Meet Zoe-Zoe Sheen. Zoe-Zoe has been taking art classes since the age of 14, and is now a graphic designer, freelance illustrator, studio artist, and creative living and working in Los Angeles, CA. She has worked as a graphic designer for the Social Impact Space and Share Our Strength at GOOD Magazine. Her clients include Disney Nature, Bon Appétit, UNICEF, Toms, Star Wars, Microsoft, and UPS among others.
We are thrilled to talk with Zoe-Zoe today to share her unique and multidisciplinary studio practice, as well share her sources of inspiration, motivation, and upcoming projects! Zoe-Zoe has participated in several past Light Grey Exhibitions includes the Expletive Type Show and the recent Guts Exhibition, and the Make My Holiday Annual Art Swap! You can read more about Zoe-Zoe's practice below and follow her projects on her website here!
Could you tell me about your studio space? Where do you work, what materials are you surrounded by?
My studio space is a desk in the other half of my room. I post up notes and sketches from other current projects on my wall. I always have a watercolor/gouche project in progress, so that is always setup on the left of my desk. When I need more space, I'll work off the floor! I have materials for all kinds of projects: paints, brushes, pens/markers, drafting tools, stuff for dyeing textiles, stuff for sewing, fabrics/ felt, sculpey clay, sculpture tools, linocuts, other craft materials for things like jewelry, all kinds of watercolor/drawing papers, corrugated cardboard (cause you never know), drawing boards, easel, lightbox, plexiglass, wood panels, clamp lights, and more. It is all organized by type in drawers and flat files. I also have research materials like books or printouts.
Fun fact, I like to collect adorable "kawaii" things. I decorate with little vignettes around my room. I'll randomly make up narratives and voices when I pass by them.
I see a lot of experimentation and play inherent in your work- Do you have a creative philosophy? What are you motivated/inspired by?
I'm a playful and curious person. It carries over into how I think and work. I do some projects just so I can mess around without any expectation. I’ll use whatever- charcoal, ink, acrylic, cardboard stamps to make messy patterns on newsprint or make silly characters out of sculpey. I want to have fun and continue honing skills. For my personal work, I try to create an experience, something that can incite wonder, curiosity or joy.
My motivation is pretty simple: I love making work, illustrations, paintings, objects. I think about those things constantly especially when I’m away from my studio. I keep a notebook with me at all times and use my Evernote to build ideas- it keeps me excited about what is next. Narrowing down what inspires me is hard because there's a lot! The world is rich with things to learn, absorb, experience, that it's all reference material. I get excited about anything whimsical, things that strike me as having a bit of magic and hidden attributes.
Could you talk a little about your approach to materials? There is a lot of cross over between illustration, design, and objects, and they all share a common sensibility.
Illustration is relatively new to me. I did a lot of vector based illustrations as a designer, and now I’m working on bringing in more experience from painting. I had teachers that strongly encouraged taking risks and experimentation- advice that goes really well with my curiosity. It's fun learning what a material can do, what its characteristics are, and how they interact. And when using Photoshop and Illustrator, I'll apply different combinations of brushes and gradients.
What has been your favorite piece to date?
My first watercolor painting on wood panel I did about 7 years ago. Not really about the piece itself but what how I was working on it. It was the first piece where I experimented with a new process. It started me on a path of these large wood panels that I painted surreal figures in watercolor. I don't have the space to do those paintings now, but I think about them a lot.
For the Guts exhibition, you were ask to investigate one subject and it's insides. Could you tell us about your concept and creation of your Guts work?
The connection between thought and physical embodiment is really weird to me. That something abstract like imagination and compassion can be contained into a squishy pale peach organ or how we view ourselves can be disparate with what we see in the mirror. My concept focused on dissociative disorders. In short, these disorders create a lack of connection between a person's thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of self. Dissociative disorders have a wide range from gaps in memory to multiple identities.
For GUTS, I wanted to create a piece reminiscent of a scientific illustration with cross sections. The first sketches I had looked very different, my original idea had a full figure in it, I also did some sketches using a sphere or pyramid. Once I locked down my composition I used tracing paper to refine details and color. I was originally going to do the illustration in gouache so I did some tests on paper. I realized I wanted to have a more flexible way of working so I switched to a hybrid of illustrator/photoshop/painted aspects. I used the tests I did to help inform how I wanted texture to work. The style of illustration for my Guts piece is a new thing I'm trying.
What is your creative community like? Do you often get a chance to collaborate with other artists?
Mostly designers and painters. Since doing creative work can get solitary, it's nice when I get to work with other artists. So far I've collaborated mostly with my friends, a few I worked with on client based projects, so not everything was a personal project. I would love to collaborate with more illustrators though. It’s exciting to get people together with different interests and skills.
GOOD Magazine + UPS Small Business Collaboration
What are some of your other sources of inspiration? (books, media, artists, hobbies, etc.)
Animism has to be my favorite concept. It's why kawaii things are awesome. Minimal abstract paintings, toys, flowers, plants, the ocean, gradients, things that glow in the dark, fantasy illustration, cartoons, gestural patterns, pastel colors are some things that inspire me a lot. I frequent sites like Vimeo, Dribbble, Tumblr, Artsy, also Instagram has led me to artists I like.
What is your dream project? What would you love to do if time was no issue?
Music and art videos. That is- if my dream project also came with a dream budget. I would like to create sets of stylized colorful worlds that I can choreograph weird narratives in with characters.
What projects do you have on the horizon? Where can people find your artwork?
Since I want to do into more editorial illustrations, I have a series on food I'd like to start. Right now I'm working on finishing a watercolor illustration of zombie arms scratching a record and a gouache abstract painting on wood. I like to have a couple going on so I'm never bored. You can see my work at my portfolio site: zoezoesheen.com. I post a lot of process/fun stuff on my instagram (@zzsheen) and tumblr (twozee.tumblr.com).
Other thoughts or advice?
Have fun, if your not enjoying the work you do then something is out of balance and you might end up burned out.
Thanks! Zoe-Zoe was one of the contributing artists to the Guts Exhibition. You can see this her work alongside the 60+ artists on the Light Grey website here!