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OWAG Track Light #9—> Maria Uve (Spain)

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.

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Today, I talk with Spanish illustrator and photographer María Uve.

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John: Hi Maria! I was excited when you first contacted me through Instagram about collaborating on a DrawBag.

María: John! Sorry for the delay in finishing everything.

John: No, no, you weren’t late. Everything is in it’s right time. I’m just happy to have connected with you.

John: I’ve recently made more contact with artists in Spain as there is quite a wealth of talent there. Elena Pancorbo had just finished an original design on a DrawBag before you and I first spoke, and Jesuso Ortiz was also a collaborator early on.  What is the artistic community like where you are in Vigo?

María: Well… the truth is that I live in a part of my country with a very small artistic community. The larger groups of artists in Spain are really in the capital, but thanks to online social networks I have met artists of many nationalities and that has enriched me a lot.

John: The idea of community is continually being redefined in terms of its borders through technology, isn’t it?

María: Yes, and I think we should really support one other instead of competing because if our related community wins… really, we all win.

John: Where did you get your training as an artist and with what different media do you work?

María: I studied illustration, photography, and graphic design at EASD Antonio Faílde (School of Art & Design) in Ourense, Spain and have spent the past year and a half dedicating myself professionally to my profession– illustrating book covers, being exhibited in galleries, publishing my own book, and collaborating with various magazines.

John: Your style is quite recognizable. Were there other artists whose work influenced you in your own development of this style?

María: I think we are all influenced by everything. By other artists for their music, by the cinema, etc… I could not tell you specific names, though, because I try to escape the similarities. 

John: I’ve been really inspired by a handful of female artists who I’ve discovered this past year primarily through Instagram… #zipcy and #littlethunder being two others beside yourself.

Illustration by #zipcy.
Illustration by #littlethunder

 

Illustration by #maria_uve_

You are all quite different in expression, but seem to be similar in that your artwork embraces love, sexuality, the body, and emotional intimacy in ways that are neither prudish nor porn. Your work celebrates a genuine and nuanced eroticism that I think has otherwise been cheapened over time by happy endings to romantic comedies, free streaming porn, and the convenience store of online dating. Truly falling in love with oneself or others is not something we click to purchase, but must engage in with our whole being to experience both its heights and depths. But that’s my perspective, of course, haha. What is it that you are doing when you create your artwork? What are you communicating through it?

María: Obviously, artists expose themselves to having a free interpretation on the part of the receiver and that is inevitable. But yes… I am communicating precisely that which you just expressed: the importance of feeling good about oneself, experiencing love in healthy ways, de-objectifying the body as only a sexual object, making relationship a natural part of our conversation, respecting all kinds of people and all types of relationships, and breaking conventions and traditional values.

Illustration by #maria_uve_

John: There are quite a few symbols and motifs you return to in your work, including what I assume to be the red thread of fate from Chinese folklore, creeping yellow vines, tiny phrases in blue on the body, the serpent, skeletons, and various images of the galaxy.

Can you share a bit about your wider perspective on life and why we are here? Where we are going? And how that is reflected in your current stage of art making?

Illustration by #maria_uve_

María: Well, I wish I knew why we are here! I guess my perspective is as simple as finding happiness and satisfaction within myself, without hurting anyone or anything else.

John: Fair enough. I think a lot of young artists would be very jealous of the 300K followers you currently have on Instagram. How did you gather that global following? Did it take long for people to find your work on Instagram?

María: I think there are no jealous artists. We are all non-conformists. Perhaps we can get too focused on how things are going with others, but I always encourage artists to support one another and help share one another’s work with the world. I think everyone deserves to have the same possibilities for success.

And the truth is that I do not know how all my followers came about… but it was fast. In just over a year I suddenly went from having 150 “friends” to 300,000.

John: There can be fine line between genuine expression of oneself and finding a strong following in that… and then monetizing that expression into a product for sale which loses its original intent. How have you kept your artistic journey genuine and connected to its source?

María: I didn’t monetize my work until recently, when my first book was published. I always have some prints available for sale in case someone wanted them but I never advertised until now, because it has been important to grow my work first.

John: And how many new pieces of work do you make… say, per week?

María: One or two.

John: Tell me more about the book Nosotros which you recently published.

 

María: It’s about self-improvement after failed relationships. At the moment I do not have a version in English… only in Spanish. Everything in time, though.

John: What else fills your life besides from art making?

María: I love animals and nature in general… music, movies, reading, and traveling. Too many things and only one life!

John: You can see more of Maria’s illustration or photography via Instagram or Facebook, follow her on Twitter, or purchase her work here. Her recently published book Nosotros is also available in Spanish. Updates when available in English!

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OWAG Track Light #8—> Zharia Shinn (New York, USA)

 Photo Credit: Katie McLoughlin

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.

<- – – – – 

Today, I talk with American illustrator, animator, and artist Zharia Shinn.

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John: Your paper and fabric work is stunning! 

I want to ask first about the design you created on your DrawBag, because it was linked to the AfroPunk Festival in Brooklyn that occurred this past summer. Can you tell us a bit about that event and your design?

Zharia: The AfroPunk Festival is, “an annual arts festival that includes live music, film, fashion, and art produced by black artists,” originating in Brooklyn, New York. At the heart of this incredible gathering is a celebration of difference, acceptance, blackness, and empowerment. I have always been an admirer of the movement and festival over the years, so finally getting a chance to attend this summer ’18 was incredible to say the least. 

I am in awe of the fashion and creativity that is made in preparation for AfroPunk, which ultimately inspired my bag. The patterns, colors, and lines all speak to my take on the colorfulness and vast array of personality that oozes from the punks, outcasts, rejects, geeks, freaks, and everyone in between whom this movement fosters. My style is very shape-based and involves collaging materials from multiple sources that ultimately become one design. An abstracted face with my initials “Z.S.” camouflaged in the background creates the overall design with the phrase “The Future Is Afro And Punk” below. The incorporation of hand sewn thread is a new addition to my style that I wanted to experiment with. I am happy with the outcome and I hope to experiment in this way again in the future. 

John: Where did you grow up and what were your first experiences of art?

Zharia: My childhood and early stages of my life were mostly rooted in parts of Florida, and California.

Art has always been with me since I can remember. I was constantly drawing on something. A piece of paper and a pencil was all I needed and I would still be where you left me, drawing for hours on end. My mother loves to recount a day when I was little where I came up to her when she was working and told her, “Mommy, I am an artist.” She said she knew then and there, I was telling her who I am and that has never changed. 

A lot of my art experiences were at pubic school and art institutions during the summer at the Academy of Art University. My craft didn’t become more than a passion until high school, when I made the decision to apply to art school. The way that I currently work and collage did not come into fruition until the later years of my undergrad at Rhode Island School of Design, with the support of my instructors and peers. 

John: You’ve been an art instructor as well yourself, yes? What has that been like? Do you think of that as a natural outgrowth of being an artist?

Zharia: My instructor experience has been very informal and I’m realizing over the years that I think this type of education is what I enjoy the most so far. From the role of an art camp counselor to collage workshop instructor, I have learned much more about not only being an educator but a student. It is a role that truly takes someone who wants to leave a situation better than they left it. Someone that wants change, both in their classroom and in themselves. Education will do that to you, and I look forward to immersing myself in more educational roles down the line. 

Attending RISD and other art institutions has shown me that not only are there countless ways to receive education and knowledge, but to educate, you first need to understand your audience. Just like an artist should try and understand who their art is touching, so should an educator understand their student and how to better reach them. 

John: Earlier this year you had an exhibition in Vienna. How did that come about and what was the experience like?

Fabric Lineage: Marta’s Empathy (Edition 4/4) by Zharia Shinn
Fabric Lineage: Marta’s Empathy (Edition 4/4) by Zharia Shinn

Zharia: I honestly do not know where to start with answering this question. I could go on and on about Vienna but I will try to keep it short. 

In the months leading to graduation, I was approached by the Canadian illustrator Peter Diamond based in Vienna to be a part of a group exhibition of 16 illustrators called “Go West!”. The goal of the show was to bring American illustration to Vienna in hopes to create a larger conversation surrounding the importance and integrity of this tool of communication. Furthermore, showcasing the many facets, and varied visual culture coming out of the states was a piece of the puzzle as well. Another illustrator and myself were the only artists straight out of school so having pieces in a line up of story tellers who are renowned and highly qualified was intimidating, to say the least. But remembering that my work stood with theirs was one of the biggest compliments I could ever receive being so new to illustration myself. I appreciate what Peter Diamond saw in my work and I plan to have others see it too. 

My works from the series “Fabric Lineage” were included in the show, accompanied by fabric swatches used to create the series in 2016. In addition, I had the privilege to be able to help with press of the show, give a small speech at the opening, and create and instruct a collage workshop hosted at Designaustria. 

Designaustia, housed inside of the MuseumQuartier, made a lot of this possible and having the chance to be in such an incredibly creative place such as Vienna, Austria is something I will never forget. This trip was also my first time being outside of the county so I look forward to expanding my horizons and making more memories outside of the states. 

John: There is one clear element you share with a number of the artists you have referenced as influences (such as Kehinde Wiley and Mickalene Thomas) which is a strong use of pattern in portraiture. What does pattern mean to you in the context of portraiture?

Zharia: Pattern is one of the many tools I use in my abstracted portraits to get my message across. As I experiment with it over the years, I’ve leaned that it can be useful in distorting what the eye sees and redirecting a focus. Every pattern tends to have the same level of “importance’ and works on the same plane field in pieces of mine. I like to use it as an alternative to color and a way to break up the surface to bring life and tactility to the flatness created in my portraits. In more symbolic terms, pattern is also a chance for me to abstract the way we see something so familiar to us, such as the human face. 

Awards of Excellence by Zharia Shinn

John: Euan Uglow is also an artist you’ve mentioned as an influence. On the surface his work seems quite different, but I get a sense that both his use of color and the very constrained, intentional backgrounds or contexts of his nude portraits may have been a point of contact. Am I way off?

Zharia: Euan Uglow is a loose influence of mine because of my introduction to him during my foundation lessons of oil painting at RISD. I admire the way he breaks up the human body in geometric shapes of colors and its slight gradients. In the same vein, I have found ways to abstract the human face in my own way with organic shapes. His use of restrained color is also phenomenal and I am inspired to experiment with how I use color in expressive ways too. 

John: One of your works I really love is Fabric Lineage. Can you tell me more about the women depicted as well as your choice of fabric to create the piece?

Zharia: It all started with my liberal arts course, “Black Female Body”, taught by Bolaji Campbell I took a few years ago. One of our lectures focused on the history of quilting and the fascinating role African-American women had in it’s sustain- ability and life long craftsmanship. Traditionally sold and created for white households, slave quilters rarely had the opportunity to create personal quilts for themselves. They collected scraps of fabric and materials that were discard- ed and sewed elaborate designs for personal use and necessity.

I was in awe of these accounts of history I never knew before and began personal research and exploration into this art form. This birthed my interest in collaging portraits of the women in my family out of found materials and discarded fabrics a few years back. Each portrait was a collection of designs, colors, and textures I deemed suitable in describing each member; Big Mama (great grandmother), Mom, Laura (cousin), Marta (step-mother). Created in that order, Marta was the last of the Fabric Lineage Series, where I grew comfortable in this experimental approach.

Elevating black women through materials seen as mundane and unattractive spurred a conversation that was new and engaging to me. The importance of this notion is one of admiration, awareness, and acknowledgment. Admiration of the role these women have had in my life, showing me what strength truly looks like. Awareness of black history and what my people are capable of, even through the worst possible circumstances. Acknowledgment of the hardships my ancestors and black people today go through, trying to heal piece by piece. Tackling such a dark past is never easy but creating this therapeutic series pushed me to reach deeper into subject matter that I am very passionate about.

The Fabric Lineage was the beginning of a major change in my artistic style, voice and reason “why?”

John: How essential is color to your work? Could you survive if you were forced into blue or grey period of your own?

Zharia: The erratic use of color is a distinctive quality to my expression and ultimate style of collage. Although my work is anything but, I really admire minimalism and works that are limited and restrained. Creating pieces that are emotional with color, and yet disciplined in how they come together is something I am very interested in. The use of color is admittedly unpredictable, but there is a method to my madness. 

from Electric Soul (Kendrick Lamar “LOVE” Tribute) by Zharia Shinn (Digital)

John: Afrofuturism may be something a lot of readers aren’t aware of, although they probably know Tribe, Kendrick Lamar, and the recent Black Panther filmWhat has been your interest in and connection to it?

Zharia: Afrofuturism is a “philosophy of science…and history that explores the developing intersection of African culture and technology.” The major aspects of this movement celebrate and explore black culture, African roots, technology, and innovation. Names that come to mind when I think of this movement are Sun Ra, Janelle Monae, Erykah Badu, and Octavia E. Butler. My fascination with Afrofutursim started a few years back in a course I took during college about the relationship between racism and location. Ever since, I have grown interest in consuming media that investigates empowering philosophies such as these. 

John: How do you think stereotypes can be used (rather than denied) in conversation about our differences? Is it a constructive tool, or one to dismantle? Or maybe both?

Zharia: Stereotypes, positive or negative, will always be a narrow view that do not show the whole picture of a group. They are dangerous tools that people constantly face and subconsciously or consciously try to counteract, and at times, feed into. I believe it’s important to acknowledge stereotypes, understand how they undermine a said group, find ways to subvert them in conversations, and ultimately empower, not disfranchise. A simple way to start is to do personal research, ask questions, and listen. Gaining personal knowledge of a group that you are referring to or in conversation with will always foster understanding, which can help disrupt violence from ignorance. 

John: If you had to state it in one sentence, why are you an artist?

Zharia: I am an artist because this is my soul purpose on this Earth, and God gave me this gift for reasons bigger than myself. 

John: Part of the larger woven pattern of the universe…

You can connect with Zharia through her official website as well as Instagram.

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OWAG Track Light #7—> Derek Brown (South Africa)

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.

<- – – – – 

Today, I talk with South African mixed media artist and illustrator Derek Brown.

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John: So, Derek, where did you grow up and where do you now call home?

Derek: I grew up and still live in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

John: Tell us a bit about that.

Derek: Jozi is wonderful. You have to be on your toes but it’s a beautiful place with awesome people and even better weather. Growing up here has been amazing and continues to teach me about who I am as a person in relation to our dynamic culture.

Graffiti in particular has taken a big step up in its quality in Johannesburg. There’s so much talent out on the streets and I’m honored to be a part of this really special thing being cultivated down here even if it’s only a small part for the moment.

Graffiti by Derek Brown.

John: From your Instagram account, it looks you do a bit of motocross, yeah? South Africa has a history of some top riders, including DH mountain bikers, which I really dig.

Derek: I agree, South Africa knows how to produce a classy champion or two. My brother Barry and I grew up riding and racing bikes and still try get out as much as possible. I’m more into the mountain biking and jumpers these days and having crazy fun thanks to the foundations motocross gave me.

Sasolburg Saturday, photo montage taken by Derek Brown.
Tabletop tail-whip in Johannesburg; photo taken by Derek Brown.

Unfortunately, my free time is limited because I’ve recently taken a fantastic tangent in my career, moving away from multimedia and graphic design into 3D industrial design alongside my brother in our company, Tim Mabel Design. I’m also doing original art projects and commissions as much as I can between the day-to-day work. 

Balance in life is key I believe… I refuse to have my time filled only with work. Physical activities like motocross and mountain bike riding (and hiking and building on hillsides for trails and jumps), boxing and more recently, carpentry and metal work all help me have fun, release stress and think differently allowing me to express myself in new and different ways.

John: Do you travel much for work or leisure? Any favorite places in the world?

Derek: I wish I could travel more for either. It’s a goal of mine to work overseas with my art. I can’t pick a favorite place in the world, but I will let you know when I find it. Holidays are proper luxuries these days but looking forward to one soon. Regardless of what I am doing though, I almost always have a pen and paper with me. Or my camera.

“This Time Last Year It Was Bad” doodle by Derek Brown.

John: I’m going to recommend Queenstown, New Zealand for some MTB and MX….

Derek: Sounds good. I also hear Canada has some super cool riding.

John: Absolutely. So your style is rather unique– it feels like a bit of biro and notebook scribbles plus street art. How has it developed over time? When did you get started?

Derek: I’ve had the odd notebook full of scribbles, so you got me there. My dad taught me to draw cartoons when I was really young and I haven’t put down a pen since. I studied multimedia design and also had the very fortunate luck to have an excellent art mentor for a number of years, too.

“Piece Of Escape” mixed media on paper.
“Snake Wrestling” acrylic and ink on paper.

John: Where do your inspirations come from?

Derek: My process of art-making is to have lots of fun and ultimately enjoy what I’m producing. Simply trying to do the best I can with what’s available at the time. Learning is a big part too. Everyday. About myself and the way I produce and channel my creativity. Unless I’m being paid or have a passion for a piece, I scrap or shelve work very quickly if the energy fades.

I have an amazing bunch of close people (family and mates) from whom I draw inspiration and direction. Most of them are successful creatives in their own right so we have similar mindsets and the ideas flow openly. I find strangers serve well for unexpected insights and then finally, opportunities to work with exciting new people like yourself on projects like the DrawBag has been so cool and really motivating.

 

“The Wiener Dog Confrontation” mixed media on upcycled cardboard.
Up-cycling and re-purposing are always a bonus… I’m a big fan of a waste-free world. I hate to ignore the potential to transform something most would considered as scrap or trash into a contemporary work. Creation is my aim, what it’s achieved with is negotiable.

John: Favorite artist?

Derek: Picking a favorite is difficult… I enjoy different things at different times. But Pablo Picasso would be one of my favorites. I dig his style. To me, his simple illustrations are beautifully unforced.

John: And who or what do you make art for?

Derek: In the past, I created art mostly for myself as it came very naturally to me. It was an organic practice… I was always drawing and thinking on concepts. Now, I have a more considered approach to making art for people and businesses who value the work I’m producing and are interested in the various applications that it can be executed on, in, or for. And then still for myself when I get the chance… I also love hitting up a dirty wall with some fresh cans or rollers or simply getting the camera out and shooting what’s in front of me.

John: Where did your design for your DrawBag come from? Is it something like a stream on consciousness or are there some intentional, hidden messages in there?

Derek: I had no idea how it was going to turn out when I started. The content defines itself as I work. There are definitely some deeper meanings to some of it… I drew this during a time when I was starting to find some balance in my life and focus on a new direction.

John: I think alot of artists work this way, at least from time to time. It can be difficult to trust that the work will in some ways become apparent without forcing or deciding early in the process, right? But that’s where alot of great ideas and work ultimately can come from. 

So, if anyone wants to connect with you, what’s the best way?

Derek: Feel free to hit me up on Instagram @derekbrownart and Facebook @derekbrownartko or drop me an email: helloderekbrown@gmail.com

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OWAG Track Light #6—> Sune Nesu (Mexico)

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.

<- – – – – 

Today, I talk with Mexican painter and street artist Antonio Emmanuel Hernández Torres (Sune Nesu).

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John: Hey, Sune. So, is “Sune Nesu” your real name? It sounds like a combination of the four letters E-N-S-U in two different ways.

Sune: Hi, friends! No, Sune Nesu is not my real name. It’s exactly what you say… a combination of letters in two different ways that I liked and that looked good in graffiti. I liked how it sounds. My real name is Antonio Emmanuel Hernández Torres. 

John: How many years have you been painting?

Sune: I’ve been painting since I was quite young. I first started doing graffiti and public murals in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2014 that I started doing it more seriously. It was then that I decided I wanted to devote myself fully to the world of art.

John: Where did you learn to paint? Did you receive any formal training at school or elsewhere?

Sune: I always say that I learned to paint in the hospital. I say this because at the age of eight I was suffering from chronic renal failure, and this caused me to stay for long periods in the hospital. The way I entertained myself at that time was painting. By the way, I currently have a kidney transplant that my father gave me and I have been healthy by the grace of God for sixteen years now. 

Regarding school instruction– I studied Visual Arts at the Artistic Initiation School #3 of the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA), and I also took a number of free art workshops in my city.

A wall mural painted by Sune Nesu outside INBA.

John: Your work often seem to focus on animals, or combinations of different animals together, with wild colors and patterns. The DrawBag you painted is done in this style as well. How did you start painting in this way?

Sune: This style originated from my love for animals. Apart from painting, what I love most is learning more about animals. I love watching documentaries about them.

The idea of combination arose one day during a trip with my family to the state of Veracruz in Mexico. I found myself in a landscape with many trees and different types of animals. I remember that I was carrying my sketchbook with me, and I simply started to make my very first drawing that mixed together all the animals that I saw that day. From then on, my style was defined and I was able to continue creating more and more fantastic animals.

John: How does your Mexican culture or heritage influence your artwork?

Sune: My culture and Mexican heritage has helped me a lot in regard to my artwork developing. People who see my style of combining different creatures often say that these fantastic animals are alebrijes. 

The alebrijes are 100% Mexican handcrafts created by the artisan Pedro Linares López originally in 1936, and the alebrijes have been a great inspiration for my own art. The many legends and stories of my country have also had a strong influence on my art, as well as its different locations and landscapes.

Alebrijes from the Museum of African, Oceanic, and American Indian Art (MAAOA) in Marseille, France.
Artisan Pedro Linares López fashioning alebrijes.
Alebrijes at the Pochote Market in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico.

John: That’s interesting because Pedro Linares discovered the alebrijes when he was also very sick and began to have visions. Do you see any spiritual or mystical meaning behind your animals?

Sune: Yes, I know… this connection with Linares is very interesting and inspiring for me! The meaning that I would give to my fantastic animals is that we live in a world that I must fill with colors– these creations have made me strong in my difficult moments, and it is a gift that God has given me to use in order to paint the whole world.

John: Do you work with other artists in Mexico?

Sune: Yes, of course I have collaborated with other artists from Mexico. Although recently, I have been working mostly on my own.

John: What else do you do when you’re not painting… or learning more about animals?

Sune: Even though I spend most of my time creating art, I like to do different things, too. Maybe I’m kind of weird. I love reading comics, playing video games, going out with my family, and going out with my friends…

John: Well, that sounds pretty normal to me, haha. So how can people see more of your work or get in touch with you, Sune?

Sune: You can contact me through either Facebook or Instagram.

I’d like to thank you very much for allowing me to be part of the One World Artist Gallery and share a bit of my artistic life through this interview. I’d also like to send a message to people that if they are going through a difficult time in their life or believe that their dreams are unattainable– fight for those dreams and always trust in God. He will always have an answer for you.

Thank you very much.

John: Thank you, Sune!


(Alebrijes at the Pochote Market in the city of Oaxaca by N Saum is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons)

(MAAOA-Alebrijes by Rvalette is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, from Wikimedia Commons)

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OWAG Track Light #4—> Jade Beale-Linklater (New Zealand)

sketching at the beach

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.

<- – – – – 

Today, I talk with Kiwi illustrator, designer, and educator Jade Beale-Linklater.

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John: Hey Jade! Congratulations to you and your husband on the birth of your son, Quinn. How are you managing being a mother and an artist these days?

Jade: Thank you! Funny you should ask. When I was pregnant I asked a friend whether I would be able to continue with my art once our baby came. I realize now that was a silly question!

Art-making has simply become stop-start, stop-start since giving birth. Most of it is done late at night when I should be preparing for Quinn’s wake-ups. And during the day, now that Quinn is moving, he likes to be a part of work himself… as the materials-eater, ha ha.

Jade & baby Quinn.

John: An unpaid assistant! Nice. So tell us about your life there in New Zealand.

Jade: Just to clarify… New Zealand is a separate country from Australia.

John: Ha.

Jade: And yes, we have TVs here. We don’t wear grass skirts. And yes… there are lots of sheep!

John: Okay, we got all that out of the way, ha ha. So you are from the North Island?

Jade: Yes. I had a wonderful childhood growing up in Tokoroa, which is a town in the centre of the North Island. It’s close to the mountains, lakes, and beaches, and is known for forestry, farming, and a pulp & paper mill, coincidentally.

A view of Tokoroa from Colson Hill Lookout

So much talent comes from Tokoroa. In particular, a huge amount of professional sportsmen and women. And of course, awesome artists! But I now live in windy Wellington, as my husband is teaching at a Catholic boy’s school here. It’s a pretty cool place with a real artsy vibe.

John: Let’s talk about your art and design work. To me, your work is very intricate and ordered… and very calming. Is that at all reflective of your personality or temperament?

Jade: Yeah, I think I’m pretty cruisy and calm (sometimes perhaps too calm!) and that comes through in my work. I’m definitely not very organized, though. I do try to be neat, now with baby Quinn here. But my art doesn’t usually have an intended outcome.

 

John: So not organized in the sense of you knowing exactly what the finished design is going to be?

Jade: Yeah. I kinda just start, wing it, and hope for the best. Lots of happy accidents occur and I usually end up with a beautiful mess! At times I will regret a mark I’ve made, but it’s a challenge to try and fix it.

John: That’s why you gotta get an iPad.

 

Jade: As the patterns are so detailed, some pieces take me quite a long time. At times I’ve spent several hours to then just decide I can’t stand a piece and will put it away for months. But then I’ll pick it up again down the track and go from there. In a completely different head space, I’ll create something pretty cool… only several months later! I think this is pretty normal? Is it?

John: Sure! There’s no real definition for what’s normal. And when did you start drawing? Do you remember your earliest interests in it?

Jade: My mum told me that as a young kid I wasn’t so interested in reading, because I couldn’t really keep still. But when there was the option to draw, I would sit still for hours and doodle. As a teenager, I would sit on the phone for hours and doodle like this.

I remember really starting to love art at intermediate (middle school), when I was asked to be in Extension Art (which is an advanced class). The art room was my happy place at school and I realized that I was most relaxed there. I’ve never been naturally gifted, academically speaking, so I had to work really hard in all areas. But in Art class I could just go with the flow and not worry about getting it right or wrong.

John: What other artists have influenced you over time?

Jade: Growing up in New Zealand and in Tokoroa, which is such a multi cultural community, I was lucky enough to be exposed to a variety of artists growing up. I especially loved Maori and Pacific artists and lots of my senior research and folio works were based on artists such as Robyn Kahukiwa (Maori), John Pule (Niuean), and Fatu Feu’u (Samoan). We have such incredible artists throughout New Zealand, and I was a big appropriator of their work.

“Savage Island Hiapo” by Niuean artist John Pule.

 

Woodcut in a series by Samoan artist Joshua Bashford.

John: Yeah, your work actually reminds me of Josh Bashford’s. He was a student of Fatu Feu’u, I believe.

Jade: There are some amazing Maori artists who visually represent Maori culture though their art. We’ve grown up visiting the Marae (meeting house) where traditional painted and carved symbols surround us. Ta Moko (traditional tattoo) is another beautiful representation of Maori tradition. Growing up, we often saw Maori symbols, particularly Kowhaiwhai (Maori patterning) which is how we learned about the different symbols.

Ta moko– traditional Maori tattoo.

Two examples are koru, which is a symbol of a fern frond, and hei matau, which is a fish hook. I bring symbols such as these into my own art, but with a contemporary twist.

Koru necklace.

 

Hei matau necklace.

 

John: You’re still managing to do some commissioned work these days when not mommy-ing and teaching?

Jade: Yes, I am. Thanks for the plug. Anyone can see my work and reach me on Facebook if interested.

John: You’ve been an educator for some time; that’s actually how we first met in China when I was teaching Drama and you were teaching Visual Art. What’s the value of art or creativity in education, do you think?

Jade: I believe it’s so important to give children the time to explore and create. Growing up in New Zealand, we were so blessed to have had opportunities at school to play and to think for ourselves. We were taught the basics of art, but we were given the freedom to follow our interests and just go for it. We were given a “skeleton” guide, and a variety of ideas, and support, and lots of discussion… but ultimately it was our choice to create our own unique art.

Teaching in China a few years ago, I really had to work hard to get the local Chinese high school students to think for themselves and to make the shift away from copying…  to get them to inquire and not to worry if they made “mistakes” because it’s all part of learning and a mistake can be a good thing.

When we moved from Guangzhou to Beijing, I was teaching Grades 3 and 4, and I absolutely loved it! There were no walls up, they were such sponges who were interested in everything I had to show them and really went all out to create the coolest art without any worry about what others were thinking.

How can we do this with teens and adults?

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OWAG Track Light #1—> Acer (Portugal)

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.

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Today, I talk with graffiti and street artist André Perreira (Acer).

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John: So, André– how did you get into art and graffiti/street art?

André: It started when I first began art school and met some big names in the portuguese graffiti scene at the time. This was around ’98/’99, at António Arroio, which is the best art school in Portugal! Most of those artists aren’t even active anymore, but I remember the names of Capone, Hel, Res and few others that were pretty strong in the scene back then.

John: What’s your memory of your first piece?

André: I have memories of my first attempts, but the biggest memory I carry with me is from when I entered my first “wall of fame” in 1999 along with some artists I admired.

John: So why do street artists use tags instead of their birth names to identify themselves?

André: In the graffiti scene all (graffiti) writers have a tag, which becomes their identity. Once the “street art” movement became part of the picture all that changed. So it’s all a matter of where you come from. I stick to my tag (alter-ego) of Acer because my background is as a graffiti writer. 

John: Why did you choose Acer as your tag?

André: Acer came from the word “Ace” and also just mixing up letters from my name. My friends picked it up and  started to call me by it, so it stuck.

John: Haha, simple enough. What’s the street art scene like in Portugal? Do you travel much to do work?

André: Portugal has a very strong street art scene right now with many local artists getting their work recognized all over the world. I travel a lot, but that’s mostly for modeling and acting jobs.

John: Who do you usually collaborate with? And who (or what) are some of your artistic inspirations?

André: I have to say the members of my crew Zk’s are both my partners and my biggest inspiration.

Acer and Zk’s.

John: What about modeling? How did you get into that?

André: Well, I started modeling for fun and to get some extra cash, because when we got hit by the financial crisis I couldn’t afford any longer to live only from my art. But soon I realized I had potential to do much more and became a professional international model and actor working around the world.

John: Nice! Sometimes what looks like a setback is really a kick in the ass to move forward, right? I actually had the same experience running a small black-box theatre in Manhattan. We shut it down around Christmas of ’98 and I left for South Korea, which launched the rest of my life’s work, really.

André: Failure is part of life; only when you fall down will you be able realize how strong you are to get back up. My advice to younger artists is to be true to yourself, find what you love and stick to it all the way… see and try different things, get inspired and keep developing your style and identity.

John: Right on. So who is the woman in the DrawBag you did up?

André: That woman is my wife. She’s my muse and the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. The design on that DrawBag is all about love. If I named it, I would call it “Romance Dawn”.

John: It’s a beautiful piece. So what music are you listening to these days?

André: I like to go heavy when it comes to music. Lately I’ve been listening to August Burns Red and Architects a lot… I mean A LOT.

John: And how can someone connect with you?

André: I have Instagram accounts for both my modeling and art work. And anyone can message me through Behance, too.

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A New Take on the Street Artist

(Image by Daniel X. O’Neil from USA (Man Sits for Portrait on the Seine) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Last weekend, the high school where I’ve been teaching IB Theatre held a community “Fun Fair” for parents, students, and visitors on campus. Teachers were responsible for coming up with at least one booth or stall to raise funds for a local Guangzhou charity.

My mentor group organized a portrait/street artist booth and invited a few local artists, including Hong Kong-based Fumui Wong and American artist Tim Gerstmar on the day to do live drawings for paying guests.

Thanks to all who participated, especially our two artists!

 

Here are some images from the day, courtesy of my designer-friend-partner Gigi:

Here’s Tim getting into a drawing:

 

And Fumui Wong captivating the young crowd: