Arts Creativity Interviews

Q&A with Interdisciplinary artist Diana Pietrzyk

Diana Pietrzyk is an interdisciplinary artist who explores an array of mediums including gifs, painting, illustration, and photography. Most recently, she designed neon signs for Nike’s Air Max Day.

I discovered her amazing work on Giphy where she’s racked up 1 billion GIF views!

How would you explain what you do?

I guess that depends on if you are asking about an individual medium or all. I like to call myself an Interdisciplinary artist because I explore different mediums when it comes to expressing myself. I enjoy GIF making or amateur animation as I call it jokingly. Next to GIFs, I am an Art Director/ Graphic Designer, Illustrator, photographer, sort of a set/prop maker once in a while, and I enjoy painting. When I paint it can be on anything from pots, canvases, to windows for storefronts on Holidays. 🙂

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am just working on my own passion work as time goes. I am also being filmed for a small documentary about female artists which is pretty neat.

How would someone recognize your work?

Most of my work has a neon aesthetic. I’ve been working with this look and feel for about a year and a half now and I think it is sticking pretty decently haha. I mean, I’ll have friends send me stories from other IG accounts using my neon stickers asking “Did you make this?!” Or they will send me other neon works and say it reminds them of me which is cool.

How do you choose what to work on?

I choose to work on whatever my mood is telling me to. I mean unless it is for work. I have experienced ruts where the work was not coming in and I had no creative passion so I just don’t make anything. I don’t like to force my work. It has to come to me.

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘I don’t like to force my work. It has to come to me.’ — Diana Pietrzyk” quote=”‘I don’t like to force my work. It has to come to me.’ — Diana Pietrzyk”]

Where do you get the ideas for your work?

My ideas are based on my imagination. Which is fueled by my own experiences in my life and things I see just living an everyday life. I daydream a lot.

Things I love that fuel my imagination:

  • Astronomy/ Outer space. I’ve always loved looking up at the stars since I was a kid.
  • Lights. Colorful lights (neon, Christmas lights, lite brites, etc).
  • Mexican folk art. I come from a Mexican family so you might see some references here and there to the culture in my work.
  • Flowers. I almost went to college to pursue a career in floral design lol

How long does a piece typically take you?

For the animations, it takes me a few hours depending on how complex it is. I start from scratch and then kind of improvise a lot once the piece gets going. I can spend even more time when it is not just right.

If I am painting something, usually a few hours for a day or two. I paint when I feel like it so I kind of get impatient after a while haha.

What piece of work are you most proud of?

Currently, I am most proud of the work I did with Nike. They had me design 5 neon signs for Air Max Day which was a check off my bucket list for me. I’ve always wanted to have neon signs made based off my designs. Looking into learning to bend neon one of these days. 

This GIF is cool too- it’s part of my new exploration in my work and I felt proud of myself after I created it.

Where did you get your training?

I’ve always been an illustrator my whole life and began learning technicalities in middle school art class. It all kind of started there and in High school, I dove into film photography and took college level Art/photo classes. Following that, I went to Columbia College Chicago to study Art + Design with a double minor in Photography + Creative advertising.

Once I graduated, working at an agency is where I learned a lot more of the things I know now and try to implicate into my work. I taught myself how to make gifs 🙂

Who inspires you or who do you look up to?

I look up to a lot of my creative friends in Chicago. I love everyone’s passion and determination to keep it going.

My mom has always been a superhero- cheesy? Nah. She taught me work ethic and I think to be a successful artist, you need that. My dad always pushed for my creativity as well as my boyfriend who is an artist himself.

Again, being surrounded by creative friends is one of the best things in my life I could say.

Where can people find you next?

Find me all over GIPHY:

You can use my stickers in your Instagram/Snapchat stories. Just search “Ptrzykd”


Bonus questions: Anything goes…

What are you currently listening to?

I’ve been revisiting [easyazon_link identifier=”B003A9OVS0″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Plastic Beach[/easyazon_link] by the Gorillaz. I think it is an underrated album 🙂

Also, Have you seen the new Childish Gambino video? I love him.

What less than $10 item would you recommend/gift to someone else?

A small cactus + a hand painted pot. 🙂

Creativity Interviews Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Realistic career advice from writer/editor Bianca Bass


Bianca Bass is a London-based writer, editor and content strategist. Her popular newsletter includes interviews with entrepreneurs and interesting links related to creativity. She also blogs regularly about her own career musings. In this interview, she talks about creativity, risk-taking, her writing style, and more.

How would you explain what you do?

The short answer is that I write! I write a blog and newsletter about careers, creativity and being human, I lead TripAdvisor’s copywriting team and I consult freelance clients on their content strategies.

I’m incredibly curious about the human condition, especially around the topic of work. So I decided to explore it further through my blog and the response has been overwhelming. I share my stories while leaving enough space for other people to see themselves in my writing, too.

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘There’s so much overly-filtered and contrived career content out there. I wanted to bring freshness and brutal honesty to the subject.’ – BiancaBass” quote=”There’s so much overly-filtered and contrived career content out there. I wanted to bring freshness and brutal honesty to the subject.”]

Because work is often difficult and boring and isolating, career advice isn’t one-size-fits-all and, no matter who we are, we all need reminders that we’re doing ok.

What are you currently working on?

Honestly? Growing my audience. It’s so easy for me to just write, write, write. I have so many ideas. So many topics I want to explore. But any blog or website should have an 80:20 rule. 20% content creation, and 80% promotion. So, above everything, I’m focusing on being my own publicist right now.

How would someone recognize your work?

(Hopefully!) by the no-bullshit tone of voice. Readers have commented how simple my work is and it’s intentional. I want my writing to be accessible to anyone – whether English is your first language or your third. Plus, my friends and family have commented on how much my blog actually sounds like me, which I’ll take as a compliment.

My litmus test when publishing something is: is this exactly how I would articulate this in person, over breakfast, on the phone? In fact, that’s my number one piece of advice to anyone who writes: write how you speak. You have a voice. Use it.

How do you choose your core work and side projects?

My core work is circumstantial. I do my day job for the same reason we all do: money. However, I’m grateful to work for a forward-thinking, global company. I’ve learnt so much. I became a manager of a team when I was just 23, and it was the biggest and most positive learning curve of my life to date. I was intimidated to manage a group of people who were all older than me. I was totally out of my comfort zone.

And that’s how I’ve chosen my core work and side projects ever since. If it makes me feel uncomfortable, I know I’m doing it right.

“If it feels scary to hit publish, that’s when I know I must. If it’s a project I feel is out of my comfort zone, I always say YES.” – @BiancaBass

What is the piece of work you are most proud?

I’m continually proud of my newsletter and the audience I’ve grown in just a few months. I love the format: blog posts, design-led visuals, recommended links and a candid interview with someone I admire. It’s something I would love to receive myself. Again, I think that’s an important question to ask yourself when creating: is this something I would love myself?

Where do you get the ideas for your work?

Often from the most unexpected places! It can be an unassuming conversation with a co-worker, or catching up with a friend and hearing their latest dilemma. I listen to situations, identify the core feeling or fear and then write about it. But mostly it’s from my own experiences. In many ways, my day job is my muse.

However, on uneventful weeks or at times when I’m feeling deflated, I take myself to a book store, select a variety of things at random and browse the content pages. There’s always a topic or even a word that triggers a thought, and that eventually becomes a blog post.

How would you define creativity?

I think everyone’s definition of creativity is deeply personal. To me, it’s freedom of expression. It’s producing something without money at the forefront of my mind. It’s the thing that keeps me sane. It keeps me balanced. It brings me a little closer to myself each day. It’s not doing it because I feel I should, but because I have to.

Who inspires you or who do you look up to?

So many people! I’m constantly looking for new people to follow and discover. Seth Godin, Elizabeth Gilbert, Nora Ephron, Alexandra Franzen, Emma Gannon, Laura Jane Williams, James Altucher, Jon Westenberg, Jamie Varon. The list goes on.

Where can people find you next?

I love connecting with people via Twitter, my blog or my newsletter. Or, preferably, all three!

Favorite tune at the moment?

I’m a huge Frank Ocean fan and I adore his new album, Blond. I can’t stop playing “Ivy” right now.

You can learn more about Bianca’s work on her blog and in her newsletter. Follow Bianca on Twitter and Instagram.

Arts Creativity Interviews

Interview with Artist Christina Angelina (aka Starfighter)

Interview with Artist Christina Angelina (aka Starfighter)

Christina Angelina is an internationally renowned artist who spray paints murals. We spoke while she was putting the finishing touches on a project in Aspen, Colorado.

How would you explain what you do?

I do large-scale figurative murals, or public art.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a mural in Aspen, Colorado. I’ve been wanting do a public art piece in Aspen for a while. Aspen has always had an outsider element. Hunter S. Thompson lived here and nearly became Sheriff! A lot of people in Aspen are open to trying new things.

How would someone recognize your work?

I rarely sign anything of mine because I have an aversion to advertising myself.

A signature takes away from the painting. I don’t want to jeopardize the piece in any way. You don’t always need to put a stamp on your art.

People who recognize my work already share it on social media anyway.

How do you choose your locations?

I drive around to remote places like the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. I select places where my pieces can mesh and age with the environment. Once I find a spot I like, I’ll figure out who owns it and get their permission to paint.

I prefer to work on large outdoor walls. The bigger, the better. Cinderblock is my preferred texture but brick works too although it can be a bit too sandy.

While some of my work is commissioned, most of it self-funded. The lift itself can cost $2k, the paint up to $2,500.

Where do you get the ideas for your work?

I don’t spend a lot of time preparing. I concept on site. After I get get to a place, I feel it out. I create something that comes to me when I’m there.

What about the people in your murals?

The people in my pieces come from my imagination or from people on site. I’ll meet someone interesting at my destination and photograph them.  However, I don’t paint entire bodies. I focus on the figurative stuff like faces and hands. The position of the object depends on the orientation of the wall. Most pieces get cut off by the brick.

How long does a piece typically take you? 

One to three days depending on the size of the mural. I prepare the surface with primer first. Then I start painting at 8 AM and end at sunset. The one in Reno took me three days since it was 85 feet tall and 40 feet wide.

‌I’ve been working on more pieces than ever this year. I’ve learned some techniques that help me work faster and smarter. I match my colors to paint sprayers beforehand which expedites the process. I also let the paint drip with water. But most of my efficiency comes from knowing which colors will work for highlights and shadows.

Where did you get your training?

I developed my skills over time. I grew up in Venice, CA and started drawing and painting as far back as I remember. But I started experimenting in my teens. I went to art centers in high school, taking photography classes, finger drawing, and film. I studied printmaking at UCLA. I’m classically trained in oil painting and photography.

What is the piece of work you are most proud?

The piece I’m most proud of is the Kinetoscope, a tank in Slab City, Utah. It’s a post-apocalyptic area inhabited by squatters. I really wanted to paint something special there that aged with the City but also didn’t interrupt the peace.

I really connected with the space. The people that see it seem to feel the magic as well.

Interview with Artist Christina Angelina (aka Starfighter)
Courtesy of FNA photo

Who inspires you or who do you look up to?

My muses are the people that I care about the most:  my friends and family. My work is also inspired by the people I meet at my mural destinations.

Of course, other street artists inspire me too. We all encourage each other.

Where can people find you next?

I’ll be attending Burning Man for my 14th consecutive year. I also have a few art shows coming up in Los Angeles so be sure to check them out.

You can find out more about Christina’s work online here:

Business Creativity Interviews

Tips for starting a business overseas from entrepreneur Vinay Raval


Vinay Raval is an entrepreneur and world traveler currently based out of Cusco, Peru. He’s also a close friend, my former basketball coach, and simply one of the happiest and honest people I know.

Let’s flip it over to Vinay…

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Vinay Raval. I lead authentic cultural experiences for travelers in Cusco, Peru.

What are you currently working on?

I run a company called Faces of Cusco that specializes in offering a local experience to tourists. Our primary focus is on reinventing the experience of visiting the San Pedro Market. This market specializes in Andean products and features diverse produce, art, and services from Peru. The goal is to educate travelers and to foster genuine interaction with local vendors. I’m also setting up a small store to sell hot chocolate from locally grown cacao in Cusco’s main plaza. Localism begins with good food and good people.


Where do you like to work?

I do my best work in coffee shops where I can connect with my team to establish the day’s top three priorities as well as brainstorm new business ideas. No one is allowed to use technology during our meetings. This allows us to more easily focus on the vision. Coffee houses are the original social networks, anyway, so we’re doing all the communicating we need to do face to face.

I also like to work on the go. I enjoy walking meetings where we search the town for inspiration. On a recent retreat to Lima, we often walked along the Pacific Ocean to kick the brain into gear, to relieve stress, and to encourage spontaneity. We’ll often stumble upon locals on our walk and bring them into the conversation.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself in Peru thus far?

I’ve learned to embrace uniqueness. They call me “El Indu” here as I’m one of a handful of Indians in the town. Everybody here remembers my face and I’ll attract attention whether I invite it or not. For a business, this is incredible.

“Embrace whatever makes you unique.”

What motivates you?

Waking up and having no idea what I’m about to get in to. Most folks back in the USA place huge pressure on themselves to plan out their day because things are already established. In Peru, there’s opportunity wherever you look because there’s huge demand for everything but no supply for it. It’s my job to fill that void for both the locals and the tourists coming in. Also, our new concept of genuine and local experiences opens minds and helps local vendors better connect with travelers.

What was your earliest ambition?

A basketball player but I wasn’t committed enough. I’ve always enjoyed creating new ideas and finding original solutions. I took the Myers-Briggs test once and it outlined my future: ENTP or inventor. This was spot-on and really helped me pursue my passion.

What’s one work hack you use that others may find helpful?

Involve people from outside your team. Crowdsource from the locals. You get your best info from people on the ground, the street vendors for instance, because they’re the ones in the loop. They catch patterns that the rest of us don’t see, are the first to know about new competition, and really understand how to sell.

“No one is more informed than someone working in the streets all day; they know the ins and outs.”

Best word of advice for other entrepreneurs?

Create and keep moving, so you don’t get bored of people and places. Stagnancy is the worst enemy for all inventors.

You can learn more about Vinay and his team on the company blog. Keep in touch with Faces of Cusco on Twitter and Instagram.