Artists inspire artists. On the Threadless Blog, we regularly feature interviews with extraordinary members of our global artist community, from comic book illustrators to photographers to stop-motion animators. These Artist Spotlights often provide a glimpse into each subject’s creative process and how they accomplish their artistic feats.
These conversations may help put your goals into perspective, or maybe even inspire you to try an entirely different form of art. At the very least, they’re interesting reads! Here’s a list of the 10 most recent Artist Spotlights to give you creative inspiration.
Based in the UK, Jack Teagle is a lifelong comic book reader who became a comic artist himself. In addition to working as a cartoonist for Front magazine and a columnist for Digital Artist Magazine, his original work has been published by Nobrow Press and Retrofit Comics. He’s also a prolific self-publisher, recently releasing his fastest-selling project, 100% Unofficial Simpsons Comix.
In our chat, Teagle talked about the pros and cons of stepping away from a work-in-progress and finishing it later:
“Sometimes it can be detrimental, just because you forget what width pen or nib you were drawing with! Other times it can be good, because you completely forget the doubts that were preventing you from finishing a drawing. It could just be a bad mood, and that goes for a lot of personal projects. Self sabotage maybe? I guess that’s why it’s so important to take breaks and reflect.”
Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Mykhailo Skop and fellow Ukrainian artists began creating posters, stickers, and cards protesting the war. These pieces of art have been a rallying cry for the resistance and a way of documenting the history that continues to unfold. Skop co-founded the shop Help Ukraine and made many of these works available for purchase, with 100% of earnings going to humanitarian aid in Ukraine.
Skop talked about the role art plays in times of conflict like these:
“I believe that visuals have immense power. The meaning and significance they carry can speak much clearer and more impressively than text or even a documentary. Visual artists have many communicative tools and methods to address every spectator. Thus, they can use their art to raise soldiers’ morale, power up volunteers’ enthusiasm, and build up support for those who need it. But the main problem with delivering messages through art these days is that it’s tough to get through the media’s white noise, grab the viewer’s attention, and stay in their minds.”
Brad Phillips spent decades as an oil painter before he realized he had the skills to be a writer in his 40s. In 2019, he released his first short story collection, Essays and Fictions, in which he portrays a semi-real, semi-fictionalized version of himself. Much like his visual art, the book explores themes of drug addiction, sex, and recovery in breathtakingly raw retail.
When we caught up with Phillips, he shared why he enjoys making t-shirts for his Artist Shop:
“I honestly don’t see a distinction between a painting I make and a shirt I make, they’re both artworks. Shirts are more democratic. A lot of people who like my work are young, and so I love that they can own something of mine that’s not as precious and expensive as a painting.”
Gregg Deal is a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and a professional disruptor with a punk-rock approach. His murals, art installations, and performance pieces share his unique perspective as an Indigenous person. He explores themes including Indigenous identity, historical consideration, and decolonization, and has been featured on TV shows including the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Here’s what Deal had to say about how we can all better support BIPOC artists:
“…We live in a capitalist society, and money talks, so supporting artists, activists, and people in general with your dollars always helps. Often when folks speak out and participate in spaces that require the input of BIPOC, those people are not paid, or paid very little for their knowledge. This must change. Relatedly, recognizing the land you’re on is great. Supporting organizations that are trying to enact change, education, and resources for Indigenous people is also important.”
Black Girls Skate (BGS) is a social media and content curation resource with a mission to create equity, visibility, and safety for skaters who identify as as Womxn, Nonbinary, Trans and Black, African, or Of Color. The nonprofit organization also hosts popup skating events in major cities where they deliver care boxes to new and aspiring skaters.
Creative Strategist Nicole Humphrey spoke with us about the importance of representation in the skate scene:
“Representation is everything. We are directly influenced by the things we see on television, in magazines, and online/social media. Given the popularity of skate practice and culture, we believe it’s vital that minority voices are prioritized…We hope that by creating platforms for skaters, others will be inspired to join the practice and build within their communities.”
Without relying on excessive gore, the Eisner Award–winning comic book series Gideon Falls elicits fear in the way that it investigates the very nature of evil. Jeff Lemire’s unsettling tale of an obsessive recluse sets an eerie tone with hair-raising illustrations by Italian artist Andrea Sorrentino, who’s also known for his work for DC Comics and Marvel.
We asked Sorrentino if he had any advice for creators who are just starting out, and this is what he had to say:
“Learn the basics. Learn. The. Basics. Then, when you’re confident enough with them, you’ll be ready to take all your knowledge and push it to new limits. Be brave, always. Also, never complain or focus on criticizing other people’s work…Look at what the pros are doing, even the ones you don’t like, and try to understand why they got published while you still haven’t received your chance yet. And use those considerations to improve yourself.”
As an ethical storyteller, California–based photographer Teanna Woods Okojie partners with her subjects to tell stories that bring out the honesty and reality of each scene. Her career has taken her everywhere from Queens, New York to southern Nigeria, where she captured a glimpse into the country’s education system. No matter where she’s shooting, consent with her subjects is her highest priority.
In our chat, Woods explained to us the importance of ethical storytelling:
“Storytelling shapes narratives of individuals and communities. When those narratives are inaccurate and subjects are depicted negatively, it greatly impacts perceptions of the individuals and the communities they represent. Accurate coverage is critically important in combating misrepresented narratives.”
Jessie Paege isn’t just the talented musician behind songs such as “Full Course Meal,” they’re also a visual artist, vlogger, and activist. They want their followers to feel comfortable in their own skin, which is why they often focus on topics including mental health and body positivity.
For this Artist Spotlight, Paege talked briefly about their creative process and collaborating with other creators:
“I work as a small business in a lot of ways. I love supporting creators that create in the same way. As of 2021, I’ve written and recorded all my songs on my own. I contact small producers to collaborate and get a track, and the rest comes from my brain. With that, I love expanding the universe each song creates. I make some t-shirt designs myself, but I also love to compensate artists and to see the song and message through their eyes.”
Pulitzer Prize–winner Nick Anderson has been cartooning for more than 30 years. Although newspapers are becoming a relic of the past, his company Counterpoint has been preserving the tradition of political cartoons with their email newsletters. Each newsletter features a cartoon representing left- and right-leaning perspectives, aiming to foster debate and break past online algorithms that determine the headlines we see.
Anderson spoke with us about what it was like cartooning during Donald Trump’s presidency:
“Well, Texas is a conservative state, and there I was trashing the president every day. People were calling for my job every day. I drew a cartoon after his convention speech in 2016, showing a picture of Trump from behind and the teleprompter showed Hitler’s salute. Somehow that got published. My cartoons got a lot of blowback, so I was on a short leash after that. I got hate mail before and after, but I didn’t care because I was doing my job.”
Merlin Crossingham first joined Aardman Animations in 1996 and later took on the role of Key Animator for the 2000 film Chicken Run, which remains the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film in history. He now serves as the creative director for the beloved Wallace & Gromit franchise.
Crossingham gave us a little insight into the time and effort it takes to make a stop-animation film:
“Originally, Gromit was going to be a cat, but a dog was easier to sculpt. He was also going to speak, but Nick found him so expressive when he started animating him that he found he didn’t need a voice. There is a perception out there that Wallace & Gromit is made by one man in his shed. That couldn’t be further from the truth. To make a half-hour film takes a crew of several hundred people in a 55,000-square-foot studio. It is a massive undertaking.”
Visit the Threadless Blog for upcoming spotlights on outstanding members of our Artist Community.