JK: You work with acrylic paint, colored pencils, and ink to create these wonderful ethereal scenes with whimsical characters. I am curious what inspired such a unique style? A particular artist or cartoon maybe from your childhood?
AF: Yes, I was really inspired by cartoons. I actually started out as an animation student at Edinboro University. And when I was younger I was a part of a really big family, and I was the only girl and I was the youngest. So I grew up watching these cartoons and video games with my older cousins and everything. I always had this big interest in the characters that I saw on these games and in these shows.
JK: So not necessarily just cartoons but also video games?
AF: Yes, pretty much anything that had an adventure. I was really into adventures, and the different perils or crazy zany things that these characters did that I wasn’t able to do. As I kid I would play outside with my cousins, and I was really into playing pretend.
JK: I can definitely see that sense of adventure in the landscapes of a lot of your works, but I am also curious about the characters themselves. Some of them, there’s this darkness, at least the most recent ones, either in the muted colors or some of the characters I would describe as ghost like. Can you talk about why that is?
AF: Like I said I was always into the adventurous part of cartoon stories and even children’s books. But also my art is inspired by a lot of things that have happened to me personally. I like to take all of the negative experiences that i’ve had in my life and turn them into things that weren’t so bad. My artwork has always been a way for me to organize difficulties that I’ve had, and be able to take them and look at them from a different point of view. So these darker characters, they kind of represent hardships or things that i’ve gone through that I am not necessarily comfortable with. I use these darker characters that are monsters or ghost like, it’s just a way for me to say that I’ve met monsters in real life. And I like to portray them as being weak or cute because in real life I don’t want to look at them as having power over me.
JK: I know now that you are the Art Director at the Blue Canary Coffeehouse, so they now employ you to seek new commissions and works that will be featured on the walls? Did that come out of when your work was commissioned to be in the Mt. Lebanon shop?
AF: Yes. It was about a week or two because I also work there as a barista. So it was about two weeks into me working there, and the area of the coffee shop is just such a large space and there was so much blank space on the walls. So I was talking to the owners about getting some different art work up since mine takes up such a large portion of it already. And it happened that there is a Painting with a Twist down the street. A couple of girls came in, Linzy and Rachel, and they put up some of their artwork, and they had a little show. Ever since we’ve organized that show, I’ve been putting out calls for artists to bring in some new artwork. I’ve already gotten at least 20 people… So I am really excited that with such a small time that the shop has been open that i’m really going to be able to give these other artists the opportunity to display their work. I think we really need it in the area. I am also going to high schools, and I want to focus on juniors and seniors in high school that are looking into moving into the art industry in the future. I’m going to be doing yearly art shows for the high school students as well.
JK: That’s great. What is it about the high schoolers that is calling to you?
AF: So whenever I was in high school, I really felt that once I got into college I was not prepared at all for what is was going to be like to be an artist. I didn’t know that there were so many options in the industry for me to do. Like Graphic design, illustrator, animator, all of these different options. I know that a lot of high schools have really great art programs, but mine made me struggle. The art teachers were great, and I loved them but it just didn’t prepare me for college. I really want to give the high schoolers an opportunity not only to display their work and have that good feeling of seeing their work up in an establishment. But also a network opportunity so that they can meet other artists that are their age, to be able to talk to them about their techniques and things that they do, so that they can be opened up to something that’s more than just their high school.
JK: Ok, and getting some experience with the buying and selling.
AF: Exactly, because that’s one of the hardest parts I think. Especially if you go to school and then decide that you want to freelance. It’s just hard to know where to start. I think it will be a good opportunity for them to learn that.
JK: The show that you’re working on now, which will be up November 21st… is a vaudeville inspired show. Have you done anything like that before?
AF: No, this is like super super new. Usually with my pieces of artwork there are scenes, they don’t have any words to go along with them. Because i’m doing this vaudeville inspired show, i’m making them posters. So the characters have names to them, and a little bit of a description. It’s nerve wracking. It’s new. But so far it’s turning out really well. And I’m really excited about it.
JK: So the characters that you’re using for the vaudeville images, are they characters that you’ve done before or are they completely new?
AF: There are two characters that are reused. I have these little characters called fluffs. They are these little bunnies.
JK: With the long ear/arms?
AF: Yes, with little ear/arms. They are specific characters, they’re just a creature that I use over and over again. And then I have another character that I am reusing, called the Bunny Reaper. Who is like the grim reaper but for fluff and bunnies.
JK: Does he have the wings on the back?
AF: Yes he has the wings and the little devil tail… I’ve done him in a couple of different paintings. But he’s the ringmaster of the show. But the other characters are brand new. I’m doing a couple of bunny burlesque characters. One of them plays the banjo, the other is a fortune teller… I’m interested to see how people react because I have a couple of customers from the shop that haven’t seen the darker side of my artwork… I think it might be a little shocking, just to see the newer, darker side of my work. And see if there’s any new people that I haven’t met before, and see how they react to it.
JK: Since this is something new for you that you’ve never done before, where did this inspiration come from? Is this something you’ve always wanted to do and are just having the opportunity to do it now?
AF: It’s something that I have always wanted to do. The place I am having the show is called the Flying Squirrel, and it’s in Carnegie, that’s where I grew up. There’s all these businesses popping up, so I was really excited. I went in and I talked to the owner whenever the shop first opened. And there was this really cool ice cream/ vintage collectable toys shop. I was really into it, and as soon as I walked in I just had this image of my characters hanging up on the walls. It’s whimsical, and it’s goofy, and it’s a little bit dark. I was talking with [the owner] and she used to work in art galleries, so she was really excited about the possibility of having an art show at her store. Ever since then I have been talking to her about it. I came up with this vaudeville theme because they have a lot of old vintage posters and decor in their shop and I thought it would be a really good match for my style and the shop.