest in the mundane parts of life that are unnoticed and seemingly insignificant. Large scale installations such as her 2012 work titled "Dust", are made up of minute ceramic creatures which represent the microscopic particles that comprise ordinary, ubiquitous dust. 

In addition to her installations, Grace also has a collection of small, ceramic pieces available in the excellently curated, online shop SuiteHazen and will be displaying 4 of her espresso cups in an upcoming show in Seattle. 

I'm very excited to share Grace's interview with you and hope you enjoy discovering her wonderful talent as much as I did. 

Grace Eunmi Lee Interview // Viva Bang Bang
Grace Eunmi Lee Interview // Viva Bang Bang

1. Tell us a little about your background and how you got started in ceramics.

I was enrolled in art classes throughout grade school and high school, but it was in my undergraduate studies in university when I first encountered ceramics. My major in my undergraduate studies was Craft Design. I then went on to study ceramics further in graduate school. 

2. Do you remember the first time you ever worked with clay? Did you know immediately that it was the medium you wanted to concentrate on working with?

I started in ceramic as a student in my university. I remember how I enjoyed my first ceramic class. I made a lot of dishes and cups.

I didn't know immediately that clay would be my medium of choice because I didn't want to limited myself to a particular medium as an artist. But as I created more and more out of clay I realized that it was the medium that I connected with the best.

Grace Eunmi Lee Interview // Viva Bang Bang
Grace Eunmi Lee Interview // Viva Bang Bang

3. What’s next for you and your work? Will you continue exploring microorganisms with your creatures or will you explore something else entirely?

I want to continue to develop as an installation artist. I hope to have an opportunity to have projects that would result in permanent installations. I don't see me changing my theme/concept in the near future. I still have many ideas I want to explore.

4. You’ve had exhibitions in South Korea, China and Canada. Do you have any upcoming shows in the United States?

I have an upcoming show in Seattle. It's a small cup show with international ceramic artist. I will exhibit 4 of my espresso cups.

Event Details:

Seward Park Clay Studio and KOBO Gallery Simple Cup 2014
Showcasing ceramic artists from North America and Japan 
Opening event:  Saturday, November 1, 2014

Grace Eunmi Lee Interview // Viva Bang Bang

5. What’s the best part of being an artist in Ontario?

I love the diversity in Toronto. I find the diversity helps inspire new ideas and shapes. It also allows me the privilege of sharing my art with all kinds of different audiences. It gives me the opportunity to get a good mix of feedback from different perspectives.

6. You’ve said before that you’re interested in microorganisms and that the creatures you create and use to comprise your larger compositions represent the small particles of life that are often overlooked. Do you draw inspiration from things other than the overlooked particles of life?

I get inspiration from everything around me. Whether is something I see, hear, touch, taste, or feel, it can become an inspiration.

7. How many individual creatures would you say you’ve created (approximately) in your 11 years as a ceramist?

It's hard to say as I haven't really kept count, but I'd guess over 15,000 pieces.

Grace Eunmi Lee Interview // Viva Bang Bang
Grace Eunmi Lee Interview // Viva Bang Bang

8. What other contemporary artists do you admire?


9. Who (if anyone) has had the greatest impact on your career as an artist? (It could be someone who inspired you to pursue art, someone who helped you with your first show, etc.)

Melanie Egan (Head of Craft at Harbourfront Centre) and Patrick Macaulay (Head, Visual Arts at Harbourfront Centre) have had the biggest impact on my professional career as an artist. They were the first people to recognize my talents and give me the opportunity start my career as an artist in Canada. It's through the artist in residence program at the Harbourfront Centre that I started to blossom as a professional artist. They taught me a lot during the past three years, and it's because of my experience at the Harbourfront Centre that I am where I am now.

10. Do you have ambitions outside of being an artist? A lot of people have recreational time that is separate from their work, but for creatives, that line between work and play seems to get blurred. Is creating what you do for fun or do you also have a passion for say, cooking or horseback riding?

I like craft in general, so I like to participate in activities that allow me to exercise my creativity. That can be cooking, knitting, or anything really.

11. Can you tell us more about your new line with SuiteHazen? What led to this collaboration and can we expect more product lines like this from you in the future?

I wouldn't say it's a collaboration, but certainly a great partnership. Working with SuiteHazen has provided me with a great outlet to reach out to the European market with someone who has a strong background in marketing. I hope that we can share in each other's success and help each other succeed further.

*Images via the artist's website and SuiteHazen

To read more about Grace and see more of her work visit her website here.

Want to add one of Grace's pieces to your art collection? (I did!), visit SuiteHazen.

Karen O'Neil

Karen O'Neil Painting

If I'm honest, the idea of a still life painting does not usually excite me. Having had to draw and paint many scenes filled with cups and assorted fruit sitting on fabric as an art student, I grew a bit tired of them. But I'm here to tell you that my love for the age-old still life has been renewed! How could it not be after seeing these paintings by Karen O'Neil? The cheery colors and use of light are truly exquisite. I believe any one of these bright paintings would liven up even the dullest of rooms. 

Karen, who has been teaching at the Woodstock School of Art since 1990, leads painting workshops and offers online critiquing services for artists that cannot commit their time to a weekly class. Karen kindly shared her response to my interview questions in essay format below. I hope you enjoy reading about her life as an artist as much as I did!

Karen O'Neil lemon still life

Becoming a painter had a lot to do with nature/nurture! Several members of my family are talented visual artists. I believe there is a genetic component – in my case, at least! My Dad was very talented, although never had any formal art training. My parents valued, and nurtured talent.

When my older brother James began drawing at an early age, my parents found an artist nearby to provide him with private art lessons. James went to art school on scholarship, and is a successful painter. His work can be found here. While he was in art school, he would let me tag along on trips to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I learned a lot, and more importantly, became inspired.

Karen O'Neil Still Life Painting

Following in James footsteps, I went off to art school after high school, intent on becoming an illustrator. I loved the first foundation year of art school – drawing, drawing, and more drawing, and pulling all nighters to finish projects for 2D & 3D design. The second year proved more challenging as I entered the illustration department at what was then called the Philadelphia College of Art.

I was passionate about the drawing classes, but had a really difficult time with narrative story telling with my drawing. I found myself skipping classes and going to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where I would stand for hours in front of some small and exquisite Vuillard and Bonnard paintings. At some point before that year ended, I realized that light, color, form, and painting issues were my subject, so I came home to Massachusetts and transferred to Mass. College of Art. Fortunately, I found myself in George Nick’s painting class – which was exactly what I needed at the time. I still hear George’s voice sometimes when I’m painting – “make that darker!!” I also had the great fortune to study with Henry Hensche in Provincetown one summer. Staying with brother James, who was living in Truro at the time – I would ride my bike to the Cape School, paint colored blocks in the sandpit all day, work at Napi’s restaurant washing dishes until 2am, ride bike back to Truro......and begin early at the Cape Shool the next day! It was great discipline, and exercise. 

Karen O'Neil Interview
Karen O'Neil Still Life

After art school, I worked part time jobs – waitressing, office jobs, etc. I was always painting during the week, and my friends from art school would keep meeting, going to drawing sessions, and painting together.

I met my husband Peter at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – he had just graduated from art school. We both worked at the museum, and quickly became good friends. We were constantly at art museums, always going to New York & Washington DC. Art and life have been interwoven for us since we met. Eventually, we moved to Woodstock, NY, after participating in an artist residency program here. We both began teaching at the Woodstock School of Art. I‘ve been teaching there since 1990 – and have loved (almost) every minute of it.

Karen O'Neil
Karen O'Neil Fruit Still Life

Having to explain something to another person clarifies things for me, which has helped me in my own work tremendously. I am a hands on kind of teacher. Visual people learn in visual ways, and I do a lot of demos in my classes. I have learned so much from students, which has helped me to become a better teacher. Most of the time, painters struggle with value issues (light & dark), and color relationships, and seeing the big picture.

Orange Still Life Karen O'Neil
Still life painting Karen O'Neil

Knowing when a painting is finished is another issue painters struggle with. When you are “noodlng” a painting (making unneccasary brush strokes, etc....), that’s a sure sign that you need to stop and reflect. When you have communicated your idea, or your feeling – that’s enough. Overworking kills the freshness and spontaneity of a work. 

Karen O'Neil Viva Bang Bang
Pear still life Karen O'Neil

I feel so fortunate to be able to make a living from painting, and teaching painting. I have also seen my own work develop dramatically in the last 15 years. A lot of things seemed to start to come together, and I feel like I’m developing my own visual language. In November, I’ll have some work at Mason Fine Art’s new gallery space in Atlanta.

Karen O'Neil candy still life
green cup still life Karen O'Neil

See more of Karen's inspiring work on her website and be sure to like her facebook page! *All images are property of Karen O'Neil and used with artist's permission. 

Kate Long Stevenson

Kate Long Stevenson

It's hard for me to describe exactly how Kate Long Stevenson's bright, gestural paintings make me feel. Happy? Giddy? Like I'll never be able to tear my eyes away and look at anything else? Surely you feel the same way?

The works created by this South Carolina-based abstract expressionist are rich and full of movement. On her website, it eloquently states that Kate, a life-long lover of music "relies mostly on classical compositions to guide her as she builds a painting, layering chords of color over energetic swirls of charcoal and paint." And oh yea, one of her paintings is in Darius Rucker's bedroom. 

In our interview, Kate shares about her process, the hardest part of being an artist, and the best way to spend 48 Hours in Charleston. 

Kate Long Stevenson
Kate Long Stevenson

When did you first know you would pursue a career as an artist?

I majored in art in college, but it wasn’t until my senior year that I really considered pursuing it as a profession, and it was a few years after that when it became a passion.  

Some artists struggle to find a style while for others it just comes naturally. Did you find your current style of painting early on or did it take some exploration and experimentation?

It took a while to find my style…I always loved abstract work, but felt compelled to paint for a seemingly conservative market.  As an artist, it’s so important to be passionate about your work, so I abandoned whatever I was doing and started experimenting, exploring, and painting for myself vs. a potential client or specific market.  Every so often I have to repeat this process to disconnect from what becomes expected.  

Kate Long Stevenson
Darius Rucker Home

Do you have a dream collaboration?

I think it would be amazing to paint the “scenery” backdrops for a beautiful ballet, a la Helen Frankenthaler  

Kate Long Stevenson

What contemporary artists do you admire?

I am a big fan of Howard Hodgkin, Alex Katz, Chuck Close

Tell us about your process. What's the journey of an idea in your head to the canvas in your studio?

First and foremost, I’m passionate about color and music.  A new piece can begin out of a color combination I admire from a catalogue or a song I liked that day.  I generally have to stick with both to remain focused during the entirety of the process, so it’s got to be interesting to me.  I like to work on large canvases, and begin sketching out the painting with charcoal while listening to loud music.  It can be anything from classical to hip hop, so long as I like that tempo and can interpret the movement onto the canvas.  Even though this initial process is pretty uninhibited, the crazy, gestural marks eventually need to evolve into a composition that makes sense to me.  I subsequently spend more time staring at a painting from ten feet away than I do up at the easel.  The application begins as very physical and immediate and segues into something much more thoughtful and deliberate.  It’s a process of creating balance, adding color, rediscovering the original marks.  An lots and lots of layers.  

Kate Long Stevenson
Kate Long Stevenson

What's the most challenging thing about being an artist?

Biggest challenge:  Having my work make sense to me.  Abstract is so subjective, and there’s a lot of “my kid could paint that” mentality.  So, it’s important to me that the elements of the painting are interesting, balanced…I don’t want it to be or look effortless.  

You've made a successful career as an artist and have been featured in numerous popular publications. What advice do you have for other aspiring creatives?

Why, thank you!  Never paint for the market.  Only paint for yourself.  If not, the work will suffer and you won’t enjoy the experience.  

Kate Long Stevenson
Kate Long Stevenson

What other creative pursuits do you have?

Other creative pursuits… Really my main one—being a mom to two adorable boys! :)   

What's your proudest moment from your artistic career?

Proudest artistic moment:  That’s always evolving.  Anywhere from having a good studio day where everything just clicks, to creating a body of work for a gallery, to hanging along side other artists I really respect, to watching my children delight in their own creative moments...

Kate Long Stevenson
Kate Long Stevenson

If someone is spending 48 hours in Charleston, what should they do/see/eat?

Oooh, GREAT question.  Lest you have a gracious Southern host, Zero George is a fabulous home-away-from home boutique hotel, and just a short walk to King Street.  Charleston Place Hotel is equally convenient and luxurious, and boasts a wonderful spa.  Be sure to pop by Bob Ellis Footwear, Hampden Clothing for women’s fashion, Sugar Snap Pea and Kids on King for children’s clothing, Worthwhile and Vieuxtemp for lovely gifts, and Dulles Designs on Church Street for the most beautiful assortment of fine papers and stationary.  Ann Long Fine Art on Broad Street is a wonderful gallery with gorgeous Realist artists and Otto Neumann monotypes, and Redux Contemporary Art Center on St. Philip Street brings cutting-edge installations to the LowCountry (and is the studio base for numerous local artists, like me!).  

I love to dine at Cru Cafe off of the Market for a delicious lunch in a quintessential Charleston Single home, or Butcher and Bee on Upper King for amazing farm-to-table specials.  The afternoon can be spent meandering through Charleston’s beautiful neighborhoods, and then perhaps a treat at Sugar Bakeshop (the mint chocolate cupcakes and ginger molasses cookies are my favorites).  Dinner. Oh, dinner.  I’m biased in stating that both FIG and The Ordinary are the finest restaurants in the city (or ever), so each night should be dedicated to them.  Stop by Victor’s Social Club for a cocktail…If your visit is over the weekend, check out the Farmer’s Market at Marion Square Saturday morning (and a very entertaining breakdancing show), and be sure to go to Husk for brunch and order their farm-to-table version of the In and Out Burger—divine!  

Kate Long Stevenson
Kate Long Stevenson

Visit Kate's website to see more of her wonderful art. 

*All images via Artist's website and used with permission

Mina Teslaru

Mina Teslaru

Mina Teslaru has been photographing Coney Island for the past 7 years, creating dreamy scenes that are both cheery and nostalgic. Her colorful, overexposed images filled with tiny people seem like they've captured a miniature set staged just for the photo. 

Originally from Bucharest, Romania, Mina now lives and works in New York City and has graciously shared more about her process, her other creative projects and her thoughts on photography. Check out her interview below!

How do you define your photography in your mind? Is it a passion, a hobby, a calling?

My artwork whether it be photography, painting, collaging or installation is an archive of nostalgic moments, mapping my own displacement in the world. I create instinctively so it’s either all of that or none of it. 

Do you remember the first photo you took of Coney Island? If so, please tell us about it. 

I moved to the states when I was 24 years old.. the New World hit me really hard as something extremely different, there was no comfort in the unfamiliar places. At the time I was living in Long Island and remember hitting the beach soon after my arrival, expecting the seashore to greet me with happy smiling faces, coffee shops, side shows, rides and most importantly crowds and crowds of beach bums looking forward to chat you up or share their life story with you – needless to say that’s not what I found. 

Months later I remember hearing of Coney Island and was bound to go conquer it all and see if it was “all of that” – and it was! That’s when I felt a little closer to home and knew everything will be alright. 

The first ever photo of Coney Island that I loved (I have a huge archive of thousands of them that have never been published) – is Coney Island Beach and it’s a tilt shift because it describes how I feel about this place, a microcosm of happy, jolly beach goers that wouldn’t exchange the Brooklyn Riviera for anything else in the world. 

There’s many ways of looking at Coney Island, some might see the grime and crowded beaches, some might see the colorful characters, some just go there for the rides and the Nathans, I love it because it is such a challenge trying to fit it in the palm of my hand... or lens for that matter.

I love thinking of the guests that stayed at Elephant Hotel, I love trying to image how wonderful it must have been to take a ride on the Parachute Jump. 

Tell us about your process. What sort of tools and equipment do you use? Do you have any rituals that follow when you're out shooting?

I am a very moody person, I have a love hate relationship with my camera. But she’s my only tool and I rarely use tripods I try to make my frames look touristical with a fantastical twist. 


What's next for you and your work?

I would very much like to have the time to experiment more with light installations. I tried my hand at it last year and it was very rewarding. You can see more about it on my website. Transplant, 2013

2D-wise I’d love to do a Circus series and of course continue with my Coney Island Series.

When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?

I still am not sure that’s what I want to be when I grow up... I’ve always said I wanted to be a farmer. 

What other creative outlets do you have?

I make collages out of old photos and I have a rooftop garden in Brooklyn that is very rewarding, creatively. 

Do you have a dream collaboration?

I would have loved to work with Basquiat and Kahlo. 

Other than Coney Island, what inspires you to create?

Colorful towns and villages, crowds of people, things I can’t do.

What's the best thing about being an artist in New York?

It has to be the competition. There’s so much amazing art here, so many incredible artists – the constant envy and jealousy keeps me motivated. 

In all fairness though – NY has its good parts and bad parts. Sometimes I feel like I can’t get out of my head here, like there’s no mind space for anything new. But I think that’s probably the kind of pressure an artist needs sometimes. 


When do you know a photograph you've taken is a good photograph?

Oh gosh... I don’t, really, not for sure. I get a gut feeling sometimes – I love my Coney Island Beach photo but never thought the world would love it so much. It sold a few thousand times already. I don’t know what makes a good photograph, there’s absolutely no thought process at all when I shoot it’s all instinctive! As soon as I start thinking I screw up. Making art for me is like a meditation... the goal is not to have thoughts at all, just feel it.

Who are some of your favorite photographers?

I really like Nick Meek’s work, Franck Bohbot, Julia Margaret Cameron.


What is your favorite photograph? 

It changes a lot but for now it’s Mulberry Street – I think the photographer is unknown and the photo was colorized but how wonderful is that scene? It’s like everyone on that street knows they are being immortalized but they can’t really grasp the concept...

Matthew Korbel-Bowers

Matthew Korbel Bower

Matthew Korbel-Bowers' work has been on my radar for what feels like a while now. Each time one of his delightful prints shows up in my Pinterest feed or on a beloved blog, it catches my eye and I linger for a second (which, of course, is a lifetime in internet time) to take in its colorful glory. 

Eventually, I finally had to look a little deeper and was both delighted and dismayed to find that there wasn't much to find on Matthew Korbel-Bowers save for a very interesting feature on Fast Co.Design and a brief interview on Domaine. I was delighted because I like the mysteriousness of not having a bloated About page on a website, but dismayed because this time I really did want to know much, much more. 

I did find, however, that he is an Art Director at Communication Arts magazine. [Insert freak out here]. For graphic designers, CA magazine is basically the design periodical. It's the one you save forever and wash your hands before touching.

So then I really wanted to know more and emailed him immediately. As you may have already guessed, he agreed to the interview and the rest is history. 

Big thanks to Matthew for sharing his thoughts and his work with us today!

Matthew Korbel-Bowers
Mathew Korbel-Bowers

What do you think led you to become a designer and when did you decide to pursue design as a career?

I always knew I would be some sort of designer. The family business was landscape design so I grew up around technical drawings, cartridge paper, blueprints, drafting tables, rulers, font books, architectural shape templates, pencils/erasers and artistic renderings. But what I really fell in love with was the design studio life. My folks would play records, drink coffee and dive deep into their design process. I inherited that love for getting in a zone—it works well with my hermitous personality.  

What is your proudest design moment while working for Communication Arts magazine?

Well, every 2-months I feel an equal sense of pride when we finish an issue and get it back from the printer. It is very satisfying to hold your work as an object in the hand. Working at a traditional agency designers—ironically—rarely get that experience. 

Matthew Korbel-Bowers
Matthew Korbel-Bowers

Your colorful prints have become quite popular. When did you start creating these works and what was the initial response? Were they an instant hit?

I really committed to them in 2012 and I guess they were sort of an instant hit.


What led you to start creating these pieces? 

Instinctually, they were pieces I had always wanted to make but I had some sort of mental block stopping me. I think I was self-conscious about making such "simple," works (though I don't think of them as "simple," now and could go on and on about this subject). Also, I thought of myself as a designer and not an artist so it took me awhile to realize that my form studies could be considered art. 

Matthew Korbel-Bowers

I believe your interview with Fast Co.Design about your secret surf maps touched on this,, but could you tell us about your process for creating these prints?

The Secret Surf Maps tap into the visual language of my folk's landscape design plans. That is the formal part. The other part comes from surfing, exploring and documenting the natural gems of the Northern California coast.    

Matthew Korbel-Bowers
Matthew Korbel-Bowers

What other creative pursuits do you have?

My other pursuit is just like this interview because I am interested in other artists'/designers' work and histories. That is what made me pursue a job at a design magazine. For example, my brother is a surf photographer and I like to hear every little detail about his work, progress and setbacks. When you pay big money for a collectible work of art you are paying for the history as much as the image.  


What are you favorite podcasts? Do you listen to them while you design?

Yes, I love podcasts—and along with gum and music—are crucial to getting in the zone. My wife and best friend have a podcast together called the Dirty 30-Something podcast ( That is my fav' but I might be bias.   

Matthew Korbel-Bowers
Matthew Korbel-Bowers

How do you define graphic design?

Graphic design is the visual side of branding. 


What is your favorite typeface?

Hmm. I think I like typographic relationships more than the typefaces. Like a 96pt classic 18th century French serif title paragraph set over 10pt Avenir body copy. 

Where do you find inspiration for your design projects? Do you look in different places depending on who the work is being produced for? Do you keep any sort of files full of ideas or inspiration?

My answer to this is Martin Venezky ( I learned from him the life-changing lesson of making your inspiration. It would take too long to describe here but research Martin and process artists like Robert Irwin. Good stuff. 


What's next for you and your work?

'Keep making,' is what I tell myself.

Matthew Korbel-Bowers
Matthew Korbel-Bowers

View More - Matthew Korbel-Bowers + Behance

Purchase - Society 6


*All images are the property of Matthew Korbel-Bowers and were used with artist's permission.

Jess Black

 Image: Shanoa Garcia,  SAGE Projects

Image: Shanoa Garcia, SAGE Projects

When I saw Jess Black's new work, my heart pitter pattered a little bit. Every piece resonated with me and I wanted to study every inch of the canvas. 

Jess Black grew up around Chicago, fled to New York at age 17 with only $400 in his pocket and signed a modeling contract a short time later. Fast forward a little bit and Black is now a well known, neo and abstract expressionist artist living in Los Angeles with an all new body of work.

Black's new work, curated by SAGE Projects and currently on display in a solo exhibition titled, "Timely Disorder", seeks to communicate and explore tendencies toward divided attention of the contemporary mind, while cultivating awareness of one's own engagement with this modern day disposition. 

See Jess Black's interview below!

White Wigs of the Court

Your work has garnered a lot of critical acclaim and attention. Some critics are even drawing comparisons between your work and that of Jean Michel Basquiat, Francis Bacon, and Wassily Kandinsky. How do such comparisons make you feel? Does it add a certain level of pressure?

I don't really think about it honestly. I don't  have a formal arts education and I certainly didn't study art history, so when the comparisons began I had to do quick google searches on my phone to decide if the comparisons were compliments.  I'm a little wiser these days about the artists who came before me.  I understand that people like to make comparisons so they can fit you neatly into categories.  For me the comparisons make me want to dig deeper and ensure that I am presenting work that is 100% me and not reflective of those from another generation. Though I have to admit that I do hope that in 50 years someone sees a young painter and says to him, "That looks a little like a Jess Black."

Timely Disorder.jpeg

I'm very interested in the pivotal moments in people's lives - usually moments that don't seem that significant until retrospect. Looking back, what would you say is the most critical moment in the earliest part of your career as an artist?  

I would have to say when I made the decision to be a full time artist and made that my path. I have done several things in the past for work. Not too terribly long ago when I made the decision to pursue art and only art, was life changing. There was no "B" plan. I had and do have tunnel vision. I think that is important.

What's next for you and your work? 

I was just discussing this with my manager.  I know I am going to be doing a show in Paris, France, probably in Spring 2015.  However, I have no idea what I will be painting or what type of collection will develop.  There have been a lot of issues I've wanted to explore in art . . . issues you wouldn't think would work with a visual medium, but I may give it a try.

On Your Every Word.jpeg

Do you have a dream collaboration?  

Hmm... I have a deep respect for writers, maybe because I feel like I have zero talent in that area. People who tell beautiful stories, paint pictures really with their words are amazing to me. I would at some point maybe like to collaborate with a writer in some form. Maybe a collection of paintings that mirror some sort of script, book or life story. Something where the words and the paintings all come together to tell the story.

It seems like you have a lot of creative talent that extends beyond painting. How do these other passions and talents influence your painting?

I think creativity takes many forms.  I sing, I even recorded an album awhile ago.  I enjoy cooking and have been told that I am pretty good at it.  I think it is all part of the creative process.  I think a lot of artists express their creativity with more than one outlet.  I view the world from a creative perspective.  As such, everything influences my paintings.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to become a professional artist? 

It really depends on your goals as an artist.  If it is just to create, then create.  Paint or sculpt or draw as much as you can and let the creativity flow through you.  If your goal is to be an artist who earns a living from your creativity, then you have to have business savvy.  You have to learn to look at your art as not only an expression of who you are, but also as a commodity.  If you find that you are having a hard time separating your emotions from the business side, then find someone to partner with who can.

Breaking Binds.jpeg

What artists do you look to for inspiration or who are some of your favorite contemporary artists?

There is the Australian artist Brett Whitely who is no longer with us. I admire his work but I am inspired by how he navigated the art world as a working artist. He, like me had no formal training. He was extremely business savvy. But at the same time took a lot of risks creatively.

I recently came upon a photographer named Dean West who does this beautiful surrealist photography. He has a series of beach scenes that I love.


Do you collect art? If so, what was the first piece of art in your collection?

I actually don't collect 2D art.  So many of my own works are on my walls and then they sell and new works go up.  What does seem to inspire me are fabrics.  I love patterns and color combinations.  I might have a bowl I bought at a thrift store, but my pillows are custom made from imported fabrics.  :)

What's the best thing about being an artist in LA?

After being an artist in NYC I would have to say the weather.  The sun is amazing here.  The light is amazing.  I can create all year round without the feeling that I need to hibernate between October and April.

If someone is visiting LA for 24 hours, what are the things they must do while they're there?

The beach. Sand and sun. After living in NYC for a very long time when I walk on the beach here I always think to myself "I'm living the California dream"!

Jess Black's show will be on view at the Gateway Gallery @ Cooper Design Space in downtown Los Angeles until August 14, 2014. 

Press or Purchasing Inquiries: info@sage-projects or visit Sage Projects online

Jennifer Davis

I first discovered Jennifer Davis' work on Pinterest and was immediately drawn to the colorful, exotic imagery. This led me to her personal site and Etsy shop, where I fell in love with her work even more. Jennifer is a fine artist based in Minneapolis and was gracious enough to share her story and work with us today.

Tell us a little about you background and what led you to become an artist.

After finishing all of my general requirements at the University of MN I was still having trouble figuring out what I wanted to DO. I took a drawing class with my roommate and fell deeply in love with making art. I ended up staying on for several more years (taking just about every art class offered) and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine arts degree in painting and drawing - with a minor in Art History- in 1998. So- it was not until college that I discovered my passion for art. I started doing art full time when I was laid off from my day job at an advertising agency in 2003. That is when I made art the focal point of my life.

Tell us a little about your process (research, tools used, etc.)

I've always thought of my process as a sort of Free Association method. I don't plan out any of my paintings, rather I just sit down and start doing- building off of whatever bubbles up. In order to make sure I don't run out of ideas I always try to keep my eyes peeled for interesting visual cues or ideas. My paintings are mostly acrylic/graphite on mounted wood panels, sometimes paper. I also like to paint on found thrift store junk objects.

Your paintings are so colorful and exotic feeling. What sort of things do you look to for inspiration? 

Are there any particular artists, books or songs that really get your imagination going? I collect found images and constantly troll the internet looking for art to inspire. Flickr Commons (vintage Creative Commons photos) is another rich source of inspiration for me. I'm inspired by animals, carnival stuff and all things vintage, especially toys. I love playing around with color combinations. I love looking at other people's art too. Right now I am swooning over:

Marco Wagner 
Aris Moore
Jennifer Sanchez  
I post art I like on Pinterest here: and I am particularly fond of my fellow MN artists- I post about them here:

Outside of painting, what other sort of creative pursuits do you have?

None that I can think of...Ha! I spend time working every single day in my studio.

I also like to ride my bike everywhere and I am a big film fanatic.

What's next for you and your work?

I'm creating a series of hand-pulled prints for Springboard for the Arts CSA: Community Supported Arts Project, and a temporary (cat) tattoo for the Walker Art Center's 2014 Internet Cat Video Festival and some other fun projects. My next solo exhibition is at Low Gallery in San Diego, CA in Sept.

What's the best part about being an artist in Minneapolis?

I've been working as an artist here since the late 90s so it feels like a really small community to me. My community of artists is tight-knit, supportive and inspiring. There is also a lot of funding support and many inclusive opportunities/galleries. I think this is a great place to be a working artists.


What's the perfect way to spend the day in Minneapolis?

My favorite way to spend the day is on a Cycle N Sip (as my pal Betsy named it)...riding all over town on my bike with my BF, Brad making stops whenever we are tired for food/beer/art/music.

We have recently visited many favorites including Sea Salt Eatery (a fish restaurant in a park overlooking Minnehaha Falls), Soo Visual Arts CenterPublic FunctionaryRosalux GalleryIzzy's Ice Cream, several new taproom/breweries and my favorite dive bar Dusty's.

What advice do you have for aspiring creatives who want to earn a living creating art? 

There are a lot of daily tasks involved in making a living as an artist that have nothing to do with actually making art. It is basically like running a small business- bleh. It is easy to get distracted by all of that stuff but the most important thing is to make art. A lot of it and all of the the time.


What's your dream collaboration?

I did a grant project last year involving vintage carousels. I'd love to paint a carousel animal- or a whole merry-go-round full of them...=0)


What does a typical day look like for you? 

Ideally- in the studio all day, outside playing all eve.


What books/articles do you think are must reads for creatives?

I don't know. I wish someone would tell me. I read mostly contemporary fiction as an escape. However, I will shamelessly plug this new book by Daniel Krysa because it is really great: 

Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas. Advice & Projects from 50 Successful Artists

Check out more of Jennifer's work on her website and in her Etsy shop!

Local Lovely [ Kitty Cat Stevens ]

Dinosaur Book

Jenna and I met in an Advanced Bookmaking class in college. I don't make a lot of books these days. Jenna makes awesome books all the time. 

Jenna runs the blog Kitty Cat Stevens where she posts about handmade books, sewing projects, embroidery, & calligraphy. She is starting her own business and let me (and my friend Allison) come over to take photos of her studio the other week – it's taken me forever to get this post up! While I'm kicking myself for not getting better lighting on these (my photography skills are still in the works), I think they manage to show a hint of how wonderful her studio was. 

It was filled with vintage books and baubles and dresses and was just wonderful. 

Kitty Cat Stevens' Studio
Kitty Cat Stevens
Kitty Cat Stevens
Kitty Cat Stevens
Kitty Cat Stevens
Kitty Cat Stevens
Kitty Cat Stevens

You can follow Jenna on Twitter, Instagram, and Bloglovin' and sign up for updates on the Kitty Cat Stevens Bookcraft & Stitchery shop here. 

Artist Feature [ Honey of Workshop Honey ]

Workshop Honey

I was introduced to Honey (a.k.a. James Johnson) and his work through Essi Zimm who was recently featured on this blog. He's an architect, furniture maker and fine artist originally from Kentucky, but now living in California. He was kind enough to participate in an interview where he tells us where he learned to make furniture, his thoughts on shopping locally, and how he came to be the 6' 5" bearded man called Honey. 

You have a background in architecture and currently make furniture and art. Do you still work as an architect or do you focus solely on creating handmade and sustainable goods? 

Though I still work as an architect, I believe the line between architecture, furniture, and art is very blurred.  A furniture piece (or painting) is a microcosm of the issues faced in building design:  scale, proportion, materials, structure, history, etcetera —all of which must be carefully considered.  I believe good design is achieved when all of these considerations have been synthesized into one harmonious idea, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  So, it’s all architecture, I just prefer the act of physically making with my hands!

If you do focus solely on creating handmade and sustainable goods, what was the hardest part about transitioning from being an architect to a craftsman/maker, running your own business? 

In practical terms, the biggest transitional challenge is maintaining a consistent income that allows me to explore all the ideas!  This is still a work in progress…

You’re from Kentucky originally, what prompted you to move across the country to California? 

The most interesting decisions usually involve a woman!

When/Where did you learn how to make furniture? 

You assume I know what I’m doing!  I’ve always had an affinity for trying to put things together and most especially for finding new ways to use old objects.  I still fondly recall the bookshelf I patiently spliced together using only discarded plastic dairy crates and lag bolts.  These experiments lead to an important realization:  a fancy wood shop and complicated array of tools is NOT required in order to achieve function and beauty.

My first formal furniture experience however came in college, at the University of Kentucky, under the direction of Len Wujcik, himself a furniture designer, maker, and entrepreneur.  His assertion was that all objects could be boiled down to one of three things:  a line, a plane, or a mass.  I learned a lot that semester.

It’s clear that you value craftsmanship and sustainability in your work. It seems that you’re creating pieces that are meant to be conversation pieces not only now, but years and years into the future. Other than your own creations, what piece of furniture do you own and hope to treasure for years to come? Why is this piece particularly special to you?

As much as I admire furniture and its form, I actually value the little knick-knacks picked up on travels or thoughtful gifts received from friends much more.  They have a story to tell, a personal story, and are the kinds of things that make a home…a home.  Sure, a Sam Avedon shell chair is sexy, but in a fire I’d grab the six dollar coffee mug purchased in a little hole in the wall burger joint in Kansas that claims the distinction of inventing the slider. 

How did you get the nickname “Honey”? 

One thing is certain—you don’t choose nicknames, they choose you.  The “Honey” in Workshop Honey is actually a nod to the nickname I picked up in my college days, hanging around my favorite coffee shop in Lexington where my barista girlfriend worked at the time.  Every day I stepped through the door I would be a greeted with an enthusiastic “Hey Honey!” and it wasn’t long before my name was permanently supplanted.  There must be something memorable about being introduced to a 6’-5” bearded man simply as “Honey”.  Ultimately, I settled on “Workshop” over other descriptions like “Studio” or “Atelier” because it carries a certain blue collar, common sense ethic that is closely aligned with my philosophies.  

Where are your favorite places to shop local (California, Kentucky, online, etc.)?

Aside from yard sales and curb finds, I have to give a shout out to the Black Market in Lexington, KY and Tini (This Is Not Ikea) here in Los Angeles.  In addition to great store names, their goods are always changing and have a real curated feel.  Quirky, vintage, and with local flavor, they are the kind of places you could spend an hour rummaging through to find that perfect thing you didn’t know you needed.

Let’s talk about your paintings now. The work you have displayed on your website ranges from bold, acrylic paintings to textural, mixed media pieces. What ideas do you most like to explore in your paintings?

I spend a lot of time thinking about human scale, consumerism, politics, and the immense infrastructure (both virtual and real) that keep us quietly desperate.  I use bits and pieces of discarded culture:  advertising mailers, newspapers, and other pulp as a whitewashed background, or billboard if you will, where a new message can be emblazoned.  Found objects are important because they are tangible evidence of a real time and place.  Garbage is mankind’s true monument. 

Where do you find inspiration for your work (both furniture and painting)? Are there any particular designers or artists that you admire?

I am endlessly fascinated by everyday objects.  It’s a process of constantly reverse-engineering where the goal is to separate the arbitrary from the necessary and form from function.  There is poetry in an object that has been whittled down its most essential essence.  Few things are more elegant than a paperclip.

What’s next for you and your work?

To keep fighting the good fight!  The support of folks like you and your readership is what makes the journey possible.  So please keep an eye out for upcoming events here in Los Angeles like Unique LA and the Renegade Craft Fair!  There are so many wonderfully talented and genuinely nice folks that are part of these events.  The creative energy is almost palpable and it’s inspiring to see people following their passions.  

I’d also like to add that I’m encouraged by the growing awareness of the importance of shopping locally and the recognition that it’s the little idiosyncrasies that make a place a place.  Every dollar we spend is a vote.  We all have the power to affect positive change simply with our buying choices!

Check out more of Honey's awesome work: 






*All photos curtesy of James Johnson

Meredith Bullock


Meredith and I met the new fashioned way – via the internet. Twitter to be specific. Her website is beautiful, her message is clear and she's local! So, naturally, I asked her to be on my blog immediately. 

Meredith is an entrepreneur who believes her calling is, "to help others to discover and strengthen their talents, personality and passions so they can bring value to the world doing what they love." And oh yea, she's a great artist/designer herself AND she teaches workshops like the watercolor one she just taught with The Skillery

Needless to say, I'm thrilled that she did this interview with me and I'm excited for you to get to know her!


You work with creatives to help them strengthen their talents and make money doing what they love, what are the biggest mistakes that you see creatives make when they’re first starting to turn their passion into a business?

Working without a contract might be the biggest mistake I see over and over again. A contract is essential to a smooth transaction because it outlines what is expected of each person, gives a projected timeline, has the price, terms and conditions in writing and overall gives the artist/creative and the client comfort and security. Not to mention its shows your clients your professional, you're organized and care about the project start to finish.

I understand that contracts/agreements are daunting because you might not know how to write one, but there are endless resources and templates you can find online and personalize to your business and projects.


You’ve started 3 successful businesses, what were your biggest struggles when you first started out?

Learning how to communicate with my clients online was a big struggle starting out. Coming from 13 years of being a hairstylist, where I talked, touched and connected with 15-30 clients per day face-to-face, learning how to bring the same warmth, trust, connection, enthusiasm and creativity to each client via email was difficult. And because most of my clientele lived out of state or over seas, email, phone or video were the only options for communication. I tried phone calls but have never adhered to them well.  

Then I tried video chats, which was a whole new experience for me, and it immediately improved my relationship with each client and alleviated any stress. Face-to-face conversation, even if it's on a screen, is far better than any phone or email interaction because it shows we're both human, we have feelings and we care. Today, I make it mandatory to meet each client via video at least once for short term projects, and almost monthly for long-term projects.


How do you continue to learn and grow both as an artist and as a business professional? Are there any conferences or workshops you attend or blogs that you read regularly? If so, what are they?

I've always been one to take a DIY approach to most things, so I read a lot of books, read artistic and business blogs, curate inspirational artwork and designs on Pinterest, listen to podcasts and then I read some more. Conference and workshops are all new for me, so I've only attended a few but plan to go to plenty more! My favorite blogs right now are Braid Creative and Breanna Rose and my favorite podcast is with Michael Stelzner, the author of Launch - a book I recommend to everyone with an online business.

You offer a variety of creative services, teach workshops and give lectures. How do find a good work/life balance?

The two most important things I've realized that help balance my life with work are 1) being honest with myself and with everyone around me and 2) knowing what I want my day-to-day to look like and sticking with it. That way when new projects come along, as they always do, I don't overbook myself. Or when I really need a day off I take it. Or when I need to schedule a video chat with a new client and the only time they're available is after I'm done with work, I say no. Or if a project needs to be done in 2 weeks and I know it will take 4, I say no.


Nashville has grown a lot in the past few years, what are your 3 favorite new spots in the city?

My husband and I have only been here for about six months, so my range might be narrow, but we love to eat at Silly Goose, Burger Up and Holland House, grab a cocktails and see a live shows at The Basement, Stone Fox, No. 308, Village Pub and The Crying Wolf and meet with other creatives and Nashvillians for coffee or tea at Barista Parlor, Crema, Bongo Java and Ugly Mugs.

If you had to tell a creative to invest in only one thing at the start of their business, what would that thing be?

Wow, great question Brittany! This took me a minute to think about because one of the first things I thought was a logo. But before a logo, because honestly you could just create a simple logo yourself, I'd say a business book. When I first started out, I didn't know what I was doing and definitely did not have any money to invest in anything except a $15 book. It wasn't a stuffy business book either, it was creative and geared towards artists like myself, looking to make money with my craft. The book was called Craft Inc but it wasn't the book (Barnes and Noble was sold out of it) it was the Workbook/Planner. It had examples of forms, papers, asked things like my style, what my overall vibe was, it basically had everything I could ever need to get started with my business. It was brilliant, it still is brilliant and I recommend it to all of my clients just starting out.

studio 1
studio 2

What is a typical workday like for you?

8:30 - wake up and make coffee

9:00 - mediate and read

10:00 - eat breakfast and confirm my day

10:30 - go to the gym, run or walk

11:30 - blog

1:30 - eat lunch

2:00 - check and return emails, video chat with clients

3:00 - work on artwork and design projects

5:00 - mini break

5:15 - finish up projects and work

6:30/7pm - conclude work

7:00 - begin cooking dinner

7:30/8 - eat dinner

8:30 - hang with my husband and watch TV or movies or go to a music show

11:30 - a little personal reading then bedtime


You’ve already accomplished a lot in many different creative arenas, what do you plan to tackle next?

To name a few; publish a book, launch a series of ecourses, paint a series of abstract acrylics, write and record a handful of songs and launch a 2-5 day in-person passion to profit workshop geared for creatives, artists and musicians who want to start making money doing what they love.


Want to see more of Meredith? Check out her website here!

Harry Underwood

I saw Harry Underwood's work in person at The Arts Company gallery in 2012 and I have admired it ever since. You can imagine my delight then when he agreed to do an interview for the blog. Harry is a Nashville-based, self taught painter who, according to his website, "describes his artwork as 'illustrated poetry'." Born in Miami and raised near Homestead, FL, Harry also lived in New Orleans and Austin before settling in Nashville. His work has been shown in France and the United Kingdom and one of his paintings appeared in the 2013 documentary "Inventing David Geffen".

Check out his artwork and interview below!

 "Blue roof sky"

"Blue roof sky"

How did you become an artist? Is creating art something you always felt you must do? 

I always drew pictures as far back as I can recall. During my teens I began to notice that I didn't fit into any of the kind of plans people were making. I was thrown out of school and ended up in work I had no interest doing. I always made art and wrote about things.

What can you tell us about the pieces you're currently working on?  What's next for you and your work? 

I'm making more paintings. I'm studying different ideas I've been getting and I'm looking for new arrangements of color. I will continue making things similar to what I have done and I am always looking for changes to introduce.

 "Watson sisters of Sweetwater Tenn" 

"Watson sisters of Sweetwater Tenn" 

 "Spaghetti House" 

"Spaghetti House" 

I'm always very interested to know exactly how people got their start at something. How did your first professional exhibition come about? 

I was installing ceramic tile and painting houses during the days while painting pictures in the early mornings and evenings. I had a booth in an antique mall that I'd filled with old sinks and objects from job sites where I worked. I hung some paintings in there, then people began contacting me to suggest I bring them to Nashville. I put paintings in a shop called the Artful Dog in Berry Hill, then I did some "Untitled" Art Group shows that introduced me to the Plowhaus Artist's Coop where I had my first solo show in a gallery setting.

On your website, it says that you started painting in 2001 and had your first professional solo exhibit in 2005. What were those years when you were painting, but not exhibiting professionally like?

I attempted painting several times when I was younger during the 80s and 90s. It wasn't until 2000 or so that I found the style and techniques I work with now. The transition from my former employment was a difficult experience. It took 4 or 5 years for the art to pay my bills, and my personal life was not very great then. My mind was preoccupied with making the art and clearing away the distractions. I had a drinking habit that became worse when I was having to leave my art each day to go to another job. I was drinking on those jobs and I was miserable. It had taken my entire life up to that point to find a vehicle for self expression and once I had located it there was no way I felt I could be doing anything else.

 "Howard's Full Service" 

"Howard's Full Service" 

 "Magellanic clouds" 

"Magellanic clouds" 

Were you actively seeking public recognition as an artist or were you painting purely for enjoyment? What made you decide to get into the art world?

I paint for the enjoyment, I don't remember deciding to make art. The money I earn goes directly into the artwork allowing me to pursue it. I don't feel like I am involved in the art world. I have been successful at making time for myself to create my art. I think that's what most artists want to achieve. I don't leave home very often except to ride my bicycle or have dinner with my wife. I didn't know any other artists before I entered the gallery scene so I had no examples to follow.

What can you share about your creative process? For example, do you always work from photographs, do you plan out each piece precisely before starting, do you have to listen to certain music while working, etc?

I usually know what I'm going to create based on what I've finished. Some larger paintings have appeared to me in my mind in a hazy detail where I can distinguish the plans for color and structure. I think that if there's a sense of it in mind like that then I'm usually confident it will work. Many pictures don't work out and the disappointment of losing weeks or months of work is difficult to bear. My paintings are composites that rely on photographs to build scenes. Many of the human forms I produce today are assembled from multiple images. It's the process of thinking and planning that I'm interested in. In my work there's also the period that I perform the writing. When a painting is finished I usually feel lost unless I've already began planning another. The body of work I have made so far gives me a lot of satisfaction. My paintings contain my life and my identity.

I like "Cruising with Ruben and The Jets" by The Mothers of Invention. I don't have to listen to music in order to work. I use it to block sounds from my neighborhood. Sometimes I watch movies while I'm working or I listen to old Radio dramas like Suspense and Dimension X.

 "Emerald cascades" 

"Emerald cascades" 

 "Dixie daisy" 

"Dixie daisy" 

What is your dream collaboration? (could be with another artist, a company, a musician, etc.)

If a company wanted to use an image that I've made I would consider it. I don't want to work with other people. I'd like for things to stay as they are.

If you could try your hand at any other job for a day, what would it be?

I don't have any other ambitions right now.

 "A flume of wellness"

"A flume of wellness"

Do you have a "dream" collector? Someone that if you found out they had bought something you created, would make you ecstatic.

No, I haven't got any in mind. The collectors are like friends who never speak to me.

 "Frenesi punch" 

"Frenesi punch" 

Where do you find inspiration?

I think about the events in my past and the few places I've been to. I examine life and I ride my bicycle.

Is there a question that you always hope you'll get asked in interviews, but then never do? For example, do you have a burning desire to tell the world what your favorite type of cereal is, but have just never gotten the chance.

I have a lot of opinions that never come up in interviews.

 "Cracker jack" 

"Cracker jack" 



To read more about Harry Underwood visit his website here