interview

Interview: Ela Hosp on Using Multiple Media, Going to Art School, and Knowing Your Value

9:00 am


Today's interview is with the lovely Ela Hosp, an artist and YouTuber living in the Midwest of America, creating a wonderful and eclectic variety of pieces. We had a chat about their artistic past, and their hopes and dreams for their future works. Ela prompts young creatives not to change themselves for a perceived benefit, but to stay true to what they want to create. A lack of experience should not allow others to walk over you. For more inspiration, keep reading...

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Ela! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do? 

Ela Hosp:
Of course! I'm a non-binary artist and YouTuber who lives in the Midwest. 

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into creating art? Is this something you’ve been formally trained in? If you did study it formally, would you say this was a good or bad experience regarding allowing your creativity to flourish?

Ela Hosp:
I've always been creatively inclined. I actually didn't take any art classes until my freshman year of high school and ended up not liking my art teacher, so I only took classes through the art center in my city. I didn't even think about pursuing art as a career until my senior year, so I took a tonne of art classes to get work for my portfolio. I would consider my first "real" art class to be the foundations course I took my first year in art school. After completing that, I definitely felt like I'd been trained and had the artistic knowledge to conquer just about anything. Foundations was a bit rough for me specifically because of how my instructor discouraged our own artistic individuality and creative styles. But now, looking back, I appreciate how she stripped everything else from us and taught us the structure and fundamentals of art so we could excel in any medium.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first start sharing your art with the world and did you find yourself overcoming any hurdles regarding your confidence?

Ela Hosp:
I started making zines when I was fifteen. They were just filled with doodles and poems and playlists and I sold them for like $1 on Etsy. I remember being really nervous about people not liking the stuff I made, but actually ended up selling a ton of zines which was a great surprise. Social media, Instagram in particular, really helped boost my confidence about my artwork. It’s really great how much appreciation and support you can get on there.


Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about non-binary and female-identifying artists and their work. Which artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Ela Hosp:
According to some of my art professors, my work in terms of color is similar to Yayoi Kusama’s, which is an insane compliment. I’ve always loved her so it’s no surprise that subconsciously my work would resemble hers in some ways. I really look up to my art friends and their work is usually the most inspiring to me. I get so excited when I see my friends post something they’ve been working on. I’m just like YES! You are great and I’m your biggest fan. I have some crazy talented friends.

Magic & Musings:
I love Yayoi Kusama! I have an edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that's illustrated by her. It's so colourful and trippy; I love it.
Of all of your projects, which are you the happiest with and why?

Ela Hosp:
Probably the wearable sculpture I did back in March. I love working with fibers and conceptually I think it is one of my best and most well executed pieces.

Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 

Ela Hosp:
Having a designated studio space is super important for me. I am 100% influenced by the environment I’m in. Since I’m not in art school anymore where they give us a studio, I had to make sure my bedroom could also double in function and be my studio. I have lockers and a pegboard and other really weird stuff you wouldn’t normally see in a bedroom. It kind of looks like a woodshop, but I absolutely love it, it’s one of my favorite places in the world. I also HAVE to listen to music while I work, and it has to be music I already know so I can sing and bop along. Sales is probably my go to music for eliciting good and creative energy.


Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Ela Hosp:
I’ll get out my old sketchbooks and give them a look through. I almost always find ideas or color combinations or themes that I was interested in but never got to carry out.

Magic & Musings:
What tools do you use to keep yourself organised?

Ela Hosp:
I think my best advice would be to find a place for everything. If everything has a place, it’s easier to put things back where they belong after you use them. 

Magic & Musings:
You already work in a lot of media, but is there another medium you would like to explore working in next?

Ela Hosp:
I REALLY want to get into needle punching. I just learned how to Turkish marble paper and I have a printmaking class coming up. I just want to learn as much as I can, I don’t think I could ever just pick one media to work with forever.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Ela Hosp:
Oh, that’s a hard one. Probably that a lot of people will try to change you to benefit themselves. Stay true to yourself and what you want and you’ll be fine. Don’t let people take advantage of you just because you aren’t as experienced as them. What you have to offer is valuable and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


Magic & Musing:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

Ela Hosp:
YES! I’m currently reading Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler and it’s sooo good. I’m not usually one for dystopian stuff, but her writing is amazing and her concept of religion is really thought provoking. This is gonna sound lame but I really don’t watch a lot of movies. I’m 20 and the last movie I watched was Coraline. I watched it for the first time a few months ago and it was incredible. The animation, the soundtrack, everything, perfect. Also, I can’t stop listening to Lorde’s new album Melodrama. It hits me right in the gut in the best and most beautiful way possible and I will be a fan of her work forever.

Magic & Musings:
Lorde, our Lorde and Saviour! That album is absolutely superb from start to finish.
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? 

Ela Hosp:
This is something I’m personally struggling with right now so maybe there is someone else out there who needs to hear this. You don’t just have to stick to one thing. You can be an artist and a writer and a teacher and a doctor and a pilot and anything you want to be! You don’t have to make up your mind now or ever, do as much as you can, change your mind as many times as you want. Oh, and you can find me basically all over the internet! I’m @sweetcartilage on Instagram and Depop, and my YouTube is youtube.com/elahosp17!

interview

Interview: Ashley Le Quere on Pattern Design and Illustration, Inspiring Instagram Feeds, and Relaxation

12:00 pm


Ashley Le Quere is a surface pattern designer and illustrator based in London, creating beautiful flowing and inky designs. We had a quick chat about her work, the artists she looks at to get inspired, and the cycle of self-doubt that comes when working on a project. I hope you enjoy finding out about Ashley as much as I did!

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Ashley! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do? 

Ashley Le Quere:
Hi, my name is Ashley Le Quere, I am a London-based surface pattern designer. and illustrator. 

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your illustration style in three words, what would they be?

Ashley Le Quere:
Inky, flow, and happy.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into illustration? Was it something that was important to you in your childhood?

Ashley Le Quere:
I was always drawing as a child! My mum recently sent me a few illustration I created when I was really young, which made me laugh a lot but I actually liked them! I got into illustration at university. I was taking an art foundation course to try and find out what direction I wanted to go in, but I was struggling to make a decision. I went to see the head of our year and she immediately said my sketch books were full of illustrations… so I guess that was it!


Magic & Musings:
Have you received any formal art or illustration training?

Ashley Le Quere:
I studied illustration at the University of the West of England, but my pattern design has been mainly self-taught. I guess they go hand-in-hand.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first start sharing your illustrations online and did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place?

Ashley Le Quere:
Oh my gosh! All the time I am filled with self doubt! A project usually goes full circle, starting with excitement, them being anxious that it's not good, to loving it again. 

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look to when you need some inspiration or motivation?

Ashley Le Quere:
Yes, I totally do look to other illustrator, designers, and photographers to feel inspired! I have filled my Instagram with designers that I love to look at every day. Here are a few of my faves - Rose Blake, Louise Lockheart, Lisa Congdon.

Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools you use to create your art? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?

Ashley Le Quere:
I love to create with ink. I love how it flows and I guess I feel most comfortable with it. 
A book I'm reading at the moment is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert! That I am finding really inspiring! I would totally recommend it!

Magic & Musings:
Oh, I adore Big Magic!
Of all of your illustrations, which are you happiest with and why?

Ashley Le Quere:
That is a hard one to choose! At the moment I would say my Pool People designs. It was designed while I was living in Melbourne, Australia and I guess I'm feeling a bit nostalgic for that place at the moment.



Magic & Musings:
I’m interested in knowing how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done? A specific hot drink? A relaxing album?

Ashley Le Quere:
Well, I do like to listen to one particular set of books while I work… but I think when I tell people they think I'm kind of crazy, but here we go! I listen to Harry Potter when I work, every day! Yup, I have listen to them all properly thousands of times, but it helps me tune out the other noise! 

Magic & Musings:
Oh wow, I love that! I can totally see how that would work.
Have you ever explored working in another medium?

Ashley Le Quere:
I have recently started to work in gouache and really love it! I feels like the complete opposite to ink. It makes a very solid colour and great to layer over! 

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Ashley Le Quere:
I went though this recently and found it really hard to just relax! I tend to get guilty if I don't create and put pressure on myself (which doesn't help at all). So I guess I will have to say, just try and relax, do things that will make you happy!

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Ashley Le Quere:
It's going to be hard, but keep going! I have nearly given up so many times but soooo glad that I never actually did!


Magic & Musings:
Fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you’ve enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Ashley Le Quere:
I would recommend Big Magic for sure! One of my favourite books of all time is Wuthering Heights but I think that is a good, cozy winter book! I'm also reading Caitlin Moran's book Moranifesto at the moment, which is great fun, but also has loads of great political points! 

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Ashley Le Quere:
You can find my website at www.ashleylequere.com. I post a lot of my sketchbook on my Instagram - @ashleylequere. Thank you for taking the time to interview me, its been a pleasure :)

interview

Interview: Maya Freelon Asante on Being an Artist, Family Inspirations, and Working Outdoors

12:00 pm

Past Tense Present, 2015, 8.5”x18", tissue ink mono/photo print

*All images are courtesy of Morton Fine Art.*

Today's interview is with the incredibly talented creator Maya Freelon Asante, who creates bright, colourful, and complex artworks, sometimes combining printwork with photography. She dedicates her artwork to her grandmother, which you'll find out a little more about in our interview, and comes from a family with its roots in the African American Impressionist movement. I love the colourful nature of her art, my favourites being 'Dark Matter' and 'Divided/Whole'. Please read on to find out more about her story. Thank you for Morton Fine Art for providing images of her spectacular work to share with you today!

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Magic & Musings:
For any readers who don't know your background, do you want to tell me a bit about yourself and where you are today?

Maya Freelon Asante:
I'm an artist, a creator, a risk taker, and entrepreneur. I'm a Black woman; I always reiterate those two facts because I'm proud of them.

Magic & Musings:
If you describe your art style in three words, what would they be?

Maya Freelon Asante:
Bright, brilliant, kinetic.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into art? What first drew you to the field? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby?

Maya Freelon Asante:
I've always loved art since I was a little kid. It's something that brought me peace and I could sit and draw for hours starting at about age five. 

In middle school I had a teacher who saw my talent and really encouraged me by offering assignments that were challenging. I attended North Carolina Governor's School and started painting, drawing, and sculpture in high school. I also discovered the artistic roots of own my family in high school. My great grandfather was a African American Impressionist painter named Allan Freelon and he worked during the Harlem Renaissance. I also apprenticed with a Black female artist, Beverly McIver.

Beasts of the Southern Wild, 2013, 62"x30, tissue ink monoprint & collage

Magic & Musings:
Did you have to find yourself overcoming any hurdles regarding your confidence when you first started displaying your art?

Maya Freelon Asante:
When I first started exhibiting my art I applied to lots of different exhibitions and got lots of rejections. I also got a few acceptances, which always led to other projects. I went straight from undergrad at Lafayette College to graduate school at Tufts School of the Museum of Fine Arts. I had a fast paced, accelerated journey through schooling so by the time I finished and I went straight into teaching at the college level. It was like I never left school. After two years I decided I wanted to try to make art full-time. I found art residencies, art grants, and living in a city that supports the arts are crucial to surviving as an artist. The three places I've lived in the last decade are Durham, North Carolina which has a great State Arts Council, Baltimore, Maryland which has MICA, and public art funds, and Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts offer really great opportunities for the emerging artist. I met Deborah Willis at Harvard, through the CCA conference. All of these opportunities helped build my artistic career.

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your work, what are you proudest of and why?

Maya Freelon Asante:
All of my artwork is dedicated to my grandmother, Queen Mother Frances J. Pierce and it's either about living with her, remembering her as a child, using the tissue paper which I found tucked away in her basement, water damaged. She really had a huge impact in my creative life. And I'm proud of her life and legacy. Her sacrifices allowed me to be the artist I am today.

Handmade, 2013, 36"x37", tissue ink monoprint

Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I'm really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or particular album of music you listen to?

Maya Freelon Asante:
I typically like to work outdoors, or in a place that can accept a lot of water because my creative process can get really wet. I also like to work in studio spaces that are outside of the home, but I recently moved into a place where my studio is in my home and I need a space that's away from my living areas. I like to listen to Spotify and the station that I'm really feeling is Janelle Monae, Phony People and No Name and The Internet.

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Maya Freelon Asante:
Space to think and being quiet are super important when your are a creative person. That's when I get my inspiration. If I'm stuck in a rut sometimes I write my journal or I'll sit and meditate and be quiet and just let the creative process come through.

Inception, 2012, 90"x36", tissue ink monoprint
Magic & Musings:
What are some things you like to do in your spare time when you aren't working?

Maya Freelon Asante:
I love being outdoors, I love the water I like going on a nature walks and going to the ocean and going to the lake. I also love yoga and to go horseback riding.

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium?

Maya Freelon Asante:
I started out doing drawing, painting, sculpture, and photography, and now merge all my media together. The two things that I'm still interested in learning are glassblowing and metal work.

Lost, 2015, 26.75”x17", tissue ink monoprint
Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?

Maya Freelon Asante:
When I came up in college and graduate school, Facebook was just starting. So social media hadn't popped off yet. I just started Instagram this year and it's been interesting the amount of followers I've gotten in such a short amount of time. 

Divided/Whole, 2015, 25.5”x19”, spinning tissue ink monoprint

Magic & Musings:
If there was one thing you could want to say to the world if you knew everyone was listening, what would it be and why?

Maya Freelon Asante:
The one thing I want to say to the world is there needs to be more love and peace for everybody. Be honest, forgive, and accept everybody for just where they are. I think we would have a much sweeter and loving place for everyone if we could do those things. Also we need to share our resources. There's an abundance and just a few people are utilizing them. If we shared equally it would be a lot better for everybody.

Dark Matter,  2015, 55”x44”, spinning tissue ink monoprint

Magic & Musings:
What tools do you use to keep yourself organized?

Maya Freelon Asante:
Some may say I'm not organized at all, but I say there's a method to my madness. What method you say? I'm not sure, I have to find it.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in the field?

Maya Freelon Asante:
I wish somebody told me that I could do whatever I want if I just focus on my energy on it. That it's going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of self-confidence. I started out teaching thinking that I needed to teach in order to be an artist and that's not necessarily true. If you take your business skills, you take your creative skills, and then you take your entrepreneurial skills, and if you can merge all those three together you will have ability to be great at whatever you do.

Letter to my Great­ Great ­Grandmother, 2015, 8"x21", tissue ink mono/photo print
Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone read a book you have enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Maya Freelon Asante:
The books you should read are The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and Love, Freedom and Aloneness by Osho. Those are totally personal books that have nothing to do with art. The art books you should read are anything by Deborah Willis, Ways of Seeing by John Berger, and A Natural History of the Senses. A film I would recommend is Beasts of the Southern Wild. An album I would recommend is Lauryn Hill's Unplugged - I know that album is old, but every single time I listen to it I feel totally renewed in my life purpose.

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Maya Freelon Asante:
I would say to all Black female artists who are wondering - should they do it? Could they do it? Just go for it! You don't have to be the best artist, you don't have to be the most well-known, you just have to speak with the voice that God gave you and let it come out in whatever form. Come share your gifts with the world because we are waiting!

See You Soon, 2015, 42"x30", spinning tissue ink mono photo print

interview

Interview: Antonia Bonello on Art Directing for BuzzFeed, 8-Bit Animation, and the Badassery of Wonder Woman

12:00 pm


* Contains 8-bit pixel Game of Thrones gore and spoilers (seasons 1-3), as well as some Orange is the New Black spoilers, so be cautious if that's not how you roll *

Finally! An interview where I can use gifs! Today I'm talking to the extremely talented Antonia Bonello, a multi-disciplinary creative with wonderfully nerdy taste and a talent for 8-bit animation. You'll see some of her adorably brutal animations throughout the interview as she chats about her fantastic achievements in the online world, her love for Batman and Wonder Woman, and what it's like to art direct at BuzzFeed UK.

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Antonia! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, do you want to tell me a little more about yourself and where you are today?

Antonia Bonello:
Hi! I’m Antonia, a multi-disciplinary creative from East London and Art Director at BuzzFeed UK. Leading premium content solutions, I work with brands to create engaging branded content on the BuzzFeed platform. Specialising in retro 8-bit animation, I also create illustrations and interactive game content, most recently being shortlisted for Design Week Awards Rising Star 2016, and previously winning Silver at the Media Week Awards for BuzzFeed’s partnership with Alzheimer’s Society. I’m obsessed with Batman, love playing PlayStation, and am a first Dan black belt in karate.

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your design style in three words, what would they be?

Antonia Bonello:
Playful, detailed, nostalgic.

Magic & Musings:
When did you first get into design and animation? Did you study them formally or come across them as hobbies?

Antonia Bonello:
I’ve always adored art and storytelling. I grew up reading superhero comics, playing video games, and watching movies from a very young age, which I believe set the foundations for how I like to create narratives in my work. I have an inquisitive mind and love to learn how things are made, teaching myself stop-motion animation as a kid after watching Ray Harryhausen’s animations on Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, and drawing my own comics based on my uncle’s 1970’s Marvel collection. It was obvious to me that my career should be in the arts where I can continue to have fun with all these interests, so I studied Graphic Design majoring in Moving Image at Central St. Martins.


Magic & Musings:
I adore those Harryhausen films too! There's something so creepy and visceral about those animations that I haven't seen anywhere else since.
What made you interested in 8-bit design specifically?

Antonia Bonello:
My 8-bit style developed from a personal project I was working on after I had graduated. I had an idea for a game app called Rush Hour, so I decided to make a game trailer for it in hope of fundraising to get it developed. Having always played video games, I decided to make the visuals 8-Bit in style as a homage to retro games such as Super Mario and Sonic. I realised that this style could be adapted to show pop culture with a cool, nostalgic twist, hitting two beloved subjects that the general geek-culture of super fans get very excited about. I love how restricted I am designing for 8-bit, as it either looks like what I’m trying to illustrate or it doesn’t (there’s no middle ground), and you’re always only one pixel away from giving your character a hilarious pixel penis!

Magic & Musings:
That's hilarious!
Of all of your designs, which are you the happiest with and why?

Antonia Bonello:
I will always be most happy and proud of my 14 Most Brutal Deaths In ‘Game Of Thrones’ As 8-Bit GIFs animations for BuzzFeed. This commission from BuzzFeed Editorial really kicked off my 8-bit pop culture mash-up style, went viral across the UK and US gaining traction from other publications, and is how I got hired full-time to work for the Branded Content arm of BuzzFeed UK. There’s also something just morbidly cute about the different characters chopping each other’s heads off.


Magic & Musings:
It's nice to see scenes that I found so traumatising in such an adorable way. There's also been so many more since this, so maybe an updated version is in the works? *wink wink*
How did you find yourself in the position of an art director and what does the day-to-day look like in this position?

Antonia Bonello:
Having been hired as Creative Designer at BuzzFeed UK through the virality of my Game of Thrones animations, I have worked my way up to Art Director of the UK branded content Creative team over three years. My days vary a lot but usually includes attending brainstorms with the creative team where we discuss ideas for briefs, meeting with clients to pitch our ideas and how they can partner with BuzzFeed, creating illustrations and animations for branded posts, and if there is time I will experiment with personal work and new formats. Even though I lead a team of designers, I still like to get my hands dirty and get stuck in with the content creation – I believe it’s so important to not get stagnant and always want to stay on top of my game!

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Antonia Bonello:
I wouldn’t say that any particular female-identifying or non-binary artists have influenced my work per say, however I do l love the animations of Kirsten Lepore, the cleverness of Kelli Anderson’s interactive design, and the stories of Marguerite Bennett who is currently writing the new Batwoman comic books. 

Magic & Musings:
Kirsten Lepore is absolutely wonderful! Surely everyone recognises 'Hi Stranger'?
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 

Antonia Bonello:
I’m most productive when I put on a movie or a TV series to watch while working. I often find it difficult to concentrate on one thing at a time, so by having a movie playing allows me to listen to the story and quickly glance at what’s happening without disrupting my workflow, unlike popping on Facebook would. Doing this allows me to get lost in tedious projects that require patience, such as frame-by-frame animation, and hours go by without realising. Watching Batman: The Animated Series works really well as the story is lead greatly through dialogue and I also get my daily Batman fix.


Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Antonia Bonello:
I look through my ‘Inspiration Folder’ that I keep on my desktop, which is full of cool images that I have collected over the years. Failing that, going to an art gallery always stimulates my creativity and makes me think of creative solutions in a different way. I also find that my best ideas come when I’m about to sleep, so a nap often works too if I am really stuck!

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium?

Antonia Bonello:
I am always experimenting with other mediums as I get bored and restless if I keep doing the same thing all the time. This allows me to adapt different styles I’ve developed and the mediums I use to fit briefs, rather than trying to fit in a rigid style that won’t necessarily be the right solution. I believe it’s important to experiment otherwise you just become stagnant and a one-trick pony, so I’m currently teaching myself video editing and hand-drawn illustration. 

Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?

Antonia Bonello:
My work is entirely internet-based as BuzzFeed is borne from the internet! I love the nature of BuzzFeed and the way it interacts with its audience and vice versa, which allows me to have real-time feedback. Unlike traditional advertising, I can live-track viewing figures and read honest (and sometimes brutal) comments that allow me to quickly learn, adapt and progress in ways that I had never previously thought I could, for both myself and my clients. Social media is such a huge tool for personal and commercial growth that I don’t think many people and businesses are utilising to the full potential. I’ve learnt so much about how people interact with different types content and content themes, which is priceless knowledge.


Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Antonia Bonello:
Keep working on projects that you love. When first starting out, I felt that everyone else’s work was better than mine, so I tried to mimic their styles and projects. I tried to be minimal, more graphical, and internships forced myself to design logos and boring corporate stuff. I hated doing all of this – it just wasn’t me. So, I started working on self-initiated projects in my own time that I could put my love into. In the end, it was these self-initiated projects that got me the career that I have now, as they showed my personality and way of thinking, and I now get to do what I love everyday.

Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

Antonia Bonello:
I recently re-read Batman: The Killing Joke, which is a graphic novel by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. It’s such a dark story that is masterfully written and illustrated, with twists and turns that catch me every time. I also just watched the new Wonder Woman film for the second time at the cinema. It makes me feel so empowered to watch these natural, strong women kicking ass on-screen. I kind of wish I had this film to inspire me as a young girl, maybe I would be just as obsessed with Wonder Woman as I am with Batman, although I now want to be an Amazon warrior. 

Magic & Musings:
Wonder Woman was absolutely incredible. I don't think a film has ever made me feel so badass!
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? 

Antonia Bonello:
Be you, be unapologetic and show who you are through your work! 

You can see more of my work on my website and follow me on Twitter. I’m always happy to meet new creatives, so feel free to get in contact!

interview

Interview: Stephanie McCollough on Collage, Pop-Up Books, and Calling Yourself an Artist

12:00 pm


When I interview artists and creatives, I love hearing about the balance between their day jobs and what they do in their own time, in that space they have for themselves to create what they want to create. Stephanie McCollough is a graphic designer who spends her free-time creating emotive and personal art that is complicated, layered, and deals with movement and form. We had a chat about what she does research-wise to get herself inspired to create, dancing in the kitchen (!), and trying out new classes and mediums as a way to keep those creative juices doing what they do. I hope you find Stephanie's enthusiasm as contagious as I do!

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Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Stephanie! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, do you want to tell me a little bit about yourself and where you are today?

Stephanie McCollough:
Sure! And thanks again for the invitation to participate!

I’m currently supporting myself as a graphic designer, and in my off time I make work that deals with emotive and expressive gesture. Specifically, I’ve been making abstract pop-up studies, as well as minimal dance pieces (mostly in my kitchen, ha!). I think in both of these mediums I’m trying to get at an expression of emotionally complex, layered, and authentic moments through minimal movement and form.

I guess I can best be categorized as an enthusiast that manifests that energy through an artistic practice. I’m always excited about something; excited, and fascinated, and can get quite obsessed with any number of things: crows, puppets, the skeletal system…and then I suppose I explore those things with a focus on their emotionally expressive possibilities. Buh, that sounds pretty theoretical, huh? For instance, right now I’m working on some abstract pop-up collages of crows: how might a form that is not literally an image of a crow move and feel ‘crow-ish’ and what could that make a viewer feel?


Magic & Musings:
That sounds really interesting! I love that concept, and I think you've captured it really well in the above image of the crow.
When did you first get into art and design? What first drew you to the field? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby?

Stephanie McCollough:
I have always made things, from the time I was very young. I never thought I was very good at it, I just always had the compulsion to glue stuff to other stuff, or color, or arrange, or cut paper, or anything really. I did study design formally eventually at Pacific Northwest College of Art, but only after several false starts in other eras of my life with other subjects (started as a music education major out of high school, eventually ended up getting a BA in English before I went to art school). I came to design and my art practice after I tried and failed at a few other things. I was thinking, okay, when I’m eighty, what is the thing I will regret not doing the most, and I found that the honest answer to that question was art; being an artist; acknowledging that I’m an artist. So I thought, well, let's see what happens. I found that once I started formally studying art and design, I finally hit my stride as an engaged, focused student, and I gave myself permission to throw myself into it fully because it felt so authentic. Honestly I focused on design because I wanted to come out of school (with a second bachelors…) with a good job trajectory, but I also was lucky enough to have gone to a school that encouraged interdisciplinary inquiry and there was lots of cross pollination between departments and cohorts. I’m very grateful that I can support myself as a designer in my day job where I get to work with talented creative people towards common communication goals, and then I go home and I get to make my weird exploratory stuff on my own.

Magic & Musings:
Did you have to find yourself overcoming any hurdles regarding your confidence when you first started advertising your designs?

Stephanie McCollough:
Oh ABSOLUTELY. I will probably always have trouble promoting my work. I definitely deal with impostor syndrome and wonder if my work could possibly mean anything to anyone other than me and blah blah blah… I know a lot of people -- very talented people -- who struggle with that. And that’s okay. But it does seem that the more authentic I am with my work the more I’m like, well, this thing I just made is a true and precise representation of that feeling or notion that I was attempting to articulate in this moment and that makes it easier to put out into the world. Maybe because it takes away the pressure for it to be ‘good’ or for ‘people to like it’ and rather puts the emphasis on ‘does it feel right’.

A post shared by Stephanie McCollough (@stoophanoo) on

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your work, what are you the proudest of and why?

Stephanie McCollough:
I’m proud of the fact that I make anything at all with some sense of organization and informed process because for so long I was very disorganized and haphazard about what I made. I think I’m proudest of what I’m working on these days. I just came through a long stretch of being really sick of my aesthetic, and uninspired by my past work, and generally very critical of myself. But I pushed through, and things took a turn a couple weeks ago. I suddenly have more ideas than I know what to do with (which has never been my style) and I want to spend all my free time in the studio. This will be a lesson to me in the future that the blocks on inspiration are not permanent if one is diligent in pushing one’s edges.

Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 

Stephanie McCollough:
My absolute ideal is having a whole day of uninterrupted time (which is a reallll luxury for anyone) where I have no obligations in the evening, and no chores to do, and I can work my way slowly into a very focused zone for a long time. I start out by doing some research of some kind (watching videos of crows being smart on Youtube, looking at antique illustrations of the skeletal system on Tumblr, reading esoteric essays on puppetry, etc etc etc) and I get into a state of excitement about the world around me which makes me want to make work that is sometimes in response to what I just researched, or sometimes unrelated. Once I move from research mode into making mode I can work for hours. But! I don’t often set up my schedule in a way that allows that kind of immersion. I’m trying to get better at that. I have also been getting better at just making myself put in a couple hours at the end of the day. I’m especially able to do that if I leave projects out on my desk in an inviting manner and not in chaos.

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Stephanie McCollough:
Having just been through that, I can tell you what specifically worked recently! I did a couple of things. I took a trip…nothing big, but I just got out of my routine for a while and made sure to take extra time to enjoy travel (the train really does it for me) so that I could relax in transit. And I took a class...this time it was a week-long intensive workshop. It happened to be on pop-up techniques, which is what I’m interested in, but I think any environment where you can get out of your usual and into a place of exploration where nothing is precious and everything is kind of an exercise and playful, then things will start to come together. Also, I talk to other artist friends about frustration, and things I’m interested in and things I have been thinking about. I always walk away from conversations like that with more ideas and motivation than I could ever come up with on my own.

Magic & Musings:
What are some things you like to do in your spare time when you’re not working?

Stephanie McCollough:
I love to dance…I’ve been studying flamenco for a while, and my husband and I dance tango. I like the expressiveness that dancing allows that is in the moment and body-based, and I’ve noticed that the more I dance the more free and interesting my visual work gets.

I also watch a lot of stand-up comedy and documentaries on Netflix. And every show about cooking! And I belong to a great book club, which gets me to read much more than I would normally on my own. I love to read, but I’m a slow reader so it is easy to just take several months to make my way through one book. But my book club (aside from being an important group of friends to me) gets me out of my own head and habits and stretches my brain.

Magic & Musings:
What tools do you use to design?

Stephanie McCollough:
At my day job I almost exclusively use InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. I use those in my personal work too, but I also do a lot of hand-rendered stuff: painting and then cutting up the paintings and collaging them back together, cut and folded paper, and lately I’ve been experimenting with more photo-based collage stuff and scanning things I've done physically to manipulate digitally and then print out and work with physically again. I’ve also done some work with clay that I was excited about.


Magic & Musings:
If there was one thing you could want to say to the world if you knew everyone was listening, what would it be and why?

Stephanie McCollough:
Trust your body. Trust that your body is solid in space and can give you all the information you need in the moment to navigate your world. Emotions and thoughts live in our bodies, not only our heads, and physical presence and movement are essential, whatever that looks like for you.

Magic & Musings:
What tools do you use to keep yourself organised?

Stephanie McCollough:
Calendar events with many alarms attached and lots of lists. Lists of lists. Sometimes I even put time estimates next to my to-do list items, which I recognize as a little excessive, but I’m a naturally disorganised person and that is something that eases a lot of anxiety. 

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Stephanie McCollough:
In design: focus on typographic sophistication. I think if a designer understands how to use type, they are incredibly valuable.

In general art practice: It is sometimes very important to make things that are not precious. That is actually advice I got from a teacher towards the end of art school that I could have used from the beginning. I was dealing with a big block on a huge project, and he said “you need to get into the studio for the two days and make a bunch of stuff that you are going to throw away.” And that did it. I learned way more from all the things I tried and didn’t work than the things I tried that I was happy with. Playfulness and exploration are ways to turn off that critical voice that gets in the way of all our best ideas.

Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

Stephanie McCollough:
Yes!
Book: Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt.


Album: Snowpoet by Snowpoet

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? 

Stephanie McCollough:
Thanks so much for reaching out to me! And since my website is painfully out of date, the best way to find me is Instagram: @stoophanoo. :)