On dream jobs and unexpected paths: Chloe Turner

Chloe Turner graduated from Norwich University of the Arts in 2020 with a first-class BA Hons in Graphic Communication. Finalizing her third year of university online due to the global pandemic was a challenge but she is so pleased with her perseverance and hard work.  

In her spare time, Chloe enjoys fine art and spends many weekends creating watercolors of animals in her garden with her two black and tan sausage dogs. Alongside this, she loves to go to craft fairs and sell prints of her work trading under the name @creativechloee.  

In September 2020 Chloe was given the opportunity to work freelance for an online sustainable pharmacy, e-Surgery, on a company re-brand. Chloe was then offered an internship for 6 weeks within the company as a digital marketing junior. Although not the dream job she had in mind, she is so pleased with the opportunity and chose to stay in the position after the internship had finished due to her love of the small company culture and excitement for new opportunities.  

With a continual passion for design and ever-growing technology, Chloe is currently working alongside colleagues at e-Surgery to learn more about UX/UI design and website development. Furthermore, she is in the process of completing her level 6 diploma in digital marketing and healthcare assistant course enabling her to be a trained medicines dispenser in the pharmacy during busy times.  

This career path was not what Chloe had anticipated but she is thoroughly enjoying the constant support she has to learn new skills and put her current ones to practice through leaflet design, social media campaigns, advertisements, and company presentations.  

O: When did you begin creating art? 

Chloe Turner: It’s so cliche to say since I was little but I have always had an interest and passion in art and design. I remember in primary school coloring in a ‘dream job’ profile as an artist, the only one in the class! In terms of making art into a full-time hobby and job, it was when I finished 6th form that I truly started to invest time in creating art for other people, sharing my work, and getting commissions. 

O: Is there an artist that you look up to, whether it be someone who motivated you to begin drawing or someone whose work inspires you today? 

C: My family has always been so supportive of my artwork, specifically my Granddad, who although isn’t an artist, creates OO gauge model railway buildings which are so intricate and beautiful. He encouraged me to endeavor in an education related to the arts and I am so glad that he did! For artistic inspiration, I adore Polina Bright, who is an Australian watercolor artist that creates stunning portraits of animals, flowers, and people. She combines vibrant colors with gold leaf to create amazing outcomes that to this day amaze me! (@polina.bright) 

O: If you had to describe your work in three words, what would they be and why? 

C: I thought about this question long and hard but I still do not have an answer! I hope that my work speaks for itself and to each person individually in a positive way. 

O: What is your favorite part of the creative process? 

C: When creating fine art, my favorite part of the creative process is adding the finishing touches with a white Posca pen and biro. I also occasionally enjoy adding in splashes and runs of paint on top of the final piece, it is always fun to make a bit of a mess! For design, the best part of the process is the research and mind-mapping stage where you are really putting your mind to work coming up with concepts and ideas. 

O: How has the pandemic changed your workflow? 

C: The pandemic luckily landed me a job at an online pharmacy as a digital content creator after graduation, so I have been super busy! Unfortunately, due to working full time in the week, my painting time has been minimized to weekends and evenings, if I can fit it in around life admin. It makes me sad to say I am not painting as much as I want to lately but once I have found my work-life balance I will definitely be painting more frequently again. My hope is that as the weather is getting better and covid restrictions are lifting,  I can get back to craft fairs and start sharing my work with other people again.  

O: How was it to graduate amidst the pandemic?

C: Graduating during the pandemic was truly not ideal! As a graphic communications student (or any art student) one of the things you look forward to most is your degree show that presents your hard work across your time at university to friends, family, and potential businesses. Without a degree show, I felt really disappointed not being able to share my work with others and also see what everyone else had been up to. Furthermore, I am yet to have a graduation ceremony, which after all, is a big contributor to why you go to university in the first place. Everyone wants that photo of them in cap and gown on the mantelpiece! 

O: Could you tell us about how you prepared the climate change poster that won you a Silver Creative Conscience Award?

C: The climate change poster was a result of the brief ‘turn of phrase’, which asked us to create a response to a common phrase we chose. The phrase I chose was ‘tip of the iceberg’ and my idea for the poster was such a big risk to have taken in my final year at university! Firstly, I didn’t know if it was going to work and secondly the project was eight weeks long, which is a long time to spend on designing a single poster. A Lot of my friends were making animations or fully realized branding concepts from the brief but I had taken a plunge into learning a new skill and hoping it paid off. I spent weeks making sure the typography on the poster was seamless and towards the end of the project I bought the thermochromatic ink that reacts with heat and learned how to screenprint with the help of amazing NUA technicians. The process was very long and stressful, especially when I had to block print the ink across my typography covering it completely. When it was finished and I finally turned my hairdryer on to test the outcome I couldn’t believe I had actually done it! (which is just as well really because I did not have a backup plan). This brief was then submitted into CC awards because it fits really well with the briefs they released and I can’t believe it won Silver. I even was invited to one of their webinars to talk through the project with people who are inspiring change-makers. 

O: What was your experience with working for e-Surgery? What kind of work do you do for them?

C: Working for e-Surgery was a bit of a shock to the system. I had only ever been working on a concept design for branding at university and all of a sudden the pressure of the outcome of my project going live made me a little anxious. Luckily the CEOs of the company are really tech-savvy and helped me create the appropriate formats for each part of the branding to enable success. Moving away from the branding I did for them I was offered a job within the team in digital marketing, which I had zero to no knowledge of at the time! Despite this being a completely new skill I had to learn straight from university it was exciting since the company is a start-up. I really felt I was making a difference. Day-to-day jobs involve marketing tasks such as fixing 404 errors on the site, looking for appropriate backlinks, and formatting blog articles. I also work on social media scheduling and from time to time dispense in the pharmacy as I am undergoing health care assistant training to support them when it is super busy. My most recent project at work is a UX/UI project involving a completely new re-design of the website and new design for a B2B project, it is very hectic but I am enjoying working with other designers and developers worldwide on zoom!   

O: Most of your work is in watercolor. How was it working with animation and kinetic-type art for Fresh Cabs?

C: The ‘Fresh Cabs’ project is the first project I have done that allowed me to combine both design and my artistic flair. I really enjoyed creating watercolor patterns to incorporate into my project and learning new skills of animation was fun too! The Fresh Cabs project is one of my favorites in my portfolio as I feel it represents a lot of my personality and intertwines all of my favorite things, Fresh Prince, watercolor, bold typography, and bright colors. Kinetic-type is something I hope to explore more of in the future as it fascinates me how engaging it can be especially in combination with a voice-over.   

O: What’s the story behind the Fresh Prince Jackets?

C: I love this question! I’m a massive supporter of second-hand shopping and upcycling clothes. I often go to vintage pre-loved kilos and come home with masses of crazy shirts and bizarre jackets. Unfortunately, I’m not that great at sewing but personalizing denim with paint is something I’ve always wanted to try. One of my close friends who studies at Leicester (hi Gracie if you are reading this) came home over the holidays and we decided to take the plunge and give it a go. Obviously, Fresh Prince was my chosen design but me and Grace actually hand-painted a far more intricate design of the ocean on her jacket that turned out super cool. 

O: Among all the pet portraits you’ve ever painted, which one remains close to your heart? Why?

C: I adore painting people’s pets, and when I’m contacted because someone’s pet has passed and they would like a portrait I am touched. Every pet portrait is so important for me to get perfect because I know how special pets are (as an owner of two sausage dogs) and getting that right is essential! With every portrait, I can see my skills improving and that is so exciting to me. I have to say that my favorite so far is a painting I did at Christmas for a family friend of their dog. The dog was not only brown and white, which is very difficult to paint but also curly-haired, so it was a challenge. I was nervous to tackle it but I loved the outcome and so did the client. 

O: What was your experience with fundraising for Banham Zoo with your art?

C: As a watercolor animal artist in the middle of a degree trapped at home, like many people during the pandemic, I felt very helpless seeing lots of local businesses around me struggling to stay afloat. Banham Zoo is the local zoo that I have been going to since I was young and still go to often for inspiration for my paintings. Having them not being supported by the government and hearing about their struggle was heart-breaking, so I wanted to help. I contacted the zoo with my idea of a fundraising competition to win an original painting I created of their beloved tiger Sveta and of course, they were happy for me to do so! To this day I still can’t believe the support my fundraiser competition got, I managed to raise £1,500 for the zoo and a lucky winner was given the painting and free day passes into the zoo alongside an afternoon tea that they kindly added to my prize-giving people more of an incentive to donate and support the cause. 

O: If you could give new artists some advice from what you’ve learned, what would it be?

C: Don’t compare yourself to others! It is so important when you are starting out to be inspired by other artists and seek tutorials or guidance but try not to get bogged down by your work quality in comparison to others. Adding pressure to yourself can make it seem pointless to even start a piece of art but practice really does make perfect. As I have already mentioned, with each painting I can see my skills develop but I know I still have lots to learn. It is also worth mentioning that you need to ensure you love making art and don’t just love making money because the hard truth is, it takes a while to get your foot in the door. You may even be investing more money into it than you are getting out of it to start with. It is important to love art and what you are doing for the joy it brings you and anything extra is an added bonus. If I didn’t get the odd commission or go to craft fairs and sell a few prints I would still paint and have a personal collection because art is escapism for me and you can’t put a price on that! 

O: Do you have any upcoming projects that we should look out for? 

C: Unfortunately, I am currently not working on anything super exciting although I am trying to sort my Etsy shop out and give it a bit of a revamp (@creativechloeart). I will also be sorting stock and getting myself to a few craft fairs as previously mentioned, so keep an eye out you might see me, and if you do pop over, say hello!

A huge shoutout to Chloe for sitting down to do this interview with us! It was so fun to hear about her creative journey and how you never know where you’re going to end up. We are so excited to see what other adventures and surprises Chloe has up her sleeve next! Stay up-to-date on all things Chloe by checking out her portfolio (chloeturner.myportfolio.com/) and Instagram (@creativechloee).

Breaking Boundaries with Alma Grace

Mexican-American artist & activist Alma Grace released her debut EP ‘FRIDA’ on May 5th. The 4-song EP includes Grace’s recent singles, “Girl Fight” and “Aventura,” as well as two brand new tracks, “Relámpago” and “Aztlán.” As the name suggests, the EP pays homage to Frida Kahlo. Grace has always felt drawn to Kahlo and the way in which she redefined beauty standards and broke down the boundaries placed on gender, race, and sexuality. The EP explores the ways in which Kahlo’s legacy has helped shape Grace, a second-generation Mexican immigrant, into the woman and artist she is today. 

Throughout the EP, Grace pays homage to her bicultural upbringing by weaving English and Spanish lyricism with traditional Latin sounds and modern pop melodies. Her narrative-driven lyricism is enchanting; each song delivers dual stories that tie back to both Kahlo and Grace’s lives. “Aventura” is an ode to adventure and affairs, something that Grace has always admired in Kahlo’s rich life. “Girl Fight” is a queer, feminist anthem that was inspired by Grace’s favorite Kahlo story: after her husband, Diego Rivera cheated on her, she had an affair with the same woman. “Aztlan” is about the mythical homeland of the Aztec people and pays homage to both Grace and Kahlo’s ancestors. Lastly, “Relámpago” is all about coping with pain — the physical pain Kahlo suffered due to her near-fatal bus accident and the emotional trauma Grace dealt with after being sexually assaulted.

O: How did you get your start in music? 

Alma Grace: I started off doing musical theater at a very young age after seeing my god sister perform on Broadway. I always knew I wanted to be a performer and at the age of 16, I started writing my own songs. I was actually on the subway when I met Clive Davis professor Nisha Asnani who offered to mentor me. I haven’t stopped writing since then!

O: Is there an artist that you look up to, whether it be someone who motivated you to begin your music career or someone whose work inspires you today? 

A: I really look up to Ashe. Her songwriting is so honest and I can only hope that my songs have an ounce of the truth that she brings to the table. 

O: If you had to describe your work in three words, what would they be and why? 

A: Lyrical, empowering, and personal. I’ve been writing from a very early age and draw a lot of my inspiration from works of poetry and fiction, so my songs are very lyrical and narrative-based. I aim to create songs that have meaning beyond my own life, and that serve to empower others—it’s about making my fans feel seen. I consider myself a songwriter first, and all of my songs come from personal experience—I journal every day and get a lot of inspiration from everyday phrases, events, and observations. 

O: What is your favorite part of the creative process? 

A: I love the feeling of being drawn to my piano. Whether it’s because I’ve had a particularly tough day or just an exciting idea, the work I create when I “need” to write is always exciting and meaningful. My favorite part of the process is in that brain dump, that release of writing by myself.

O: Do you remember the first song you wrote? 

A: I actually do! When I was about 7 or 8 years old I really wanted a phone so I wrote in my diary the lyrics to a song called “Where The Heck Is My Phone” — I found the diary years later and I can still remember how the melody went too! 

O: If you only had one sentence to pitch “FRIDA,” what would it be? 

A: The EP pays homage to Frida Kahlo, an artist who shaped my identity, while also telling my own coming of age story as a musician and person.

O: Your work focuses a lot on beauty standards and the boxes of gender, race, and sexuality. Why do you think it’s so important to break from the status quo? 

A: Representation is important and it’s vital to tell stories that don’t just traditionally fit the mainstream pop narrative. I’m telling the story of my own life, and I happen to come from a very mixed, multicultural background. If I can help others feel seen and heard by telling my own story, it will all be worth it. If my music can encourage people through hard times or help them celebrate the accomplishments and love in their lives, that’s all I can ever ask for. 

O: How much has your identity as a second-gen immigrant influenced your work? 

A: I think that my identity as a second-generation immigrant has played a large role in my sound. My whole Mexican-American family is very musically talented — my uncles always played boleros on the guitar at family gatherings and have even written their own traditional canciones. I grew up speaking Spanish and English and my lyrical vernacular is very influenced by that bilingual identity. I love mixing languages in my music. I also include traditional Latin sonic elements in the production of my songs, from the guitars to the trunk-rattling 808s. Since I grew up primarily in the US, I also draw heavily on the indie-pop genre and the American influences I grew up listening to.

O: You constantly immerse your wonderful energy into creating music that helps other people know that they aren’t alone in the challenges they face. Do you have any advice for new artists who are earlier in their creative careers about persevering through hardship? 

A: I’d say my best advice is to lean on the people around you. Even just receiving texts from my best friends’ families who listen to my music has encouraged me and helped me persevere—it takes a village and you shouldn’t have to go through this journey alone.

O: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced on your creative journey?

A: Probably balancing school with furthering my music career. I’m currently a student at Yale and it can be hard to manage classes with performances, releases, and being consistent with my songwriting. But, ultimately, I feel as if my academic journey has added so much to my art, and I know that I wouldn’t be the musician I am today without that educational background. 

O: What are you most looking forward to after the release of your debut EP? 

A: I’m looking forward to everyone listening to it! It makes me so happy when people send me messages about how the EP has made them feel and which tracks they enjoy the most. I’m also excited to put out the music videos that I’ll be filming this summer! 

O: Do you have any upcoming projects that we should look out for? 

A: Yes! I have a fun college breakup song that should be coming out in the next few months. It was a collaboration with an incredible producer, Ronnie DiSimone, and I’m so happy with how it’s turned out.

Thank you so much to Alma for sharing her heart with THE LAB! ❤ If you want to keep up on all things Alma, check out her website and social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). You can listen to her tunes on Spotify.

Exploring the Magical Symbolism in Art and Daily Life: Trinity Lester

Trinity Lester is an artist and curator based in Brooklyn, New York who recently graduated with a BA from Columbia University in Art History and Visual Arts. Her practice focuses largely on exploring the magical symbolism that is embedded in every aspect of daily life through colorful interactions of pigments and layered drawing. Each painting and print works to immerse the audience into her visualizations of certain feelings, parts of her personal history, and sensory experiences. Most recently, she has been working through the mediums of watercolor painting, color pencil, and soft sculpture.

O: When did you begin creating art? 

Trinity Lester: A common answer, I’m sure, but I have truly been creating art since before I can remember. I was really into making things as a kid and have always been obsessed with colors. The first real artistic project that I worked on was probably my AP portfolio in high school. 

O: Is there an artist that you look up to, whether it be someone who motivated you to begin drawing or someone whose work inspires you today? 

T: My first love was art history, so a large part of my practice is inspired by my favorite artists who I have found throughout my time creating. That is to say, the ones who most directly influence my work are probably Hilma af Klint, Agnes Martin, and Louise Bourgeois: the first artists I really committed to thinking about when I wrote my thesis [Navigating the Sublime, the Spiritual, and the Self: A Reconsideration of the Grid through the work of Agnes Martin, Hilma af Klint, and Louise Bourgeois]. Beyond them, there are always a collection of artists floating around in the back of my mind and I think my work is usually in conversation with whatever I have seen in person or online recently. 

Outside of art history, however, I think some of my favorite artists (and those who inspired me to start and keep drawing) have been animators. Whenever I am in need of inspiration I go to animation to help me find my way back to world-building. Recently, I have been revisiting Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises and Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Nobody creates magic quite like those two studios :-).

O: If you had to describe your work in three words, what would they be and why? 

T: Vibrant, because I try my best to make the colors deep and pure.

Coded, because a lot of secret messages are hidden in the details and only able to be seen in person (song lyrics, astrological placements, journaling, names, etc.).

Whimsical, because I love this word and I have so much fun making art, and I always want my art to feel as fun and emotional as it was to make it.

O: What is your favorite part of the creative process? 

T: The part after I’ve decided that I actually don’t hate the work and can’t wait for it to be finished. OR the part where I finally finish and realize how grateful I am to be able to use art as a way to express myself. However, most of the creative process is usually sitting and staring, just waiting for a color or detail to come to me.

O: How has the pandemic changed your workflow? 

T: The pandemic turned my art practice in a bunch of different directions. I started out as a student and a printmaker primarily, with full access to the print shop. Now, I am in a studio (finally :-)) but primarily working in painting and sculpture. I think out of necessity the pandemic has made me try a little bit of everything and, overall, I am grateful that I’ve always found a way to continue making things.

O: Your work is vibrant, colorful, and bursting with detail. Where does your inspiration come from? 

T: So many places! A lot of the details in my work come from feelings, people, words, shapes and the colors that I associate with them. I always start with a baseline of drawing and then build up the detail from there. I am constantly trying to complicate the space by adding layers and new additions in text or doodles. The deeper that the work gets the more I enjoy it and enjoy looking at it because every detail is personal.

I appreciate when people try to take the time to decode my work, or question why certain things end up the way that they do and I am always so happy to talk about it. There are a large collection of symbols that I have adopted (from astrology, tarot, and my daily life) but there are also many that I have invented from constantly working on the code of my work.

O: What is your favorite piece of work so far and why is it your favorite?

T: My favorite piece of work right now is my fabric dolls that link together to form a mutable spine. I love their organic shape and their soft comforting material. Each pink fabric spine is stuffed with fluff and various herbs that are historically associated with alleviating back pain. The only way to know however is when they hit the light or if you smell them (and they smell really nice <3). Right now, there are 8 hanging in the studio but I have a feeling that there are going to be many more because I love sewing them.

This work goes in tandem with a collection of digital paintings that I have been doing to keep track of my pain levels throughout my scoliosis treatment. I love those because they are a beautiful log of such a fleeting and negative experience. I am also working on some watercolor paintings but I have a love/hate relationship with them.

O: What was the best part about studying at Columbia University?

T: The best parts were the people I met there, working at the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies, and learning more about the things that I love. I was very lucky to be surrounded by a great group of people that always uplifted me and kept me going and I am grateful for the three and a half in-person years that I got with them.

O: Tell us more about the thesis you wrote for Columbia University.

T: My thesis tied together the artists Agnes Martin, Hilma af Klint, and Louise Bourgeois through the use of the grid as an organizational structure in select works of theirs. It was less of a historical connection and more of a conceptual project based on an emotional and spiritual throughline that existed in their creative processes! It is 61 pages long, around ~14,600 words, and by far my favorite thing I have ever written.  

O: What was your experience as a Student Printmaker at the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies?

T: I worked at LNCPS near the end of my time at Columbia and my experience there was really what made my time at school so enjoyable. With a great group of artists and printmakers, I worked on professional fine art printing projects and helped to maintain the print shop. I was constantly learning something new and the people I worked with were always giving me a new outlook on what it means to make a print. I loved it!

O: At Project Gallery V, you’ve provided artists from all over the world with a platform to showcase their work. How important is it for you as co-director for this project?

T: Project Gallery V is an extremely important part of my life that I was brought into by my friend and former co-worker Cary Hulbert. After working at LNCPS, she had this idea for an online gallery space and we have taken it to a whole new level. The best part about the project is being able to have a platform that allows artists to gain more exposure easily and at a low-cost to themselves. Additionally, every exhibition that we showcase includes a combination of professionally printed editions alongside emerging artists from all over the world. The fact that it is so uniquely online is what allows us to show these artists together with ease (which brings me a lot of joy). And, I am always happy to support the work of printmakers because I am obsessed with multiples. 

O: Being a curator, you must be coming across many pieces of artwork regularly. Are there some pieces of work that have moved you? If yes, why?

T: Constantly! The work that is most beautiful to me is the kind that moves me to feel. I am always being moved by the work of others and try my best to pour my emotions into my own art. Seeing the world through the eyes of someone else is so often an emotional experience and that is essentially the task that we take up when we attempt to read into art. One of the reasons that I love art so much is because of its capacity to inspire feeling and whenever I am reminded of that it is always a special moment. 

O: If you could give new artists some advice from what you’ve learned, what would it be?

T: Simply, do what makes you happy. If you try drawing, and it isn’t fun, it is time for you to start printmaking. If you try painting, and you don’t like it, don’t force it. The best work that you will make is the kind that makes you feel fulfilled. I try my best to remember this advice but it’s not always easy! 

O: Do you have any upcoming projects that we should look out for? 

T: I am curating a show with my co-founder, Cary Hulbert (@cary_hulbert), this coming June on Project Gallery V (@projectgalleryv) and we are always doing new, cool things there! Other than that I am always making new things on @triiinity.lester on Instagram.

So many kudos to Trinity for taking some time out of her incredibly busy schedule to chat with us about her creative process and exciting new projects! Stay up to date on Trinity’s latest artistic endeavors by checking out her aforementioned Instagram or visiting her website (www.trinitylester.com/)!

On Making Glistening, Multi-layered, and Millennial Music: Anna Shoemaker

Anna Shoemaker is a Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter who makes glistening, multi-layered, millennial indie-pop tunes. Despite only being a few years into her career, Shoemaker has already been praised extensively by tastemakers like Billboard, Refinery29, and Culture Collide. She’s also opened for Julia Michaels and Bishop Briggs and sold out her own headlining gig at Mercury Lounge just before the pandemic hit. Her debut EP ‘East Side’ was released in 2018 via Steve Madden’s 5Towns Records. In 2020 she released her sophomore project, ‘Everything Is Embarrassing.’

O: Is there an artist that you look up to, whether it be someone who motivated you to begin your music career or someone whose work inspires you today? 

Anna: Right now I’m really inspired and look up to one of my best friend’s Andrew Selkōw who performs as Middle Part. Also very inspired by Ethel Cain.

O: If you had to describe your work in three words, what would they be and why?

A: Crying in the car (four words!)

What is your favorite part of the creative process? 

A: Writing. It’s like word vomiting but appropriate because it’s a song and not just talking too much in a conversation.

O: Do you have a favorite memory of when you recorded one of your most popular songs, “What Am I Doing To Me?”

A: Yes! I recorded the vocals in Jo Daly (Sad Penny)’s closet.

O: What was it like to work with producer JT Daly on Everything Is Embarrassing

A: It was so nice to be and work in Nashville away from my real life for a little. JT Daly is the best! 

O: How did it feel when your debut EP, East Side, was released?

A: It felt like such a relief to release it but I was also extremely anxious to have it out in the world.

O: What is the story behind the “Dump Them” tees?

A: My friend Sydney and I are obsessed with the Britney Spears “Dump Him” tee-shirt, so we talked to our other friend Noah Neal about creating a spin on that and he created this sick design.

O: Tell us about your experience working with video editors, videographers, and the like for your music videos.

A: For my visuals, I try to work with friends or with people who I want to be my friends. I love keeping a really close team of people to work with so everything feels very comfortable and real. 

O: If you could give new artists some advice from what you’ve learned, what would it be?

A: Write what you know and tell your own story. 

O: Do you have any upcoming projects that we should look out for?


Thank you so much to Anna for taking the time to answer our questions! Click on Anna’s website (www.annashoemakermusic.com/) to learn more about her music and merch. To listen to her music and keep up to date with her upcoming releases, check out her social media (Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube).

A coffee chat with the leaders of the Pegasus Film Festival: Grayson Micaela, Daviah Harrison, CJ Camot, and Lucy Roberts

Now in its sixth year, the Pegasus Film Festival is a part of the newly formed Pegasus Media Project (PegasusMediaProject.com) by educators and professional filmmakers Niloo Jalilvand and Glenys Quick. The event is open to students (from kindergarten through graduating high school seniors) around the globe and will be held online on Saturday, May 22, at 7 pm. No matter where the students and their family and friends live, they will be able to view their work along with their peers.

An organization run by students, for students, Pegasus Film Festival has also continued its partnership with FilmFreeway, a platform for filmmakers to submit their creations to established and trusted festivals around the world.

Outlander: What inspired you to found the Pegasus Media Project/Pegasus Film Festival? How did it come to be? 

Niloo Jalilvand (founder of PFF): In 2010, I had been an instructor at  Booker T. Washington High School for Performing and Visual Arts, in Dallas, Texas, for roughly 10 years. I was thrilled, as some of my students were advancing to Ivy League schools and majoring in not only science (which I taught, along with math) related fields but also in film and Technology-based arts. As happy as I was, however, I was also a witness to the lack of resources and support that other talented and driven youth, who did not attend booker T., did not seem to have. I remember seeing some of those same rejected students at film competitions where my students were taking away all the awards and it was obvious that those students who did not win those awards had the potential, and with a little guidance and direction they would have easily won as well. So, I began thinking about extending my guidance outside of Booker T., and eventually, the Pegasus Summer Film program started, where students from all over DFW came and made films, along with my own students from Booker T. At the time I was also the director of Flicks by Chicks, Women in Film, a female-fronted film festival, and also served as a board member on several arts organizations, so I reached out to those within the networks and began fundraising and putting together the Pegasus Film Festival to showcase the works that were being created. The goal was to give the first-hand experience to students in order to learn real-life lessons, experience, and create opportunities, and with dedication, it turned into what it is today.

O: What makes Pegasus Film Festival unique from all of the other film festivals? 

Pegasus Team: Pegasus Film Festival is a festival for student filmmakers, by student filmmakers, where the students themselves are the biggest priority. It’s a comfortable, family-style film festival, open internationally, that values the creation and collaboration of filmmaking rather than competition, and is a safe place for people to grow as both students and filmmakers. The commitment to the students above anything else sets Pegasus apart from other festivals. 

O: Are there any filmmakers that you look up to, whether it be someone who motivated you to begin your careers or someone whose work inspires you today? 

PT: As a team, we talk about filmmakers a lot, we even started a new series this year called “Cinematic Conversations” where we talk about important films from a filmmaking perspective, and the conversations run from works that are notable, to works that are important in our society and culture(s), and especially works that are relevant to our festival and the core values that we uphold. But, the films and filmmakers that we always end up coming back to, are the films created by indie and independent filmmakers, who are just like us. There are too many great ones to name, but the filmmakers that started from nothing, who do all aspects of filmmaking, who pour their heart and soul into the project, are the films and filmmakers that inspire all of us to continue doing Pegasus. 

O: In the six years since the Pegasus Film Festival began, you’ve surely seen many films from upcoming creators. Is there one in particular that stands out to you? And if so, why? 

PT: In the six years of the Pegasus Film Festival, we have seen a large number of films come through, from all different categories. Pegasus hosts, and has always hosted, a broad range of categories to be shown every year, which allows for a multitude of films to be shown, and artistry to be recognized. With that large range, there are so many films from so many different artists, that are notable. The ones that consistently get talked about throughout the years though are the meaningful stories that are not expected. Every year, there is always a film or two that stands out in terms of emotional content, with a hidden core message, and a composition style that surprises the audience. Those are the films we always look for and eventually end up conversing about later down the line.

O: What is your favorite part of organizing the film festival? 

PT: Most of the team’s favorite part of the festival is the genuine networking and collaboration that happens with peers who have the same goals. As a team, students learn how to put on a film festival from the ground up, everything is up to the leaders, from ticket prices to the films that are shown–all of it is created and implemented by the team, with adult guidance when needed. There is also always enjoyment in judging all of the films and seeing how creative the filmmakers are. The work that is produced is truly amazing, and being hands-on is just the icing on the cake. 

O: Has this festival always been held online, and if not, has converting the platform to completely virtual posed any challenges for you?

PT: We actually switched to online last year, which was more of a challenge because of how unexpected the change was. It was just another curveball, in the madness that was 2020. This year, however, we were prepared and had time to think of new strategies. Being completely virtual has allowed the team to communicate efficiently and has helped us bond more over time. It also has opened up the opportunity for more filmmakers to find PFF, such as our international friends. Without the virtual aspect, they would not normally be able to attend the screening or invite any of their friends and family, but because it is all online, there’s an increase in accessibility and out-of-the-box ways we can all come together as a community.

O: Could you talk a little bit about your partnership with FilmFreeway? 

PT: Absolutely! FilmFreeway has been a staple in the film festival circuit for years, and we are so lucky to be able to partner with them once again for this year’s festival. FilmFreeway does a huge service to film festivals of all sorts, not just Pegasus, and is widely acclaimed as a staple partner, who encourages festivals to expand beyond their normal means of production, allowing filmmakers to submit their films directly onto their website, where the festival can gather all submitted information, for screenings and press. FilmFreeway works as a sort of front-desk clerk, maintaining all the records and films that are submitted so that show-runners can manage other aspects of the festival, while still maintaining a level of professionalism. 

O: Who else are your partners? 

PT: We are also partnered with Falcon Events, which is the streaming platform that we use and has helped us continue our festival during the pandemic, when we were unsure if it was going to be possible, due to everything changing. We are so thankful to Josh and the Falcon Event team for being a part of the Pegasus family, for allowing us the opportunity to both promote Falcon Events, as well as continue to host Pegasus Film Festival, simultaneously. We also have a partnership with Dallas College, and a few theaters/organizations in the Dallas area (check our website for the full list). 

O: What are you looking forward to as the film festival grows? 

PT: Hands down, watching the next generation of filmmakers step into their artistic power, and continue to tell their stories to the world. That is the entire mission of Pegasus, to inspire the next generation to tell their stories, and to give them a place to do so, so they have the resume credit, and the exposure to go on and continue to tell their important stories to the world. As Pegasus grows, we hope that the love for filmmaking only continues to grow with us and that the filmmakers of the future, look back on their time at Pegasus fondly, and with the knowledge that they can do anything, because we all have a Pegasus within us, if only we spread our wings. 

O: The 2021 festival is coming up on May 22nd. Is there anything we need to know beforehand about the festival? What can we expect? 

Yes, May 22nd at 7 pm CST! Tickets will be on sale after our submissions close May 4th, and can be bought off of our website as soon as they’re live.

As for what to expect: It will be roughly a two-hour event, packed full of endless cinematic entertainment, a Q&A panel for the filmmakers, as well as an awards ceremony. There will be more information released on our social media closer to the day, so keep an eye out and get ready to watch some films! And make sure to give some extra love to Outlander, for the work they’re doing while you’re checking out Pegasus Film Festival!

Thank you so much to Grayson Micaela, Daviah Harrison, CJ Camot, and Lucy Roberts from the Pegasus Film Festival team for sitting down to chat with us in the midst of preparing for the festival!

If you are interested in checking out their past work, purchasing tickets for the May 22nd event, or getting in the loop with all things Pegasus Film Festival, please check out their website (www.pegasusfilmfestival.com/) and their Instagram (www.instagram.com/pegasusfilmfestival/).

Reimagining Reality with Dominika Jezewska

Dominika Jezewska is a multidisciplinary artist and designer. She graduated from Parsons School of Design in 2016 with a BFA in Fashion Design and has an extensive background in fashion and 3D visualization. Forever immersed and fascinated by the world, she spends her time exploring realities and everything in between in her art practice, imagining and dissecting the relationships between humans, objects, and space. Especially interested in the little things and subtle messages which make up the fabric of the subjective realities we exist in, she explores the possibilities and what-ifs crafting pockets of alternate realities which exist at the intersection of art, design, and technology and appears in different forms ranging from wearable avant-garde fashion art pieces to installations and mixed reality environments.

Outlander: How did you get your start in art and design? 

Dominika: I’ve been creating, making things up, and coming up with stories in my head ever since I can remember. I also grew up listening to my dad and my grandma’s stories of faraway places and different cultures. My dad is a flight attendant and when I was little their layover times were sometimes weeks long, so it was always really exciting when he was coming back with new trinkets, exciting stories, and pictures to feed my imagination. Plus I was always drawing or painting or building something, so everyone would always gift me with art supplies. Eventually, I got really interested in fashion, fell in love with New York and it was only natural that I ended up at Parsons, where I continued to develop my skills and curiosity, and continued to experiment with new things like wearable tech, VR/AR, and digital art, which are at the core of what I do now.

O: Is there an artist that you look up to, whether it be someone who motivated you to begin your artistic journey or someone whose work inspires you today? 

D: There are actually quite a few! My all-time favorite artists are Andy Warhol and Alexander McQueen, both were exceptional and groundbreaking in their own way, and I can never get enough of their work or reading about their creative process. But speaking of more contemporary artists that inspire me, it’d be Sam Cannon, who’s a digital artist engaging with the surreal and oftentimes exploring the body form (her latest project “Thinking about getting into 3D” is truly something else. Another artist that always inspires me and motivates me constantly is Azzah Sultan, whose art is not only absolutely stunning but also stays with you forever because you can’t ever stop thinking about it and the stories she tells through it. She also happens to be a close friend, so I get a lot of behind-the-scenes glimpses when she works on new stuff which is the coolest thing ever!

O: If you had to describe your work in three words, what would they be and why? 

D: Immersive – when viewing my work I want you to get lost in it a bit, to submerge in a different reality even if for a second. 
Interdisciplinary – I rarely ever stick to one discipline, somehow always finding ways to blend at least two together in a fun way.
Imaginative – my brain never stops coming up with new things and dreaming up worlds.

O: Your works often toe the line between the real and surreal. Where do you find inspiration? 

D: Everywhere around me really, I’m always observing my surroundings, my brain working on new ideas and coming up with new scenarios. Sometimes it happens more naturally than other times (I can definitely tell there’s a dip in my creativity when I don’t give myself enough space to breathe and rest or I’m too hard on myself). But I love stories of all kinds: books, movies, history, music, listening to friends telling me about their day. Each and every one of those is a separate reality, an individual world that you get a glimpse into and there’s nothing more inspiring than that to me because the only reality you truly know is your own. 

O: One of the pieces in your portfolio that really stood out to us was “The Anatomy of Perception,” an AR installation which you created in collaboration with Israa Al Balushi during the Exit11 VICE x Postscript Magazine residency. Could you talk a little bit about your inspiration behind the pieces and about your experience in the residency? 

A sneak peek of Dominika and Israa’s upcoming AR installation, “The Anatomy of Perception”

D: It was a really amazing experience. Israa and I got along really well literally since our very first text conversation. It was quite surreal at the same time because we’ve only seen each other via zoom, and we’ve created a whole physical (well digital) installation together. The Anatomy of Perception came out of the idea that there’s no such thing as an objective reality, as by default the fact that we can only learn its properties via observation, which is always subjective. The installation explores the fragility of reality via AR. It is an interpretation of the dreamworld in real life, creating a state of dreaming, while still being in your current surroundings. – urging you to be present in the space, even though the installation is not physically there. By creating a subconscious experience in consciousness (in real life), you automatically alternate your view of what true perception is. Additionally, we’ve added a photo component into the project to visualize the experience, and since photography has always been a medium that presented reality as is, it felt incredibly fitting. The series pushes the boundaries of realism, exploring a new understanding of perception, telling a story about an individual and their interpretation of what may truly exist around them. 

O: Out of all the amazing work that you’ve done, which would you say is your favorite? 

D: Oh gosh, this is so hard to choose, especially with my more recent work each project is so unique and so different from the other ones. They all have a very special place in my heart, but I think for now “The Anatomy of Perception” which I created in collaboration with Israa Al Balushi and working on “It’s a beautiful day, too bad it won’t last and neither will you” with Ella Wasserman-Smith were my favorite to date. I love collaborating with other artists and with these two projects I pushed myself further than I thought was possible and explored completely new concepts, which is always super exciting. 

O: What is your favorite part of the artistic process? 

D: The part where I stop actively thinking and get lost myself in the process of creating something. 

O: How has the pandemic changed your workflow? 

D: In a way, it allowed me time to fully focus on my art, while at the same time forcing me to do just that, since I couldn’t really do anything else. I had a really big creative block and was quite burnt out before lockdown and was slowly, slowly getting out of that creative rut but when the pandemic hit and the world as we knew it went up in flames, I made the decision to only focus on what I can control, and be kind to myself, and my creative work was at the very center of that.

O: One of our favorite projects of yours is your digital artwork collection called “A year of dreaming.” Could you talk a little bit about how you came up with this idea and what your creative process is like? 

D: It’s a funny story because I was constantly complaining to my friend that I have so many ideas but never get around to actually do anything about them. So I was like ok, I’m gonna do my own personal challenge where every single day for a year I have to create something visual, doesn’t have to be good or be anything specific, just needs to happen, no expectations whatsoever, and I’ll post it to Instagram so there’s some accountability involved and I can’t just back out of it. I have to say I didn’t expect to last even a week, and the first couple of weeks I was constantly getting into my head whether or not I’m doing it “the right way”, but here we are 157 days in, I haven’t missed a single day, and I’m just having fun with it now. The actual process of how each “Dream” comes to very much depend on the day I’m having. Each one is a combination of photos, which I constantly take everywhere, VR drawings (made in TiltBrush or Gravity Sketch) and sometimes I add some iPad drawings to the mix. But there are days when I’m super tired and I remix the dreams I did before to try to find new shapes, colors, and portals to other worlds. And that’s ok too! Like I said, no expectations, no rules, just lots of freeform creative exploration.

O: If you could give new artists some advice from what you’ve learned, what would it be?

D: Be kind to yourself, observe everything, and never stop experimenting!

O: Do you have any upcoming projects that we should look out for? 

D: Yes! I still have about 200 days left of my “A year of Dreaming” project which I post every single day to my Instagram (@dominikajezewska). But I’m also working on an installation project called “3 am fantasy,” which combines AI-generated video and poetry. It’s a really exciting one because I usually tend to shy away from any type of writing, but it felt right for this one. There are a few other ones that I’m starting to research but for now, I’ll keep it a secret since they’re very rough ideas, so stay tuned!

Thank you so much to Dominika for taking the time to chat with us!

Find more of her work on her website (www.dominikajezewska.com) and on her Instagram (www.instagram.com/dominikajezewska/).

Writing, Reading, and Language-Learning with Addie Barnett

Addie Barnett is a writer, bookworm, language-learner wanting to be a polyglot and all-around nerd for everything with paper or hardcovers. She is also the host and admin of her personal blog aimed at writers and bookworms all around the world, thebookwormwriter.org! 

Outlander: When did you start writing? 

Addie: I have been writing for as long as I can remember, but only two years ago did I begin to dream of a “career” and take it more seriously.

O: If you had to describe your work in three words, what would they be and why? 

A: I don’t think I can describe my work in only three words, although “hard work” and “dreaming” have to be part of the little list.

O: Is there a writer that you look up to, whether it be someone who motivated you to begin writing or someone whose work inspires you today? 

A: The main writer who motivated me (and made my head get stuck in the clouds) was Joe Abercrombie. 

O: What is your favorite part of the writing process? 

A: I don’t really have a favorite part; I like drafting but I also like editing and polishing my work to the best version it can be. 

O: How has the pandemic changed your workflow? 

A: The pandemic has taught me that it is okay to take breaks and not make myself write a minimum word count. So, it was actually beneficial to my workflow – it improved my relationship with my writing a lot.

O: You’re an aspiring polyglot. What languages are you learning/do you know already? What’s the inspiration behind your multi-linguality? 

A: I am currently fluent in English (it’s my second language because I am actually Romanian – I don’t know if it counts though, because I have been speaking it since I was three), an intermediate speaker of Japanese, beginner in German and I can mostly understand Spanish 😀 There is no inspiration behind it, I just love how languages sound and I think it is really cool to know a lot of them and be able to talk.

O: What inspired you to start the Bookworm Writer? 

A: I just wanted to get my voice out there, and the idea of a blog always seemed super cool to me. 

O: From the looks of your blog, you’re an avid reader. What was the last book you read?

A: The last book I read (and finished – because I am reading one right now) was Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid.

O: What are some of your favorite tropes in writing?

A: I think (I am not sure, because I don’t really have favorites) found family is one of my favorites. I also like the “old, gruff, frustrated” mentor character who is annoyed by the main character and their immaturity (but the mentor character has to be a softie inside, they have to!)

O: What is the difference you see between your writing a year back and today?

A: The main difference isn’t experience like I thought it would be. It is how I approach my writing. I have become more self-loving towards myself and more lenient – I have stopped pushing myself to write a minimum word count and take days off whenever I want. If I don’t want to write in my book one day, I don’t write! If I want to not write at all, I allow myself that time! It is that simple and I don’t understand why we are in such a rush all the time. 

O: You’re an Outlander staff writer–what made you want to join Outlander and what has your experience been working with the team?

A: I joined Outlander because I always wanted to be part of a magazine. My experience with the staff has been amazing! Everyone is so nice and helpful and I love it very much (it would be nice if it weren’t just volunteer work, but I understand that, at least in the beginning, we won’t receive any money for our pieces). Mostly, I was looking for experience. 😀

O: Your work is often otherworldly–it’s fantastic! Is there another genre you want to explore more in the future?

A: I tend to write mostly fantasy because that is what I have read for as long as I can remember, but now I am actually attempting to write a historical fiction novel!

O: What is the best compliment you’ve received on your writing?

A: Yours. “Otherworldly” and “fantastic.” 😀 No one has ever complimented my work before and I never expected anyone to do it. I just like writing 🙂

O: If you could give new writers some advice from what you’ve learned, what would it be?

A: Take it slow, don’t force yourselves to do anything if you don’t feel like it. READ. Devour any book that comes your way, in whatever format it comes.

O: Do you have any upcoming projects that we should look out for? 

A: Theoretically, yes. I am working on a historical fiction novel (no idea if I will ever publish it), and I will definitely write some more for the magazine. I took a little break this month because it’s been hectic (See, TAKE BREAKS, I swear lol), but I will be coming back 😀  I was also thinking of writing some essays or poems, as well!

Thank you so much to Addie for sitting down to chat with us about writing, reading, language-learning, and everything in between!

Check out Addie’s work at thebookwormwriter.org.