Artist Interview: Yetzenia Levia – Illustrator

Illustration by artist, Yetzenia Levia
Today, we’d like to welcome illustrator, Yetzenia Levia to Jung Katz.

Tell us about yourself, who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?
So, often when I first meet someone I feel the need to explain my name. It’s usually because the person I meet will give me a puppy dog head tilt. If you are curious about how to pronounce it, it’s Yet-zen-nee-ah Lay-va. This name was given to me by my Guatemalan mother for Yetzenia was her favorite character in a soap opera.

I grew up in different areas of New Jersey where the common names for a girl were Sarah or Megan. The first days of class were especially frustrating because the teacher would not only butcher my name but would also want to know of its origin. No one asks for the origin of Sarah! These moments would make me annoyed, so now the first impression of me to the other students was that I was a strange-named, pissed off girl. And having a resting bitch face didn’t help either!

My redeeming quality was my ability to draw. Like any kid, I started out with finger painting and crayons. But lucky for me, I have an obsessive personality so by the time I was 5, I could make a wicked horse. By age ten and onward, I gained a lot of technical ability and could draw realistically. I could erase my first impression by drawing people’s portraits or anything in general. It was like my smoke bomb. Look at what I can do!

Illustration by artist, Yetzenia Levia
How would you describe your style?
Well, I have a lot of nervous energy and it’s soothing for me to make a repetitive mark. So you’ll see a lot of dots coming from me. I guess I would describe my style as being a bit whimsical and cute but with slight underlying dark tones. The way I render some characters in my art is naïve, even though I’ve had years of visual art education. My way of making art is not sophisticated at all.

Illustration by artist, Yetzenia Levia
How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
Some drawings happen in less than 10 minutes. Others might take 2-3 days, but not much more. It really depends on the drawing.

Illustration by artist, Yetzenia Levia
What art supplies do you use?
I work mostly with pencil, ink, gouache and watercolor. Sometimes I work digitally with a tablet. The quality of my materials ranges from $0.99 store watercolors to professional grade gouache. My feeling is that just because it’s expensive, doesn’t mean that it’s any better than the low end stuff. I have a ton of really expensive brushes and the one I use the most is a brush from a value pack.

What is art to you?
Art to me is when someone creates or does something and it doesn’t serve a purpose. It just exists. Usually, if it’s g ood art it will have made some impression on you, be it good or bad. I can appreciate most art, but my favorite would be art that has a narrative. I like a good story.

Illustration by artist, Yetzenia Levia
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
I used to have an opinion that if you’re not making art or working to improve yourself as an artist, then you’re more interested in the idea of being an artist rather than putting in the work. It’s a harsh opinion. I think now I’m less critical and can appreciate that people work differently. However, if you’re not going to work, you should at least be in your physical or mental studio, leaving yourself open to an artistic idea. Be ready with a sketch book or a tablet.

Illustration by artist, Yetzenia Levia
Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
♫ I wanna be, the very best, like no one ever was ♫ … Silliness aside, I hope I’m physically able to continue making the art I like for the rest of my life.

Illustration by artist, Yetzenia Levia
Any other artists that you would like to recommend for others to check out as well?
Yes! These are all wonderful artist I have the pleasure of knowing personally during different stages of their art career. There are more artists I’d like to list, but they don’t have websites. The list I do have had a lot of names, but they are defiantly worth your time. Check out the work of:

Jack Daly
Mike Antrim
Dustin Metz
Mike Middleton
Theresa Francisco
Celia Gray
Caitlin Cocco
Kate Eggleston
James MacFie
Derek Franklin
James Brittingham

Illustration by artist, Yetzenia Levia

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Featured Project: Mark Series by Isaiah King (NSFW)

Photography Illustration Art by Artist, Isaiah King
Artist’s Statement about the collection, Series
“The Mark Series is an ongoing exploration into combining photographs of the human form with expressive line drawing. The compositions strive to transform the human body into an almost abstract shape or mark isolated on the page by the prominent surrounding negative space.

Layers of recycled paper are used to build up texture on the page. The photos themselves have been printed rescanned and printed again to create texture and degrade the original photo quality. The line drawing over the photography is informed by the form of the body, in some cases it points to bone and muscle structure. Primarily the drawings serve to add handmade expression to the photographs and push the image closer to general form rather than explicit human bodies.”

Photography Illustration Art by Artist, Isaiah KingPhotography Illustration Art by Artist, Isaiah KingPhotography Illustration Art by Artist, Isaiah KingPhotography Illustration Art by Artist, Isaiah KingPhotography Illustration Art by Artist, Isaiah KingPhotography Illustration Art by Artist, Isaiah KingPhotography Illustration Art by Artist, Isaiah King
Isaiah King Bio
“I am a Canadian-born graphic designer and artist living and working in Brooklyn, NYC. My printmaking and drawing works pursue an ongoing study of the human form in all its complex, emotive facets. My love of graphic design stems from the belief that art and design can play an important role in the elevation of deeper public discourse on social issues.

Employing multiple printmaking and drawing techniques, I apply diverse and aggressive mark making to my figure studies. My fascination with the human form is both external and internal, references to bone and muscle structure are integrated with the more sensual and emotional appeal of the external human form. Combining an emotional and practical approach to the human body lends itself to common themes in my work, longing, sensuality and mortality. Having been most inspired by artist’s whose work elicits conflicting responses, my pieces are concerned with the contrast and tension between seduction and repulsion. They portray the beauty of the human form but also explore states of discomfort and eroticism.

I’m a graduate of Canterbury’s Visual Arts program in Ottawa, Canada. I’ve studied percussion under professionals throughout West Africa and have lead theater, set design and music projects in both Canada and the US. I have a degree in Graphic Design (with a focus in Printmaking) from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston.
Prior to study in Boston, I was a member of Counternotes Theatre Group, an Ottawa based physical theater company, where in addition to performing, I designed and constructed the group’s sets, masks and props.

Since moving to NYC and starting my own design studio I’ve collaborated with progressive non-profits, corporate businesses and arts groups creating custom design solutions, visual branding, motion design and animation. Clients include The Culver Studios, Fenton Communications, FilmAid International, BBH NYC, IFAW, Loews Hotels, Rebuild The Dream, Color of Change, New Media Advocacy Project and an array of amazing filmmakers, photographers, musicians, animators and other kick-ass creative people in the New York City area.

Whether in design, printmaking, painting or drawing, my greatest concern is with communication, rather than hiding behind conceptual mysteries I strives to create works that engage the viewer in dialogue.

My work has appeared in the 2009 Taschen book, Design for Obama by Steven Heller, Aaron Perry-Zucker and Spike Lee. My artwork and design have been exhibited in New York City, Boston, Tenerife (Spain) and Ottawa (Canada).”

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Featured Project: The Passage by Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh

Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh art photographyOn The Passage and others:
My interest lies in documenting the living urban landscape – the ebb and flow of days and nights, activity and eerie quiet. This body of work explores the city in soft focus. This is the city of half remembered dreams and pieced together memories.

Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh art photographyDawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh art photographyDawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh art photographyDawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh art photographyArtist Bio: Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh is an Oakland, CA based visual artist whose current work is focused primarily on the shifting urban landscape.

An avid observer and prolific photographer, she employs a vast catalog of visual notes and memories to create her work. A lover of materials and process, Dawline-Jane uses a range of media including relief print making, pen and ink, photo transfer and encaustic. She is currently an artist in residence at Oxtail Studios and Gallery in Berkeley, CA.

Follow Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh on Facebook and Instagram and subscribe to her work on Ziibra!

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Artist Interview: Jeffrey Thompson – Painter

Paintter Artist Jeffery Thompson Today we’d like to welcome painter, Jeffery Thompson to the blog.

Tell us about yourself, who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?
I’m a mixed media artist living in San Francisco. I studied printmaking and painting at Cal State Hayward, and later I briefly attended the SF Art Institute. I was recently selected for the 2015 San Francisco General Hospital Association’s “Hearts in San Francisco” project. Last year I had a solo show on the campus of Southern Oregon University, and had my work consigned to the SFMOMA Artists Gallery at the Fort Mason Center.

How did you get started doing what you do?
My earliest creative memory was when I was seven. I was hiking in the hills east of Los Angeles where I grew up. I came across this shallow creek bed and just started drawing in the mud. Before I knew it, I’d spent hours carving out a series of large oblong faces into the bank. I was completely immersed in the act of creating these massive forms directly into the wall of the creek, unaware of time passing. When I looked up it was getting dark. It was a perfect day. Jeffery Thompson Mixed Media Art How would you describe your style?
I suppose my style could be called graphic or geometric abstraction. I see it, to some extent, as a reflection of my interior life, what I obsess about. I’ve always been interested in the structure of things, and my work stems from that.

What’s your inspiration?
When things are working well, I occasionally get a feeling of having broken through to something important. I have gone looking for that feeling everywhere. On a day-to-day basis I find inspiration in small personal things; simple acts of kindness, shared sacrifice, and personal loyalty. I think when you work with abstract imagery you draw much of your inspiration from within. Paintter Artist Jeffery Thompson What does your typical day look like?
My day begins very early; some mornings I get up before dawn. It’s the best time to work. San Francisco has a clear blue light in the morning that’s ideal for painting. I usually warm up by organizing the studio. After that I’ll get the heavy work done – framing or building surfaces. I use a wide variety of materials in my work, so at that point I might spend time preparing them. Once that is set, I paint until the light fades.

How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
That varies. I’m still learning about finishing work, and what that means. Sometimes you just need to sit with the work a while before you know, sometimes you know intuitively. Along the way I’ve cobbled together a few approaches that work for me. When I feel close to finishing a piece, I’ll set it aside and move on to another project. It’s best to always be working on something else. It’s critical to view the work with fresh eyes, and this happens naturally when your focus is directed away. Ironically, what does and doesn’t work often becomes clearest when you’re distracted. Jeffery Thompson Mixed Media Art How do you keep motivated?
To me motivation is intrinsic. It’s about being clear on exactly what you want to accomplish. It’s also about channeling your intensity and putting that energy into action. The final aspect is persistence, not allowing yourself to quit.

Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Work harder. This applies generally to every situation you will encounter.

What is art to you?
Art is a mirror. It lets us see our selves in a unique and important way. It tells us how we are alike and how we differ. It’s our low and our high, a reflection of who we are. Jeffery Thompson Mixed Media Art How have your surroundings influenced your work?
It‘s changed my approach, my aesthetics, my values, and most significantly, it’s changed my work. A few years back I began searching for alternative materials and, because I live very close to Chinatown, I instantly came across a variety of Asian newspapers like the Sing Tao Daily and the Chinese Daily News. I immediately began incorporating them into my work. They have since become a permanent part of my working pallet.

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
I want to contribute to the conversation, to create something that invites dialog. I want it to inform without pretense, and I want it to mirror my experience.

How have others reacted to your work?
The response has been very gratifying, especially the response locally. Being recognized by SF General, and the SFMOMA Artists Gallery has been very rewarding for me personally. Paintter Artist Jeffery Thompson What do you want others to take away from your work?
I want them to respond to the work. Positive or negative, it all matters. If they recognize or identify with some aspect of what I’m doing, that would be worthwhile.

What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Nothing, or at least nothing of consequence. A lot of what has been most valuable to me, a lot of what I’ve learned, was the result of getting back up after being knocked down. Experience can’t be circumvented or softened. It has to hit you right in the face. It has to blindside you.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Don’t be afraid to fail. Each failure takes you someplace new, and that experience is priceless. Paintter Artist Jeffery Thompson What are your thoughts on art school?
School can be important, but not more important than hard work. The best thing about school is the support it offers. If you’re in school and working hard, then that’s probably where you should be. If not, you’ll need to find a way to continue to work. It’s as simple as that.

Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
A MacArthur Grant would be nice! Seriously, the most important thing to me is to continue working. I want to enjoy that privilege as long as possible.

What’s your dream project?
I have always wanted to integrate my work into a site-specific setting, a kind of chapel or installation. My work seems to transform in certain environments and I’d like to see where I could take that. Jeffery Thompson Mixed Media Art What art supplies do you use?
The big ones are YES Paste and Galkyd! I also use a lot of 4-color newsprint in my work. In fact, I use a wide variety of print materials, especially low-tech posters, signage and other graphics. Beyond that it’s generally oil, acrylic, and pencil.

How could the art industry become better in your opinion?
The art industry should probably listen more, look around more, and stop agreeing with itself so much. It’s a pretty incestuous environment in general. That being said it is currently in such a high state of flux, it’s hard to tell what will happen with it.

Any other artists that you would like to recommend for others to check out as well?
Lately I’ve been looking on-line at the work of a few east coast artists, especially Julie Torres, Valerie Brennan (her blog can be found here), and Paul Behnke (his blog can also be found here).

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Featured Project: – The Castles and Others by Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh

Artist Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh ArtAbout the series:
“This work is inspired by lifelong recurrent dreams or dark bottomless houses. It is as much a meditation on the structures themselves as it is an exploration of the media I work with.”

Artist Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh Art Artist Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh ArtArtist Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh ArtArtist Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh ArtArtist Bio:
Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh is an Oakland, CA based visual artist whose current work is focused primarily on the shifting urban landscape.

An avid observer and prolific photographer, she employs a vast catalog of visual notes and memories to create her work. A lover of materials and process,

Dawline-Jane uses a range of media including relief print making, pen and ink, photo transfer and encaustic. She is currently an artist in residence at Oxtail Studios and Gallery in Berkeley, CA.”

Follow Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh on Facebook and Instagram and subscribe to her work on Ziibra!

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Featured Project: 36 Days of Type by Daniel Aristizábal

Typography Art Daniel Aristizábal
About the project:
36daysoftype was a project started in Barcelona by Rafa Goicoechea and Nina Sans, they invited designers and artist to come up with their own interpretation of the alphabet. Each of the 36 days you were supposed to create a letter. I took the chance to experiment with different syles and techniques. I love colors and retro stuff in general, so i wanted to create illustrated alphabet with a colorful retro vibe.
Typography Art Daniel Aristizábal Typography Art Daniel Aristizábal Typography Art Daniel Aristizábal Typography Art Daniel Aristizábal Typography Art Daniel Aristizábal Typography Art Daniel Aristizábal Typography Art Daniel Aristizábal Typography Art Daniel Aristizábal
Artist’s bio:
Dani is a colombian illustrator and motion grapher. He studied graphic design in Medellín and motion graphic in Barcelona. Loves animals, cooking, making lame jokes and believing in crazy conspiracy theories. Currently setting up his own design studio called Hello dadá, with fellow colleague and friend Carlos Garcia.
Follow Daniel Aristizábal on Instagram and check out the rest of his project on Behance!
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Artist Interview: Tory Van Wey – Illustrator & Paper-cutter

Tory Van Wey Papercut ArtTell us about yourself, who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?
Howdy! I’m Tory Van Wey, an illustrator, artist, and gardener. I originally hail from Palo Alto, California (Silicon Valley to the rest of the world), but am currently based out of San Francisco’s Mission District where I live, do business, tend gardens, and make art.

Tory Van Wey Papercut ArtHow did you get started doing what you do?
As cliche as it sounds, I have to file myself into the category of having “always been into art.” In school I would excel at anything creative or hands on, while leaving the more theoretical subjects woefully lacking, so art became a bit of a hedge for my less than stellar academic and social performance. I couldn’t will myself to pay attention in Geometry, but I could always feel confident and surrounded by likeminded folks in the art room. So… I rolled with it.

I studied Art and Design in college and suddenly school became a pleasurable experience, but my pragmatic side told me to focus on graphic design instead of fine art, even though I always felt like a bit of an imposter in the graphic design world. In a lot of ways I credit my schooling in design for making me the kind of artist I am today; obsessed with composition, balance, and boundary.
After the emotional spin cycle of young adulthood, and years of mentally throwing every career at the wall to see what stuck, I discovered that I had never really left the art room, and, more importantly, I didn’t want to leave the art room. After that it was a lot of small steps towards embracing the title of “artist,” and starting the journey of making it a career.

Tory Van Wey Papercut ArtHow would you describe your style?
My work precariously straddles the chasm between art and graphic design and I am forever trying to keep the pendulum from swinging too far in one direction or the other because I like it best right in the middle. The common threads through my work are finely detailed linework, organic patterns, and natural elements coupled with brightly contrasting colors, everyday objects, and balanced graphic composition. I also like to get a little cheeky and incorporate humor or lightness into my pieces. Art can be so damned serious.

Tory Van Wey Papercut ArtHow have your surroundings influenced your work?
Apart from working as an illustrator, I also work as a gardener, and as much as I try to compartmentalize my two identities, they are quite intimately linked. I find my mind wandering back to the old writing adage “write what you know,” and, to be honest, what I know these days are not the typical creative muses of heartbreak, or longing, but mulch, seedlings, fog, ferns, patterns, and vines. In that way I am drawing what I know everyday, and while heartbreak and longing make some cameos in my work, it’s really abundance, organic life, and balance that take center stage.

Tory Van Wey Papercut ArtWhat, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Ha! I would tell myself to chill out about trying to find the perfect socially responsible career. That in the long run you will come back to what it is you are supposed to be doing with your life, and that you don’t have to save the world to justify your existence. Just make it better in your own way.

Tory Van Wey Illustration ArtWhat’s the best advice you’ve been given?
A piece of advice that has stuck with me lately was actually not given to me, but to my boyfriend as a kid. When the topic of careers came up his father said “find something you love to do, and then find the people willing to pay you to do it.”

It’s easy to tell people “follow your bliss,” and leave it at that, but the truth is that leaves out half of the equation. Not everyone is going to want what you’re selling but chances are someone will and the most important part of your job is to find them.

Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Get in touch with people that inspire you and whose careers make you jealous, no matter how untouchable they seem to be. Tell them that they inspire you and buy them a cup of coffee if they are local. Convert that jealousy into sincere support. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you want to be where they are one day, they may just help you get there.

Tory Van Wey Illustration ArtHave any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
I would love to start licensing my work for use on high quality, sustainable products, gain more ground in the editorial illustration community, and have a solo gallery show.

What’s your dream project?
To design an ornately illustrated typographic poster series or art book. There are very few things that make my eyes go googlier than a beautiful typographic series. I also have an idea for a higher quality art centric women’s apparel line so any fashion designers that want to collaborate, get in touch!

Tory Van Wey Illustration ArtAny other artists that you would like to recommend for others to check out as well?
Si Scott
Evan Harris
Dan McCarthy
Lisa Congdon

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