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BSDA Artist Interview: Darek Bittner

April 14th, 2015 · 2 Comments

Darek Bittner is an artist and designer working primarily in collage and letterpress. A grouping of his collages are now available on Buy Some Damn Art.

Mad Tom Knotch 4

Mad Tom Notch

You are a collage artist, printmaker and designer. How do these different practices relate to one another?

Each medium is an opportunity for me to explore my different interests. Having several different ways to work helps to keep things fresh. After a few collages it’s nice to go make a print. Each medium requires a unique approach and pace of work. Collage is faster and more reactive, whereas printmaking is slow and decisive. Switching between mediums helps me prevent my art from becoming formulaic.


Letterpress print (not in show)

What elements link your work across collage, print and design?

I like the idea of arranging found shapes and colors to underlying rules, and then consciously going back in and breaking those rules. The trick is finding a balance. It feels awesome when I get it right. Each piece I create is me going after that experience. I gauge the success of each work by how the piece makes me feel during its creation, regardless of medium. What links my work across each medium is the same emotion I am chasing down whenever I make art. That
emotion ties into the whole High Peaks theme. If you think of every work of art I ever made as a book, the setting would be the High Peaks region of Upstate New York. It’s like taking your boots off after a long day hiking, the feeling never gets old, but you got to work for it each time.

Cold Snap

Cold Snap

Where do you look for source materials for collage? What kinds of images do you look for?

I pick up a good deal of trash off the street. The spring time is awesome because the curbs are not yet swept, the snow is melted, and paper is plentiful. Spring is also the best time for yard sales where you can find tons of used books. The annual library book sale is also a gold mine, old office supplies are great too. I never use newsprint or anything that will fade too quickly. It’s also important to juxtapose found paper with artist papers from the art supply store. A pack of Color-Aid is a worthy investment. I’m always looking for stuff that has to do with the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York.

Ore Bed_updated

Ore Bed

Letterpress can be viewed as old-fashioned and laborious, yet here you are, a young artist, doing creative stuff with it. What is the appeal for you?

To me the Vandercook represents the grand finale of print design. The press I print on is well over half a century old. I seriously doubt my desktop inkjet printer will still work in fifty years. Printing wood type on a Vandercook is like pairing a fine wine with steak, whereas printing an inkjet poster is like waiting in the drive through line for fast food. Just because I print on an old press doesn’t mean my prints should look old too. I like to keep it contemporary.

Keene Valley

Keene Valley

What’s it like as an artist in Portland, Maine these days?

Portland is the best. It’s a very small city packed with creative talent. It’s impossible to keep up with everything going on in town. Everyone is buzzing with energy and doing their thing, which makes it easy to stay motivated. Also our craft beer scene is world class. Feel free to come for a visit!


See the artist’s website for more of his work.


July 15th, 2014 · No Comments

Katy Smail is a Scottish illustrator living and working in Brooklyn (she is repped by Kate Ryan). Her unabashedly feminine florals are the latest addition to Buy Some Damn Art; my interview with the artist is below.

Katy Smail_Carnations copy



Kate: Where are you from originally and where do you live now?

Katy: I grew up in Edinburgh and the surrounding countryside, Scotland. I live in lovely Brooklyn, NY now.




Kate: What kind of work do you do as an illustrator / designer in addition to your art practice?

Katy: I work as a freelance illustrator/ designer and am represented by Kate Ryan Inc here in New York. My freelance work varies from pattern and kids apparel design to advertising, editorial and horoscope illustrations. A lot of the fashion work I do involves collaborating with photographers to create illustrated “sets” for their images. I love the variety in my day to day working life, I find that all of my different outlets feed into each other so that my painting informs my design work and vice versa.


Katy Smail_Posey Of Poppies copy

Posey of Poppies


Kate: You’re friends with florist and stylist Ariel Dearie. Given your shared affinity for florals, you must collaborate… right?

Katy: Yes, we have been friends for years and now share a studio. We met working at a restaurant and kind of started out on our own creative careers at the same time. In the beginning I used to assist Ariel with floral jobs, and as time has gone on we have collaborated in a variety of different ways. It is heaven to be surrounded by her flowers as I work, and she is so generous with letting me paint her arrangements or leaving pretty leftovers on my desk. It is inspiring to walk into the studio and see so much loveliness every day! I feel really lucky to work alongside such a talented lady, but mainly we just have fun gossiping while we work.


Katy Smail_LittleCoralFlowers copy

Little Coral Flowers


Kate: When winter set in and flowers are imported or artificial, what kinds of things inspire you to keep painting?

Katy: I hate the winter, I hate the cold. I find it really difficult. I always spend Christmas at home in Scotland, and even though things are a little frozen over, it is still lovely to be in the countryside with all of the moss, scruffy trees and wild bracken. The muted colors and textures are inspiring. Otherwise I have a variety of winter coping mechanisms for creativity; the hot houses at the botanical gardens, museums & galleries, cosy days at home with tea and old books. Again, I’m pretty lucky because Ariel manages to find interesting botanicals all year round. Also my husband scatters many beautiful plants in our home, so that helps.


Katy Smail_Pink Roses copy

Pink Roses


Kate: Brooklyn is a creative hub but each year more artists are prices out. How do you feel about and what is the reality of being an artist here?

Katy: It’s scary and hard. Sometimes I feel crazy for wanting to make art here when all my money goes on just paying rent or visiting home once a year. But then I think about the wonderful creative community that I have here; it is such an open and friendly place to live and work. From the first second I visited I just felt so strongly that I had to be here. It is amazing what humans will put up with to follow a gut feeling. I try not to think too far ahead or I get anxious. The reality of being an artist/ freelance worker is that you are always in an unstable position. Maybe you have a good couple of months, but it is invariably followed by a spell where there is no work and you can barely scrape rent together. It is stressful. But I have always had a kind of blind determination that I would make my living from my art. I believe that if you work really hard and keep doing what you believe in, then good things will happen.




Kate: What is your total pie-in-the-sky dream project or job?

Katy: I would love someone to fund me to travel around the world, drawing and painting the wild botanicals of different countries & regions. I would compile the body of work into a book of drawings on wildflowers of the world and a series of paintings to exhibit. That sounds magical. 


July 1st, 2014 · 1 Comment

This is an interview I did with artist Stephanie Clark about her series Woolly Islands on Buy Some Damn Art. Clark has lived a nomadic life; her paintings are personal mementos of the various landscapes that have left deep impressions on her. She is a graduate of the Museum School (SMFA) in Boston and currently resides in Santa Fe.

SCLARK_006 copy

Bulbous Snow Drifts at Midnight

Kate: You were born in New Mexico and, having lived in Chicago, IL, Boston, MA and Grand Forks, ND, you are now back living in your home state. What has that been like for you?

Stephanie: While I was born in New Mexico, I have lived for the longest duration of time, non-consecutively, in Alaska. Despite traveling and residing in many places, I definitely consider Alaska to be my physical “home”. It is the land that resonates the most with me. This is my third time living in New Mexico, and I still don’t consider it my home. I have learned that it is really people, thoughts, small isolated moments within landscape, and ideas that ground me most in my life rather than the place itself.

SCLARK_002 copy

White Bellied Hawk

Kate: What are “Woolly Islands”? Do they exist in real life?

Stephanie: Woolly Islands represents a series of smaller works dealing with the sublime, abstraction, ritual, and the line that binds all things within landscape and environment. These paintings are where I started to think about the compartmentalization of landscape. How when I view landscape it is often in these small ways… While I do have romantic notions of places and just as everyone can, fall into nostalgic ways of thought, I know that it is extremely complicated and often very dodgy territory to think with nostalgia and rely on romantic notions of the world. I always revert to what I see, how I am thinking, and what I feel when in a particular place. Woolly Islands represents the intimacy of a landscape. Through this intimate relationship with landscape, I convey how landscape functions for me through paint. I think of myself within the landscape, physically experiencing a place, not as a despot, conqueror, or passive observer.

I often think about the American West. I began considering this series when I moved to the Southwest. So, while I began to think about the negative effects of manifest destiny, I also began to consider how one views themselves within the environment, the concept that visually there is an expansive space out here in the West that allows one to see things in the distance creating a haziness, an ambiguity, and a longing. I then started considering islands as the direct opposite of the West. What are islands? How do they function, these isolated surrounded bodies of land? I began to think of my paintings as these little islands physically, each of them communicating a part of the land I was seeing and experiencing intimately, yet surrounded by this vast void of space.


Woolly Islands

Kate: Your latest paintings, including those on BSDA, measure just 8″ x 8″. What is it like working on a smaller scale? Was this intentional?

Stephanie: For the past three years since graduating from the Museum School (SMFA) in Boston, MA, I have moved around, worked, and attended residency programs. This lifestyle has required a smaller format of work. As a result, I began to think of domesticity and transiency in relation to abstraction. I found pleasure in making abstract work in smaller dimensions and found the process to be more challenging. While I have worked larger and intend to again, it is really nice to move quickly from one piece to another. Seeing things change quite immediately, watching other pieces that need their time, take their time is a process that is rewarding. Finally, these works are square in reference to the grid.



Kate: Can you tell us a bit about your “Rock Bottom Riser” series?​

Stephanie: The Rock Bottom Riser series is in-progress and began while I was an artist-in-resident at Vermont Studio Center in February of this year. It really was a side project to get my mind going in the early mornings and mid-afternoons when I was in the studio. The thirty-two gouache on paper paintings are images of snow, dirt, and debris that had become dissolved, were pushed around, trampled upon, melted, and refroze everyday.

I found on my daily walks that the way the snow and slush shifted and morphed really created these patterns and shapes that held my attention—these daily images of mutating murk somehow seemed suspended in my mind. I would think of the tracks I had seen imbedded in the muck, the marks that remained from people walking, or dogs’ piss stains in the snow, and ruminate upon these collected visuals, then paint these slush patterns from my mind upon returning to my studio.


“Rock Bottom Riser” installation

Kate: You have two upcoming projects in Iceland. How did you make that connection?

Stephanie: I will be a resident artist at Norðanbál Gamli Skóli (The Old School), in Hrísey, and Gullkistan in Laugarvatn, both in Iceland during the winter of 2015. Since I was young, I was drawn to the North. I have always had a fixation with the Arctic and decided that I wanted to visit as many locales bordering or above the 49th parallel north during my lifetime. While I was living in Chicago I found myself often thinking of snow, mountains, wide abounding spaces, and was longing for those spaces that I knew in my youth. With this in mind, I returned to the desert.

At this point in my life, I am spending so much physical time in a space that is so opposite what I feel most comfortable in. I knew that I wanted to make a series of work concerning snow, hibernation, and deep winter. From there, I applied to a few residencies in Iceland and started planning for my move. To create work while immersed in Iceland’s winter will be a remarkable opportunity.

Art @ Home : Chad & Margot

April 6th, 2012 · No Comments

Chad and Margot are an awesome couple who opened up their art-FILLED Chicago home for Design*Sponge. It is full of great inspiration… here’s a glimpse.

P.S. Chad Kouri is an artist/designer/ideas person and Margot Harrington is a web-designer and blogger. Both are very active in the Chicago design/blogging community.

Design Crush: Studio 3

February 8th, 2012 · No Comments

A History of Graphic Design For Rainy Days and Hyperactivitypography by Studio 3 via Pikaland. Studio 3 is an in-school design agency consisting of 15 3rd year graphic design students at Westerdals School of Communication in Oslo. I am enamored with the concept of giving kids (and curious grown-ups) opportunities to interact with graphic design and typography. These books look so fun, don’t they?











Gifts for the introvert // The Beholder

December 20th, 2011 · No Comments

With less than a week left til xmas I present you with the fourth and last installment of the Art Hound Gift Guide. This installment rounds up works from online gallery The Beholder – a great place to look for original pieces on paper and photography under $1,000. I chose pieces that were soft, beautiful and understated imagining them for that dear friend or sibling who’s read every Classic and whose favorite movie is Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides.