One-on-One with Cassandra Mazur

Boneshaker Press brings you Cassandra Mazur, of Skokie, IL! You can reach her here or find her portfolio here.

What’s your background?

I am a Chicago-based artist. In 2011, I received a BFA in Illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design. After graduating, I worked in the children’s book department at a publishing company and more recently, I work as a designer at a small advertising and marketing agency. I feel like I have done a little bit of everything in an attempt to figure out what makes me feel creatively fulfilled. I’ve done a lot of artistic soul-searching and I am no means at the end of my journey. I am currently working towards being a visual development artist for animation.

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What got you interested in the arts to begin with?

I’ve always had a lot of encouragement to pursue the arts. Both my aunt and uncle are painters and I think that helped my own development as an artist.

The first artist accomplishment I had was in the form of an epic pencil drawing on a plain 8.5×11 sheet of plain printer paper. I would bring this piece of paper with me everywhere and I would  keep obsessively adding to it every day. It was a bird’s eye-view of my house and the surrounding neighborhood. It started with just small drawings of my family members in my house but eventually I would go on to add anyone or anything I could think of like the Stinky Cheese Man or Homer Simpson. At some point tragedy struck with a single glass of spilled fruit punch. I started over but it wasn’t the same.

boat

When did you decide to dedicate yourself to art?

In elementary school, I started taking additional art classes outside of school. When I got to high school, I took an art elective every year. It’s what I enjoyed most. Junior year, I won a scholarship to attend a summer arts program at a local university and I think this is when I started to think about attending college as an art major. I also got a lot of encouragement from my teachers so when it came time to apply for college, I applied to only art schools or those with strong art programs with the intention of working professionally as an artist.

Do you remember your first piece of art you were really proud of? The one that made you say yes I am an artist!

Part of me is still striving for this, but more recently I am really proud of this album cover I created for a local musician. At the time, I was experimenting with a lot of cut-paper and paper sculpting. This was my first success in paper sculpting and also one of my last pieces in this technique.

At the time, I was very obsessed with this idea of “style.” I think so much so that I started doing cut-paper as an easy way to manufacture it. Automatically, my artwork would have a sense of cohesion through the materials and technique. It’s funny because I hated making art with cut paper. Somehow my obsession with this idea of how important style was to an artist’s career, completely trumped my enjoyment in the process of making art. Part of why I’m proud of this piece is how much I learned about myself from making it. I might still be doing cut-paper art and hating it, if not for this piece.

It was a feat of paper-engineering. I built a very simple skeleton (a skull, rib cage with spine and a flame) three-dimensionally out of paper. It was very simple to construct but the tricky part was lighting and photographing it. I don’t consider myself a great photographer of even a mediocre one, so by some miracle, one out the many, many photos I took, turned out successful and I dare say, cool. I realized then that I got lucky that this turned out well and decided to do some more self-discovery when it came to the issue of style.

album cover art
I have a lot fewer paper cuts these days

Do you collect anything?

I have always been a collector. More recently, in an attempt thwart one day becoming a hoarder, I have slowed down considerably. I still have a large collection of toys which include a combination of collectible vinyls and childhood keepsakes. I also collect books, more so art books, but occasionally old paperback classics. With my capacity to collect, I also have some other small collections. The first a small collection of unicorn figurines and also a set of souvenir shot glasses from every place I’ve traveled.

unicorn

What research do you do?

If I don’t have a specific idea in mind, I look for fairy tales or folklore and I also try to pull from books I’ve read or movies I’ve seen. I think that’s why I’m constantly reading more than one book at a time in-between visits to the movie theater. Otherwise, Google, Pinterest and the library can’t be beat. I get a lot of inspiration from mythology and superstitions. I love learning about weird occurrence and true crime. Horror comedy is probably my favorite genre, so I’m trying to pull more from those sources of inspiration.

Keats

How do you measure your level of success/achievement?

I don’t think there is ever one apex for any creative career. It’s a constant battle with your own inner demons that have to be slain from project to project. For me the next success is getting to that point where the work clients want from me is the same work I enjoy making in my own time. However, I do think that this work changes and grows with each individual and thus does the challenge and pursuit. Working one goal at a time helps me stave off insanity.

How do you know when you have achieved success?

For me, this depends on the goals I set out for myself. I try to take everything one step at a time. Little successes help keep me motivated. Also looking back at past work helps give me some perspective as to my improvement and that’s all you can ask for in a lifelong journey as an artist.

Another way to look at it is when your work inspires others to emulate what you have done. To be the inspiration for another generation of artists and keep the craft going, that would be a true honor.

Do you ever feel like giving up and doing something else? If so, why and how have you overcome that feeling?

I felt like giving up a few years ago. I think my lowest was after I had gotten laid-off from my publishing job. At that point, I was still struggling to find direction in an artistic career. I knew I didn’t want to keep going on that career path, but alternatives didn’t seem all that better. I still didn’t have enough confidence in my illustration work to completely pursue it either. It was scary feeling directionless and programming and coding seemed in-demand. I tried learning it and considered going to a dev boot camp. Luckily, I followed my gut, which told me that it wasn’t for me. Ever since, I’ve been listening to my gut and I’ve accepted good things don’t come without hard work.

What advice would you have given yourself ten years ago?

Follow your gut and work harder. I wish I got the time back that I spent doubting myself or looking for some kind of answer that it will all pay off. There are no guarantees in life but hard work beats talent every time.

warrior

Do you enjoy collaboration work? What qualities do you look for in collaborators?

I’d love to have a partner who shares the same or similar artist goal, but there needs to be the right kind of balance. I’m really good at coming up with ideas and starting projects, but my follow through is a little on the weak side. The only way I get anything done is having a deadline or some accountability. An ideal collaborator would have a firm grasp of the process and be diligent about staying on task.

What’s your main challenge when beginning a new piece of art?

The hardest part for me in creating any new artwork is managing the difference between reality and expectations. I always have some idea in my head before I start. I also usually imagine that this is going to be my best work-to-date and that getting there will be easy. Of course, this is never really the case. Like I said, I’m great at starting things, but not so great at finishing them so pushing through even when things don’t go as planned can be hard.

What are you working on right now? (Other than this project) What are you currently obsessed with?

A few years ago, I read a children’s book called Wildwood. I loved how it is this modern-day fairy tale mixed with folklore. For my ever-evolving Visual Development portfolio, I started to develop character designs and props. I’m hoping to finish that and hopefully do the same for my own stories. And I also have an idea for this character Taco Cat that I would love to make into some sort of project.

TacoCat

 

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