Posts tagged: artist

Defining Millinery with Local Chicago Artist Tonya Gross

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By , September 15, 2009 8:00 am

Millner Tonya Talks About Her Hats

Millner Tonya Talks About Her Hats

With summer slowly trickling away, funsherpa digs into the Chicago fashion scene to rediscover the city’s top talent.  We sit down with milliner, sculptor, and pescatarian Tonya Gross to understand her artful inspirations and current design concoctions.  In this feature, Tonya also discusses potential hat designs for famous Chicagoans and Jon Gosselin.

F: Do you remember the first hat you ever owned?  What did it look like?

T: My first hat was a vintage piece I found at a thrift store.  I saw it as a project, a blank canvas to inject some personal style.  It was a pillbox with netting.  I added a brooch and wore it over my Aquanet-superhold-unscented-Robert-Smith-inspired hair sculpture.  Thank you Molly Ringwald, Morrissey and Cabaret Voltaire.

F: What inspires your designs?  Any particular design of yours you like the most?

T: I tend to let the material dictate what it wants to be and then give it a little nudge.  Music or an old movie inspires the personality of each piece too.  I like to crank Yma Sumac when I am blocking a hat and old Bette Davis or Ingrid Bergman films while hand sewing it.  It infuses the character of the hat…and the hat’s name.  Right now, I am working on a hat for a friend inspired by Myrna Loy’s character in the Thin Man movies.  It’s a chocolate brown felt with embellishments that include suede, a vintage bird wing and curled quills.

Inspiration to honor the integrity of couture sewing comes from the true couturiers like Chanel, Dior, Schiaparelli and Yves St Laurent.  Millinery heroes:  Raymond Hudd, Bes-Ben, Paulette, Ann Albrizio, Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones and my mentor, Eia Radosavljevic.

I think my most successful pieces are honest to the materials.  One of my favorites was a rolled banana leaf trilby.  Pure torture to stitch and block.  I took on the challenge of sewing living materials for my portfolio to get into art school.  It worked; then it dried and crumbled.  Back to the earth, as they say…

F: What is the most important thing you’ve learned from millinery school?

T: I attended a conceptual art school- not a millinery school- as a “developed adult”, shall we say.  I had many lives before deciding to go to art school which translated into a real earnestness to make the most of the resources while I had them. I connected with my instructors more than other students.  Fellow Gen X-ers, man.  You are my people.

My takeaways?  An unprecedented opportunity:  Total freedom to develop concepts and explore new materials.  I developed a deeper connection to ideas and materials, learned to trust myself and forged relationships with people I admire very much.

F: Can you describe a typical client of yours? Where do they wear these hats to?  It’s not very common that you see someone walking down the street with a fancy hat.

T: My typical client?  I design for fashion designers for the runway as well as a broad range of cancer patients, ladies who lunch, hipster boys, brides and nay-sayers who think their head is too big.  Custom millinery allows everyone- even those with larger beans- to indulge in head wear fantasies.

He or she has to be confident and have a sense of humor.  Confident because the reality is that Chicago is not London or Paris.  You stand out in a hat and people are going to look at you.  I like the risk takers.  The humor is in the details.

F: How did you end up designing hats?  What did you do prior to this?  What do you enjoy about the work that you do now?

T: Millinery is the perfect marriage of traditional method and art form that is open to modern interpretation through material usage, technology and environment.  I am turning 40 next week.  A late bloomer!  I rejoice in finally immersing all of my passion into one thing:  *My* business.  I always knew I wanted to own a business creating work out of a studio in or near my home.  I get inspiration at weird hours and like to squeeze the juice out of the day.

I like being a jack(ie) of all trades and taking on new challenges.  I am incorporating wood carving, sculpture, management, marketing and design into what I do.  All things I have picked up along the journey.  My business tagline is:  from hedge fund to head wear…hats for individuals who think outside the (hat) box…in a previous life, it was all left brain.  Now, life is a little more balanced.

F: Lets talk about imaginary hats for famous people – can you describe what hats you’d design for: Jennifer Hudson? Michelle Obama? Jon Gosselin?

Tonya's Black Hat Black Heart

Tonya's Black Hat Black Heart from her Spring 2010 collection. Photo By David Leslie Anthony

T: Dita Von Teese and Lady GaGa are more my aesthetic but I will play along!  Jennifer Hudson is lovely and see her wearing a traditional hat silhouette with broad brim and shorter crown.  But really, she needs a sexy fascinator to go with those eyes!  Michelle Obama?  I would love to make her a modern pillbox in a bold-colored leather in a not-so-Jackie-O sort of way.  I don’t know much about Jon Gosselin but first thought is an asshat and whatever that might look like.  Latex and baby powder.

My next collection will be dedicated to my group of friends, dubbed the Chicago 7.  Sipsters, the older, more worldly sisters of hipsters.  Bawdy and brilliant ladies, each and every one.  They are my inspiration and my family.  Each hat will be based on a personality.  Sure to be over the top.  Naughty and delicious.

F: How long have you lived in Chicago?  Have you ever thought about leaving?  Why?

T: I grew up in the wilds of northern Michigan and moved to Chicago about 14 years ago.  I label myself “urban crunchy”.  I love the outdoors- canoeing, climbing and camping- but enjoy the vitality of the city too.  I have always wanted to move west and learn to surf and find Moondoggie but Chicago has so much going for it:  Great live music, restaurants…a beautiful lake… dear friends.  Chicago is trying really hard to be fashion forward but we are in the Midwest and sadly, hats are about utility and less about fashion.  Problematic.

F: What are your favorite fashion boutiques in Chicago? How about secret source for affordable fashion?

T: I have a voracious appetite for thrifting so my haunts are off the grid.  I mix vintage pieces from Howard Brown and Salvation Army with the new from local designers carried by Wolfbait & b-Girls boutique in Logan Square and Habit in my hood.  Being in the fashion business, I get to meet some great clothing designers.  I try to buy locally as much as possible.

F: What neighborhood do you live in?  What are your favorite things to do around there?

T: I live in Ukranian Village a couple of miles west of Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago.  It’s about beer, coffee and chocolate (not necessarily in that order) in this hood.  The beer garden at Happy Village…the cigars, T & T’s and people watching at Matchbox…Atomix café for delightful joe…and Sweet Cakes (which used to be my loft space before it went retail!) for chocolate goodness and some wild memories.

F: Can you share your favorite restaurants with us and what you order from them?

I am a pescetarian and thankfully Chicago restaurateurs are good to us!  I would be a bad Chicagoan if I didn’t say how much I love our pizza options.  The harmony of perfect thin crust and sauce is at Pequod’s on Clybourn.  I think about falafel sandwiches at least once a day and have one of the best right around the corner from me at Chickpea on Chicago Ave.  Sentimental favorite is La Creperie on Clark Street for Crepe Suzette and coffee in the garden.  I lived in Japan and am always searching for good sushi too!  Sashimi onegaishimasu!  We have Matsushita on Thome on the north side for authentic Japanese dining, thank goodness.

Portrait of a Portrait-Painter

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By , August 19, 2009 8:00 am

Photo Portrait of the Painter

Photo Portrait of the Painter

Award-winning artist Michael Van Zeyl paints portraits by skylight in his Chicago studio.  He features deep-dish pizza with bottles of Heineken in his still-life paintings and emulates the techniques of 17th-century Dutch masters.  He talked to Funsherpa about light, doctors, and urban scenes.

F: How do you get the credentials to become a portrait-painter? Is it a matter of schooling, competitions, or experience?

Many years of practice working with live models. And taking workshops with other working portrait artists. Entering and winning competitions gives you the sense of security necessary to accept commissions.

F: How many sittings are necessary for a portrait?

1-3 three-hour sittings. I prefer to work from life but there is usually a conflict with the client’s schedule, so I work mostly from photos I take in my studio.

F: What is your favorite part of the face to paint? Why?

I would have to say the eyes – it’s where you see the most emotion.

F: Not everyone commissions a painted portrait. Why do you think people choose to have their portraits painted?

I think it’s a matter of tradition and honor.

F: How do you incorporate your own style into a portrait?

The application of paint is very personal. It’s nearly impossible to replicate another artist’s painterly stroke. I have many influences – Rembrandt, Velasquez, Van Dyke, Sargent, Manchini, Sarolla – and you might see little bits of them in my work. But the way I see and record what I see personalizes my work, because no on one can put paint down the exact same way I do. When I’m painting in a room full of 20 painters, we’re all staring at the same exact same subject but you get twenty different results. I think I just see things differently, interpret color differently, and compose a little differently – so I get a different result.

F: Do you ever ‘photoshop’ your subjects and make them look better?

Only when the client requests it. The client hires me to create an image of themselves or of how they wish to be remembered. Sometimes that does not strictly reflect real life. When doing a posthumous portrait, photos are compiled over a wide range of years to create the best image of that person.

F: You appear to have quite a few clients who are doctors? Why is that?

I’ve done work for the University of Chicago, Depaul, and Rush Hospital. The clients are typically not the doctors themselves; either the hospital board or the school commissions me. If a doctor steps down or retires, they give the portrait as a gift or honor that person by hanging it up on the wall of the institution.

F: What is your inspiration for still-life paintings? Do you arrange or spot the scene?

It’s a little bit of both. I have a variety of different props in the studio and I’ll arrange them to try and make abstract designs with light and shadow. I create color themes with different types of fruits, vegetables and backdrops.

On the website there’s one that I like – the painting of a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza and bottles of beer – that looks like an everyday set-up. My inspiration comes from the 17th-century Dutch masters; instead of painting antique objects, I try to incorporate modern-day objects and paint them using the techniques of the old masters.

F: What can a still-life painting tell the viewer? What is it meant to convey?

I like to think the themes of my paintings have something to do with light– the way light moves or the way it illuminates an object. It doesn’t matter if it’s a still-life, a figure, or a landscape: all my paintings are about light.

F: Do you think there is a better market for paintings of urban scenes?

I think people living in a metropolitan area are drawn to urban scenes, especially of restaurants, because they can connect with people – there’s a lot of movement versus a still-life painting. A painting with multiple figures is more interesting to people than still-life. But it’s hard to say – people are drawn to paintings for all sorts of different reasons.

F: What/where are your favorite places to paint in Chicago?

The two places where I paint are my north light studio in my home and the Palette & Chisel Academy of Art. I’ve been a faculty member there for 4 years and an an artist member for 12 years. It’s near the corner of Dearborn and Oak Streets; It was established in 1895 by students of the Art Institute. That’s my second home – I’m there 3 or 4 days a week painting from life, because they have 60 hours of live-model time.

F: Where are your favorite art galleries in Chicago?

I like the Ann Nathan Gallery because she represents contemporary figurative works. Frederick Baker represents me in Chicago – they have a great collection of old prints and drawings.

F: What paintings decorate your house?

The paintings on my walls are portraits I’ve done of family members as well as portraits of myself and my family done by other artists.

Entering the fashion scene with award winning designer Anna Hovet

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By , June 10, 2009 8:00 am

Anna scheming to take over the Chicago fashion scene

Anna scheming to take over the Chicago fashion scene

Fashion designer and entrepreneur Anna Hovet shares her thoughts on her style, Patty Blagojevich, and the best designed food in Chicago. Voted recently as the Chicago Reader’s best clothing designer for 2009, Anna is on her way to transforming the local fashion scene and making her mark in it. A native of North Dakota, and graduate of the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, she now lives in Bucktown with her dog, Danny.

About Anna from the designer’s mouth

F: What did you want to be when you were a kid? Why?

A: When I was a kid I wanted to be the first female president. As a child I dreamed about changing the world and I still do. Using fashion as a platform to influence the world deeply inspires me. Not by starting trends and having celebrity clients, but by putting meaning into my special collections and using fame and profits to support worthwhile causes.

F: You mentioned in a previous interview that over-stylized outfits on music videos got you started in fashion design…can you walk us through your style evolution?

A: When I was young, watching music videos was my gateway from a small city in North Dakota to an ultra cool fantasy land filled with super cool people and crazy fashion. The clothing was ridiculous and the trends were over exaggerated (think 1997 Missy Elliot, Gwen Stefani, Spice Girls, and Puff Daddy), but they were the trendiest styles for youth. My favorite group was TLC, unique and sexy, with a tomboy attitude. By the time I got to high school I was bored with music videos and haven’t watched them much since. I’m not sure I can really define the evolution of “my style” because it is continuously changing with what inspires me, what is trendy, and what is going on in my world. Overall my style is always very youthful, edgy, and feminine.

F: Who do you think would look better on Patty Blagojevich, Maria Pinto or John Galliano? Why?

A: As a politician’s wife one would expect to see her in Pinto, but with her wacky family and thirst for attention, maybe Galliano would be more suitable.

F: In an ideal world, funsherpa would have a TV show similar to the Iron Chef, except it would be a battle between fashion designers. If we gave you copper wire as the special ingredient to create something out of, what would you create/design?

A: Copper wire would be awesome to work with! I would create a strapless dress that sculpted the wearer’s body into an exaggerated hourglass shape. The wire would be twisted and braided in different ways to create a intricate texture. It would be dope!

F: 30 years from now, what do you see people wearing?

A: I think by 2039 consumers will want sustainable fabric, so much of the clothing will be organic cottons. Americans love comfort and designers will have to adhere to these demands with stylish clothing that is wearable and easily washable (example: my cotton jersey convertible dresses, which are unique and stylish yet easy and comfortable). Also be because of globalization people will be able to get their clothing online from anywhere in the world, so people will have more access to their own individual style.

High fashion low maintenance convertible dress

High fashion low maintenance convertible dress

F: As a fashion designer, what frustrates you the most?

A: It frustrates that people think what I do is easy and that I make money. As a start-up company I do everything by myself: design, finances, marketing, sourcing, etc. With the start-up costs and the poor economy I will make very little profit this year so I’m living on unemployment from my previous job for now. Plus I manufacture all my garments in Chicago, which is important to me but minimizes my profit margins.

F: Your perfect model would look like…

A: Size 4, 5’10”, pouty lips, piercing light-colored eyes, huge eyelashes, and something very unique about her, maybe a cute tattoo, beauty mark – something that makes her special.

F: When you need to escape away from Chicago, where do you travel to?

A: I love to visit Grand Forks, ND. I grew up there and my family still lives there. It is a quiet and peaceful with friendly people. While I am there I spend time eating a lot, at hockey games, snowmobiling, or relaxing at the lake.

Secrets of Chicago from the eyes of Anna

F: What neighborhood do you live in and what do you do out there in your spare time?

A: I live in Bucktown and spent a lot of time in my backyard with my dog Danny. I love the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood because there are so many things to do and the people are all so interesting.

F: Best designed food in Chicago?

The Chicago-style hot dog is not only delicious but aesthetically pleasing. The color palette is great, especially the neon green sweet pickle relish. Plus the design is very convenient to hold and eat!

F: Lets say you had $10,000 to finish in a day, where would you spend it in Chicago? How about $100?

A: I’m very practical when it comes to money so I’d probably buy industrial sewing machines and fabric with $10,000. But I also love throwing parties, so maybe I’d throw a huge runway show/party! I’ve always wanted to go on a tour of Chicago in one of those double-decker buses, so I think I’d use the $100 for that, along with a map, fanny pack, and some SPF90 sunblock (I have very pale Norwegian skin that hates the sun).

F: Where do the best dressed people hangout in Chicago?

A: Wicker Park, I get most of my inspiration from the young artists in the neighborhood who invent their own style. Musicians like The Cool Kids, Flosstrodomus, Kid Sister, and Hollywood Holt attract the most creative and youthful crowds.

Hovet's blueprint to take over the world

Hovet's blueprint to take over the world

F: Is there anything unique in Chicago’s style that you wish the rest of the world would catch on to?

A: Mens Streetwear in Chicago is very unique – Leaders1354, St. Alfred’s, and Fashion Geek are all influencing streetwear fashion on a national level. I wish there were similar stores for the ladies in Chicago. The American Midwest in general is more practical than stylish, so Chicago could always be more style conscious.

F: We like your stuff. Where can we buy it?

A: One-of-a-kind pieces will be available this summer through my website. My fall ready-to-wear collection will be sold at AKIRA starting in September and through my website in October.

F: Help us do something interesting to help you do something more interesting.  Respond to our survey :)  Thanks loyal funsherpa friends!

Snapshots of Chicago with fashion photographer Billy Rood

By , June 1, 2009 8:00 am

Billy Rood is an extraordinary photographer who runs on Redbull and coffee.

Billy Rood staring at his future

Billy Rood staring at his future

While he doesn’t cook or clean much, he spends a lot of time doing fashion photography, blogging, and creating films. He is in need of constant change and improvement, focusing on refining his eye to continuously improve his work. We sit down with Billy to get a better perspective on his life and his favorite places to go in the great city of Chicago.

Uncovering Billy Rood’s talent

F: You create movies, music and shoot photographs. Is there anything that you don’t do?

B: Yes there’s lots of things I don’t do! I rarely cook or clean but am learning! I love to learn and be creative so I try to do as much as I possibly can. My next goal is to learn French and read more current events. I work so much I tend to lose myself from the rest of the world and immerse into only what I’m experiencing. So thank God for internet or else I’d be behind!

F: What is it like being around beautiful models all day? Is it possible to make them look bad?

B: The truth is that I’m not really around models all day. I have a few friends that are models, and yes they are beautiful but its not what you think. They’re just as flawed on the inside as everyone else, but they have a very beautiful surface to cover it.

Yes, it is very, very possible to make them look bad. It’s a real skill to make models look even more beautiful than they are in person. It’s even harder to photograph them in a completely different way than what you see everyday. You have to know what you want and have an idea of how to do it. But that’s why I love it, it’s a challenge and a real collaborative effort w/ both the model and my team.

F: If the world ran out of memory cards and light you would:

B: Well I would definitely do something to change that! But if there was no light, I’m sure I would figure something out. But really I think I would become a writer. I’ve always been interested and have written some scripts, so that would be another goal to accomplish. I also have a passion to be a filmmaker so nothing can destroy that.

F: How would you differentiate your style from other photographers?

B: That’s a very good question. I’m not quite sure how to differentiate myself quite yet. I’ve only been shooting for the past 6 months so I’m still developing my style. I’ve been told by fashion photographer David Leslie Anthony in Chicago that on the average, it takes 2-5 years of shooting before one starts to develop their own viewpoint…After I heard his influential wisdom, I started to challenge myself to accomplish my style in every shoot I do.  I have much developing to do!

But if I had to describe it I would say subtlety and emotion. Dreams are also a huge inspiration. Images and emotions appear in my dreams and I use photography and filmmaking to kind of express them.

Fashion photography courtesy of Billy Rood

Fashion photography courtesy of Billy Rood

F: Biggest frustration as an artist?

B: My biggest frustration is not shooting. I always need to be busy. I’m a workaholic. I need to be developing myself continually. Either shooting fashion, events or weddings; I take every experience to push myself. When I am not doing that or see other artists not pushing themselves to their highest potential I get extremely frustrated. It’s like, WAKE UP! I believe everyone has a gift and sometimes it’s hard to push people to believe in themselves because they make it about you, instead of realizing everything they have experienced is because of their choices.

F: Tell us about your film Moira, what is about and what is the objective behind it?

B: The purpose of this film is really my relationship with God. I have a love/hate with it. The film is really about family and how faith can either bring or pull each other apart. Death is a major reason for the loss of faith and I also believe that religion is also a huge issue with psychological disorders. It’s really a mind-fuck if you think about it.

We believe in something we have never really experienced or seen and this blind faith can sometimes be deceiving. So this film has all those issues and conflicts. But it’s based around two brothers, a priest and an artist who lose their parents in a plane accident. They both have 2 extremely different lives and personalities and the question and situation I put them in is how can faith and God somehow bring them together? What will their life be without faith, what would it be like with it?

The objective for me and the film is to really push the idea of religion into films and make it interesting. I also want to make it entertaining, because that’s the point of films…to entertain.

F: What do you see yourself doing 20 years from now? What role will photography play in it (if any)?

B: 20 years from now! Well I see myself doing what I’m doing now but bigger and better. Films, Fashion, Photography, and Living Extravagantly. I tell myself that if I’m exactly in the same place a year from now I should kill myself. haha. A bit dramatic but I strongly believe that change is a good thing and if you can create a vision for yourself and do whatever you can do to get there, you will accomplish it.

I hope to be in a place of comfort and family. I’m so young right now its hard for me to even see that for myself. But in the next 5-10 years I hope to settle down and start a family. 10 years from them hopefully have this whole other life, God knows where?!

Billy Rood’s life in Chicago…

F: Where can we find you in Chicago?

B: You can find me at my studio and office off of the Granville Red Line at figmedia. Or working from home in my new condo in Rogers Park.

F: Favorite place to take photographs in Chicago (that isn’t the bean):

B: Late night photographs of me and my friends just out on the town. Nothing can beat those candid moments.

F: What is your favorite cuisine? Where do you go to get this in Chicago?

B: I love all kinds of food. I haven’t found a favorite spot yet but the recent restaurants I’ve been to that I’ve liked are Takashi on Damen, Tallulah in Lincoln Square, Over Easy for a Sunday Breakfast on Damen, Karyn’s Raw & Billy Dec’s new Sunda Restaurant. All extremely good.

F: Favorite drink?

B: Redbull & coffee – with an even amount of water lol.

F: Best thing to do in Chicago during the summer?

B: cruise down lake shore drive on my way to the beach or a nice dinner downtown.

F: You wish Chicago had…

B: An art collective like Paris or New York. I cherish being around creative artists and want to be a part of that kind of movement here in Chicago. There’s a small one but it could be much, much better.

Jay Ryan smashes together the worlds of rock music and poster making

By , May 22, 2009 8:35 am

The man behind the Bird Machine

The man behind the Bird Machine

Rock-band bassist and silkscreen artist Jay Ryan speaks to us about his work, interests and love for labor intensive processes. While most poster makers enter the craft by way of graphic design or digital artistry, Jay’s education consisted of a degree in painting from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, ditching fine art painting for the more exciting world of poster making. He prefers creating his posters by hand, avoiding Photoshop at all costs…including many cuts from his treasured Exacto knife. Also, unlike most rock bands (with the exception of the Rolling Stones and U2) Jay’s band, Dianogah, has played together in the Chicago area and internationally for about 15 years.

F: You have a degree in Painting, why work on posters and not stick to painting or try out photography?

J: One of problems I had in school was finding justification for doing what I was doing. I wanted to do something where I could have fun with it visually and at the same time serve a purpose. To me, images alone seemed pointless, so I was always attaching text and creating a message with my work. Then, the other half of my life was spent going to rock concerts or band practice – so making posters for bands seemed like a great way to combine these interests!

F: So are your posters as easy as hitting the print button?

J: I make them all by hand with no computers. They are hand drawn, and all layers of film are cut by hand using Exacto knives. If we are making 300 posters, we go through 300 pieces of paper, put one color down, change screens and put another color down on all 300 pieces. We’ll usually end up making posters that include 5-7 colors so it is quite labor intensive.

F: Do you feel threatened by the digital world, where almost everything can be created through Adobe software and a printer?

J: I am encouraged by it because a lot of my peers in the poster community design all their work digitally but still go through the physical process of making these screen prints. In general, I believe there will always be those who appreciate handmade work. For example, there are still people who buy LPs and books despite itunes and the Kindle. Maybe my posters won’t be in the hands of a hundred million people, but I’ll still have people who appreciate and care about the art and amount of work put into the piece.

F: Why is it called the bird machine?

J: I was going to call it IBM, but that was taken, so we settled on The Bird Machine. There’s no real good reason, but I should really make one up. A lot of people ask me this question. A few probable reasons are that my wife is an ornithologist, and when I started the company I read Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

One of Jay's handmade creations

One of Jay's handmade creations

F: You are in a band, Dianogah that recently performed in the UK, at the ATP Festival, what was it like?

J: Traveling anywhere with this band is a lot of fun. I’ve been in this band longer than I’ve been making posters. Anytime we get together and travel and play is a blast. We got to see some good bands, stay up late, and act like we were 23, even though we are all in our late 30s. It was a fun weekend, with not a lot sleep.

F: Where do you play out here?

J: We have played in almost every venue in Chicago over the years, but The Hideout is our favorite place to play. Our next gig in Chicago is at the Pitchfork Music Festival; we are playing there on July 19th. There is a poster convention at the festival too, and I’ll be there showing and hopefully selling my posters.

F: What neighborhood do you live in? What do you do around there?

J: I live in Evanston, mow the lawn and walk the dog daily – I am fully suburban, as I work and live outside the city. Actually, there’s not a whole lot to do really close to my house, though there’s plenty within biking distance. I go to Chicago a lot. I used to live near Granville and Western. First best reason to go into Chicago is to go to Hot Doug’s, then Kuma’s Corner to get an amazing cheeseburger. I just had a swine flu burger there and it was great. I love browsing books at Quimby’s Books in Wicker Park and spend more money then I should at Reckless Records. Oh yeah, I also enjoy going to Rotofugi, Renegade Handmade, and eating at Milk & Honey.

F: What is your favorite gallery or place to check out visual art?

J: Rotofugi is like a vinyl toy store, but they also have some books, and have gallery space. Definitely have a bunch of good stuff there. Heaven Gallery is cool too.

F: Where can we see your work?

J: This is where I go hi-tech. Best place to see my prints is to check out my website.

Revealing the Behind the Scenes Artist

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By , May 6, 2009 4:12 pm

Vanessa poses for Peter McCain

Vanessa poses for Peter McCain

Vanessa Conway is somewhat of an artist extraordinaire who lives in Lincoln Park. When WE sat down to chat with her at the Nobletree Café, she pretty much created a modern sculpture out of napkins that were lying on the table. Vanessa started her art career when she created her first abstract painting at age 3, formalized it at The Theatre of DePaul University, and is finally living it in the art/casting department of various films and plays, including Batman’s The Dark Night, As Told by the Vivian Girls, and Rock n Roll. Outside of the art world, she reads lots of blogs – apparently, Nutrionista is her favorite (we are trying to convince her to read ours!). If you see a purple bike with a helmet painted like crazy, it’s probably Vanessa – honk or say hi.

We have always been curious about the way an artist’s mind works…so we asked her to complete a few sentences for us.
Growing up around Chicago was like being a kid in a brilliantly designed candy store, except with salt, sugar, and some soy sauce.

The best part of being involved in the art world is that you never know where the wind will take you, and you get inspired easily and by pretty much everyone in your life.

Art is my passion, but sometimes the real world comes a callin’ and wish I could get a steady paycheck sort of like back in the days of the WPA‘s Federal Art Project, which supported artists like Jackson Pollock.

My job takes me all over the city and the two places I think everyone should visit at least once are “Textile Discount Outlet” and American Science and Surplus because you just never know when you will need a sequined platypus appliqué or a box of glow-in-the-dark bones.

This one time, in art camp, I dressed up as a hippie for a themed day and a picture was snapped and published in the local paper. However, the other three people were not dressed as hippies and I looked like a major doofus!

I am currently working on a music video, and the coolest thing about it is seeing how insanely kind and hardcore the girls from the Chicago Outfit Roller Derby League are and/or I got to work with somebody named Queefer Sutherland.

The easiest thing I created was a twenty five foot cherry blossom tree essentially constructed out of cardboard and coffee filters, but it took me years to perfect cutting/painting/drawing a truly straight line.

Vanessa’s favorite things in Chicago…
If brunch lines weren’t so long, I would go to Orange for frushi, Hot Chocolate, and Victory‘s Banner. I would live only on brunch.

When I want to venture out with my bike, I take the lakefront path to Millennium Park or Grant Park for a free concert, if I am on CTA mode, I check out the Garfield Park Conservatory.

My favorite galleries at the Art Institute are Thorne Miniature Rooms and the Modern Wing. If you find a flavorful untitled installation by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, your admission would pay for itself many times over.

If the Art Institute were closed for a week, I would cry my way to the Mexican Fine Arts Center, the MCA, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Columbia College Image Library, or the Newberry Library.

On a snowy/rainy day, I must see double features at Landmark Cinema, Pipers Alley, the Music Box or the Siskel Film Center and go see the NeoFuturist’s Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind at least once a year.

If Alinea weren’t so expensive, I’d be there everyday and eat everything and anything they offer, instead I just go to Cafe Iberico.

I enjoy going to Nobletree Café and the Hideout because their music playlist is magical.

My New Year’s resolution was to give up cupcakes, so I go to these places for my sweet fix: Peet‘s for an almond croissant and the best vanilla latte in Chicago, and Margie’s for the Royal George (with a slew of friends of course)!

I was really sad when the art store closed down, but happy that Dick Blick opened up instead.

When it is sunny, I try to do nothing but bask in it and get all my friends to do the same, preferably in somebody’s backyard/deck/patio/boat/rooftop with a barbecue and maybe a frisbee.

Photo courtesy of Peter McCain

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