Thursday, October 30, 2014

Artist Interview: Ashley Hohnstein


Meet Ashley Hohnstein. Ashley is a fantastic graphic designer, art director, illustrator, and printmaker living and working in Minneapolis, MN. Originally from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, she attended and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout with Graphic Design. During college, Ashley discovered her love for process, illustration and hand lettering, and has continued to apply this passion and techniques to her work today. Ashley is an incredibly prolific creative, initiating several personal projects, working with local and national clients, and exploring new mediums and formats to enrich her art practice. Ashley is currently an Associate Graphic Designer at Target for their in-house creative studio.

We have had the opportunity to work with Ashley in several Light Grey Art Lab Exhibitions, such as Stacks and the current Skate or Die Skatebaord Show. It is always a pleasure to see her intricate line work, gorgeous letterings, and sensitivity to design applied to the exhibition topics and themes! We are thrilled to present Ashley's work, share her inspirations, and learn more about her process! You can check out Ashley's work on her website here, and view her work for the Skate or Die Exhibition on the Light Grey Shop.

Hohnstein_Studio1 Home Studio

Could you describe your studio practice? What is your space, items you are surrounded by, studio rituals? Do you have any must-have materials?

When working at night and on weekends, I have a pretty good studio space in my apartment. It’s actually technically a very small dining room. I have a big desk and a small laptop with a second monitor I plug into. Not because I work off of both screens, but because one of the main things I need to get work done when I’m alone is a steady non-stop steam of Netflix as background noise.

My walls are covered in printed ephemera, gathered from many years of what I can only call “selective hoarding” from antique stores, museum kiosks, abandoned houses, and bits and pieces of paper from everywhere. I like to spread out things when I work, so my desk is never tidy and tends to have stacks of sketches at both ends. I have a lot of different notebooks with different textures and grids, and love sketching with felt-tip pens and various brush pens, and have many different processes I use to take my work into the computer.

Hohnstein_Studio2 Home Studio Inspiration

At Target, I don’t have much control over my environment since it’s a large corporate office. I still have a double monitor set-up, though this one is without Netflix, and keep a good stash of pens and paper at work for doodling and sketching. My closet/shelf tower at the end of my desk is covered with a curated selection of the earlier mentioned printed ephemera that doesn’t fit on my walls at home. The really nice thing about my space at work is that it’s partially desks, and partially critiquing space, so the room is covered in in-process work from other brands that the team works on. It’s pretty cool to walk around and get inspired by the diverse body of work happening in the space!

Your work has a very whimsical and playful quality! What are some of your favorite ways of working, techniques, or designs?

When starting a project, I normally make a lot of lists and a plan of action before I really jump in and start. After that, I’m normally rapid ideating in large brain-dump lists and then I start sketching. If I’m doing something that’s hand-drawn, I’m normally starting in pencil and layer over it with tissue paper refining with different felt-tip pens, brush pens, or even india ink with different brushes. Then, I will scan that in and manipulate it in Photoshop until I get to the aesthetic I’m going for. Some work is a lot less fussy than others, of course. If I’m doing purely digital illustration, which for me is pretty geometric and vector based, I jump back and forth between sketching and Illustrator pretty quickly to test things, and then back to the drawing board. At the stage I’m currently at, I’m still exploring a lot of different styles. Sometimes I’m frustrated about that, and other times it’s really great- I’m trying to embrace it.

Skateboard_01 Graveyard

We loved having you contribute to the Skate or Die Exhibition! Could you describe your process for the project? What were your considerations, concepts, and topics?

I LOVED this project, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to contribute. I love all things creepy and spooky, and combined with my middle school desire to be a skater kid (even though I have no coordination whatsoever and everyone called me a poser) - it was a perfect storm for me. I actually jumped around quite a bit with what I wanted to do, originally settling on an overly-ambitious idea to do a board covered in icons from all genres of everything spooky (movies, halloween, ghost hunting, etc.), with no repeats. It was crazy. I don’t know what I was thinking. So, as with most of my projects, I had a “get real” moment and re-adjusted my expectations and made myself actually choose an idea vs. doing all of them. I ended up making a very geometric and flat representation of a graveyard. With custom type, fun illustrations and a lot of pattern - it’s kind of a dizzying design up close but from far away looks pretty rad. I started with big list of all the stuff I wanted to throw in, and rather than keep it scary, I made it funny with the copy on the tombstones. It was a blast to make, and turned out even better than what envisioned it being!

You often have the chance to work with packaging and interesting project parameters. What is the best part of working in packaging/design?

My favorite part about working in packaging is that it’s not just a flat graphic or a thing on a website, it’s a physical object that can often compel someone to pick up and interact with a product. Working at Target allows me to work on a crazy variety of brands with different looks and feels, and sometimes even help ideate new ones. It’s super fun, and pushes me to try new styles (and strengthen ones I already work with). Unfortunately, with crazy far-out timelines on the work, none of the actual real-world packaging I’ve worked on at Target is in stores yet or something I can share here :) Just trust me when I say it’s been a blast!

Hohnstein_Muesli Muesli

Do you find time to work on personal projects? What are some of the biggest differences in your personal verses professional approach to art making? (experimentation, trying new formats, design challenges, etc. )

After spending the day at my job with Target, I still have plenty of time and energy to pursue selective freelance projects and personal illustration work on the side. I’m very conscious of my work load, and try to always be working on at least a few things. I don’t have a lot of hobbies beyond design and illustration, so this is what I do for fun too! I think the biggest difference is just that with my full-time design job, I’m working on large teams on projects with a large scope within specific parameters.

When I’m doing personal work, I have a ton more freedom to do what I want and I really use projects like that to explore new techniques and methods of creating. Like I said earlier, I think I still have a ton to learn, so I just try to do something new every time. I did a one-a-day called What I Learned for a few months last fall, and that was amazing. Just taking my day and reflecting on it, and doing a spot illustration to accompany led to so much personal and creative growth in a short amount of time.

Hohnstein_HomeSweetHome Home Sweet Home

What is the best creative advice you have ever received?

The best piece of advice was something I actually heard Debbie Millman say in a lecture at AIGA MN Design Camp two years ago. It was something along the lines of, and I’m completely butchering/paraphrasing this into what my brain liked, “If you don’t love what you’re doing, after trying pretty hard at it for awhile, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.” I know this isn’t specifically creative advice, but it was a MAJOR lightbulb moment. Rather than driving myself insane pulling late nights and trying to do 10x too many things in areas I’m totally not into, I limit myself and invest a lot of time in personal projects I really love working on and make me feel fulfilled as a person.


What projects are you currently working on?

At Target I am on a wide variety of projects ranging from major rebranding and conceptual work, to working within existing style guides to improve packaging and create packaging for new products. I love that I work on so many different things. They’re on brands from Market Pantry to up&up to Threshold, and everything in between.

I’ve finally adjusted to my Target workload, so I’m starting to work on personal projects again. There are two big ones currently in planning phases. One of which is a blog with two of my crazy-talented BFFs, Heather Christianson and Julia King. We all have super different styles, as evidenced by just a glance at our portfolios, but we’re going to start a blog of some sort creating art based on the same theme a few times a month. The project is a means for loosely collaborating, keeping in touch, and to push ourselves to grow faster in a fun environment. I’m really excited about that!

The other project is that I’m starting to explore actually selling prints or products in some sort of online venue. I have a teeny bit of experience with that with the letterpress studio I worked at, but I’d like to toy around with zines and prints on Etsy, or maybe throw some work on Society 6. It’s really fun taking my nights and weekends to push my illustration and lettering work into new areas.

Hohnstein_WishWeWereHere Wish We Were Here

Do you have any favorite resources? Books, magazines, media, artists, other?

Oh boy, it’s hard to narrow it down. Some of my favorites currently are Andrew Kolb, Philip Eggleston, Eight Hour Day, Dana Tanamachi, Justin Pervose, and so many more. I could list them for days (and I might be willing to share my bookmarks if you email me and ask nicely :) One of my favorite places to discover work, is, which pulls from a lot of major blogs and work sharing websites. For general life inspiration, I love reading the Great Discontent which is a long-form interview blog with all sorts of creatives. They post one a week, and they’re always very motivating!

Thanks, Ashley! This was incredible!

You can find Ashley's work on her website, twitter, instagram, dribble, and say hello: You can also see her work for the Skate or Die Exhibition on the Light Grey Shop here!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Podcast: Getting in the Mood

10.27.14_Getting in the Mood
Download the MP3, stream directly on Stitcher, or subscribe via iTunes!

Getting in the Mood
Length: 00:45:50
Synopsis: Halloween is nearly upon us, and the Light Grey team are getting in the mood for fright! On this week's podcast, Lindsay, Jenny, Chris, and Francesca talk about what they do to get in the spooky spirit. That leads us to think about things we can do to set the mood for other occasions, like hunkering down for a productive work session, or getting in the mood to be outgoing and social when all you really want to do is sit in your pajamas and draw all night.

Show Notes:
Light Grey Game Night - Fright Night

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Artist Interview: Philippe Poirier

Philippe Poirier

Meet Philippe Poirier. Philippe is an animator and artist, living and working in Montreal, Quebec. He has a background in traditional and 3D animation, and currently works in the gaming industry at Hibernum Créations. Philippe has worked on projects such as Pearl's Peril in partnership with Wooga, and is currently the lead artist for an upcoming (soon to be announced!) X-Box One game. Philippe has also participated in past Light Grey Art Lab exhibitions, including Animystics and the recent Dream Arcade Exhibition and video game.

It is an honor to work with Philippe on these projects, and we are thrilled to present his work and process! Below, you can read all about his art practice, upcoming projects, and reflections on his personal and professional work! You see all of Philippe's work on his website and play his level for the Dream Arcade Game here!

Philippe Poirier

Could you describe your studio practice? (Where you work, your studio, materials, favorite tools)

I work full-time as a 2D-3D artist at Hibernum Créations. When I am making personal projects, I have a desk at home with a bookcase next to me. I work mostly with Photoshop and a Cintiq, and I usually carry a sketchbook at all times. Cat owners will understand the struggle of having your pet hanging out right in front of the computer!

What are some of the things you surround yourself by for inspiration? -or- What are some of your biggest sources of inspiration?

I get the chance to work with incredibly talented people, and it’s always inspiring to see how active everyone is outside of work. Tumblr, Pinterest and Behance are amazing platforms that I often use to discover new artists, I am astounded by how much talent and passion there is out there. I’ve always been drawn to backgrounds, but I’m trying to do more characters: I really like Sargent, Ingres and Leyendecker’s work, to name a few. As for the contemporary artists, Jeremy Vickery was a big influence when I started to work more extensively on backgrounds and lighting. James Gurney’s blog is always really amazing- he posts every day on a variety of subjects. Also, I love Hchom’s art, with all her tidy lists and great illustrations!

Philippe Poirier Screen shot of Philippe's level for the Dream Arcade Exhibition

You were one of the participating artists in the Dream Arcade Exhibition. Could you describe the world that you were building? Character and space inspiration?

I went for a detective mystery/noire inspired level- I love how atmospheric these movies were! I looked up a lot of images of Los Angeles and movie stills for set design inspiration. I usually collect images and put them in a folder whenever I start a new piece, and I frequently go back and see them again to get motivation and specific details as I progress. For the final work, I incorporated haunted aspects and mystical fantasy to open up possibilities for enemies and different experiences.

Philippe Poirier Background by Philippe Poirier

What are some of your favorite parts of world building/ character building?

I am a big fan of layout design! The design was a part of my work when I studied in traditional animation. My layout teacher was one of my most important influences from school, and I still apply his teachings to my work today. I just love how a background can express the characters’ personality and set the mood through small narrative details. It can let you tell the story in a single image, what kind of characters evolve in there. "Setting the Scene: The Art & Evolution of Animation Layout" by Fraser MacLean is a great book on the subject.

Do you often work in a collaborative manner or with a team of animators? Could you describe that process?

Making a video game is an intensely collaborative endeavour indeed! I was lucky to be able to work as a lead artist on a video game project, where I had to supervise and assist the work of the art team and communicate with the other teams. It was really great to see everyone’s specialty up close- it provided a lot of insight into everyone’s particular field.

Usually, artists will work closely with game designers, who work on establishing the gameplay mechanics and the general flow of the game. The art team itself, will generally include concept artists, modelers, texture artists, animators, UI and FX artists. The programmers are building the game from scratch, making sure it all works nicely and they also integrate the art assets. We all work closely together as figuring out how to achieve what we want, which usually involves some back and forth. QA will then make sure the game is bug-free. And finally, the producer and art director oversee and manage the project as a whole. Everyone’s role is essential in the making of a video game! It all comes together through intensive collaboration and collective brainstorming when faced with difficulties.

Philippe Poirier Background by Philippe Poirier

What are some of your favorite projects to date? What made these project important to your practice?

Working on my 3D short as a student was a superb experience. The art direction was left to the student’s care and I really enjoyed the exploration process, sketching and illustrating in 2D so that my 3D work was already informed visually. I was really lucky to work for a 3D studio at the same time, and be able to apply this new knowledge to my school work.

Pearl’s Peril got me started at Hibernum Créations after graduating. It was a fantastic project, and I had the opportunity to work on some really atmospheric backgrounds. I’ve also had the chance to work with very experienced artists, and learning a lot quickly by seeing how they work. Animystics was my first gallery show, and I loved the experience and to actually hang the piece on the wall made me want to make more physical art.

Philippe Poirier Illustration from Petite Douceur

What are some of your favorite things to do outside of art making?

I’m kind of a reference material hoarder- one never has enough books, right? Whether it’s trips to the library or just hanging out with a coffee, I love looking at books, magazines, sifting through images. I’ve also had a superb trip in Paris this fall and I’d really love to get out and travel more in the future! Playing video games is a big hobby of mine as well!

Philippe Poirier Detail of Philippe's work for the Animystics Exhibition

Do you have any upcoming projects you can share?

I am starting on a new mobile game project at work which is pretty exciting and as for personal projects. I want to make postcards for the holidays, and I’d also love to print a small illustration book in the coming year. I’m always keeping my eyes peeled for new calls for art too.

Thanks, Philippe!

You can find more of Philippe Poirier's work on his portfolio site, behance, instagram, and follow his tumblr here! You can also play Philippe's Noir level for the Dream Arcade Exhibition and Game on the Light Grey Website here!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Podcast: Elevator Pitch

10.20.14_Elevator Pitch
Download the MP3, stream directly on Stitcher, or subscribe via iTunes!

Elevator Pitch
Length: 01:02:10
Synopsis: On this week's podcast Jenny, Chris, Lindsay, and Francesca talk about the art of quick introductions. How do you sum up who you are and what you do - to your grandmother, an interested peer, or just a stranger on an elevator - in just a sentence or two? How do you see yourself, what language is able to cross barriers, and when is too much information really too much? We share out thoughts and talk about some odd situations where we've had to condense our personality and life experiences into 15 minutes or less.

Show Notes:
I Hate My Kitchen - Wild Side

Friday, October 17, 2014

Light Grey Game Night: Fright Night

Boo! Did I scare you? That creeping sense of dread means it's time for another Light Grey Game Night! Mark your calendar for Wednesday, October 29th from 6:30 to 9:30 PM!

As you might remember, we're attaching a theme to each night to help people narrow down what games they might want to bring (although you're still welcome to bring whatever you'd like!). This week's theme is Fright Night, just in time for Halloween!

Together we'll be battling battling hoards of zombies, witnessing the Old Ones awaken, and questioning if your allies are actually betrayers in games like Dead of Winter, Eldritch Horror, and Ultimate Werewolf, among plenty of others! If you have a favorite boardgame, bring it!

So grab your friends, family or favorite stack of board games, and come play with us! RSVP via our Facebook event, and feel free to share! The more the merrier!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Skate Or Die Opening Reception Recap

Skate Or Die Opening Reception
Last Friday marked the opening reception for Skate Or Die! We want to give a giant thank you to the artists involved, and to everyone who visited the gallery and made the night a huge success!
Skate Or Die Opening Reception
Skate Or Die is a celebration of death and destruction, with 60 pieces of art displayed on hardwood skateboard decks. The presentation was jaw dropping, with a gallery absolutely packed with rows and rows of glossy skateboard decks adorned with amazing artwork.
Skate Or Die Opening Reception
Designs ranged from grim and creepy, to over-the-top absurd, to outright beautiful and visitors respond to each piece with appropriate laughter or contemplation. Longtime skateboarders, horror enthusiasts, and art lovers alike all shared the gallery with a common appreciation for the love and craft that went into the Skate or Die exhibition.
Skate Or Die Opening Reception
Skate Or Die Opening Reception
You can view more photos from the opening reception on our Skate Or Die Flickr set. You can buy one of these beautiful skateboard decks, or a gorgeous large-scale print, on the Light Grey Art Lab shop!

Once again, thanks again to all of the artists, collaborators, and supporters!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Podcast: Skate Or Die

10.13.14_Skate Or Die
Download the MP3, stream directly on Stitcher, or subscribe via iTunes!

Skate Or Die
Length: 00:54:35
Synopsis: Skate Or Die is here! And on this week's podcast, Lindsay, Chris, Francesca, and Jenny talk about the days and weeks leading up the final reveal for 60 hand-decaled, artist-designed skateboard decks. We talk about the inception of the project, our history with skateboarding, and the physical process of making the boards for the exhibition.

Show Notes:
Skate Or Die