Artist Feature: Carolyn Suzuki

Artist Feature

It’s our favorite time of the month! Our November Artist Feature is Carolyn Suzuki, an illustrator and designer whose work is sure to put a smile on your face! When I happened upon Carolyn’s work I fell in love immediately. The bright colors, graphic style, and quirky designs are right up my alley and I knew I wanted to share her creative genius with the world! She is a mom of two boys and manages to balance her time between creating and mothering, a feat in itself! Take a look inside Carolyn’s creative process and make sure to check out her work on her website, online store, and Instagram!

Read the full interview with Carolyn!

1. How did your illustrative style develop? How has it developed and changed over the course of your career?

My style was cemented pretty early, I was obsessed with Japanese character design and graphics. I spent a lot of time in Japan throughout my childhood and consumed everything I could, whether it was stationery products, adorably packaged foods or hella cute boy bands. For years I drew only on the computer and tried to make things look as clean and flat as possible. Because I’m largely self-taught, it took me a long time to realize that I wanted more texture & life in my work,  I didn’t really start playing with that idea until a few years ago. Now, anything goes, I’ll paint, use markers, pastels, ink and marry everything on the computer. 

Artist Feature

2. What do you doodle when you aren’t making anything for a specific project or client?

Anything that I’m into or interested in at the moment (which changes from week to week, day to day)

Sometimes it’s a song, a new film I just saw, an exhibit I just attended, or an amazing piece of clothing I saw on Instagram. Sometimes its just a moment from my own life. 

3. How do you stay original, and what tips on the subject do you have for other creatives?

This is tricky for me because I think the concept of originality and being original is very elusive. I think we’re all here to share ideas, inspire one another and to be inspired. In order to do that, you have to show up every day and make something, even if you don’t feel like it. If we are too busy focused on how we can be original, I think that would be pretty paralyzing for most of us. We as individuals are the OG, there is no one else on Earth like you or me.  As long as we remain fans, inspired by things and people that we see and interact with every day, we’re all in good shape 🙂 

4. Along those lines, how do you react when you sense that other people are copying your work?

I honestly don’t pay too much attention to that stuff (not sure that’s ever happened to me anyway!). 

As soon as I’m done with a project or a drawing, I’m on to the next one. I’m always looking forward, no one can steal or copy from what I haven’t made yet so it’s not really a concern. I do however see some of my friends who make products get ripped off by other people and companies and that’s disturbing to see. I wish there was a way to put a stop to it. 

5. Where and how do you get inspiration?

From everywhere and every time zone. I often look to our past, I love the Baroque time period, Renaissance, 20’s, 30’s 60’s 70’s 80’s.  I love what’s happening in Australia, so many Latin American artists and muralists inspire like crazy, I love seeing all of the fantastic makers out there in the world, I follow lots of different people on IG and they are a constant source of inspiration. I love food, nature, fashion, music, movies, TV, pretty much anything that a person or a group of people made I have the potential to be into. 

6. If you weren’t an illustrator, say, in an alternate universe, what would be your creative outlet?

A film director. I think I’m a storyteller to my core. 

7. What does your studio or workspace mean to you?

Not a whole lot. I own a stationery business and have a room dedicated to that but I don’t spend any time in there (shout out to Mariann, the Queen of Carolyn Suzuki Goods). I work at a desk in the corner of my living room where my kids can see me, I sometimes work at coffee shops (shout out to Civil Coffee in Highland Park). My workspace is more about the space that I’m able to create with time. My work day is completely fragmented because of all of my other responsibilities. I’ve had to learn to adapt to working an hour here, a couple hours in the car, getting up at 5:00 am to get some stuff done before everyone else wakes up etc. 

8. Do you feel that attending art or design school is crucial for an artist to “make it” in 2017?

Definitely not crucial, especially in 2017. We have access to some of the best working professionals out there who are teaching classes online. Anyone in the world can learn anything, and learn from masters. BUT if you can afford it, school is a great option. School creates an atmosphere of accountability and pressure that is very difficult to manufacture on your own unless you are a highly driven person. The sense of camaraderie that naturally develops when you’re at school is pretty awesome too,  but, you can create your own community, start following the artists you admire on IG, leave comments, engage, ask questions. I didn’t go to an art school, I also didn’t start supporting myself with my art right away, I had another career prior to this one and I was pretty miserable, but it was within that unhappiness that I found the drive to make a change and go after what I really loved. In the most meandering way possible, I’m saying there are many roads you can take to get to a place where you support yourself with your art, you just have to really hone in on what you love to do and do it every day. 

First photo by Steve Steinhardt  and pattern by Carolyn Suzuki


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