Artist Spotlight: Stephanie Singleton

Stephanie Singleton is a Canadian artist living in Sweden. Before moving to Stockholm, Stephanie had lived in Toronto all her life. She grew up in her family's home located just outside of an enormous nature reserve, and her resulting fascination with the natural world fostered early interests in science and art. Stephanie's parents thought she might become a scientist, but instead she became an artist whose work reflects the beauty of nature. Recently she even illustrated a science article about microbiology and climate change, taking a pause at that moment in her career to reflect on how her childhood passions of science and art had come together. "I don't think I would have imagined that as a child," she said.

Creativity has always been an important aspect of her life. "I've been drawing pretty much as young as I can remember," said Stephanie. This led her to art school at OCAD University, where she began studying graphic design. "I didn't think that illustration was a feasible career, so I thought that being a graphic designer would be more practical," she explained. But Stephanie soon changed her mind, encouraged by an instructor to switch majors from graphic design to illustration. At first the art school experience was stressful for her because she felt directionless, unsure of what to do or where to go. "It was only really once I graduated that I figured out what direction I wanted to go in with my art," Stephanie said.

Fresh out of school, she began to develop an artistic style focusing on nature, organic objects, surrealism and patterns. Stephanie also focuses on her use of color, which is now an important aspect of her style after a long struggle to develop the ability while in art school. "I did not know what I was doing. I hated using color, and now it's one of the most important things to me," said Stephanie. Working digitally helped her develop those abilities; her work is created using both digital and traditional mediums. "It's half and half," she said. "I always use Photoshop to add color, and I always do my line work and the watercolor textures by hand." The result comes together using a distinct color palette that Stephanie described as "kind of bold, kind of candy-colored and a lot of pastels as well." She developed it organically by simply picking and choosing colors that she found aesthetically pleasing, then using color theory to bring in additional complementary colors.

The surreal side of Stephanie's work is often inspired by looking at photography and old botanical illustrations. "I just love looking at intricate, old, decorative stuff. It doesn't matter what it is. It could be textiles, it could be objects, it could be illustrations, but I love looking at that kind of stuff as an inspiration." Sometimes, Stephanie is inspired by family memories. Her print Childhood Fruit and Spices recalls familiar foods from her upbringing, like papaya and breadfruit. "My mom is West Indian and that was the kind of food we grew up eating and cooking," she said. Stephanie also enjoys portraiture. "I think it's quite fun when you study a person for so long. It's kind of weird when you break the pieces of their face down into certain angles or shapes. I think that's pretty interesting to do."

As her style developed, Stephanie also began to establish a working routine. When she is not making personal work, she works full-time as a freelance artist. "I'll do sketches first, to either get those approved or do revisions, and then move onto the final, which will be me working traditionally making the lines by hand and then scanning into the computer and then coloring with Photoshop," she said. "Usually I'll wake up maybe around 10 or so. I'll have a cup of coffee and just think for a bit, kind of get my mind clear." From there Stephanie usually works in one of Stockholm's cafés or the library before coming home to make dinner.

She decided to move to the city after visiting a couple of times. Stephanie realized that she really liked Sweden, and she had been feeling stuck in a rut at home in Toronto. "I kind of decided I liked the feel of the country, so I came back to Stockholm," she said, explaining that it was a simple process to obtain a working holiday visa in Scandinavia. "It's really great, I wish I could stay here. It's just a really beautiful city. It's really inspiring because everything is so well-designed and it's near the water and there's a lot of nature around and the buildings are just beautiful."

The move has helped Stephanie grow both personally and professionally. Before moving to Sweden, Stephanie made art on a part-time basis while working her day job in a library in Toronto. "I basically quit my job and moved here [to Stockholm] and I didn't think that I was going to be able to work full-time freelance as an illustrator, so that was kind of a surprise for me." She quickly developed the business skills needed for freelancing. "Working as a professional artist, you have to do all these different things that you wouldn't think of," she said, from invoicing clients to generating self-promotion. Being your own boss can be both a blessing and a curse because of the immense responsibility involved, she said. All of the effort is well worth it, though. She said that the best part of working full-time as an artist is "doing what you love to do and also being able to make your own schedule."

Print services like INPRNT can be a big help. Stephanie originally experimented with printmaking, but found that she did not enjoy doing it herself. "I tried to make prints on my own very briefly when I just got out of school and I really hated the whole process with it, and just the fact that there was a service that I could use that had good quality prints and did all the stuff for me was amazing. When I saw the prints for the first time I was really impressed with how well the color was matched."

Culturally, Stephanie has not found Sweden to be drastically different from her native Canada, and since nearly everyone speaks English there is almost no language barrier. Geographically, she appreciates how compact and well-designed Stockholm is compared to Toronto. Even living in the outskirts of Stockholm, it only takes up to twenty minutes to get anywhere she wants to go. She acknowledged her favorite things about each city, saying, "I think the best thing about Toronto is how diverse it is, how multicultural... and then Stockholm, I would say I think it's just a very visually inspiring city." Stephanie plans to put that inspiration to use in the future by collaborating with a friend on a series of Stockholm-themed patterns.

She met with our photographer at Monteliusvägen, a scenic path with extraordinary views. "Someone brought me there the first time I went to Stockholm and I thought it was so beautiful," she said. Stephanie appreciates how much other people enjoy the city's beauty, too. "I love the fact that when there is even a speck of sunshine, everyone is outside just hanging out in the park."

Photography by Ashley Heafy

Stephanie credits her family with encouraging her to pursue art. Her mother was an accountant and her father worked in IT, but they consistently supported their children in creative pursuits. "They've always been really big on supporting me through that and I think that's really helped me. I know I'm very lucky for that, because a lot of people don't have that kind of support," she acknowledged. Stephanie's sister works in film and video, and she has been living in Berlin during Stephanie's time in Stockholm. They even left Toronto on the same day. "It's been pretty amazing," said Stephanie. "I think this year has probably been one of the best in my life."


Artist Spotlight: Dmitry Samarov

Photo by Paul Germanos, courtesy of Dmitry Samarov

Dmitry Samarov's artwork often intersects with creative worlds from music to literature, whether he is sketching a live band or writing stories to go with his paintings and drawings. Most of all, his artwork reflects real life. Using traditional mediums from the driver’s seat of his taxi cab or inside familiar haunts like his favorite bars and coffee shops, Dmitry’s work offers personal insight into his life in Chicago.

He has called the city home for decades, its unique landscape and culture shaping his artwork along the way. For many years Dmitry spent up to sixteen hours a day behind the wheel of his Chicago cab, becoming intimately acquainted with the urban environment and its inhabitants. His artwork usually comes together on the fly, capturing the essence of specific people, places and moments in time.

His preference is to draw and paint from life, enjoying the challenges of shifting light in the environment and human subjects who constantly change and move. “Everything moves and everything changes all the time,” he said. “My job in the world is to watch and listen." He sees the artist as an observer, a role that feels comfortable and familiar after becoming a taxi driver to make money while pursuing his art. With his face turned away from his passengers, Dmitry felt himself becoming invisible, "a part of the furniture.” He discovered that when people were in his cab, many of them felt free to engage in unfiltered speech or behavior as if he wasn't there. Sometimes his art seems equally straightforward in the way he expresses every last detail, even painting a single, brightly-colored fast food sign far off in the distance of an otherwise-idyllic Chicago night scene.

The city serves as a favorite subject and muse for Dmitry, as well as his home. “I’ve lived in cities all my life,” he said, “so it’s really the only thing I truly understand or love.” These days Dmitry lives in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago, which he describes as ever-changing and vibrant, with a diverse population of all ages. From his home in Bridgeport, Dmitry is steps away from his favorite coffee shop and the bar where he now works. He usually doesn’t need to walk more than a couple of blocks to get to where he wants to go, but even with a short commute he continues to find the city as compelling as ever. “It never ceases to show a new thing to me,” he said. “Almost every day I find something new here.”

Along with making the city a theme, part of Dmitry’s signature style comes from his color palette. When he attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1990s, Dmitry started to use a simplified palette of only primary colors along with black and white. It's a practice he continues to this day. He thinks of the six colors he uses--red, yellow, black, white and two shades of blue--like the six strings on a guitar. Just as a guitarist writes a song using only six strings, Dmitry relies on his palette of six colors. It brings cohesiveness to his work, yet he is able to mix any color he wants. The result is distinctive and uniquely his own.

Dmitry’s work is exhibited in venues across Chicago. One recent show took place at Hume Gallery featuring his paintings of the three local bars he knows best: Rainbo Club, Skylark and Bernice’s Tavern. Chicago is rich with creative and artistic events like these, and Dmitry attends them frequently. He enjoys listening to live music, often painting or drawing the band on the spot. He also attends readings and other literary events, a fitting activity for an artist who is an accomplished writer as well. Dmitry is a contributor to Chicago’s alternative newspaper, the Chicago Reader, covering art shows, theater and cinema. He is also the author of two books, Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab and Where To?: A Hack Memoir.

His books are non-fiction based on his own experiences, often the same ones he encapsulates in his paintings and drawings. “I never took a writing class or had any ambitions for writing until I started driving a cab. What happened was people would just get in and launch into their stories or do something weird, and it would just keep gnawing at me," he explained. "I had to start writing it down.” His artwork illustrates the text of his books. From the story of his bumbling first fare when a disgruntled passenger had to give Dmitry directions to the airport, to late-night noir courtesy of drunken revelers spilling out of the bars as they closed, his stories and pictures are inseparable parts of the whole. Dmitry has pushed the boundaries of his work even further by incorporating his writing into music and video. He recorded a spoken word album of his stories over an improvised musical track featuring guitar, drums and bass. In a series of videos, he narrates as he paints or draws the subject matter at hand, the artwork seeming to pour out from him in an effortless way.

The road to book authorship seemed almost as easy as sketching a scene. A major publisher found Dmitry’s blog and Twitter account, where he frequently posted his art and observations, and saw the potential for a book. They approached him with the idea, and after two years of editing, Dmitry's first book was published. But these days he no longer uses any form of social media. Instead he prefers to work on his own expansive website and publish a weekly newsletter.

He also turned in his smartphone and exchanged it for a simple flip phone. “I love leaving the house and not having the internet following me around,” Dmitry said. “It’s like waking from a dream; it’s like here’s this whole world that I don’t have to filter through a tiny screen in my hand.” Dmitry would rather carry a sketchbook instead. “I always have a sketchbook, I feel naked without one. I don’t go anywhere without my sketchbook, so at any given moment I can draw something," he said.

Having a range of tools and supplies to work with also enhances Dmitry’s artistic output. He finds that switching mediums helps him when he needs inspiration. “That almost always works for me," he said, "because it just scratches a different kind of itch, it gets you out of whatever rut you’re in.” He thinks that a lot of his work does not meet his own standards, but by producing a large volume he ends up with a few favorite pieces that he likes. He has been selling prints of select works on INPRNT since 2013 and said it has worked out really well for him.

“Being an artist is just a nonstop hustle,” said Dmitry. “I have to make my living from a million different sources all the time.” That hustle has inspired much of his work, sketching from inside his cab or observing customers while tending bar. He has made his mark by sharing those experiences with the world as an author and artist.

Artist Spotlight: Alice Yang

Alice Yang

Although Alice Yang did not always know she would become an artist, she had always loved to draw. “I wanted to go to art school,” she said. “My parents wanted me to consider something more practical.” Alice found a balance by attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned her BSE degree in Digital Media Design. The major combined computer graphics coursework with fine arts classes through UPenn's art and design program.

Fresh out of college, Alice took a job as a software engineer at Electronic Arts in San Francisco. Continuing to draw in her free time as a hobby, she decided to try design work as a bridge between software engineering and illustrating. Alice started working as a freelancer for a start-up, which led to a full-time position as a product designer. Eventually, she realized she wanted to focus completely on her art.

Alice Yang

She began taking classes at the Animation Collaborative, where she was taught by working Pixar artists. One lesson led to a breakthrough that changed the way Alice understood her work. “When you design a character, what makes it appealing isn’t how pretty or attractive it looks. It’s how it makes you feel,” Alice said. “I was very preoccupied with the notion that art has to look good, that characters have to look pretty. It was kind of a limiting perspective. Once I took to heart the idea that it’s not how things look, it’s how they make you feel, I feel like my work kind of took off, it became a lot more free.”

Street Cat by Alice Yang via INPRNT

That’s when Alice created a piece called Street Cat. “This was the start of my style,” she said. “It seemed like it resonated with a lot of other people as well.” Encouraged by the response, Alice decided to offer the work as a print on INPRNT. "When I looked into it a little bit more, INPRNT was what the more professional artists chose as their print on-demand service. INPRNT had the best rate split,” Alice said. Around this time she was accepted to an art mentorship program where she worked with fellow INPRNT artist Meg Hunt. As the program wrapped up, Alice met a recruiter from Uber who was looking for illustrators to expand the company’s branding. Alice got the job and has been on staff at Uber as an illustrator since last year.

At Uber, Alice works as part of a three-woman team comprised of herself, a senior illustrator and a producer. “We kind of function as an agency within the larger company,” she explained. Other teams at the company come to them for a wide range of illustration projects. The producer schedules and prioritizes them, and the illustrators tackle them one by one. “The nice thing about working in this kind of format is the variety of projects we get,” Alice said. “More recently I’ve been working on Snapchat filters for Uber where when you’re on a ride, if you look into the app you’ll be able to unlock specific filters that are only available while you are on a ride.” The filters reflect everything from the Uber brand to holidays and sports events.

Alice Yang

Alice has found her background as a software engineer helpful as an artist in the field of technology. “One thing about computer science is that it forces you to break down problems into more atomic units, to solve them from the ground up, methodically,” she said. “I carried that over to how I approach illustration projects. I do illustration, but in the tech industry. I knew what mattered to project managers during interviews; my portfolio included artwork and data.” Alice has also been inspired by the blending of tech and creativity at events like Adobe MAX, which she attended as the guest of an Adobe Creative Resident. “There were a lot of lectures on different Adobe products and they featured a lot of software that was still kind of in development or cutting edge, so it was very exciting to see all the possible things we would be able to do in the near future.”

Technology also helps Alice connect with other artists. “One thing that I missed from not going to art school is the sense of camaraderie with your fellow students, like you all struggle, you all pull all-nighters, you all watch each other develop and grow artistically. Having that community online offers kind of a similar experience where you can see each other improve and cheer each other on, and it has definitely given me a lot more motivation to work on my own craft.” Alice’s friends organize events like art swaps, where groups of artists exchange artwork and other goodies in themed care packages. “Even if you’re not that entrenched in your local art scene, Twitter enables you to reach out and be connected to peers and other artists,” Alice shared. “It’s given me a sense of belonging when I, at one point, found that kind of lacking being in tech.”

Alice Yang

Today, Alice works on personal projects to continue learning and growing as an illustrator. “For a long time I had been drawing whatever came to mind,” Alice said. “Even though I was outputting a fair amount, I wasn’t really improving. I wasn’t taking the time to examine the areas I was lacking in and working on that. Once I started being more critical of my own work and started trying to get better at specific areas at a time, my style started to develop, my quality of work started to improve.” This summer, Alice will work with other artists to mutually sharpen their skills when she participates in Light Grey Art Lab’s Iceland art residency. “It’s going to be a week-long trip where we travel with several other working professionals in different fields of art, and the goal is to spend a week appreciating the beauty that is Iceland and exchanging life experiences and holding workshops on areas that we’re interested and proficient in.”

Alice Yang

After the trip she’ll return home to her San Francisco studio, which is decorated with potted plants and colorful books and toys. Much of her space features artwork by friends and fellow artists, including a painting of Alice’s cats which she received as part of an online art exchange. The two cats, named Mochi and Marshmallow, are ever-present in her studio and they inspire much of her work. “One thing that I’ve started to learn over the years is if you really love something, and you keep drawing that subject, it shows in your art and it sets you apart," she said, recalling a poem by Rupi Kaur that urges artists to keep their work honest.Alice Yang

These days, Alice’s work is more authentic than ever. “There was a period of time where I wanted to draw things that I thought other people would like, kind of like chasing trends or seeing what’s popular and trying to draw that,” she said, "but in more recent years I really internalized the idea that everyone views the world through the lens of their own experiences, so as an artist, the work that you create should reflect that.”

Alice YangPhotography by Ashley Heafy

Artist Spotlight: Tristan Henry-Wilson

Tristan Henry-Wilson

Tristan Henry-Wilson grew up in Nashua, New Hampshire, where as a child he gravitated toward many of the same things other young boys love: comic books and cartoons. Along the way he decided to become a professional artist, transforming his passions for painting, design and animation into a successful career. In high school Tristan realized that while he loved drawing and art, he was not yet the skilled artist we know today. Instead of being discouraged, he doubled down.

“I wasn’t really that good at art. I didn’t really stand out at it,” Tristan said. That realization only made him work harder. “That’s when I started taking private art lessons and becoming obsessed with it. I was introduced to oil painting and decided at that early age that this is something that I wanted to be really good at.”

Tristan Henry-Wilson's Studio

His self-described obsession with art led him to apply to Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, but he ended up going to the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia because it was more affordable. His dream at the time was to become an animator for Disney, but reality would soon get in the way. “I’m from a very lower income family. Both of my parents are Jamaican and I’m first-generation,” said Tristan. “I didn’t have an understanding of money.”

It turned out that Tristan didn’t feel a strong connection to SCAD, so he transferred to Ringling. “My whole mentality as an artist is to be better than everyone else. I wanted a painful experience. I wanted everyone to be obsessed with art.” At Ringling he studied illustration, deciding to become adept at the technical aspects of draftsmanship so that he could later teach himself 3D and animation. Like many in his generation, Tristan graduated from college with a lot of debt and no clear path forward. After college, Tristan bounced around a lot of low-wage jobs in Florida and New York City while struggling to find a way to turn his talents into a career in the arts.

Tristan Henry-Wilson

“The story of my life has pretty much been looking around seeing how other people are doing it and imitating it on the fly,” Tristan said. “I started landing freelance graphic design jobs. I realized that if you act as if you’re something then you become that something.” This strategy worked and Tristan won a design job at Godiva Chocolatier. Within five years he had gone from a junior designer to an art director at the company. Always looking for a new challenge, Tristan decided to make the jump to an advertising agency where he could work with more creatives.

At that time, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge had recently gone viral and was making the rounds online. Tristan loved the concept behind the videos and decided to participate. Wanting his video to stand out, he took inspiration from the opening sequence to the TV show 24 and used it as an opportunity to learn something new. So he taught himself video editing and motion graphics software like Adobe After Effects and Premiere. “I learned more about motion design and motion graphics and quickly became obsessed,” Tristan said. “I essentially became an animator within a year. I found a way to take my passion for design and make it move.”

Tristan Henry-Wilson Quote

People are often surprised when they hear that Tristan started with oil painting and illustration, then taught himself all the digital tools he needs to be a graphic designer and animator. “I show people my work and they wonder, you’ve been doing this for how long?” Tristan said. “Draftsmanship is so hard and requires so much discipline that it helps you pick up anything else. It can’t be harder than drawing. We’re so lucky to have so many resources available for free or next to free. The only thing stopping you is your own sweat equity.”

Tristan Henry-Wilson's 3D Art

But Tristan’s shift to digital hasn’t stopped him from working in oil paints. He’s currently creating a series called Nebula Dresses that combines his love of painting with his interest in the cosmos. “It marries my love of painting with this newfound obsession with space. I just wanted to paint this series,” Tristan said. “It’s a reset button on everything I’ve ever done to make this short body of work. In the last year as I’ve become obsessed with animation, I look at painting less as filling that artistic part of my soul. If something doesn’t move, I just want to make it move. I want to create an animation for the paintings, to bring them to life.”

Tristan hasn’t released the Nebula Dresses series for sale as prints yet, but when he does, they’ll be on INPRNT. Tristan has known INPRNT’s founder, Joshua Zika, since they both attended Ringling. They each had a different focus in school but respected each other’s creativity and feedback, staying in touch after leaving Sarasota. “After I moved away, Josh would always comment on my work, giving positive feedback or critiques,” Tristan said. For awhile, Tristan left oil painting behind to focus on working digitally. When Tristan returned to the traditional medium for a new piece, Joshua encouraged him to keep going. “He was like, this is what you should be doing. Then I did it and that was it. I hadn’t worked digitally for another 10 years. So when he started INPRNT, I will never even consider running prints from anything else for any reason.”

Tristan Henry-Wilson's Paintings

In addition to his interest in space, Tristan is inspired by the natural world here on earth. He now lives in New Jersey with his wife and daughter, where he has come to appreciate the state's beauty. “It’s not uncommon to see bald eagles outside in my backyard, or bears and deer,” Tristan said. “Those are things that I find really inspiring. Being alone with nature is an opportunity I get to have.”

But Tristan is also inspired by a darker force. “What pushes me the most is that a couple of years ago, I had an existential crisis,” Tristan said. “I gave up a lot of the belief systems from my upbringing and gained an appreciation for the finality of life. You only have so much time to get things done that you want to get done. If they were important to you, you need to do them now.”

Tristan Henry-Wilson Quote

To that end, Tristan can’t remember the last time he was creatively stuck. He’s always working on building his skill set or painting a new project. It’s what keeps him sharp and creatively engaged. “When it comes to painting, all art really, you do it and you keep doing it and you like what you’re doing because you’ve put your hand down and come up with something that at least some of the time pleases you,” Tristan said. “You gradually get better by just doing what you like doing every day. Practice becomes effortless. That’s why artists are so talented. They like practicing.”

Tristan Henry-Wilson's AnimationPhotos and images courtesy of Tristan Henry-Wilson

And while that can be enjoyable, it’s when things get hard that you really grow as an artist and person. “This is something that I want my daughter to learn: embrace the frustration,” Tristan said. “I enjoy the frustration. If I’m frustrated working on something, I love it. I know that I’m going to come out learning something at the end. It feels better when you get that payoff. It makes you want to try that much harder and figure out how to do it. It prevents you from backing off and closing doors that you just wouldn’t have gone down. And it’s applicable to other areas of your life.”

Artist Spotlight: Megan Kott and Justin DeVine

Photo by Amber Renee, courtesy of Megan Kott

Work and life blend together as seamlessly as the watercolor paintings of husband-and-wife illustrators Justin DeVine and Megan Kott. They often parlay their shared interests, including painting and animals, into artistic collaborations. After falling in love while founding a popular Drink and Draw together, they've continued producing new creative projects and events as a married couple.

The pair met several years ago working in California’s Bay Area as graphic artists painting signs for Whole Foods. They were part of a team that traveled to help open new stores with colorful artwork and signage, and it was during one of these trips that their relationship—and artistic collaboration—took off. “We were talking about a Drink and Draw in Austin,” Justin said. They both thought that “would be a cool thing for us to do. [A few weeks later we] met up in a funky little bar in Oakland to drink some drinks and draw some stuff. At first a few friends would come. When we left the city last year, we had 50 people coming a week.”

Creating Oakland’s largest Drink and Draw is just one of the ways Megan and Justin have found to share their passion for art over the years. “That’s where we really built up our creative community and fell in love,” Justin said. “Probably the strongest example of work that we have done literally together is Chimera.” For this project, which you can view in Megan and Justin's INPRNT shops, one artist painted the head of an animal and the other painted the body of a different animal. It led to some mesmerizing combinations, like a praying mantis head on a fox’s body or the head of a goat on the body of a duck.

Megan and Justin have also collaborated on producing and curating art shows. “The biggest project we undertook was a David Bowie tribute show,” Megan said. “It started as a life celebration show tied to his album release on his birthday.” But while they were in the process of securing a venue, Bowie passed away. The show went on with 20 different artists participating, 400 people attending, and an all-female David Bowie cover band playing tunes all night.

Although Megan and Justin were part of a flourishing creative community in Oakland, the rising housing costs and long commutes there ultimately led them to Megan’s native Michigan. They now live in Detroit’s vibrant Corktown neighborhood. It's a historic residential area established in the 1800s that's famous for its colorful Victorian homes and annual St. Patrick's Day parade.

“We lived in a small apartment [in Oakland] and couldn’t afford a studio on top of that,” Megan said. “It was hard because we wanted more space. So we decided to try Detroit for a couple of years and it’s been a really good landing pad. We have a studio and we have a painting area in the basement, too.”

This studio is where Megan and Justin now work. Megan has done a lot in the area of children’s textiles and graphics, and she has two new projects coming out this fall from Chronicle Books. Previously, she partnered with the same publisher to create a collection of temporary "cattoos" featuring her signature humorous cat paintings.

“I also run my side gig of doing pet portraits and cat drawings. That’s been my big thing,” Megan said. “The cat thing, that’s just been the most successful. It’s so much of the zeitgeist right now. I really would just be happy if I could paint animals for the rest of my life.” Megan's custom pet portraits range from simple busts to complex renderings of elaborate fantasy worlds where companion animals can surf waves or explore outer space.


Megan KottPants! by Megan Kott

Megan primarily works in watercolors after having been introduced to them as a child by her aunt, a prolific watercolorist herself. “When I was seven or eight, we had a family reunion and I had the chickenpox,” Megan said. “She stayed at home with me and taught me really rudimentary watercolor techniques. I went to art school hoping to study that more, but was told that watercolor isn’t a serious painting medium. So I dropped it for a good ten years. I picked it up again around the time that we started Drink and Draw.”

Justin always liked to draw as a kid and studied painting in college. Prior to leaving Oakland for Detroit, Justin was working full-time as an illustrator at Amy’s Kitchen. He has kept them as a client and does work for them most weeks, along with his other clients in industries ranging from retail to arts and entertainment. On the side, Justin likes to stay fresh with daily drawing challenges. He primarily does pen and ink drawings that he colors digitally or with watercolors. Like his wife, Justin often makes animals his subjects, more often focusing on wild animals. In some of his other work, he invents parodic mash-ups and re-interpretations based in pop culture.

“I’ll do sort of regular projects to keep my hands busy,” Justin said. “For two years in a row in September or August I did 31 fictional characters in a row. On days when I don’t have commissioned work, I’ve been really enjoying going through some of my old sketches and figuring out which of those I can develop further.”

Justin DeVineBirds by Justin DeVine

Megan and Justin are both established in their artistic careers today, but they still remember what it was like when they were just starting out. To anyone in that stage, Megan has some advice. “There’s room for everyone. People get worried about not doing something that’s already been done before. No one is going to have your take on it. It’s going to be completely individual coming from you. I’m big on helping people and not keeping art secrets.”

Justin echoes that sentiment, addressing a concern that is common among beginner artists. “It’s important not to compare yourself to other people’s skill levels. There are lots of people who look at people who are incredibly talented and think, ‘I won’t be able to do it like that, so it’s like why bother to do it at all.’ That’s counterproductive and hurts all of us creative types.”

One of the ways Megan and Justin spread the word about their art is by attending conventions; they’ll be at a different event every month for the rest of the year. It’s all this convention-going that got them started with INPRNT, where the couple has been selling work since 2013. “We wanted something where we could buy our own prints,” Megan said. “It’s a really great resource for artists to bring nice prints to conventions. It’s the best quality, least expensive option. I recommend it to people.” Justin agrees, “Before when I would pay to have my own prints, I could never afford nice prints and the qualities would vary wildly. The first time I tried INPRNT I thought the quality is so great and it’s so consistently great.”

Their most recent convention was Cat Camp NYC, where Megan displayed her cat-themed wares including prints, pins, and pillows. Next month, their itinerary includes events in Chicago, Los Angeles and Cincinnati. For this artistic couple, part of their relationship is being creative and collaborative, often inspired by their love for animals. When they're not attending conventions, they will continue their work together under the watchful eyes of their three cats: Griffin, Thessaly and Davos.

Artist Spotlight: Lily Padula of Artists for the People

Lily PadullaPhoto by Steve Shilling, courtesy of Lily Padula

Like most kids, Lily Padula loved to draw while growing up in a beach town outside of New York City. She excelled in school and imagined she’d take a pretty traditional career path until an art teacher encouraged her to pursue art professionally. Her parents were also very supportive of the idea.

So Lily went to the School of Visual Arts in New York City to pursue a degree in illustration. One sought-after career path when she was starting out was being an editorial illustrator for newspapers or magazines. But shrinking budgets at many of these organizations have led to staff cuts in those positions. Lily didn’t let that discourage her. Instead of trying to land a staff job, she went the freelance route.

“To be a freelancer, to be an illustrator, you have to be multi-faceted and wear a bunch of hats,” Lily said.

These days Lily does a lot of editorial work for major newspapers like The New York Times and The Boston Globe. But she also works online in the world of native advertising and sponsored posts. Lily has a diverse client roster, which includes companies like Universal Pictures, Spotify and Converse. She encourages young artists to carve out their own careers. This could mean drawing comics or zines, as Lily and many of her friends do either for clients or themselves. “Find what makes you happy drawing-wise,” Lily said. “More likely than not there’s a way to make money at it.”


Lily knows this firsthand. She said that in college she wasn’t the best draftsperson, but over time it became clear to her that you don’t have to draw a human figure perfectly to be a successful illustrator. It’s more important to be able to work with color and have good composition. Lily positions herself as an ideas-oriented artist.

That helps a lot when she’s working with clients. When Lily starts on a project she comes up with word lists and associations for the idea she’s trying to convey in the image. Then she creates lots of small thumbnails to nail down the major elements of the composition and takes it to the sketch phase. She used to do this with paper and ink, but now Lily does all of her work digitally.

“I tend to take more time in the sketch phase in client work and less in personal work,” Lily said, “My personal work tends not to be so much about quickly communicating a specific idea. It tends to be more about mood and narrative. I’m trying to figure out a way to do that more in my professional work.”

Lily’s professional and personal work have different styles, which is important to her. In her client projects, she tends to use brighter colors and more complex compositions, while her personal art focuses more on darker, more eerie themes, like a zine she did about UFOs and the paranormal.

Pursuing her own work on the side is critical for Lily. “It’s really important to help your professional work grow," she explained. "You have to keep yourself interested.”

Like many freelance artists, Lily works out of her home, which is in Brooklyn. She lives with her boyfriend, who is also an illustrator. Lily finds both support and inspiration in the New York City artist community.

Phenomena by Lily Padula

“A good portion of my friends are illustrators and we refer each other for jobs,” Lily said. “I go to them with struggles, to get some extra eyes on [my work]. In general there’s a lot of other illustrators here and it’s inspiring to be around that energy.”

Illustration tends to go through trends and styles that go in and out of popularity. So while Lily does draw inspiration from her fellow contemporary artists, she also looks to other time periods and mediums to get the creativity flowing. “The museums here are incredible,” Lily said of living in New York. “You can go to the Met for free and look at beautiful paintings to get inspired.” Even when inspiration isn’t at hand, though, sometimes you just have to keep going. “There’s a myth going around that you can only work when you’re feeling inspired,” Lily said. “But you just have to power through no matter what and keep making work.”

Sometimes creative hurdles need a little more breathing room. Then it’s time to walk away for a bit to let the project breathe. “Being in nature is helpful, if you’re feeling overwhelmed,” Lily said. “My parents live in a small town near the city. I go out there and clear my head, to get away from the usual grind.”

It also helps to have hobbies outside of making art. When the weather is nice, Lily enjoys walking and riding her bike around Brooklyn. She also loves cooking and reading science fiction, dystopian and true crime books, and recently finished The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Travel is also important to her, whether she’s jetting off to London, Los Angeles or Toronto for work or play. And when Lily is really stuck, she relies on some advice she received in college. Someone told her to “make lists of things you like to draw. Go to that and make some doodles. You’ll have an ever-expanding vocabulary of things you can draw.”

This helps a lot when Lily is between projects; a freelance career comes with a lot of work that has nothing to do with making art. “The running the business aspect of it, doing promotion, being productive. It’s striking a balancing act between creating and managing,” said Lily. “You gotta keep at it and not be discouraged by the nature of freelancing.” This is what attracted Lily to INPRNT, where she’s been selling art prints since 2013.

Rungs by Alice Rutherford and Rise and Resist by Charis Loke

“I had seen other illustrators and artists selling prints there,” Lily said. “For a while I was trying to make and ship prints myself, but it was a huge time-suck for not that much money.” Lily also appreciated that INPRNT was curated, leading to a higher level of work across the site. “It also had a better rate between artist and supplier. I was impressed with the printing and how easy it is. It’s totally worth the fee that they take.”

Using INPRNT helped inspire Lily to create Artists for the People, a community of artists selling affordable prints to raise money for organizations doing important work in the US. Each month, a new group is chosen to receive all of the profits from the prints sold through Artists for the People, plus a 10% match through INPRNT's charity donation program.

“I was horrified on Election Day. I woke up feeling sick and wondering, what can I do? I’ve been using INPRNT for awhile for my own personal shop, so I’m going to contact them and see if I can get people together to raise money this way,” said Lily.

Artists for the People has already had a great response from artists who want to contribute their work to raise money for important causes, listing dozens of prints for sale in a variety of styles and themes. Some of the prints are political, but many are not. All of the prints will help the work of groups like the ACLU, which was the project's first beneficiary.

“Art can have an impact on the world,” said Lily, “and I wanted to help raise some money and stand up for what I believe in.”

Artist Spotlight: Jimmy Bryant of Atomic Child

Jimmy Bryant
There’s a seemingly endless supply of inspiration for artists online, whether it’s on Instagram or Tumblr, or even through podcasts. But all that browsing can have a negative effect too, especially for young artists looking to find their footing in a competitive, creative space.

“The hardest thing when you’re just beginning is that it’s not going to happen right away,” said Jimmy Bryant. “Being creative is a struggle, that’s part of what makes you a good creative. The biggest thing is you’ve got to work really hard. It’s going to take a while and as long as you’re putting in the work, it’s going to work out.”

Jimmy, a member of the INPRNT artist community, has spent the last several years working as an art director at AMB3R, a Denver apparel company. Jimmy also does personal and freelance design work under the name Atomic Child, which he’s used since 2007 after being inspired by Keith Haring’s iconic work Radiant Child.

Growing up in Sturgis, South Dakota, Jimmy loved drawing and was encouraged both at school and at home to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional artist. He devoured comic books and after high school, Jimmy moved to Denver to study illustration at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. He used his degree to do freelance illustration work for nearly a decade while holding down a “regular job.”

Jimmy Bryant
“I turned 29 and thought, what am I doing with my life?” Jimmy said. “I’m not going to be 30 and not doing what I love.”

So Jimmy quit his job and started freelancing full time, focusing his work mostly on music merchandise, like T-shirts and hats. At the time, Jimmy’s style featured a lot of gore and monsters, which were popular in the mid- to late 2000s.

“T-shirts and music merchandise are based off trends,” Jimmy said. “Now it’s evolved into one-color, simple, clean designs. You’re only going to get paid for what you get approved. So I slowly moved my art toward that direction.”

Today Jimmy’s art has a more graphic look with simple shapes and colors that evoke stained glass. Living in Colorado Jimmy is inspired by the outdoors and adventure, themes that occur often in his work.

Jimmy Bryant
“When I get to do my own thing, I like to draw nature or do graphics from nature,” Jimmy said. “I really love the beach. I’ve always been drawn to that, since I grew up in the middle of the US with no beach.”

Jimmy doesn’t have easy access to a beach in Denver either, so he heads up to the nearby Rocky Mountains instead to go camping. “I love getting out of the city, hopefully somewhere where cell phone service is a little rough,” Jimmy said.

And while he still finds inspiration in nature, Jimmy’s work continues to evolve. “Recently, I really love to draw food. It’s my new thing, doing detailed illustrations of food.”

That’s all part of a challenge he set for himself this year: to grow his Instagram account. Jimmy spends most of his days at AMB3R, where he parlayed his experience designing T-shirts into a job as an art director a few years ago. Then he comes home from work to pursue his freelance career, which he’s recently put more of a focus on.

“I still really want to work for myself,” Jimmy said. “I want to be my own boss, to be in control of my own freedom.”

Jimmy Bryant
After he’s met any pending deadlines, Jimmy puts on one his favorite podcasts, like Adventures in Design, and spends a few hours working on his personal projects. He’s set a goal to create one new piece of art every day this year. To do that, Jimmy created a system that allows him to find simple shapes and apply different landscapes to them.

“I just like to open that new file in Photoshop and just create from there,” Jimmy said of his process for creating personal work. “I find some color palette inspirations and create without a sketch.”

Jimmy’s years of work as a freelancer and art director, and time spent creating his own work have paid off. He now has freelance clients that range from professional sports teams like the Orlando City Soccer Club to musicians like The Grateful Dead. Even though Jimmy has found success, he hasn’t lost the excitement that made him want to become a professional artist in the first place.

“In the beginning, the most surprising part was that I was actually creating things out of my own mind and people were paying me to create those things,” Jimmy said. “My art actually has value. When those people come to you asking you to work for them you feel like you belong in that system. It’s still kind of surprising to this day. Now it’s just bigger clients, like national sports teams. Now I’m into creating my own products. I put it out there and get orders in and it’s the best thing in the world.”

Jimmy Bryant
But making a living in a creative field hasn’t always been easy. As any freelancer knows, there’s a lot more that goes into having a successful career than just creating your work.

“The most challenging part of being a professional artist is realizing that you have to spend a lot of time not doing art,” Jimmy said. “You have to try to be a business person so you can be an artist.”

That’s one reason that Jimmy started selling his Atomic Child prints through INPRNT this summer. “I was trying to create different streams of revenue and I really wanted to do prints. Now I have another avenue to sell a different type of product to people who are following. It makes it so much easier.”

That’s a very good thing for someone who says his whole life is centered around his art.

“I really spend a ton of time creating artwork,” Jimmy said. “It’s my hobby, it’s my passion, it’s my job, I don’t want to do anything else.”

Jimmy BryantPhotography by Ashley Heafy

Artist Spotlight: Jeremy Aaron Moore

Jeremy Aaron Moore
The foundations of Jeremy Aaron Moore’s professional art career were laid way back when he was a child growing up in Cortez, Colorado. But his path from being a kid who loved to draw to becoming a full-time artist with a roster of clients wasn’t a straight one.

After participating in a competition for young artists in high school, Jeremy attended Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design to study illustration. But he became disillusioned when he realized that most of his peers weren’t finding work in their fields after graduation.

“I have nothing against art school as long as you have the money. I went and learned a lot in art school. But there’s a lot of really great alternatives available now,” Jeremy said. He would encourage young artists today to take workshops or even reach out directly to their favorite artists to learn right at the source.

Jeremy said that the best thing for a young artist to do is to “get a sketchbook and fill it up, get another sketchbook and fill it up until you have 50 of them.”

Jeremy Aaron Moore
But at the time, Jeremy wasn’t sure what he really wanted to do. So he left school and became a cave guide.

“I’m really into outdoor stuff,” Jeremy said. “I grew up where it was pretty much required to go rock climbing, hiking and rafting. Being in Colorado is awesome for that.”

While Jeremy didn’t make any art during this time, he wasn’t done with creative pursuits. In 2005, he went back to school at Fort Lewis College to pursue a degree in art education with an eye to being a teacher. But Jeremy yearned to make his own art.

“I tried to get away from it, but I can’t. I tried to teach, but I just couldn’t do that. I can’t really do anything but this,” Jeremy said of becoming a professional artist.

Jeremy Aaron Moore
In the past, Jeremy had mostly focused on painting, working in acrylics and oil. But it was around this time that digital art was really taking off and once Jeremy got hooked on it, he couldn’t get enough. One of the first digital artists that really inspired Jeremy was Jason Chan. That was also how Jeremy found INPRNT, where he now sells prints of his own work.

Eventually Jeremy switched to doing digital art full time. And while he sometimes misses the tactile nature of painting, he doesn’t miss cleaning brushes.

Over the years, Jeremy continued to build his portfolio and started freelancing for various clients. He learned the stuff they don’t teach you in art school, mostly about the business of art.

“When I started out, I didn’t know the difference between what was popular and what was being bought, what’s marketable and what will sell. I had to find a target market,” Jeremy said.

Now Jeremy works mostly with clients in the publishing industry and pursues his own art on the side when he has time. And when Jeremy needs a break from the studio, he heads outside to work on his vintage cars. A few years ago, he bought an old Volkswagen bus that broke down on him almost immediately. He learned to fix it himself, which turned out to be a sort of zen experience.

“The confidence that I got from learning how to take apart and put the engine back together was huge,” Jeremy said. “I thought, ‘Maybe if I can do that, I can figure out how to make this career work.’”

Jeremy Aaron Moore
Jeremy is heavily involved in the local art scene in Denver, where he now lives after having resided in Portland, Oregon. He recently moved into an art studio in the RiNo district, an up-and-coming area with lots of galleries, breweries and other craft businesses.

“In Portland, the music and art scene is so cool. It’s saturated with artistic types,” Jeremy said. “With Denver, I’ve kind of been waiting on it. Out of nowhere this last summer there was this growth of murals and artwork. There’s a really cool scene happening here.”

And Jeremy has been a part of that growth. He runs a group called the Denver Illustration Salon, which began three years ago with a few illustrators and now has 2,000 members who are artists of all types. The group meets regularly to sketch together, often at some of the local galleries.

The community Jeremy has found in the Denver Illustration Salon has been invaluable. And so has the one he’s created at his new shared art studio. For years Jeremy worked alone out of his home, often in the basement. But having a space to go to has been a real game-changer.

“Having a studio is really nice. I have some studio mates that are really cool, friends in town who are also illustrators to bounce ideas off of and get feedback,” Jeremy said. “As an artist, working from home can be a struggle. All of those years, I always thought that would be the best part.”

Jeremy Aaron Moore
It turns out what Jeremy really loves is being able to work for himself, especially the flexible hours and control over which projects he takes on. But being a freelancer has its challenges too.

“It’s a little different than I thought it would be. It’s more of a job,” Jeremy said. “It was always kind of a false summit. There’s always so much work to do to go higher.”

To stay on top of his game, Jeremy is always looking for inspiration. He finds it in all sorts of places, like the podcasts One Fantastic Week and Your Dreams My Nightmares by one of his favorite artists, Sam Weber. Jeremy also finds inspiration scrolling through digital portfolios of fellow artists or attending trade shows like Spectrum Fantastic Art Live or Comic Con.

And when the muse just isn’t coming? “I bang my head into the wall. I just keep working,” Jeremy said.

Jeremy Aaron MoorePhotography by Ashley Heafy

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