Q & A with Artist Isa Beniston

Welcome to the fantastic world of Isa Beniston. An artist, educator, and creative with her own perspective on what is precious. Her palette is punchy, and so are the characters she portrays in her magical world, via visual treats through dynamic mixed media. Join us for a walk through Beniston's daily environment and fountain of inspiration.

Alexis: Where are you from? What's it's impact on your work?

Isa: I'm from a city in north county San Diego called Solana beach! To be honest, I’m not sure the city impacted my work directly, though it is full of public art, some of which is my Mom’s work, and my high school was an arts magnet public school. I've lived in LA for 10 years now, and feel more of a connection artistically with this city, its murals, architecture, people, and nonstop commerce keep me sufficiently overwhelmed, energized, and inspired.

What do you collect?

Too many things! Sad animal figurines, dollar store knick-knacks, quarter machine treats, paper bags from stores I’ve visited, paintings of women and animals, work by my friends and artists I admire, weird bath towels, throw pillows, sweaters, and fancy vintage shoes I end up staring at because even though we’re the car capital, you still have to walk from wherever you parked.

What do you enjoy most and least about being a full time artist?

There is a constant sense of possibility, about how I could choose to spend tomorrow, or in the next year or two or ten. The worst thing was realizing how much time each day needed to be spent just managing my own schedule. I was under the false impression, when I quit my day jobs in 2015, that I would just be in the studio all day being creative and making things. The reality is, without a constant stream of outside support, like a renaissance-style patron, you’ll need to stay alert to opportunities, think actively about possible sources of income, remind people you exist, and/or maybe run an online store with your work. A full time job in itself!

What would your dream project be?

I wish somebody would pay me to paint and decorate a small hotel, floor to ceiling, with an unlimited budget. It’s but a meager request.

You have such a unique take on your retail space, the way you present your drawings with different mediums, and their versatility. How did you come up with this original format? 

Thank you, I've always been an avid drawer, and I love making my mark on everything around me. To me, there’s something satisfying about taking the most mundane item, or space and changing it in a way that delights me, and hopefully others, as well. Airbrushing was a natural medium for me because of its ability to cover a variety of surfaces while retaining the simple pleasure of the drawn line. Luckily, my mom has worked as a ceramicist, and now a fiber artist, which allowed me to explore those medias as well. My inclination to cover everything with color/pattern/drawings means I’m always trying new formats in search of the best possible application. I like to think of gentle thrills as a conceptual space for me to combine all of my preferred media and ideas together to create a fresh digital and real life environment when possible.

There is so much life in your work, encompassing the essence of pop culture and pop art. Your punchy palette and all of the personality in each character really make your creations feel like they are coming to life. What inspires your style of art most? 

It’s tough to pick just one thing. I’d refer you back to the list of things I collect. As a whole, they represent the spirit of creators who came before me, or who are currently out on the edges, making seemingly random decisions about color and subject matter that find their way into my world. Stuff, in the truest sense of the word, makes me think about how and why anything, art or otherwise, ends up being made and then, in some cases, being kept around long enough to end up in my hands. Elements of fate vs. choice, maybe? With a dash of absurdity? I love seeing what other people make.

How has the shelter in place changed the way that you are doing projects now?

I've slowed way, way down. In a lot of ways, this was positive since I probably wouldn’t have allowed myself such a relaxed pace in normal life. I have more time now to work in a daily journal/sketchbook. I've been forced to be more deliberate about which products I ultimately put into production, incoming funds are less certain, and customers needs and interests have understandably shifted. Serendipitously, these were two of my goals for 2020, so that’s not so bad. But I am curious about how quickly these habits might deteriorate when I can get back into the studio more than once a week. I hope I can manage to keep them up.

What are you currently obsessed with in this moment, it can be a song, a style, a place, anything really!

Since April, I've been working on drawing tarot cards, and it’s been totally consuming. A friend did a clarity spread for me at the beginning of quarantine, and I found it grounding. I've always been inspired by the artwork of the more traditional medieval decks, but I had no idea just how loaded the imagery was. I love symbolism and intention in art. I really do try to avoid making anything meaningless or vapid. When I sit down to draw, and paint each card, it’s a meditation for me and a chance to reflect. The cards are also VERY loud in their meanings. More than a few times, there have been odd “coincidences” about which cards I end up drawing or which ones go missing, etc. So that’s a source of minor excitement and drama in my otherwise banal quarantine!

To become immersed in her world, find her here @gentlethrills

You can shop her Beklina Crochet Flats here.