We have a lot to be excited about at the Portland Review lately. Our first issue of 2013 is coming out in just a couple of weeks. It is full of excellent writing and beautiful art, some pieces in the issue come from people whose names you hear often in the Portland literary scene—like Kevin Sampsell and Lidia Yuknavitch—and some whose names we’re sure you’ll be hearing a lot in the future.
One of those up-and comers-is Paige Einstein. Paige is a seventeen year old artist who is already creating professional level work and dreaming up unforgettable images. Her piece Doe Eyes turns the old deer-in the headlights cliché around, stopping viewers in their tracks…in a good way. Once we saw it, we knew we had to have it as our cover image.
Paige will be at our launch party on February 15 at Literary Arts’ wonderful event space, but I couldn’t wait to talk with her until then. She was gracious enough to tell me about her work, and her ideas about art and her future in an email interview. Our conversation follows:
RP: What is your earliest memory of creating art?
PE: I’ve never really known how to answer this question properly because I’ve more or less been drawing since I could hold a pencil. It all kind of blurs together. My first coherent memory, though, would have to be the time I drew a fish woman for a school contest in elementary school… She had bell-bottom jeans. I lost.
RP: Do you have a favorite medium?
PE: That would have to be a tie between ink and digital media. I’m pretty attached to my Micron pens, and I love the feel of making crisp lines and shapes—I focus on silhouettes a lot when I work in ink, I’ve noticed. I can work quickly with pens and they don’t necessitate sketching, so I lean towards that when I’d like to just spit an idea out onto paper or plan as I go. As for digital art, I use a moderately obscure Japanese program to ‘paint’ with. It’s versatile and I appreciate the presence of the undo button.
Digital art is fun because it allows me to experiment with texture and color more readily than if I confined myself exclusively to more traditional media. I do like to mix the two; usually I draw the lines in pencil then scan it in and color it in SAI. As much as I love real, tangible paint, there’s definitely a certain appeal to being able to zoom in or move a line with the click of a mouse. Or, in my case, the tap of a pen; I use a drawing tablet.
RP: How would you describe your art style?
PE: My style varies quite a lot. The work I’ve presented here is only representative of part of my repertoire of styles with which I draw. Frankly, I usually work more with simplified designs and shapes. I think I tend to focus in on somewhat surreal figures or scenarios, and that expands all across the board in terms of what I make. I suppose I tend to make my work a bit ambient. I’m also pretty into graphic novels and storyboards and the like, so a lot of my work tends to be stylized to emphasize certain features. I do a lot of comic and sequential work which isn’t really represented by the art I’ve submitted here!
RP: What artists do you admire? Why?
PE: My favorite artist has always been Dave McKean. Closely after him follow Amy Sol, Fuco Ueda, and Marlo Meekins. They’re all very much modern. I think the one thing that group has in common is the fact that they tend to work with rather bizarre or surreal concepts or styles. It’s hard to pin down why I like each one without going on and on, but I think I’m just attracted to art which is very atmospheric or seems to flow nicely. Color is very important to me, too, although you probably wouldn’t know it looking at the bulk of my work. I guess I’m like a small child in that lots of bright colors hold my interest pretty steadily.
RP: Both of your pieces in the Review, 45 and Doe Eyes, are figurative, and both have a strong mood despite being very different stylistically. Do either of these pieces have a message or story behind them? If so, is it a story you’re willing to tell?
PE: They both have stories. 45 is more literal in that respect than the other, though. It was based off of an actual story written by a friend, and 45 was the name of the character in question, who got beheaded. So, that’s pretty straightforward. Doe Eyes is a bit different in that the woman represented is a recurring figure in my work, and tends to act as a symbol for obsolete mythological belief and lore. It doesn’t go a whole lot deeper than that, although my focus going into it was to have her make eye contact with the viewer. I’d intended for it to be slightly uncomfortable but I think she just looks a little bit weary, which is alright, too.
RP: Aside from art, you’ve mentioned your interest in biology, the humanities, language, linguistics, and sustainable design. How do you see all of these interests merging together in your future life and career?
PE: That’s a big question! I don’t know where I’m going to go with my future just yet. Oops. But I do hope art will continue to be a part of it. I’d really like to study animation or illustration, and somehow manage to land a job or internship in those fields, but if that doesn’t pan out I might delve into sociology and psychology. Social work has appealed to me for some time now because I feel I could potentially integrate my artistic processes into the way I handle others. It’s all up in the air, though. I have too many interests. Art reigns dominant and I’d absolutely love to work with it for a living, but it’s only so practical, and I’m not sure I’ve got the chops to work in the industry. A girl can dream.
RP: What else would you like people to know about art in general, or you as an artist?
PE: Tough question. I’d just like to throw it out there that it’s never too late to give art a go, or become more serious about the things you create. I think there’s this really prevalent idea that talent or creativity is inborn, and I just don’t believe that’s the case. I was drawing anime characters and stick figures up until just a couple of years ago. It’s a process. At that, don’t underestimate the power and presence of art in media– too many people believe that it’s a useless hobby and won’t actually amount to any worth. That’s so untrue! It’s an incredibly cathartic process and a universal method of communication. That’s valuable. At least, that’s what I believe.
RP: What advice would you have for younger artists just starting out?
PE: Don’t confine yourself to one style or discipline! Experiment. Learn to draw from life at least somewhat before you start to stylize. Absolutely positively do NOT let the people around you tell you that your hobby is meaningless or has no practical use, or that you’re no good. Don’t tell yourself that, either. It’s way too easy to beat yourself up over not being good enough, but the reality is, finding your creative rhythm takes years and years, and it’s wonderful to watch yourself improve. Draw what you love, but don’t put yourself in a box.
Just for the record, we’re sure she’s got the chops. If you are interested in meeting Paige or any of the other wonderful artists and writers whose work is gathered together within the Portland Review: Winter 2013 edition, please join us at our launch party. You’ll be able to pick up a copy of the book and you might even be able to snag some signatures. We’ll see you there!