The Block

Art & Culture — 9 months ago

Introducing Our 2022 Artists To Watch

Meet 10 of our 2022 Artists To Watch.

 

Part of the magic of early-career artists, those names who are just setting out, is that nothing is fixed. There’s this unique energy that emerging creatives bring to what they do, and they have a licence to experiment and evolve that’s infectious to behold. 

 

For 2022’s Artists To Watch lineup, we cast our net wider than ever before. The work of the final 16 – Ben Zerbo, Claire Milbrath, Grace Kao, Job Wouters, Meech Boakye, Romina Malta, Tynan Collins, Inessa Dobbelaere, Jordi Ng, Muddycap, Chinaza Agbor, Enikő Katalin Eged, Firpal Jawanda, Hayley Dawn Muir and Manyaku Mashilo – spans furniture design, food and everything in between. 

 

To better get to know each of our artists, we wanted to focus on the questions they have: those ideas they use to keep pushing the boundaries of what they do. To each of the following artists we asked: What questions do you ask yourself when… Working on a piece? Planning a show? Sharing your work? Finding your voice? Refining your style? Using colours? Trying something new? Collaborating? Pricing work? When you’ve got creative block Looking at other artists’ work? Trying to get to sleep?

 

We collated their responses in an exclusive zine, and here too.

 

Shop the Artists To Watch collection here.

Words
Everpress Team
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Artists To Watch Zine, designed by Arun Gogna

What questions do you ask yourself when?..

Ben Zerbo

Brooklyn-based graphic designer Ben Zerbo first came to our attention when he won the open call for our Type In Focus collection last summer. Passionate about all things type, he currently works as a brand designer at New York’s Zero Studios. Check out his latest graphic tee with us here.

Refining your style?

I’ve always been the type of designer who wants to have several styles, so I don’t worry too much about how much a new piece looks like something  I’ve done before. I’ve grown to realise that I (and every designer, really) will always inject my own point of view into everything I do, and sometimes that’s equally as recognisable. Does the work feel like me?

Collaborating?

Whenever I collaborate with others, I try to ask myself how our work, skills, and points of view can complement one another and create something greater than the sum of its parts. I love how collaboration makes me question my own processes and dig a little deeper in my personal work after.

Pricing work?

Coming out of school where they didn’t teach us much about pricing our work, I still find myself questioning how much I should charge. I like to ask fellow designers and coworkers how they’ve priced similar things before giving anyone a number.

Firpal Jawanda

Centring around South Asian chimeric folklore, language and mythology, London-based artist Firpal Jawanda‘s practice seems to span almost every medium; from visuals for publications, to garments, to sculpture-esque objects. Their work is unpredictable and always original – probably what makes us so excited to see what they do next. And you don’t want to miss their limited-edition tee.

Finding your voice?

Why am I drawing this? Who enjoys these drawings, besides me? Do I trust myself? Do I trust my work?

Working on a piece?

Can I draw something new? Can I draw things I haven’t conceived prior? If I begin drawing and just let the pen decide, can I trust that process? Can I let go of any successes with past drawings so I don’t replicate them in new ones? Instead can I experiment, always?

Am I being sincere?

Planning a show?

How can this be larger? How can this be clearer? How can this drawing be moving? How can I convey some aspect of truth in this fantasy drawing? Am I being sincere?

When you’ve got creative block?

Do I still love to draw? If so, just go for it, leave every notion of doubt behind.

Courtesy of Firpal Jawanda

Grace Kao

Working out of her Brooklyn studio, Illustrator and designer Grace Kao has already brought out a couple of hit tees with us, but her Year Of The Tiger T-shirt, specially designed for Artists To Watch, might be her best yet. 

Working on a piece?

I tend to work intuitively, feeling my way through things. However, if I were to break it down, the first question I would ask myself would probably be, What story or feeling am I trying to convey? I do a ton of research (visual references, thematic/historical contexts, and symbolism). I sketch loose thumbnails and when I land on a composition I like, I keep refining it, making several iterations. In this process, I’m also thinking about how to establish a connection with the viewer. Why should people care? Is there a hook to help create that connection or elicit an emotion?

How can I get out of my comfort zone?

Trying something new?

How can I get out of my comfort zone? When something starts to feel too formulaic, I think about what changes I could make (even if it’s something small) to break from a repeated pattern. I love to learn, so I find that classes/workshops are a great way of trying something new. Even just from YouTube, I’ve learned how to use Procreate, cook a French omelet, and embroider flowers onto fabric.

Pricing work?

Pricing is strategic. It’s worth researching market rates in your area. Know your worth and ask: How am I bringing value through this particular creative service/good?

Looking at other artists’ work?

Can I see their passion? When I look at other artists’ work, I feel vicariously happy. I’m happy for their achievements. There’s so much diversity in creativity, and I think about how this artist had the conviction to make something special and share it. I met one of my favorite artists, Jeremyville, once on a studio visit, and I was really inspired. He was so prolific, but also so kind and humble. It made me want to work even harder!

Enikő Katalin Eged

Illustrator and print designer Enikő Katalin Eged studied at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts and Rome’s Academia di Belle Arti, and you can read these international influences in her pieces. Spanning paintings, riso prints, posters and more, the overarching theme of her work is its celebration of sapphic love (that’s love between women). And we can’t get enough of her Imaginary Memories tee.

Refining your style?

What does style mean to me? The cohesion of colors, textures and compositions? Or rather a metaphoric system with recurring topics and symbols? Can I find the balance between these?

Collaborating?

How can I be useful? Can we have a common base, or common resources to make something together?

How can I be useful?

When you’ve got creative block?

What do I need right now? Can I imagine myself in a comfortable situation? Can I name my emotions/fears which may be causing the block?

Courtesy of Enikő Katalin Eged

Trying to get to sleep?

Am I good enough? (Good old impostor syndrome and self doubt usually comes at this time.) Am I recognising if I’m doing self exploitation? Am I independent enough from others’ expectations (including social media platforms’)?  Can I hear my own voice?

Claire Milbrath

Claire Milbrath made a name for herself as the founder and editor-in-chief of Montreal’s cult arts journal Editorial Magazine, but it’s her newest pursuit, painting, that caught our eye. Milbrath, who is self-taught, paints playful, vivid scenes – proof that it’s possible to be a master of all trades. 

Trying something new?

Am I confident enough for this right now? Why do I resist change?

When you’ve got creative block?

Have I been working too much on editorial? Have I been playing enough? 

Working on a piece?

Am I experiencing delight?

Inessa Dobbelaere

We’re always interested in artists who can work across mediums, those creatives who can unite two unlikely disciplines to create something that feels totally original – which is why we love Inessa Dobbelaere. The Ghent-based artist’s work straddles graphic design and textiles, with work including eye-catching printed garments – like her Patch Me Up t-shirt. We can’t wait to see where her practice takes her this year.

When you’ve got creative block / Looking at other artists’ work?

I find it interesting to see what fellow students are doing these days. I also follow artists/makers through Instagram. It’s a handy and fast medium, you can save images, and when I am thinking or have a creative block I scroll through them. This stimulates me, as different mediums and artists appeal to me because of something in that work, and make me dream about how I would like to do things (even if the reality is often different).

Courtesy of Inessa Dobbelaere

Romina Malta

Another creative who excites us because they’re working at the intersection of different fields, art director Romina Malta’s work straddles illustration and sound design. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but currently based in Uruguay, her weekly mixtapes are a particular treat. As is her latest t-shirt, Am I Awake Or Am I Dreaming?

Pricing work?

How long will I be involved in this, and will I be free enough in terms of artistic direction?

The status and mindset of the client is a determining factor. Like many creatives, I have had experiences with people who think you would give your life for their project, which you clearly don’t even care about, and, moreover, for very little payment. Those clients I immediately reject. 

You have to consider who you are standing in front of: their aesthetic appreciation, if they know what they want, if they have enough budget. Some things you learn over time. Years ago, I couldn’t tell if I was in front of a client who would drive me crazy. Today I can see it and I don’t waste my time. If the project interests me and the client, unfortunately, is complicated, I will do it, but charge a lot more. 

Some things you learn over time

There are other factors too. Sometimes people contact me who don’t have a consistent budget but I like the energy they transmit, so I accompany them in their project because they know what they want, because I like what they want and because many times they don’t have anxiety with deadlines. Over the years, anxiety is something you start to sense from the first contact. Stay away from that and take care of your creativity.

Trying to get to sleep?

Is the alarm set? Remember that old Microsoft campaign that said “Where do you want to go today?” I usually ask myself that question in the moment before I fall asleep. I think a lot about bodily disconnection, I mean, this whole thing about losing control of my body and moving into the dream plane, it fascinates me. For that question, there are as many answers as there are dreams. So in general I try not to reflect too much when I go to sleep, on the contrary, the more my head is empty, the better I am.

Jordi Ng

New York-based graphic designer and illustrator Jordi Ng works predominantly in printed media, and their CV is already a who’s who of the world of publishing. They’ve produced work for everybody from the cult film company A24, to MIT Press to Stones Throw Records. We’re excited to see their work splashed across more pages in 2022.

Sharing your work?

I used to be a huge catastrophiser and would never want to share my work at all. But I’m learning to be more publicly and externally proud of work that I’ve truly worked my butt off on. I guess there’s only one question to be asked here: Am I proud of this?

Using colours?

What is the conceptual groundwork for using this one colour? Or using seven colours? Or keeping it black and white? My instincts when starting a project are to always lean towards using brighter and punchier colours that harmonise well together, but it’s also really important for me to work out a conceptual underpinning for the colours I’m using.

Am I proud of this?

Trying something new?

The questions I’d be asking here would be mostly technical. What’s the most efficient way of doing this? What settings should I use to procure the weirdest outcome? When it’s with a medium that I’m not so familiar with or trying for the first time, I usually like to thrust my questions out into the dark void of the Internet. And still when that doesn’t work, I rope in my (extremely talented and qualified) friends to answer them for me.

Meech Boakye

With a BA in visual studies from the University of Toronto, Meech Boakye, started out as an artist and illustrator, producing for for dozens of publications, both print and online. But it’s their more recent pivot to food that grabbed our attention – their Instagram, @ghostyboi, is a feast for the eyes.

Working on a piece?

Who am I making this for? (This is the hard question.) Am I enjoying the process? Are there ways to make it feel better?

What found materials can I use? Are there any materials at the end of their life cycle, begging to be art? Does it need to be a material object at all?

What artists’ works or words are informing this? What texts can I read to understand context?

Is there someone I can collaborate with to make this stronger? Or, is there someone I can pay or trade with to fabricate it?

What am I learning from making this work?

Am I trying to represent something or can this thing just do the thing?

Refining your style?

I don’t think it’s necessary to refine a particular style. We are constantly evolving and changing and I want my art practice to mirror that. I try to refine skills to a certain point of comfort and then find something new to be bad at. So, where do you feel comfortable in your practice? How might you introduce some discomfort into that process? I think, ultimately, this is the work of refining style.

Trying to get to sleep?

If I’m having a tough time getting sleepy (feeling anxious, overwhelmed), I try to ask winding-down questions: what am I grateful for, right now, in this moment? Or, what am I looking forward to tomorrow?

Typically though, the questions go more like…really, how does this relate to that? Could I find [very specific object] on the internet or is there a way to fabricate it myself? Do I want to finish the book I’m in the middle of reading or start a new one? Should I write this down?

Tynan Collins

Hailing from the mountains of Northern California, Tynan Collins experiments with painting, illustration and design. His last T-shirt with us, ‘Plant Yourself’, played with ideas of growth and the sense of being grounded.

Sharing your work?

Courtesy of Tynan Collins

One of my favourite aspects of sharing work is the possibility of connecting the inner worlds of two people. If I can somehow take all the influences and memories that I have, then the synthesized image I make from all of that brings whatever my world is to the outside. If even a piece of that can be relatable, nostalgic or spark any sort of emotion in someone else, that’s the supreme goal I have with any piece. The act of sharing to me is the main reason for doing this stuff. The connection that forms when you feel that someone else out there is making work that speaks to you is so powerful.

The act of sharing is the main reason for doing this stuff

I know I have felt that and it is always so encouraging, especially when I can pick up on the subtleties of someone’s references or subject matter. I believe it can be a very intimate thing, but it also doesn’t have to be.

Maybe a more practical aspect of sharing work is: When sharing work, whether on social media or otherwise, I believe you have to maintain your vision and truth. It’s important to not let other people’s comments, criticisms, or even praise change the trajectory of the work YOU want to make. This can go different ways too, positive feedback might make you keep making work you no longer believe in, just as negative feedback might put you off work that feels right. This does not mean ignoring everything that you hear out there, but instead making sure your work feels true to you. 

Collaborating?

Collaborations can be the best. They can also get tricky. As a creative person I get so much energy from collaborating with all the talented folks around me, but by now I’m careful to make sure I have the time, attention and effort to give any collaboration. If I didn’t do this I would be on my way to having 20 collaborations going on at once, and then I could burn out.

It’s also important to make sure the goals of any collaborators are in line: does one person want to monetise the project and the other does not? Is the work very personal? In a way that may not benefit from a collaboration?

For more from Artists To Watch, head to our Instagram to meet each of our artists, and for a look back at past years, check out Artists To Watch 2020 & 2021: Where Are They Now?

Shop the Artists To Watch collection here.