A few months ago I interviewed an artist Andrew Baines. He recently sent me a fun video of one of his shoots. Enjoy!
Deborah Unger: Featured Artist
Wood sculpture, Printmaking
Home: Mt. Angel, Oregon, USA
During a recent visit to Lunaria, a lovely gallery in Silverton, Oregon, I came face to face with delicately carved figures with hand sewn clothes. I was struck by the artist’s ability to combine realism with metaphor. Each sculpture was a short story…and at the same time open to interpretation.
I contacted the artist, Deborah Unger, who was willing to be this month’s featured artist.
Do you have any early memories of doing art?
Growing up, I always enjoyed drawing. I remember drawing a fish in a fishbowl with a crayon and for some reason, I believe I was four at the time.
You have always enjoyed drawing. Did this enjoyment lead you to taking courses in art?
I received a Bachelor’s of Fine Art from Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon. My major was in printmaking.
Printmaking? How interesting, because your sculptures are very far from printmaking. What lead you to that transition?
After graduating I moved to Germany and didn’t have facilities to do printmaking so I tried other media. And though I never considered myself a sculptor, three-dimensional work, particularly Gothic sculpture and altarpieces increasingly compelled me. One day I was in an art supply store and found a piece of linden wood so I bought it and tried my hand at carving. On my first attempt, I was trying so hard to coax a figure out of the wood that I didn’t really leave enough for clothing. Since I sew, I just made her a dress. So I guess I am a trained artist but a self-taught wood carver.
I love that story. I feel artists will create art with whatever is handy and speaks to them. Where do you get your ideas?
Because my art is metaphoric and more about the idea than the execution or process, inspiration is key. Sometimes an idea comes as a flash of an image relating to something I’m thinking about. Sometimes it’s a phrase that evokes an image. But sometimes inspiration needs to be helped along. If I need more ideas for work than come easily to me, I think about different images I find evocative and put them together. Often I add something I have a fear of, like fire or heights. That juxtaposing can spark ideas.
From how you talk about the ideas, it seems as if your metaphors or messages are very personal. Do you collaborate on art projects or mostly work alone?
As most artists do, I work alone. I’ve always thought how strange it feels to make something that can be intensely personal, essentially in secret, and then bring it out to show people. You have to get to that point where you don’t take rejection of it personally, even though what you’ve created is very personal.
There are times when I wish I had some feedback while I’m working. It can help you see things you’ve missed in your own work but it can also lead second-guessing and losing your vision so it’s a bit of a double-edged sword.
Would you be willing to share a few of your works and a little about them?
I find mythical creatures which are part human part animal very interesting and think lend themselves nicely to metaphor. That is how The Changeling came about. I was wanting to do some kind of hybrid when “Buck Boy” came to me. As is typical with the way I work, the image comes first and I figure out what it means later. The meaning is clear to me on this one since at the time my son was a teenager.
I noticed that many of your sculptures have to do with male and female relationships.
This sculpture combines images which I commonly use; houses, relationships between men and women and heights.
“Blind Leading the Blind”
I’m not sure anymore what made me think of piggy back rides and someone covering your eyes, but suddenly it had a slightly uncomfortable aspect to me. The not being able to see was what I think it was, so I thought it would be interesting if neither one could see. I think this is a metaphor for relationships in that you never know what’s ahead of you and also about how we handicap those in our lives and ourselves.
Thank you, Deborah, for sharing your art work and letting us peek behind the curtain of your inspiration. Thank you for being this month’s featured artist.
Bozena Wojtaszek: Featured Artist
Home: Lodz, Poland
If you want to see textile art, spend some time looking through Bozena’s blog posts. She is skilled at making the ordinary exquisite. She has a passion for textiles in all their colors and textures. She adds to this a fearless design style. I’m pleased she took time to answer some questions.
What were your first memories of doing art or having an interest in art?
I really have to go back in time to answer this question! When I think about it now, the first thing that I made that had a trace of art in it, must have been collages. I was a little girl then, in primary school maybe. I can recall finding all kinds of materials that fitted together, photos, scraps from magazines, anything, and putting it all together on a board which hung over my desk. Nobody called it art back then, but now I understand that the feeling I had while making it was the same I have when I sew now. I mean, patchwork is somehow similar to collage. You create something that looks great from pieces that somebody wouldn’t think could go together.
You do such a good job of making things go together. I noticed that you used a lot of everyday themes: trees, chickens, kitchens. What kinds of things spark your inspiration?
What kinds of things don’t spark my inspiration! I get inspired by so many different kinds of things it is hard to tell. But the reason for this is that I keep my eyes wide open. The beginning of my creative process is often in the kitchen. I see many ‘kitchen landscapes’ in there, created by real vegetables and I try to translate them to textiles later (I have a whole series of this title). And just as easy, I get hit by the beauty of my window view. Or sometimes I am inspired by medieval illuminated manuscript, botanical illustrations, or… you can name anything; the key is to look at it the right way.
I love the way you make trees, using different forms and seasons. Some artists take classes, some have mentors, while others are self-taught. In what ways did you learn your present skills?
I’m definitely self-taught. I’ve never been in any art school, never finished any course. My grandma taught me basic skills in all handcraft techniques. The rest I drew from books, magazines and trying. I started mixing different techniques when I felt urged to do it and I developed my own style of creative process.
Would you be willing to share your creative process?
I would like to share a bit about the process of creating “Spring birds.” Probably because I had so much fun sewing it. When the idea came to my head, I just couldn’t stop until I made it real.
And I like how linen greys in the background go well with little brightly colored silk birds.
There are also elements like pieces of checked textile which is not a pattern you would think of for this design, but it turns out the final effect is simple and fresh.
I also like the shape of trees – they are just simple dark lines, yet they give quite the impression of where the birds are. I just really like it.
I, too, like all the work you do with trees. They become so much more than simple dark lines in your hands. If you had unlimited funds, what kind of work space would you have, where, and on what would you focus?
A big window! A giant window is the only thing I need. The place must be bright; I need a lot of natural light. Then, I would love a spectacular view, but it doesn’t matter what is outside. As long as it has a lovely view, I don’t mind where my work space is. And I don’t need anything apart from that. There doesn’t have to be much space. Just a sewing machine, materials and a few books is enough for me to create. I don’t need a computer in my work space. In fact, I would rather there was no computer, so I could fully concentrate on art and leave the business behind.
What experience stayed with you relating to some piece of art that someone admired?
Certainly one of the greatest experiences I’ve had concerns my artwork “Poet in the kitchen.” I created it after reading “Recipe for the cabbage,” a poem by Dorota Kiersztejn Pakulska. I put a lot of heart into catching the poet’s story in my work. It was more than satisfying to hear how the poet herself admired the result. Then later I was contacted by her daughter who decided to buy it and offer as a gift to her mother. Although, I hadn’t planned to sell it, I was more than happy to do this, because I believed that the poet was the right person to have it. Whenever I get so much appreciation, it is always a very positive experience. I always preferred my works to be recognized rather than myself as a person. This is the nicest thing.
I think your work is delicate and powerful, common and extraordinary all at the same time. Thank you for sharing your art work with us and being this month’s featured artist.
*Two thumbs up for Bozena’s blog being written in English and Polish.
Vjekoslav Zivkovic: Featured Artist
Illustrator, animator, designer for characters and backgrounds
Home: Born in Karlovac
Vjekoslav was kind enough to answer questions for November’s Featured Artist Interview.
I’m amazed at all the projects you have been involved with, some with teams and others by yourself. What first sparked your interest in illustration or animation?
A far as I can remember I’ve had an interest in drawing and coloring. I used whatever “tools” to tell my own stories. It was a way of playing for me. Every child does that. It is natural. While you cannot expect a five year old to write novels, with a pencil or color, that child can tell a story. It is human nature to express one’s thoughts and feelings through visual art. Children grow and find different ways of expressing themselves. For me, I stuck with what was natural for me.
I understand you attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. Was that your plan growing up?
As a child, I learned a lot from watching cartoons, especially Hanna-Barbera productions (So, watching TV is not always bad for kids, ha). I attended classes in drawing and painting and learned a wide variety of skills.
Here is a painting of my home town, Karlovac. This is a view of the old center of town. The town is situated on four rivers and this old part was a Renaissance fortress (founded on the 13th of July in 1579) built as a defense post against the Turks.
I planned on going to the academy to further study in drawing and painting, but fate had something else in mind.
Then one day I went to an animation class. That is where I learned that animation was my true love. I focused on that, and had many mentors, but it still left me open to any challenges along the way. During the last two years of the academy we had a great deal of flexibility to focus on our interests. I learned a great deal from challenging myself.
Before you talked about using a variety of “tools.” What do you mean by that?
For about 8 years now I’ve gone completely digital in all I do. I use Wacom Cintiq 24HD and Wacom Cintiq Companion for all my work. For those who might find that repulsive, do not worry, I do not press “enter” and let the computer do the rest. I still need to hold the pen to do all the work. All that digital technology does not keep me from neck and back pain – ha.
How does the digital work influence your art?
I thought it would be interesting to show the process that I go through while working on an illustration or some character design. You can see step by step how I did this crazy lumberjack. The software I used here is Photoshop.
It is clear how each layer makes such a difference in your final product.
I understand you participate in a community as an artist that is similar to the community I participate in as a writer. We have #FP Friday Phrases where we post 140 character stories. What community are you involved with?
I’m involved in a Twitter group called “Colour Collective” where artists from all around the world post their work in the same time (19.30h) every Friday and each week a colour is set as a collective theme. Doing this weekly gives me lots of joy. When I do my illustrations I always try to tell a story. If there can be drama, that is even better. Here is an example of something I posted.
I can see the drama in this picture. I think this is one of the first pictures I saw on twitter from you that caught my imagination. I think it is what urged me to follow you.
I understand you are comfortable working alone or with large groups of people.
Most of the time, I’ve worked as a freelancer on all sorts of projects (animated short, music videos, animated feature, story books, collectible stickers, web games and apps, animated TV series, etc.).
There were other projects that were bigger and I am a part of the team. In the last year and a half I became a co-founder and member of a creative team called FooFoo. Most members of that team worked with me at another company, in the UK (an animation series). We understood each other so well that we became very good friends. We wanted to do a TV show of our own but pitching forums and TV producers like to work with studios that are already established in the industry. So we decided to do iOS Apps instead. In that way we could still be creative and tell our own stories, but this time directly to the customers. Here is the link: http://www.foo-foo.net/
We have been doing that for a year and a half now and at the end one of our Apps (Choro & Robin Adventure) is now opening a small door for us to make it a TV series. This is still in negotiation process so please keep your fingers crossed. Here is the app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/phonic-school/id964811139?mt=8
I would like to share with you a trailer I did for our very first App we did in Foo Foo. It is a bedtime story book for kids. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ySvtcF-iWE
I understand you also work with children, being a mentor to new artists.
I hold animation workshops for kids. I’ve been doing that for over 10 years. Two years ago, I held an animation workshop in Pilsen (Czech Republic). It had about 10 to 15 kids in the workshop and we had so much fun. At the end, the organizers gave kids paper with a few questions about the workshop. I still have those pieces of paper, and every time I`m down or am struggling on some project, I read what those kids wrote. You cannot get a more honest answer or feedback than from a child.
Indeed. I’m glad you kept those papers. What kind of dreams do you have for the future?
We all have dreams and wishes. I think we all should dream big, but to set up smaller goals (dreams) along the way to help us reach that “big” dream, the ultimate goal.
When we were in the FooFoo animation company’s first meeting and talked about what we wanted to do, we kind of all had similar goals – to have an animation studio of our own.
We have been working very hard on our projects for the past year and a half and now we are very close to achieving that goal. If the idea for a TV series gets the go ahead from a TV company, we will definitely establish our own animation studio.
If that goes well, we will have a similar meeting as before and put our bigger goals on the table, and make a plan how to achieve that one. Dreaming and achieving is a never ending process.
Here are two quotes that keep me going.
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Thank you for sharing your experiences and your dreams for this interview as the featured artist for November.
Name: Robert Fox
Home: Oregon, USA