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. 🙂

Books Sports Video

Why great athletes enjoy suffering pain

Author Malcolm Gladwell sits down with Alex Hutchison, author of the new book [easyazon_link identifier=”0062499866″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance[/easyazon_link] to discuss how great athletes come to enjoy suffering pain.

Says Hutchison, “Great athletes don’t necessarily feel pain differently. They reframe pain differently.” Hutchison calls the suffering a type of benign masochism.

[clickToTweet tweet=”“Some day we’ll be able to identify that some people are wired to enjoy pain.”” quote=”“Some day we’ll be able to identify that some people are wired to enjoy pain.””]

Being uncomfortable is a ‘psychological coping mechanism’

The best performers also suffer more in training, says Hutchison. This reminded me of Michael Jordan who once said that he practiced so hard that the games were often easier. As the Marines like to say: ‘pain is weakness leaving the body.’

How much are you willing to suffer to be the greatest?

#sports #boxing #ali #muhammadali
via giphy
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.


Fran Lebowitz on Facebook, TV, and Trump 

Author and acclaimed New Yorker Fran Lebowitz can’t sleep, can’t write, can’t stand watching television, nor does she like social media, yet she’s still on top of them all or at least, well-informed in her sardonic complaints about them. Below are some highlights from her interview with W Magazine

On sleeping and watching television

Zero. I never sleep, I probably haven’t slept since you were born — I don’t know how old you are, but you’re not so old that I could have slept since you were born. So, years ago, I decided reading in bed is too stimulating. Watch TV. It’s boring. You’ll fall asleep.

On listening to music

Questlove did an album of it that he gave to me, and I’ve listened to that. I will say this: It’s not that I don’t like music, I just never think to listen to it. I am an endless seeker of silence.

On a potential Trump presidency

Everyone I know is very worried about it. I am very worried, but not about that, and no one would accuse me of being a cockeyed optimist. And I know there are a lot of morons in this country, I just don’t think there are enough.

On Facebook

I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a Facebook page — it really sounds an awful lot like the junior high school you never get out of. It sounds awful to me. And of course there are at any given time millions of people in junior high school, so it’s bad enough they have to be in junior high school before this even existed.

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:


Milton Glaser on his iconic “I ♥️ NY” logo, the joy of working, and on the future of the Big Apple

New York City was suffering from a negative image in the mid to late 1970s due to rampant crime and violence. The NYPD even created a “Welcome to Fear City” campaign to scare off tourists.

In 1977, New York state hired Milton Glaser to create a design to promote NYC tourism. Glaser drew the iconic “I ♥️ New York” logo on a napkin in the back of a taxi cab. Today, that original napkin can be seen at MOMA, and the logo generates more than $1 million a year in licensing fees for the state.

In this New York Times piece, Glaser talks about the logo, his work, and his love for modern New York, despite its insane wealth gap.

On his craft…

“I do it because it is so pleasurable for me. I derive this deep, deep satisfaction that nothing else, including sex, has ever given me. It’s the reason I’m here, is to do the work. And I’m so happy that I can still do it well.”

…when NYC was affordable:

“I had a friend who had an apartment for $7 a month. Of course, he had no heat. But everybody was there. It was so active and so lively and so transgressive. Everybody felt they were a part of something special, and they were.”

Moreover, his never-ending love for NYC

“I never separated the city from myself. I think I am the city. I am what the city is. This is my city, my life, my vision.”

However, nothing in New York ever stays the same. It is in a perpetual state of change. If he had to redraw the logo today in a city of $50 million apartments, it would translate into more fairness.

“Everything’s a transitional period. There’s no such thing as a nontransitional period. I certainly wonder what’s next. Because one thing you know is it can’t go on this way.”


‘It’s not death that I fear’

“It’s not death that I fear, it’s being comfortable in a cloud where nothing ever happens.”

Flying Lotus


Fashion is just a fresh combination of elements that we all connect with.

Rick Owens
Arts Creativity Culture

An interview with Manuel Zavaleta (aka StyleEngineers)

Manuel Zavaleta is a multi-talented artist based out of Queens, New York. He’s also an incredible colleague and good friend. We recently grabbed some lunch at a burger joint near his studio. Take it away Manny… Who are you and what do you do? My name...

Manuel Zavaleta is a multi-talented artist based out of Queens, New York. He’s also an incredible colleague and good friend. We recently grabbed some lunch at a burger joint near his studio.

Take it away Manny…

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Manuel Zavaleta. I’m a former graffiti artist and video producer turned graphic designer, photographer, and now entrepreneur. Art is my creative release.

What are you currently working on?

I operate a photography studio in Queens called Style Engineers. I shoot there personally but am more focused lately on leasing the space out to photographers. Both Van Styles and Tracy Morris recently used my studio for some of their work. I enjoy offering other photographers a concierge service, making sure they have all the right equipment, wardrobe, and amenities needed to have a seamless shoot.

Some day I’d like to open up my studio to young art students and give them a few lessons on the basics of photography like Cooper Union did for me growing up. Having a “physical space” to play is important; it inspires creativity.

Where do you like to work?

I work best in a studio environment or out in nature. I prefer to be on the move rather than sit still in a chair. So getting out to the studio where there’s natural light and a good space allows me to get into the flow and rhythm like I used to do with graffiti.

Any there any similarities/differences between graffiti and photography?


“The craft of photography reminds me of graffiti.”

Once you spray something, it’s permanent. The aerosol is not tangible. The same thing happens when you click the camera, the photo is done. Both mediums are light, air and time. The art is really in your eye and movement. My friends say I look so happy in the process. You can go in with a concept in your head but you really can’t plan for the end product. But I don’t do graffiti any more.

What motivates you?

I think every artist want to be remembered like Rembrandt. But artists need to live to so that’s why I rent out the studio. The studio business is my entrepreneurial side. That friction between art and commerce is essential. The hardest part is the marketing and advertising.

What was your earliest ambition?

I always wanted to make album covers. Growing up in the 90s hip-hop era will do that to you.

Who’s your inspiration?

“Entrepreneurs are my gangsters.”

But not in the bad sort of way. You can do renegade art with class as Marc Ecko and Benjamin White both show. The entrepreneurial bug also runs through my family, especially my mother. In fact, her passing was the reason I got into photography. I needed an emotional release and now photography presents new opportunities.

You can find out more about Manuel’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.