artist

artist, illustrator, printmaker, California

Lili Arnold

You studied printmaking in college?

Yes. It was almost by accident. As a junior I transferred to UC Santa Cruz. I was originally trying to do pre-med...but once I started taking classes like calculus and physics I was like, "Oh my gosh. I can't wrap my mind around any of this. This is not good." So I started rethinking my future and what I was going to major in...

I think my art education at UCSC allowed me to appreciate printmaking and start to figure out what I liked and what my style might be. I was always really drawn to pattern and folk art. I feel like most college art programs are focused more on conceptual art. So not necessarily something that's aesthetically pleasing but more focus on the message behind it. And I get that, some of the best art in the world is inspired by tragedy or something very personal. [Conceptual art] can have so much meaning, but I found my style in more folk art type things...

[After college] I did graphic design for four or five years. I got to a point where I was feeling creatively stifled because all the work I was doing was for someone else. I never had any real creative say in the final product ... I just executed the project that was given to me. I was craving some type of creative fulfillment. So I started doing art in my free time. On the weekends and whenever I could squeeze in a little project. ...I would do a little watercolor or I would paint a flower pot, all kinds of random stuff. I came across my old block printing tools and I thought, "Oh, I remember doing this. This was really fun…"

My first block print as an adult was a little sperm whale. Once I started I couldn't stop. After the sperm whale I did a whole little ocean series. Then a friend who worked at a store downtown reached out to me. She had seen them and asked if I would be interested in doing a First Friday. The first Friday of every month in Santa Cruz, a bunch of shops and galleries will host new artists with a collection of work... It's a really fun community arts event. So I had a First Friday. And I felt a lot of love from people in our community. It encouraged me that much more, so I just kept on creating…

When you went from your full-time graphic design position to what you are doing now, what did that transition look like? Are you printmaking full-time?

I am printmaking about 70% of the time, the rest of my time is filled with order fulfillment, commissioned pieces/illustrations, designing bandanas/packaging/branding for my products, and the last element is art shows & pop-ups. The transition from graphic designer to what I’m doing now was pretty scary at first. I was used to a steady 9-5, so managing myself and my own creativity took some time to harness and organize.

[When I quit my 9-5,] I kept some freelance graphic design clients and just did my art and printmaking on the side. Slowly the balance shifted more toward the printmaking end of things, once business started to pick up. Now I pretty much avoid graphic design whenever I can unless it incorporates handmade illustration, painting, or printing of some kind…

I've been obsessed with botanical illustration and scientific illustration. I like Ernst Haeckel ... He did a lot of ocean scientific illustrations. I get a lot of inspiration from doing research and ordering old books that have botanical illustrations. Also just getting out in nature...

I got the idea to do a protea and I think that might have been the first flower other than cactus flowers that I had done. So that kind of got me thinking about other types of flowers and I think that probably is what lead me to actually do this print [of Dahlias]. Now I'm feeling even more inspired to do different types of flowers from all over the world really. There's just so much beauty in the leaves and the petals and the whole structure of the plants.

So your cacti will morph into more flowers?

I think so. That's kind of what I'm feeling right now. 'Cause I did a lot of cactus.

I did, I don't know, a dozen at least, maybe around two dozen cactus and I loved every single one of them. I feel like [in the creative process] there's a natural desire to evolve and change and progress. So I feel like I've explored cacti ... and that has lead me to this next body of work. I have so many ideas for different flowers I wanna do, this could go on for awhile. But who knows?

Being an artist of any kind, it's hard to plan. It's like you have to listen to whatever's driving you and whatever ideas might pop into your head. Kinda just have to roll with it.

I feel like too much planning starts to feel cycling. Running my Instagram page, for example. I do enjoy it, but then there are times where if I plan it out too much...or if I start to schedule too much or start to pressure myself to keep up when I don't necessarily feel like it... I've gotten to the point where I just want to do whatever feels right and not worry if [Instagram’s] algorithm is going to put me below someone. It's probably not very business savvy...

I feel like for me to keep doing what I'm doing I really need to fully enjoy it and embrace the creative aspect of it. That's the most rewarding part of it.

These are all the flower pieces that I cut out after I carve the whole block. I'll carve [a block] in one piece and then I use an x-acto knife to cut out the pieces so I can color everything separately. That was one thing I never learned in school, was printing with multiple colors. Traditionally you carve multiple blocks [one for each color] and then you register each block.

[Explaining what it means to ‘register’ in printmaking.] So you'll print one color first for all the pieces of paper that you're doing. Once that color is done, you have to register [or line up] the next block[s] and the paper perfectly to print the second color [third color, etc] on top of it. It's always intimidated me. It's really hard to do without a printing press because printing by hand, there's so much inconsistency. I also use deckle edged paper. So you can see it would be really hard to register this paper, each piece is slightly different and like what part of the deckle edge do you really choose to be the part to align?

Had you seen other printmakers do this method before? Or did you have a light bulb moment one day?

I hadn't seen anyone do this before. I kind of did it out of desperation. The first few were very ... there was a lack of expertise for sure. The way the pieces fit together didn't really work. It was definitely challenging. But I've started to design the compositions with this idea in mind, that, "Oh, I'm gonna have to cut these out. So how can I make this easy?"

I just try to problem solve as I go 'cause there's a lot of factors to worry about....

That's how I work. A lot of trial and error. And googling. I have made many mistakes carving in blocks before. I did some googling and there's this stuff called Bondo which is used for car repair. It’s car dent filler. I read online that a printmaker used that to patch up mistakes made on their blocks. I ended up trying that because I had made a poster for a band ... I had to print 150 posters and somewhere on the poster it said 2017 and the seven was backwards… So I ended up using Bondo and patching the seven and carving the opposite side of it. And it worked!

Now I know if I really mess up on something that there is a chance it can be salvaged. In the past I just would abandon and walk. Sometimes it's like 15 hours of carving and it's tragic!

Find Lili:

Lili Arnold Studios

Instagram
Make sure to check out the videos she posts of mixing inks, it’s incredibly satisfying ;)

artist, Indiana, Painter, pastels

Sabrina Zhou

You went to art school in China…

Two art schools in China and one in Canada. All different majors. The first one was Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. I was majoring in watercolor. Then I met my husband and moved to the art school that he was in. That was in Sichuan, the southwest of China. This is where pandas come from. So first I did fine arts [watercolor] and then interior design. Then went to Canada and there I did fine arts…

What made you come to America?

I knew I was going to leave Calgary, it’s just too cold there. It’s like half a year in winter. We have to walk in tunnels and all of that. I didn’t think I would come to America until I visited a friend here. [We went to school together in Canada.] He was a New York street artist [at the time.]
…He was good and he inspired me. I just followed his steps…

So you started off on the east coast in Connecticut…

For seven years. Long time.…There was an old storage place they turned into artist lofts and rented them only to artists. So the rent was much cheaper than the market. You got to live with all sorts of artists; painters, singers, poets, writers, etc.  And then parties and talks... It was fun.
…I had a booth at the mall in Connecticut for Christmas and I was doing about 10 portraits a day… I came here to Indiana and had a booth at the mall for one year, in 2013.  I was playing video games on the computer the day before Christmas. People were not interested…

I focused solely on portraits for years and eventually hated it. Mostly I worked from photographs. People had all kinds of photographs. [laughter] Some of them where really hard to work with! And they asked funny questions; you can do this? You can do that? Can you put this head on that body? All sorts of questions…

When you do still lives. Do you set them all up and draw from life?

Yes…That’s part of the fun.

Setting everything up?

Yes. I rarely did oil in college because it’s so different than watercolor. With oils, you can mix all the colors together. You can be a pastel artist and oil painter, but watercolor and oil are so different. Different procedures.

[Pastels are] a smaller medium but once you get the hang of it, it’s so much fun. I could just sit here for hours doing my little feathering. It’s very controllable and the colors are so vivid. It is the pure pigment here. Paints can change color over time, but pastels stay there. …  [Pastels do fade in the sun a little bit,] especially the cheap ones. But that’s it. It can be very expensive. This tiny little stick cost $3 and you need so many different colors. Since you are working with the straight color you can’t blend it like you do with paint to get the color you need.
At this stage I don’t blend the pastels but the first few stages I do.

How do you blend pastels?

My finger. Someone told me you can rub the oil in your hand into the painting. So far I haven’t seen any problems with that. I use paper towels for the background because it is a big area. It is very different than when you rub with your finger. You can get a much smoother result with your finger.

When I do landscapes. People keep asking me where is this…where is that? It’s here, [points to head and laughs] it’s not real.

 

This landscape is all made up from your head?

Well this one I got the inspiration from Cool Creek Park. We walk over there with our dog. There is an area of birch trees. I added this mountain behind it. For the color variation. Indianapolis is so flat! I like that deep blue-purple color in the back and the trees against it. I like the effect. I can also show a little bit of pink, reddish color here and there. To compliment the green. So that part is coming out of my mind wherever I feel it’s necessary.
...
A good thing to do when you finish a painting is to put it aside for a few months. When you come back to it you find a lot of problems you want to fix. When you are just staring at it you are like, “[groans] Okay. I think it’s done.”
...
All those things that we learned in China, I don’t know any different until after years of being here. We learned the Russian system of art, called social realism. It’s more realistic. That’s why I was going so tight. All these details! I was considered to have a bad sense of color when I was in school. And I grew with that because when you get really into details you forget the fresh thing you had when you first looked at those still lives. You get into shape and volumes more than colors. So I thought, “Ok, I can’t see colors, I am so bad.” It’s a good thing I switched to oil because I work faster with a wider brush…I want to be John Singer Sargent. And I like that style better. I start to say “Oh, now I see more colors!” You can really relax and get loose. I see more colors and I like that. So when I go back to my pastel, I feel I work the color better. Even when I am doing detailed work like this, I see more colors. I benefit from that.  

John Singer Sargent, he’s a great portrait artist. I saw a painting of his with two ladies sitting in a garden with a table. The lady’s hand was painted really thick but loose brush work.  When you get close it’s just piles of paint up there, but when you step back, it’s a perfectly done hand. He is that awesome…
If you take the time and get into details, I can make it. But he was madly good, his strokes look so impatient, [whoosh of air and wide hand gesture] but everything is already there. So good.

It's interesting that you would admire Sargent, a more impressionistic painter, because your pastel work is very tight. You can get really up close to them and really appreciate them. But, your oil paintings are looser, more impressionistic.

Right. I’m trying to hide my tiny little brushes away from myself. So I just grab the bigger ones. All the tiny ones are there where I can’t reach them. So I am trying to use this bigger brush to get into the little detail and it’s become more vivid that way. It’s not as tight. With pastels I can’t [get bigger], they are already this shape.

HD_SabrinaZhou_0102_.jpg

Last year, I was in a show in Columbus, Ohio. I sold a painting that was not done. It was still wet! I didn’t have enough paintings to fill out the booth. This guy came in and said, “I just love that.”
I said, “You can order that. Once I am done with it I can ship it to you.”
He said, “No. I want it just like that.”

That’s pretty incredible. Did you sell it to him?

Yes! He took it. It needed to be varnished, but it was still wet…  He is not interested in me finishing the painting. That’s nice sometimes, the work doesn’t have to be really completed as you want. Some of the looseness in the first few stages appeal to people.

artist, Craft, California

Tim Bessell

How long have you lived in La Jolla?

I was born in Wichita, Kansas. My family moved down here when I was two years old. I’ve been here ever since. Right up the street. I like to joke my umbilical cord isn’t very long.

How did you get in to making surfboards?

On my 13th birthday, my brother and my best friend gave me a stripped down long board. They had all these old beat up surf boards that they stripped down, took off all the fiberglass. That was it. I made that board and it came out pretty decent. So my neighbor gave me a board that had turned out really bad. I stripped it down, took off the fiberglass and shaped another one. I sold that one. I was in high school, only 13 or 14, when I started. It’s hard to turn down work when people are paying you! 

It takes you about an hour to shape a surfboard?

Well, it depends. This model, I have it down. I can do it really easily and fast, but a longboard takes maybe two or three hours. It all depends. Whether the foam is cooperating that day. 

Most surfboards are made off machines. I still like to do it the hand-crafted way. 

Does it make any difference in performance? Do people notice a difference board to board? Hand making them must allow you to make them in more sizes.

I can make anything any size, any shape. 

Where do you get your foam? It is already in a rough surfboard shape.

They have molds. They start with a liquid foam and they pour it into a mold. There’s probably hundreds of different molds for different styles [and sizes] of surfboards. 

After a foam board core is shaped, what are the rest of the steps of making a surfboard?

So there’s this fiberglass cloth, it’s like any kind of cloth made out of fiberglass, you lay that, you dress, the bottom of the board. You cut the fiberglass and wrap it around. Then you take this resin, which starts off as a liquid and turns into a solid with a catalyst. You squeegee that on. Then you flip the board over and repeat the lamination on the top side. Lamination resin never really dries. It always stays tacky. That’s so it won’t de-laminate from the board. After the whole board is laminated, you take a different kind of resin, which has surfacing agent in it, and paint that over the bottom [of the board]. Sand that down and that’s your basic high performance surfboard. 

If you want something with art [on the top face of the surfboard], you have to laminate that into the board. That has a third layer of resin, called a gloss coat. You polish that out like a car, that’s how you get it so shiny. Most of the high performance shortboards are just sanded finish. They’re light. 

You could actually use the art boards? They are meant to be used?

Yea! My idea was to put my best work with Andy’s artwork…With the Warhol boards, those had to be approved by the Andy Warhol Foundation.

What gave you the idea to put Andy Warhol’s art on surfboards?

Ok, I’ll tell you how it happened. So my friend and protege, Ben Blank, he told me about this website Fab. Have you seen Fab? This was three years ago, so Fab was a little different than what it is now. He was going, “Tim, you need to put your surfboard on Fab.” And I’m going, “I just don’t see it.” Well one day I saw Warhol skateboards. I thought, “Ooooh, that’s it! I could be the surfboard guy. They’re giving licenses to skateboard guys, I’ll see if they’ll give me licenses.” And they did. Now we’re in our third year [using Warhol’s art]. 

When did you start making your own art?

My whole life. 

What’s your preferred medium?

I don’t know. I just like making stuff.

As long as it involves your hands.

Yea, exactly. 

When was your last show?

August, in New York. We sold out. We’ll be in New York again next summer.

What influences your personal art? 

[Some people who influence me] are Andy Warhol, Duchamp, Picasso. 

What subjects are you drawn to?

Duality.

How often do you surf?

I try to surf everyday.

Any quick advice for first time surfers?

Start on a longboard and work your way down.