10 Questions for an Artist: Illustrator Caitlin Hay

caitlin main

Oh, regular reader, you’ll notice this blergh’s got a brand new look. That’s thanks to this lady.

I met Caitlin Hay at The Candle Lab, where we both worked. She is deliciously honest. She’s also a great illustrator.

After moving back to Columbus, her hometown, following nearly a decade in the Big Apple (more on why she made the move soon), she decided to launch her own custom illustration business, Caitlin Hay Ink to Paper.

The business has been going strong for one year this month. In addition to her very detailed typography work — a real strong suit for her work — she spends  a lot of time getting to know her clients or, because she gets a lot of commissioned work for wedding gifts, the people her work is for.

A commissioned piece for a Cleveland newlywed couple. The illustration highlights things they two love and places in Ohio that mean a lot to them. And also David Bowie. Because, David Bowie.
A commissioned piece for a Cleveland newlywed couple. The illustration highlights things they two love and places in Ohio that mean a lot to them. And also David Bowie. Because, David Bowie.




I had to fill out a questionnaire about my interests before she even got started on my Medusa meets Marie Antoinette meets me logo.

Congratulations on a year of business, Caitlin! In your honor, I ask you very personal questions about your art, running a business in Columbus, and why Shaq is awesome.



(deconstructed bride and groom)


Has art always been something you’ve felt compelled to do?

I drew a lot when I was young. I used to draw fake architectural plans when I was little. I would imagine the inside of houses and draw that. I remember a friend of mine and I used to sit at the kitchen table and we would draw every single person in our class, with their names written below. Fifth or sixth grade. Maybe even younger. It was almost like as important writing their name below each person.

I’ve always been really into handwriting and I remember I got reprimanded in first grade for writing in cursive. They asked me, “Please don’t write in cursive anymore. You’ll learn cursive next year.” But I just remember thinking, “Oh! I can’t wait to do it.” I’ve just always seen handwriting as art and so mostly what I would do when I was younger was write words and names and names of places. Really typography brought me to more of the illustration stuff.

When I was a teenager I stopped doing all of those things. I stopped being artistic at all. I started getting into sports and friends and boys. But I didn’t think about drawing as a career or a path for education at all. I actually wanted to be a writer and I did a lot of writing when I was younger. I actually began school as a journalism major and then I sort of realized that that probably who I wanted to be. I was bored of it. Gathering information is fun but the reporting wasn’t as fun to me and I wasn’t good at coming up with ideas of what to write about. Honestly, I don’t think I was mature enough for college yet. I wasn’t into it, so I took a break. I didn’t go to school at all for a while.

Then I saw “Lost in Translation” and that made me want to go to film school. The subtlety of it. The entire movie happens between the lines of what is shown on the screen and that’s what it’s about. The whole ending where he whispers in her ear. You don’t even know what he says and that’s the big climax of the movie and it’s fine. You don’t need to know what he says, you get the message. … I remember watching that movie and then driving around Columbus afterward.

I was a 19 year old hostess at the Buckeye Hall of Fame Cafe and I thought to myself, there’s so much more that I could be doing with this seed that’s inside of me. I know I could produce something beautiful but I want it to mean something. That’s kind of been my whole struggle in life. I want to make something that I can make that is meaningful to me but also meaningful to other people. And I thought, when I saw that movie, that’s how I’m going to do that.

So you decided to go to film school?

I had to quickly create an art portfolio in order to apply to film school. And I didn’t even take art in high school at all. In my group of friends I was the dramatic, poetic, writerly one. We already had an artistic girl in our group. I was that archetype and it never occurred to me, hey, maybe I could be an artist too.

I took continuing education at CCAD. At 19 I started learning actual techniques. I took two classes. I did a color theory class where we did shading and still lifes and color wheels, things like that. And that was pretty easy because it was following instructions and I’m good at that. But my figure drawing class was a bunch of people in a room with easels and a naked person in the center and we’re supposed to draw them, and our teacher taught us to look at the inside of the figure and where the light hits it and see those little shapes and start from the inside out. So I saw it like, here’s this woman’s rib as it’s hitting the side of her body and where the light is hitting it looks like a somewhat darker triangle than the rest of what’s around. … In the end it looked like a Picasso.  Everything was mangled. It was a complete cluster fuck. He pulled me aside one day, he came up to my easel, and started laughing! … What he was trying to do was get us to draw something that had depth to it rather than the outline of a person. So he taught me another method and all of the sudden it was like bam. And I suddenly was exceptional at figure drawing. If you were naked right now I could draw the shit out of you.

What he told me was to get the proportions right, it’s OK to start with an edge. You can start with whatever edge appeals to you. So let’s say I want to start with your shoulder, so draw the line of the shoulder on the outside and exactly what shape it is. Then look for a line that’s on the other side of the body and down a little bit, where you also see another edge that looks like it’s kind of the same angle of the line you just drew. Then connect those two lines. So I would draw the outside of the shoulder and get real light with it and then draw all the way through and then start drawing the hip. Then maybe start with her armpit and draw down to the side of her stomach. In the end you have all these lines that are connecting it. Your body is connected. If your left shoulder is cocked, then your right hip will be cocked because your body is connected by the spinal cord. So it looks three dimensional even though I wasn’t trying. It would just start to happen. I’ll never forget it. I wish that there were more instances where I could employ that technique. There’s not a lot else in the world that is built from the inside out like a human. … That was the first instance where I was like, “Hey I might actually be good at this. And I might not actually hate it.”

Did you like art school?

I went to school for film at Massachusetts College of Art and Design and I took my core drawing classes and found them mostly to be tedious and boring. The content and the materials were things I wasn’t always comfortable with. I don’t use any crazy materials now. One time they had us use guache, but I’m not a painter so I would get frustrated because I would not be super great with my first painting ever. But it was due the next day. So I’d stay up all night and get frustrated. I don’t remember a lot of the work I did then. … I didn’t like the work I was doing because I wasn’t confident as an artist. Everything I did positively reeked of me. No matter what I touched, I would see something in my brain, but it would come out looking like I did it. I would have these grand ideas. I think I have now found the thing I’m OK with positively reeking of me. I’m not going to be able to do ghostly images and spooky, but if you want me to draw something exactly how it looks, then I got you. But in a whimsical way.

How’d you end up in New York?

I moved to New York with a man. He was going to grad school so it made sense for us to be together there and it made sense for me for film. I could go to LA or New York. I ended up working as a digital media coordinator at a post production house for an advertising agency. … It wasn’t creative but I liked it because I worked with creative people. Lots of film kids. Really nice job perks. That’s how they keep you in New York. Your life is so hard all the time because you’re struggling constantly and they don’t really pay you that much, but then they’ll, like, feed you.

How is being an artist in Columbus different from being an artist in New York?

Being an artist in Columbus gives you this really close knit supportive artist community. Here I feel like people have been more supportive of what I do than I ever could have imagined. Everything I turn out people get really excited about. There are so many smart, bright, talented people doing interesting stuff here in the arts. But in New York there’s so many, it’s hard to stand out. And I feel like people kind of want to pull you down there a little bit. I do miss New York, but I also feel I wouldn’t be as successful there as I am here. Here we all really like each other. I’ve met so many interesting people.

What I do is a niche thing and doing that here people recognize its uniqueness, whereas in New York there probably are a billion people doing this. Me standing out there is probably not going to happen.

What is the ratio of work you are doing?

About 50 percent wedding stuff. And that ranges from personalized wedding gifts for people, like illustrations other people commission to give as gifts, to invitations and any kind of signage. The rest of the time I’m doing small business art, logos, website stuff. I also make cards and things like that when I feel like it and sell those.

The balance is what’s important. And I like that I can do both. Typography comes more naturally to me because it’s really just a series of lines. People say all the time, “I wish I could draw! I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” … But you don’t really need training to draw a series of lines. You just have to be thoughtful about where you put them, and I think what it comes down to a lot of the time is just tedium. And tedium is something I really like. It’s therapeutic kind of. All drawing is is patience. … It’s comforting to know you do something well, too.

If you weren’t afraid or you knew you would succeed what would you do?

Casting director.

How did you start into typography?

When I was working at iPatch, that job lent itself to some typography type stuff and people started to notice little notes I would leave for people and comment on how good my handwriting was. … One day I decided, I remember I was on the subway, and I thought, “I think I should make my best friend’s wedding invitations.” I knew that she was doing a lot of DIY stuff for her wedding. So I asked her as a gift if I could make her wedding invitations. I started working on them with no intention of turning it into anything other than that job, but I worked on them at work and people started noticing and talking about them a lot. There was one girl in particular who also had super perfectionistic handwriting and a wonderful artistic spirit, her name is Moitri, She was a dear friend to me and she would sit at my desk and we would draw together. She’d always encourage me to do this. She planted a seed. She encouraged me to step out of the box and turn it into something. That was two and a half years ago.

What is challenging about creating other business’ logos?

A logo’s really important. It’s going to be printed all over your entire life. It’s a lot of pressure. I’ve had hits and misses. I’ve had people who didn’t really know what they wanted, I’ve done something, and  they loved it. I’ve also had clients who said it was close but it wasn’t quite right but couldn’t tell me what they wanted. … Art is personal, so I kind of take it personally when someone doesn’t like it. But I try not to. It’s business.


What are the pros and cons of being a freelancer?

I don’t consider myself a freelancer. The only distinction is that I don’t get hired by other companies to work on their time. I decide what I do. … I kind of feel like I’m making up everything as I go along, so to have another professional looking over my shoulder and seeing my process, they’d be like, “Did you just Google how to make a square on PhotoShop?” I’m still learning PhotoShop.

What are the pros and cons of being a business owner?

I am not a slave to my alarm clock and I’m able to work when I feel like working. I do work every day but I find a lot of times I want to work from 8 pm to 3 am, and that’s fine.

I’m trying to get faster at things. I just don’t take days off. I figure if I’m home and I’m just sitting around, I feel weird if I’m not drawing something or doing something.

Sometimes it feels like work I’m just not getting something right or someone keeps coming back to change something.

I use an app on my phone to track how long I work on jobs and now I’m seeing I work a lot more than I feel like I do. Who knew?

I do get distracted really easily. I haven’t been working for 20 minutes, I’ve been looking at Tinder. How did I get here? There’s a lot of forcing myself to get back on track, but how is that different than working at an office?

And I don’t even have to wear pants if I don’t want to.

Why is it important for you to get to know your customer?

I want them to like the work. If I know the person and I know what they like and what they’re about then I can give them a better product. And also I make a lot of friends.


Where do you do your work?

Out here on the patio. Or sometimes Crimson Cup in Clintonville. If I know I need to buckle down I’ll go out in public because I can’t be an asshole with my TV on and draped all over the furniture. I need to look like I’m doing something. That helps.

It must be temperature regulated and have iced coffee. And I want it to be a local business.

Goals for the next year?

I don’t put a lot of time into marketing. I’m a night before person. If I have a show coming up, I just keep everything in my car so I can roll up and set up and there you go. I should spend more time promoting. So far I’m busy, though.

I wanted to give myself a year with the business and see if it was what I wanted to pursue. To check in with my happiness level. Profitability, yeah, but I know it’s always going to be rocky terrain because it depends on other people. In August I’ll start thinking about new ways to grow as far as getting the word out and getting the products out. When I began this business I had no idea what it was going to be. If it was only going to be weddings or if I was going to do mostly custom work or not. It’s still developing and shaping into what it’s ultimately going to be. I think I’ll need to sit down and make a list of all the jobs I’ve had and what they’ve been like and where I want to go from there. With stuff like this you can’t force it. … It’s organically grown into something I don’t hate.

You’re a perfectionist?

It’s a blessing and a curse. I find I always have to do things in order. Sometimes there is no order but I feel I have to put an order on it. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I’m going to do something rather than just doing it. The fact that I’ve even begun this in the first place is massively deviant from my norm.


What led you back to Columbus?

My life sort of imploded a couple years ago. I moved back to my hometown [Columbus] from living in the city for almost 8 years. I knew what I was doing before wasn’t making me happy and it was all sort of wiped clean. I lost my job and had a really bad breakup. It happened all at once. I had two choices. I could either stay there in New York and face an uncertain rebuilding year where I would have to scrape myself off the floor and fight tooth and nail to get to where I was, which I had just done three years prior, or I could totally bail and come back to my hometown and face another uncertain future that could be completely different.

Why choose this?

Because I was tired. Tired of scraping. I missed my family and having the ability to keep a jacket in the car.

Good decision?

We’ll see. Jury’s still out. I’m happier in my day to day.

Three artists, living or dead, that you’d invite to a dinner party.

Shaquille O’Neal. Because I love him. He has no filter whatsoever.

Oliver Sacks.

Bill Bryson. You should read “At Home: A Short History of Private Life.” It is not short. It is long and you want it to last forever.



“Compulation” of success

There’s not a lot of tangible reward to being a journalist. Most of my journalist friends are rebel types with above average work ethic. Even inside writers of the fluffiest fuzzies, not  too far down, a First Amendment soldier lurks.

It’s rewarding to tell people’s stories, to actively participate in free speech, to have a job writing (Writer’s Digest sends me a depressing email at least once a week with a subject line “You CAN make a living writing!”).

But that’s about it. We don’t make a lot of money. Our field is changing by the minute so we’re constantly being challenged to find new ways for print to survive. The line between advertising and editorial is growing so muddy you could ford the river between the two in a nice new pair of goulashes.

That’s why awards season is so fun for journalists. It’s validation for a job well done when there’s little other tangible validation to be found. (Also, most of us have fragile egos and fluctuating self confidence. We did, after all, choose a profession where everything we do has a byline.)

The point of this loquacious lead: I won some writing awards at the Press Club of Cleveland’s statewide Excellence in Journalism contest.

I was so excited to attend the ceremony. I wore my new library card shirt from my new gig at The Library Store. #alwaysbeworking

Library shirt

I placed first in non-daily newspaper writing for the category Personality Profile writing for this story about Alix, and second for Arts and Entertainment reporting for this article about the two toddler-refugees-turned-CCAD-designers.

The big one, though, was this guy:


Best Freelance Journalist in Ohio. Bam!

Wait… is that… that word… is spelled wrong… oh… oh god!

award closeup

Pretty immediately, though, I decided the “compulation” on my award was perfect. Two reasons.

1)  It’s a reminder that copy editors are important. What a concept.

2) It’s a reminder to keep working and working as hard as possible. I may be good, but I could be better. For every success I have I can count five other fuck ups. Mistakes don’t mean I’m not talented, and success doesn’t mean I’m not human. Keep that ego and that self-criticism in balance, sister, and then you really win.


10 Questions for an Artist: Damn the Witch Siren

There goes the neighborhood.
There goes the neighborhood.

The only thing Krista Botjer and Nathan Photos fight about is music.

“The fights are not about what we’re doing in music,” Krista says, “they’re about how we’re going to make this happen.”

The pair is the electronic duo Damn The Witch Siren and they have settled on a plan for making “it” happen: They’re moving from Columbus to Hollywood in July.

“I think I’m more nervous than she is,” Nathan admits, but their new album, “Superdelicious,” which they officially release Friday, has them both excited to make the transition, quality product in hand.

Krista and Nathan swear they fell in love at first sight, which only seems partly true. The rest of it was love at first sound. The two musicians were immeshed in the bands they were a part of at the time (you know Nathan from The Town Monster), and seeing the other play and perform music sealed the deal.

“He writes with heart,” Krista says. “I knew he had something to say and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Naturally, they formed a band, and in 2012 they put out their first compilation of songs, “Let’s Fall in Love.” When they play, Krista transforms into the sexy and fun Bobbi Kitten and Nathan into the brooding but bouncy Z Wolf.

On “Let’s Fall in Love” you can hear them finding their sound and finding each other.

“Superdelicious” is a pumping riot reminiscent of musicians who have truly grown together. It’s so fun to listen to, the songs are super catchy and the complicated sound artistry hits you in waves of fourth and fifth listens. (I wish you could hear right now me trying to imitate the sample of Krista’s voice on “Pearls and Lace” that is my favorite. My neighbors are probably worried I’ve hurt myself.)

Plus, they really rock it live. I’m a big Damn The Witch Siren fan, and I’ve already downloaded the music to my computer and the CD’s still spinning hot and sweaty in my car.

As the album sleeve eventually gathers dust on my bookshelf, I imagine it will grow grimy with gold glitter, atrophying into a kickass gothic unicorn that gallops off every night and returns at sunrise, leaving a hazy trail of delicious in its wake.


Damn the Witch Siren's album release party is at 9 p.m. Friday at Ace of Cups.
Damn the Witch Siren’s album release party is at 9 p.m. Friday, May 30, at Ace of Cups.

How would you describe the creative process of making “Superdelicious”?

Bobbi Kitten: We started some of our songs right after our first album. We kind of knew our direction. We knew that we wanted it to be very beat driven. It’s a hodge podge of collaboration.

Z Wolf: We’re both really into technology at the moment, so we use our iPads or iPhones to start songs. I’ll be at work and I’ll come home and she’ll be like, ‘I started this thing’ and it’s just a beat and then we’ll do a vocal and then we got the song “Honey, Honey.” I love working with her because we just bounce ideas off each other all the time.

Bobbi Kitten: Yeah, I’ll be like, come up with something that sounds like Devo.

Z Wolf: All the lyrics on this one are her. … I’m always kind of uncomfortable with singing, which is kind of a reason this is my dream band because she’s an awesome vocalist. I always use the analogy of why would you drive a pinto when you have a ferrari? I love to sing. I love it so much, but I also know my strenghts and weaknesses. And she’s way more charismatic on stage than I am.

Bobbi Kitten: We were trying to be mindful about being gratuitous with the vocals. “Honey, Honey” is vocals from start to finish, basically, but I think it’s cool to know your boundaries. I always worry about that as a vocalist. That’s my strongest instrument. But that’s also a double edged sword. I want to make a song out of all vocal samples. That’s a goal of mine. I don’t know if that will be something for us, but learning more about production and all that stuff, that’s one of my goals. I think we did a good job with “Microphone.” Nate produced most of the song. He put in a dub step fill and he wrote all that ominous part and it’s really cool. It’s cool to collaborate like that.

Z Wolf: I feel like we’ve barely done anything at this point. I’m dying to make an album that’s not really electronic at all. I feel like that’s career suicide, at least if you’re a big band. Most bands don’t do things like that–be one thing and then do a 180. But I’m sick and tired of the rules of music. Experimentation is why it’s so fun. Like, I love metal. I’d love to make a metal album and have her screaming on it.

Bobbi Kitten: We’ll see about that. I don’t know how cool my scream will be.

Z Wolf: No, you’ve got a great scream.

What’s the most difficult part about being a musician?

Z Wolf: Right now, for me, it’s juggling not making any money and having a shitty job that we have to go to everyday that just cuts our day in half. It just gets exhausting. Not a lot of payback for music at this point. It can get taxing on your soul. But at the same time it’s the most nourishing thing for your soul. It’s totally worth it.

Bobbi Kitten: I love my job. But the day job cuts into what you do want to do for the rest of your life. The exhaustion makes you feel like you’re getting old. Am I getting old? No! I’m just really fucking busy. How do you make money doing this? That’s the hardest part. How do you do it without selling out, put the most simple way. I’ve read so many blogs over the last two years about how to make it in music, and they’re like ‘You gotta write a number one hit!’ and it’s just like, um, OK. We want to write pop music, we want to write something that connects to a broad range of people, not for money but just because we want to make fun music, we want people to relax, we want people to go out and have a good time. We still want to say things, though. You’re juggling when you’re writing pop music between compromising your art, and we haven’t compromised, so maybe we won’t make money off this.

Z Wolf: I’ve always done what I wanted to do musically.

Bobbi Kitten: I always find myself going a little crazy because I’m like ‘I want to put this out there.’ And then I’m like, is that selfish of me? To want to put your art out there? Is that selfish to not wait until it’s ready? It makes it feel cheap. … It makes you feel cheap when you put it out on the internet. Oh what now?

Z Wolf: Yeah, there’s just so much out there nowadays. Everyone is making music and all the music is free. It does kind of give it a cheapness that we didn’t have when we were growing up. I cherished my small CD collection growing up. It’s not better, it’s just different. I kind of love this world we’re in, but it’s kind of crazy how much there is and it’s kind of scary where you feel like you’re in a very deep ocean with very little chance of actually making a career out of this. It also can be discouraging when you know no one cares about your album as much as you do. We’re clearly the most excited, but hopefully we can change that.

DTWS' majestic guard cat.
Damn the Witch Siren’s studio bouncer, Lyla. After experiencing back-t0-back break-ins at their downtown apartment, the two moved into Nathan’s parents’ home, where they do all their recording, until they head west this summer.

You guys are so fun to watch on stage, and the production of the videos you play behind you during your set are always relevant. 

Z Wolf: It kills me that I can’t watch her.

Bobbi Kitten: Sometimes it feels very awkward. I love performing and it’s easy to get really lost in the music but then there are those moments where everyone’s staring and you can see people, you can make out people’s faces, and you’re like is this weird, are people enjoying themselves? I just want people to have fun. It’s easier when you’re having your own fun.

Z Wolf: We both hold back quite a bit. We don’t want to. We’re trying to unleash, but the crowd can make you awkward. In your mind it’s always a room full of people and they’re all dancing, and when it doesn’t happen you’re a little reserved. This generation just seems more reserved, a lot less prone to dance. It’s a divergence of so many different things, people are into so many different things. And, again, that’s not bad, it’s just different. But back when there was The Beatles, there was just The Beatles and everyone in the world just lost their minds for them and that was it. Now there’s so many choices and you can’t lose your mind like that unless you’re with a group of people losing their minds like that. Not everyone’s going to lose their minds like that to this little band playing a little club.

What inspired “Superdelicious,” your new album?

Z Wolf: Our first album was a lot about the two of us meeting. It was more of an internal thing, whereas this one is more about the outside world. There’s more on there about social media and the world we’re living in now and the overwhelming, huge amount of music there is out there and making something that has some validity in that context. There’s also a lot about fashion and the way women are treated and feminism.

Bobbi Kitten: “Pearls and Lace” is a really fun song. The meaning of the song is a lot about feminism. It’s about being a woman and it sounds tongue and cheek. It sounds like I’m a man, I’m a woman, I’m a man, I’m a woman, going back and forth and I feel like the song “Honey, Honey” is a lot like that too, just kind of standing up for being a woman. One of the lyrics in “Pearls and Lace” is “All hookered up in pearls and lace.” When I was in high school I got called to the principal’s office for wearing lace, but you couldn’t see anything, it’d be a lace shirt where you could see the shirt but not through the bodice of the shirt, yet men could wear really sexist T-shirts, like “Cool story, babe, now go make me a sandwich.” Teach men to stop sexualizing the female body so much instead of putting so many restrictions on women. There’s this female band whose members wear these cloaks all the way up to their chins and they want to put an end to all of this sex in pop music, which I understand to some degree, but then they’re covering up their bodies and it’s just like, you should be proud! Be proud! That’s not saying anything. That’s kind of going backward.

Z Wolf: There’s a lot of sexuality in our music. We just got our first writeup for the album and the guy said the one turnoff of the album for him was that the lyrics were racy. I think she comes off like a very powerful woman in her music. Someone who is a role model. My favorite part of “Pearls and Lace” is the second verse where she says “You looking like a dirty knock off/ rock and roll is here to stay/ they dubbed you the savior” and then all of the sudden she gets pitch shifted to down and she says “Move bitch, get out the way.” That’s my favorite part. It can be taken a lot of ways. It’s a throwback to the Ludacris song and it’s also kind of a symbol of how men can dominate in areas including pop culture.

DTWS pink guitar

Catering table for DTWS studio mates.
Catering table for Damn the Witch Siren’s studio mates.
Z off duty.
Z off duty.

Why write as your characters, Bobbi Kitten and Z Wolf?

Bobbi Kitten: It’s fun.

Z Wolf: We love theater and theatrics. Sometimes people want their pop and rock stars to be really relatable and be like them and wear flannel. Other artists you want to be larger than life, ridiculous, and I think we’re just naturally more of that camp by nature. Film, puppets, experimentation.

Bobbi Kitten: Some of my favorite artists were always writing like they were someone else, folk singers who could become different characters in different songs. It was easier to find my voice as a singer and as a writer because we had built these characters. It’s just a different way to express yourself.

Why a wolf?

Z Wolf: It feels like a douchey answer. I’ve always loved wolves and I’ve always felt like that’s my spirit animal or whatever. Wolves are going extinct because people have hunted them to extinction and that depresses me to no end, so like I feel like Z Wolf is one of the last ones. We needed one more. I feel kind of dorky about it, but nothing gets me as emotional or fired up as animal rights. I try with futility to raise money for them, like with [my former band] Town Monster’s albums, but it got no response. No one seems to give much of a shit. We’ve been vegetarian for a year now. It’s really altering, just living in a different way. I used to eat meat two times a day and now when I cook chicken at work it sickens me. I have no real desire to eat them anymore.

How have you grown vocally, Krista, through Damn the Witch Siren?

Bobbi Kitten: When I was a kid I used to sing all the time. But I had a real high squeaky voice, and I remember auditioning for things and I got this part and my friend Mary was a really great singer, too, and I remember all the kids were telling me Mary should have got the part, that I had such a weird voice. I became terrified of singing. I had the weirdest voice. It feels like a totally different life from now because all I ever get now are compliments on my voice, just talking too. It’s so weird because as a kid I was afraid to talk to people. … In high school I would speak really soft; I was still terrified of it. I always wanted to sing, though. I love being on stage. …  I think my voice was a lot different before I met Nathan. It feels like a whole life away. … When I met Nathan, all the rules went out the window. I felt inspired. That’s when I found my true singing voice, was when I met Nathan and we started making music together.

Z Wolf: Her voice is like honey but sharp; it will cut you. She’s very diverse. I wanted to work with her immediately. I knew she had tons of potential. She’s very charismatic. I try to encourage her and push her to do more, be like a cartoon character almost. I always want her to be as ridiculous as possible. I think she holds back a lot still and I want her to let go completely. I have that reservation too. When I was in Town Monster we were playing out so heavily and I felt like a more confident singer and keyboard player and now I’ve been doing more production, so my production has got better but I’m dying to start playing piano more because I don’t want to lose that. I just want to be in a project that I love and I love our band.

DTWS heart mic

What’s your musical origin story, Nathan?

Z Wolf: I was in band in fourth through eighth grade and I really had no interest in it. It was a time killer. I liked messing around on the trombone or whatever but it didn’t click with me. … When I was 15 I went and got MIDI Notation software for $45 at CompUSA. I had already been writing lyrics in my sad little goth boy notebooks, but I took that software home and within an hour I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is what I want to do.’ Everything I made for years was horrendous. … I started making music by punching in notes on a computer. Eventually my mom let me trade in my trombone for a four track tape recorder and an acoustic guitar. I started singing and it was just raspy muttering. I just never stopped. I don’t think I’m truly talented. I think I just work really hard.

What does your work schedule look like? How often do you rehearse? 

Bobbi Kitten: All the time.

Z Wolf: Yeah, we’re pretty obsessed.

Bobbi Kitten: Sometimes we’ll take a week off where we don’t rehearse, but when we’re not rehearsing we’re writing or we’re working on video or something. It’s always very consistent. Having a set rehearsal schedule doesn’t work for us because it takes away from the creative process. We already have the discipline and sometimes you just don’t feel like doing certain things. You kind of have to go with your creative impulse as far as what to work on each day.

Z Wolf: I felt like I was in the worst dry spell of my life in 2011. I’ve been pretty prolific. I’ve written hundreds of songs, but that was the biggest period of time where I didn’t write a lot of stuff. I don’t really know why but I don’t look at it as much of a rut now because during that time period I got a lot better at production. And, really, we had met at that time and I think I just needed some time to fall in love. At the time I was stressed out about it. … Then I made a solo album in, like, a week. It’s not the best thing I’ve ever done but for various reasons I do like it. It’s dark and depressing. That was the end of my dry spell. I kind of had to force myself to make that. At the time I was not impressed with it at all but having some time away from it I like how it’s me and I like how different it was for me. It’s all crazy vocal effects and Auto-Tune, which I think everyone in the world hates except me, but I think that album feels like this weird subterranean world unto itself and, in that, mission accomplished.

How would you describe how Nathan uses Auto-Tune?

Bobbi Kitten: It’s very textural. He paints this line that’s light pink and then he puts all this darkness around it but it just becomes a part of the light pink. He keeps the darkness light.

DTWS equipment detail

DTWS equipment cat shot

What equipment do you use?

Z Wolf: My favorite part about being an electronic artist is that it’s so malleable. This keyboard doesn’t make sound on its own and those two devices there don’t make sounds on their own. But then you plug them into the computer and they do whatever you want them to do. We’re doing all sorts of crazy silly shit up there. We’re using a keyboard to play all the keyboard sounds but we’re using the faders and knobs and sometimes we’re turning drums on or off or we’re setting effects. She triggers a lot of vocal effects on stage, she triggers different clips, like a bass line or drums. We put different samples on this thing and can play with them in so many ways. It’s total madness.

Bobbi Kitten: The past year I feel like I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘What are these machines? Play a real instrument.”

Z Wolf: I used to see this guy whose truck I saw all the time and I just wanted to ram him with my car because he had a bumper sticker that said “Drum Machines Have No Soul” and it was like, drumkits don’t have a soul either! The drummer has the soul.

Bobbi Kitten: Being a singer songwriter doesn’t get me excited. With Ableton [the brand of the musical tech they use], there are all of these new sounds that people haven’t really used before that we can manipulate and that really inspires me.

What are your goals musically?

Bobbi Kitten: We have a lot of plans for our live show. Right now we have synced music videos that go along with our live performance but we will also have midi-controlled lights in the near future. We don’t want to give away too much of what else we plan to do but definitely a lot of cool technical shit that will embrace a lot of new technology.

If you could invite three artists, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?

Damn the Witch Siren:

1) Marilyn Monroe

2) Morrissey

3) Tom Waits

Bobbi Kitten:

1) Edie Sedgwick. She was extremely witty but she was also a character. She was someone else when she went out and I want to see that in execution. I always wondered what it would be like to be really witty and clever and in it. She seems like one of the most interesting people.

2) Patty Griffin. She’s a folk singer songwriter. I admire her and she was one of the first singer songwriters that moved me to tears. She writes in other people’s bodies. She’s an 80-year-old woman one day and a man the next day.

3) Marilyn Monroe. Everyone has an opinion about who she was as a woman, but I feel like they don’t understand how dynamic of a human being she was. I understand her want to be validated for her art. And falling in love with brilliant men. I feel like she was just a soulful, thoughtful person.

Z Wolf:

For the record, my answers would change every day.

1) J.K. Rowling. I would just love to talk to her about her books. And just cry on her shoulder. “Why would your fiction hurt me that badly?”

2) Jesus. I think he gets a bad rap nowadays. I’ve done a lot of studying of spirituality and I think he had it right. It’s impressive how much I agree with the things he strictly said. Even if the rest of the Bible is bullshit, Jesus had his head on straight.

3) John Lennon. For similar reasons. I know so much about the guy already I don’t know how much I could glean from having dinner with him, but I really honor him and he’s a big hero of mine. He was so compassionate and he wanted to do good in this world. Also, he was terribly flawed. But he meant well and he really did take strides in his life to become a better person and I’m all about that. I was a shitty teenager and I’ve been a selfish person through a lot my life, everyone is, and I think it’s important to take a step back and look at who you are and try to be better.

DTWS k and z in studio

New play features stories of former female prisoners of Columbus

rachels house

Scotland-based playwright Nicola McCartney’s newest work not only debuts in Columbus this week, it is titled after a local reentry support program for former female prison inmates.

Rachel’s House is located in Franklinton and is an arm of Lower Lights Ministries. In response to the fact that the number of women in Ohio prisons, which is typically higher than national averages, continues to grow, Rachel’s House provides resources for former inmates who choose to enter the program.

Addiction recovery is high on the list of program priorities, as is developing a path for economic and emotional stability.

McCartney, who is a longtime friend of a Rachel’s House staffer, visited the center in 2012 to conduct a creative writing session with the women in the program. She wove together the stories that that and following visits garnered into the play “Rachel’s House.”

The play’s stories come from former prostitutes, drug dealers and perpetrators of violent crimes. The stories are at times shocking, funny and sad. The women they belong to have varying outlooks on their responsibility in the paths they took. They are victims of poverty, of abuse, of themselves. It’s also a revelatory look at the prison system and the community and anti-community that can form under a female prison’s restrictions.

“Rachel’s House” premieres this week in Columbus and includes a private showing at Marysville’s Ohio Reformatory for Women.

“It’s not a very naturalistic play,” said Jessie Glover Boettcher, one of Wild Goose Creative’s co-founders and artistic director for “Rachel’s House.” “Watching it, you experience emotions in waves. I think the audience will have that experience of grieving with the women. There’s something about you that is revealed to you no matter what complex reaction you have to women in prison, women who are addicted or selling their bodies.”

McCartney’s editing of the stories aimed to not exploit nor sanitize the real experience but to also maintain the women’s point of views.

“It’s like the difference between a textbook and a memoir,” Glover Boettcher said comparing this play to if a film documentary were made on the same subject. “There’s subjectivity to it.”

“Rachel’s House” is relatable in a broad sense; its overarching theme is one of “recovery from all kinds of addictions and attachments and relationships,” Glover Boettcher said.

The production is also intriguing because it’s a safe space for stories we don’t typically get to hear–like how one woman’s near humorous resourcefulness got her home after waking up in Cincinnati after spending the night with a trick.

After its Columbus run, “Rachel’s House” will be performed in theaters in Oregon and the UK. Hopefully it brings some attention to the Franklinton program Rachel’s House, which has an impressive success rate of helping women stay out of prison–of the nearly 100 women who have chosen to enter the program only around 14 have been locked up again.

“There’s so much energy right now about Franklinton, and this is a long-standing organization there where these stories have developed,” Glover Boettcher said. “I’m hopeful for a real growing harmony between what was there and what is coming there.”

“Rachel’s House” by Nicola McCartney

Tickets: $10

May 15 @ Gladden Community House

May 16 @ Van Fleet Theater

May 17 @ Wild Goose Creative

Alternative Fashion Week’s keychains

I got a nice little surprise this week from my badass friends behind the Columbus Alternative Fashion Week, an event in its inaugural year that celebrates and promotes independent fashion designers of Columbus. (The big finale runway showcase of those designers is this Friday. Get there.) The team designed this keychain with the words “Columbus For a Reason” inspired by a post I wrote that referenced why we live in Columbus and not a city like L.A. or New York. What an honor! You can get one for free at any fashion week event. My reasons for living in Columbus are many, but the fact that independent artists are valued here is tops.

Columbus For a Reason


Disney World’s Greatest Lesson for Adults

I have family in Orlando and my Ohio family regularly visits the Sunshine State. Disney World is our playground of choice. We love the Mouse’s house, offensively overpriced hot dogs and cucumber salads be damned.

I have been to Disney World as an adult four or five times. I only went as a kid once, I think, and at that point I was a teenager, so I’ve never really experienced it as a child. That’s OK. There’s so much to love about it as a grown up–even a princess-questioning lady grown up–because it is so creative.

Everything at Disney World is thoughtful, visually speaking. Disney gets down to every last detail.

Here’s an example. On our most recent visit my family stayed at The Pop Century resort, a hotel the Disney empire operates.  The buildings of the resort are decorated with giant metal sculptures of American cultural icons–mood rings, 8-tracks, a Yo-Yo.

Our courtyard this go-round was home to a two-story foosball playground.


And this guy. A four-story Big Wheel (which, neither here nor there, I like to imagine was used in a giant’s version of “The Shining” and that Jack Nicholson the Giant was a real diva on set… “I ordered whales for dinner! Not elephants! Someone is getting fired! I’m Jack Nicholson the Giant!).

big wheel

A massive Big Wheel would have been impressive enough, right? Where else can you see that out your hotel window? But, alas, Disney details ensue.

big wheel detail

That reads “Recommended Child Weight 877 Pounds.” Clever. Thoughtful.

That is just one example of many in an entertainment complex that is big and powerful enough to be its own city, but you get the idea.

So here it is. My takeaway for life from Disney has nothing to do with dreams or wishes or romance or anthropomorphic ducks. It is this: For best results, never half-ass anything and never stop trying to make things better.  I’ll take honest effort over wishing on stars any day.

Batman for (most) Straight Girls

This past Monday I had the great honor of participating in comedian Dustin Meadows’ monthly Struck a Nerve show at Wild Goose Creative in Clintonville. At these shows, writers, comedians and artists wax poetic and irreverent on different themes. For example, last month’s topic was 2013; I do believe a character who was a pot-themed wedding planner of gay weddings made an appearance. So, yes, fun. This month’s edition was focused on… Batman! Here’s my piece and its PowerPoint images transcribed as best I could for a blog post. If you missed the show, I regret to inform you you missed out on a great night. That’s OK. Just come next month.


Batman for (most) Straight Girls: An Essay

why so serious

My hypothesis is that most modern American straight women have a similar storied relationship with The Dark Knight. It’s not that we don’t like Batman, it’s that our relationship to Batman (and superheroes)–like our relationships to most things–is fucking complicated.

It goes a little something like this.

Girls meet Batman in childhood. Through cartoons, movies,  the lunchboxes of little boy classmates and little girls with hip, gender-neutral parents. AND… costumes.

batman tutu

Every Halloween there is a little girl dressed up as Batman. It’s cute. Yellow and black are complementary colors that look good on even your ugly child. And how sassy with the tutu!

Ask the little girl who Batman is, though, and she likely doesn’t know. I mean, she’ll probably say super cutely “Batman!” but she doesn’t really know who he is other than that one guy with the suit.

Funny, because fast forward just a few precious years later and there’s a high possibility she’ll be wearing a Batman costume again.

party down batman

I’m Batman Barbie.

To be fair, a decent number of little boys do not know who or what they are dressed up as either. This is kind of the beauty of being a kid—you’re adorable until you start to have your own opinions and liking your own things and choosing your own Halloween costumes.

At 11 or 12 I chose to draw stubble on my face with a permanent marker and don my least favorite coat for Halloween. I was “Hobo In Windbreaker.” This was, I believe, the last year my parents let me trick or treat.

Anyway, Batman is a cultural force. His sixteen pack is everywhere and it is hard to ignore.

As an average little girl your interest in kind of starts to wane [(Bruce) Wayne (heyo!)] as you find your own interests and the allegories that best relate to your own tiny life.

Some of what kids are into, gender difference-wise, happens organically. Batman is OK to Girl Average, but there are not a lot of girls around and there’s a lot of kicking and his best friend/ sidekick is honestly kind of annoying, like a little brother or something.

I was way into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a kid. Not because of the turtles; because of April.


April! We had so much in common, her and little I! I mean just look at our lives! We both had red hair! And we both…. had …  red hair…

So some of it happens organically but a lot of what kids are into is marketing, subtle or otherwise. Google image search “superheroes for girls tshirt” and you will get multiple takes on this theme:


If it isn’t “GIRLS RULE” screaming desperately from your pre-pubescent mosquito bites, it is an image of myriad female comic characters slinging some message of teamwork and friendship. I bet girls would like to don a little ass kicking in something meaningless like a T-shirt, too.

I imagine some marketing centaur somewhere steaming, “You know what we need to teach these asshole mean girls about? Friendship.”

My point here is that I think little girls are often socially herded into caring about cartoons and things that aren’t violent. Or if they are violent or heroic in some physical capacity they are rooted in teamwork and friendship (ie. Power Puff Girls).

While Batman has his helpers, he is, at the root of it, a lone bat, and that is what is so appealing about him on some level. I think girls could really use that a dose of imaginary self-reliance and responsibility via technicolor, to hell with self-isolation’s repercussions.

We want to feel the rage of righteous dark justice, too, bro.

Back to marketing of Batman, et al. It becomes a whole new nemesis as an adult. Here’s an example of a recent superhero t-shirt design for grown women compared to one for little boys.

i need a hero be a hero

Yeah, Pow, indeed. Pow right to your sense of being taken seriously by anyone who sees you wearing that T-shirt.

The psychology happening in these designs is a whole other item of rant, but it kind of lays the groundwork for the way young adult women interact with the Batman.

I used to use Batman as a pickup line. Asking a man “Batman or Superman” and judging him thusly was like a game of existential foreplay.

If a man selected Batman he was probably a jerk and thus more likely to get laid at 21. If a man selected Superman he was probably a lonely, tormented dreamer and most likely to spend two lonely, tormented years with me at 22. If he said Spiderman he was probably Friend Zoned immediately and married by 24 to someone who was not me.

I stopped asking this question when a dude responded, “Wonderwoman, baby.”

Why did I do that? Chicks! Why do we do that? It’s not like a man has ever asked me if I was more into Nsync or Backstreet Boys and took me seriously when I explained why.

And, honestly, I probably wouldn’t want him to. If Bronies have taught us anything, it is that there is little sexual attraction to be found in grown men who hitch their wagons to the little pink ponies of our girlhood.

bronie yes

So superheroes can become an interest you feign–like watching sports or Robocop–to get a boy to like you. Then you grow up and kind of stop giving a shit and figure out what you really do like.

I discovered I loved Batman for the most stereotypical of reasons–Heath Ledger.

An ex of mine really wanted to see “The Dark Knight” when it came out in the theaters. I had stopped using existential superhero foreplay at this point but I should have on him. He loved Gambit, the wily little magic card player who could manipulate any energy he touched.

Yeah. Sounds familiar.

OK, so, Heath had just offed himself and well, morbid interest. Like I said, girls are dark.

(And, hey, just a feminist aside here: Did anyone else notice that part of the mythos of Heath’s suicide is that he was just so twisted from really getting into his acting and playing such a demented character and it just took over? And also Christian Batman Bale’s epic meltdown on the Terminator set was forgiven just a little bit because of all that high-octane action? Meanwhile, Lindsay Lohan is just a crazy drug addled asshole who deserves to never work again and suffer a lifetime of shame for her mistakes? Maybe they’re all assholes. Maybe you’re the asshole, America.)

OK, so we are watching The Dark Knight. It’s in the movie theater and the screen is larger than Wonderwoman’s boobs. The sound is eerie and the mind-fuck that the leading actor is now six feet under in the reality you are actually living in but don’t feel a part of anymore because the story unfolding in front of you is so honest but surreal and putting you in a whole tailspin of storytelling and… Holy shit, Batman! I love Batman! I want to know all about Batman!

And so I learned all I could about Batman. I bought comics. I watched as many Adam Batman West episodes as I could physically handle (which really wasn’t many). I was super secret Batman fan girl.

Why super secret you ask?

Because America is an asshole.

I knew myself well enough to know my intense interest in Batman would last about a year. I would consume as much of its darkness as I could and move on to a new interest that sated my need for sanely expressing and releasing the reasons for my own dark nights.

See, if you’re a girl who says you like Batman and do not know everything about Batman and/ or comics ever, you run the risk of being stereotyped into this:



Heaven forbid you have a fleeting, varied interest in a subject on your journey through millions of life subjects.

My Batman obsession has been replaced since then with other things that help me feel like my own natural darkness ain’t so twisted. Like a six-month long X-Files binge. A brief but intense obsession with Iron Maiden. An even more brief attempt to learn to play clarinet again.

Dark, dark things.

Now, I, like, I’d venture to say, most grown modern straight woman, am… just a bitch that likes Batman.

never forget

Ten Questions for a Fortune Teller: Meag the Happy Medium

I love love just as much as, maybe more than, the next heartsick gal, but the trope of red hearts can get tiresome. Also tiresome: the anti-valentine’s shtick (you’re lying to yourself and we all know it!).

Solution: Dark Love, an evening of loving love and admitting the darkness that can often accompany it.

In addition to dark-love themed art (example: Meghan Ralston’s real-life-looking knit heart that has strings you can pull until it falls apart… life! art! imitating!), there will be live music, dance performances, live art making (including that by one of my favorites, W. Ralph Walters) and… fortune telling! Huzzah! That’s a fun date idea. Or perhaps a terrible one?

Regardless, the fortune teller on hand at the Dark Art show will be Meag The Happy Medium, a sweet lady who regularly gives readings at The Magical Druid in Clintonville. Catch up on some of what goes into her work below and get a reading tomorrow. See you then.

Dark Love art show

7-11 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14

Strongwater Food and Spirits/ 400 West Rich

 Meag the happy medium

What is a medium? How would you define the work you do?

Technically, a medium is a title for someone of the Spiritualist movement, which was a religious movement that flourished between the 1840s through the 1920s, but still carries on to this day. Spiritualists believe in communication with the dead, usually through seances.

That being said, I am neither a Spiritualist, nor do I communicate with peoples’ dead relatives as a part of my profession. I’m a fortune teller and spiritual counselor, in general.

Why designate yourself as the Happy Medium?

The name began as a joke back in college, when my cousin and I were living together. She was the more talented fortune teller in those days, and I teased her that she should call herself the “Happy Medium” as a reference to the idiomatic expression meaning the halfway point between two extremes. Not too hot, not too cold, but rather just right.

When she didn’t choose to use the name, I took it for myself, originally to use as a part of a pen name for a comedy blog. The blog lasted for about a dozen articles before the jokes petered out, and the questions took a decided turn for the serious. People seemed to really accept the answers I was giving them, and I thought it might be time for me to give their questions more weight.

How did you get involved with this line of work?

This time around, I contacted the owner of a local art gallery named “Also Goods” in Clintonville after she advertised needing fortune tellers for a weekend shift. I lived just down the street from them, and throughout 2011 I would do readings among some amazing local art.

Overall though, I started learning to read tarot cards when I was really young. As a kid, it was sort of a parlor trick I could do that amused my Grandma and her friends. I’ve picked up a myriad of fortune telling skills over a lifetime, from reading tea leaves, to the spots on dice, to crystal balls and candles. I enjoy finding patterns throughout the world that help me navigate my way and help others find their path.

What appeals to you about doing this kind of work?

I love being able to give people that confidence boost. I’m a great listener, and I love to hear others tell me about themselves. I enjoy reading for regular clients of course, but reading for total strangers is my favorite. I’ll get done with a reading where I’ve told them all about themselves, and they will say something like, “Aw, but I knew all that already!” at which point I get to reply with my favorite answer, “Yeah, but I didn’t!” I get to be independent confirmation from the Universe.

What are the challenges of being a medium?

Giving bad news. Sometimes, there are indications of what I might call “clouds on the horizon.” I can usually give a fair estimate (give or take) of about when it looks like an event might happen. But it’s never pleasant or easy news to break. I try to frame situations in terms of Opportunities and Challenges as often as I can, but sometimes there are clear indicators that I would be remiss if I ignored or omitted. That’s part of the job though, giving people a heads-up if I have an idea that they need to prepare for something.

I imagine being a medium is like any other craft… you grow with it the longer you are involved with it. Is your work or approach to the work any different than it was five years ago?

My approach hasn’t changed much over the years, except that as I get older the more comfortable I get with having a reputation for being a fortune teller. I do it both as entertainment and as guidance, which is as I’ve always considered it. I’m probably more careful about emphasizing to clients that my advice does not replace the advice of a licensed professional, be they legal, medical, or whatever. I don’t mind being a sounding board, friend, or counselor, but part of my “prescriptions” can absolutely include instructions to get additional help.

Do you yourself go see a medium or ever read your own cards? Is that possible?

That all depends on the reader! I actually have a cute little app on my phone that I use to pull my daily card, and it’s surprisingly apt on most days. If I have a specific question on my mind, or really feel the need for impartial guidance, I sometimes ask friends who also read to pull a card for me, or I go to another reader for a full spread. It’s never so much about what tool is used in fortune telling, but about the perspective that someone else can provide.

Do you have to go into a certain mindset to do the fortune telling or does having this ability interfere with your daily life at all? For example, are you at your day job and see something about someone, clouds on the horizon perhaps, and have to keep it to yourself?

I don’t often bring up my fortune telling at my day job. I find that life is easier if I keep the two separate in general. But the skill of finding patterns and identifying trends isn’t anything that I can “turn off” either. I try not to focus on individual people in those terms if I’m not being asked for help – nobody likes a buttinski – rather I try to focus on patterns that I can identify in a larger business sense, in a way that applies to the job I’m doing.

Kind of on that note, does this ability affect your personal relationships, for better or worse? 

I try to use the “soft skills” that I employ with clients with the people in my life as much as possible. Active listening, being emotionally supportive, honest when asked for my opinion, those are all things that I make sure to do when I’m reading for someone. I feel that my personal relationships deserve at least as much effort as I can afford to provide for clients and strangers I meet at events. In that way, I feel like it helps my relationships and informs how I approach conflict within my own life.

As for having those moments of insight about the people in my life, it depends on what sort of inkling I’ve gotten. If someone I love has asked for a reading, of course I give them my best, but it’s not something I try to do often. It’s far more emotionally taxing on both them and I, usually because of our lack of objectivity in a situation. It really can be hard to see the forest for the trees.
If you could invite three people, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would they be and why?

Sybil Leek, the famous UK witch and goddaughter of Aleister Crowley, Amanda Palmer the artist/musician, and Tim Curry the actor. Because doesn’t that just sound like fun? 😉


10 Questions for an Artist: Illustrator Larry Doyle

Larry Doyle in his Tacocat studio holding his latest work.
Larry Doyle in his Tacocat studio holding his latest work.

Larry Doyle turns 26 today, but he cannot deny the velocity his 25th year took to get him here.

“This has been a great year of super high highs and super low lows,” Larry said during a New Year’s Eve interview at his studio in Tacocat Cooperative in Grandview. “I think you just learn how to keep the table from tipping over.”

At 25, Larry came out to his mom and friends as a gay man.

“I got really freaked out that I’d be 40 and married with kids. I want to be happy,” he said. “I kept it inside for so long because I don’t want to be somebody’s gay friend. I don’t want to be the gay artist.”

It’s fair to say Larry hates labels. Or, more accurately, I think Larry hates the way labels can dismiss everything else not under the umbrella of said label. Labels inherently deny genuineness, the dynamics of a personhood.

For example, Larry has been sober for years. It’s a big part of his art, but recently on vacation to Mexico he took a day to get drunk.

“I’d been wanting to for a while. Nothing changed. I drank for hours. I got drunk. But I didn’t have fun. I was like, I’m done,” he said. “I had to know. Sobriety became bigger than me. People who didn’t know me but wanted to talk to me just about being sober. It became bigger than who I was.”

It’s clear Larry wants to define Larry, I think in part because it’s challenging for him to define himself to himself. When other people’s generalizations get involved, it’s hard to not take that personally.

“I have an addictive personality in general. I found that out coming out, too,” he said. “This summer I started dating a boy and I was not myself. I was addicted to this kid. And it wasn’t anything he did. It was horrible. We were building Tacocat and I couldn’t focus on anything. Dating to me was like ‘Let’s move in!'”

Larry said he’s learning to channel all that addictive tendency into his work. And what’s so great is that you can see this in not just how more prolific he is getting (he admits to making and completing and selling more works than he ever has in the past year) but in what his art expresses. Larry’s quest for self-awareness is coming through in his art and the more he understands himself–or keeps trying to understand himself–the deeper that work will get.

He’s a man with a plan for 26, too.

“I want to go national with my artwork. I don’t how to do that. I don’t know what the fuck i’m doing,” he laughed. “Before I hit 30 I want to be able to happliy do this for a living. I want my creative outlets to flourish. What if this was my office? How fucking sweet would that be?”

Read on to see just how Larry’s subject matter is shifting and what challenges he faces as a young artist.


Doyle painting 1

See Larry’s art:



Cafe Brioso

Through January

14 E. Gay St., Downtown



The Oak Room in Deepwood

Opens Jan. 11, 2014

511 N. High St., Short North



What is your training as an artist? 

[Columbus-based artist] Dan Gerdeman was my teacher in high school. I showed him my really crappy sketchbook and he assigned me to Drawing 3, which was the hour-long drawing class. I moved into Junctionview and shared a studio there after high school. I did all the events, sold a few paintings here and there. I took a drawing class at Columbus State. I wanted to go to CCAD but it was too much money so we wrote it off. Then I looked at Full Sail University in Florida for a while and a two-year program would leave me thousands of dollars in debt. When I did go to Columbus State I hated all of it and didn’t really do well. i just dropped out of that. Academia is not for me. … There’s a roablock now because I don’t have the training. I just got a trial on my computer for Adobe Illustrator. There’s a lot of marketing I don’t know how to do, and I want to draw other things, I want to draw more Realism, I just don’t have the training. The first time I realized I could sell stuff was this series I did for, like, Agora Six. I made these little guys that had cigarette burns and they were screaming and bleeding. It was very Don Hertzfeldt.


What medium and tools do you prefer? 

Pen and paper all the way. I just got Adobe Illustrator two days ago. I’m always digging [Columbus-based artist] Clinton Reno’s stuff, the rock posters. I love the flat design. I want to push myself into making prints.


Doyle tattoo
A drawing of Larry’s tattoo of the heads that count his time sober.


What has been inspiring your work lately?

I love iconography, icons in art. I’ve been making this little guy, the guy I often draw, into a saint. I don’t know why; I just love the details and all the halos. There’s no name for him. sometimes they’re self portraits, sometimes they’re just… weird. After I quit drinking, I would draw these heads as date markers. I have a tattoo of a bunch of the heads and I keep a print of it above my studio door. I started to put wings on the heads, little halos. … I’ve always been interested in symbols. Being closeted for so long I’ve had to find different ways to express myself. We all attach different meanings to things. Icons, I love the way they look. They play with the symbols of what it means to me and people can put their own meanings into them too.

doyle studio details

doyle illustration halo new

What in your art career are you most proud of so far?

This piece I made last night [which Larry is holding in the photo that starts this blog post]. I really like it. Like I said, I make these guys, they all have golden halos. Last night I started drawing another one and I put an upside down cross and right side up cross near him. The upside down cross kind of represents blasphemy. He doesn’t have any gold in his halo but there’s a red circle around him that gives the affect of a halo–and also of a target.

These guys are saints and he doesn’t have any gold so he’s not a saint. But he still has a halo. Maybe I’ll keep going with them and put some gold in them, have them be targets but saints as well. … Sometimes when I look back on a piece I can tell if I was feeling lost or sad, and that’s not something I’m thinking about when I’m making them. Days later I’ll be like, “Damn. That was pretty heavy.” I like the heads that count my days of sobriety, but this most recent work is an expression of how I feel, not what I did.

When I came out I was like <snaps finger> “Solved.” That wasn’t the case at all. I’ve been struggling with how to pull that struggle out of myself this past year and put it into art. I always get super pumped when people make paintings that can do that. [Larry’s studio neighbor] Brian [Reaume] makes these amazing abstract pieces and I, of course, am a child and am like “I see a dinosaur!” But seriously, I get to see him make his stuff now which is so awesome. His piece for artist Stephanie Rond‘s Tiny Out Loud project was about creativity and sheltering it and the war on being creative and being yourself. It’s a painting of a house and the outside of the house had the words like fag and die and stuff like that. Finding the way to be vulnerable on the page like that is crazy.

Doyle illustration one

Doyle illustration 3

Has working in a studio near an intimate group of artists affected the way you work?

I love it. I’ve learned a lot from Brian. He is so about presentation. I’ve learned a lot being here, surrouding myself with people like Adam Brouillette. I’ve learned a lot by watching them and how they present their artwork and the steps they take. Like, when I take this show to Brioso, I will wrap each piece in paper so they don’t get scratched. I threw away a frame yesterday because it had a scratch. I’m not going to put all this time into a drawing and put it in this frame that is scratched. It’s going to ruin the whole thing. I know I am obsessive, that I have an addictive personality, but I’ve learned to turn it into a positive. This is the first year I’ve actually taken myself seriously. I’d done art before but it was like, my friends are here, your friends are here. Now I have people like Brian right next door telling me to get my ass there and work. I’m incredibly fortunate to be next door to these guys.


A present from Brian.
A present from Brian.

What do you do while you work?

I listen to music. Lately I’ve been listening to The Walkmen. Interpol. I like throwing it back a little bit. I’ve been trying to get through the top albums of 2013 lists. I’ve tried to watch movies before. I started watching American Horror Story but then I just shut the lights off and watched the whole thing. I just bought “Prefuse 73 Reads The Books” on iTunes yesterday and I’ve already listened to it, like, seven times. I sometimes draw better, too, when people are in my studio, just hanging out.

doyle studio detail 2

Do you ever experience artist’s block? How do you overcome it?

Yes. That’s really frustrating when that happens. I’m fortunate enough to have music and art, so when I’m here and I can’t get through it I go play music for a while. It comes in waves. I’ll be really into writing guitar stuff for like a month and then I will have to be here in the studio all the time. Sometimes the solution is just putting on a CD you haven’t heard in a while or driving to Cincinnati to visit the art museum. Sometimes if I don’t want to draw and know I need to I just scribble. Muscle memory. Even if you just take a canvas and just fuck with it. Sometimes just being here and putting that energy you will have a moment like that it clears out and it’s like fucking finally. Or Brian and I will “go for a walk” and just go to Target and walk around and stare at boys or I go to Giant Eagle and just get a piece of fruit or something. Sometimes just walking away from it is super refreshing.

What is the hardest part about being an artist?

The talking. There’s the business aspect of this stuff I always forget about. If you want to make money, you have to talk. I don’t really want to talk. It feels so cheesy using any kinds of sales tactics. Art’s so personal. I’m going to buy this piece because i want it, not because you’re selling it to me. It’s not a fucking couch.

It’s awesome to do this and be in music. I’ve done a lot of stuff this year. My band [The Weight of Whales] opened for Alt J at the LC. Things like being on stage or doing a show are so much for me, though. Like, when I’m done I’m like just hold me. You have to always be on. Playing a show is a lot of fun and you get to be a rockstar but you have to be on. If you fuck up everyone fucks up. Or being at long shows like Agora that are eight hours long. Afterward I just shut my door and get really depressed. It’s so draining. But it’s totally worth it.


What advice that you’ve found invaluable would you give a new artist?

A whole bunch. One of the things I like a lot is people telling me hard work pays off. It’s true. You just have to do it. It’s not going to be easy. The things that come together easily will fall apart easily. If it’s a strugle it will be worth it. That’s so hard to tell yourself when you’re sitting here and you’re like “I can’t draw anything” and all I draw is penises randomly. That sucks. But you have to be here. I can’t take naps anymore because I feel the need, the drive to be in my studio. If you want it, you’ll do it. Before this last year I didn’t finish a lot of things. It’s the closure. Moving on. Doing the next thing. It’s weird. It’s hard for me.


Three artists, living or dead that you would invite to a dinner party:

We’ll stay away from musicians because that list will just go on and on.

Spiritus Tattoo’s Mike Moses. I don’t know anything about this person but his Instagram posts are awesome. [Follow Mike @TheDrownTown] I’m obsessed with his artwork. I want him to do my next tattoo. I want two whales on my chest. Everything he does is so clean and thought out, and the line work is amazing.

Alex Pardee. 

Brandon Boyd. His work is phenomenal.


An ode to the forgotten Pink Lady

My mom has gifted me at least three copies of “Grease” in my lifetime. I own zero now. I probably sold the DVDs at some point while taking care of my long line of Kenickies.

That’s OK. I can recite the movie by heart because I was incredibly obsessed with it as a child, teenager, young adult and quarter-life crisis adult.

Not obsessed in that weird theater kid way, though. The songs were fine but I didn’t, like, have the “Grease” soundtrack in every room of the house and I don’t know the sock hop dance number.

In hindsight (because who can pick this up about themselves as a kid?) what I really liked about “Grease” was the Pink Ladies and the different ways they were girls.


Rebellious friends running the halls of Rydell, the Pink Ladies gave me a unique place to consider the different ways to be feminine, to be a girl.

I was never interested in Sandy except that her story was what introduced me to all these other interesting people. That was probably because her life was too unattainable for a redhead with bad teeth. Girls like me didn’t get boys like Danny Zuko.

Also, as I got older, I realized Sandy was the type of girl who would bitch to the sluttiest friend she had about her all-encompassing fear of being labeled a slut for making out with a strange guy the night before when said slutty friend has just told her about fucking a strange guy the night before. Ugh.

Sandy Two-Shoes

When I was very young, I enjoyed Frenchy (who was totally the prettiest, right?). The Frenchy actress was on the Thomas the Tank Engine show in the ‘90s and I also watched it all the time. Kids’ interests are so associative.

But Frenchy was dumb. And I was not. So I always just felt for her like I would a best friend (she would have been a good one… flipping off those other cheerleaders… thanks, French).


Marty Maraschino, like the cherry, was eh. She was desperate with a leechy personality built on soggy expectations but redeemed herself in the final scene when she shows Sandy how to smoke a cigarette supa dupa sexay.


My girl for the longest time was Rizzo.

I always liked the leading lady’s best friend because that’s who I was in real life. One quarter good looking, three quarters personality/ possible mental health issue.


Rizzo was all vulnerability haphazardly masked in sexual rage. Tough stuff on the outside but a total kid when the going got tough, when the sex and problems got real. She was such a wannabe hardass.

Now that I could relate to.

But for all her flaws Rizzo would never give up who she was for a Danny Zuko type. Plus, who wanted a dude like Zuko? A guy who would change his personality at the drop of the hat like that? (Oh, yes, the Lackluster from Down Under, that’s who.)

I always crushed on Kenickie.

Yeah. I’ll take that Hallmark card, thank you very much.

kenicke hickey

Kenickie was wild and raw and scared of all the right things and handled them in all the wrong ways.

I loved it. And I loved Rizzo for loving it. That kind of attraction I could understand. Not the we-met-at-the-beach and-hung-out-for-two-days-and-shall-now-be-in-love-for-ev-er shtick.

White doves still poop orange slime.

I have a feeling the writers really liked Rizzo, too, or at least understood how dynamic of a character she was. Who did the movie pan to when the Principal McGee said on the final morning announcements that someone in the school might one day be the next Eleanor Roosevelt?

Rizzo, bitch!

Now… who are we missing… what was her name…



Oh, Jan. If you say Jan was your favorite Pink Lady you’re lying. Or you played her in your high school’s version of the musical.

Google search “Jan +Pink Ladies” and only the first three links are actually related to the character. The Google image search results for the same prompt don’t have ANY images of her or the movie.

That’s too bad. Here’s why.

If you did, indeed, play Jan in your high school’s version of “Grease,” you were probably the fifth best person who tried out for Sandy. However, if “Grease” were made today, Jan would be the main character, portrayed by Zooey Deschanel or Lizzy Caplan.

Her name would probably still be Jan.

Jan is super “awkward” in “Grease.” But because “awkwardness” had decades yet to become an attractive attribute of which to aspire–“Awkward” is like a nice, ironic wine–Jan is just a secondary character. Her quirkiness is evident but not gratuitous; her trashiness endearing.

Eating Twinkies with a dessert wine after nailing the impression of a hygienic cartoon beaver? That is manic pixie dream girl gold to film writers today! That scene could just be the trailer for the next Zach Braff movie.

Jan totally would be an example of 1970s’ manic pixie dream girls if not for the fact that, since no one back then appreciated the kind of character on screen, they couldn’t, didn’t sensationalize her. So we viewers are treated to sweet baby Grease-us’ funniest little diamond in the rough without her baking cupcakes and dancing in the rain and referencing great pieces of literature or partaking in hokey singalongs.

Well, I guess there were hokey singalongs.

The manic pixie dream girl thing seems over. It and the anchor-tatted mermaid it rode in on have been identified and thus become predictable, outdated. But Jan in this modern day context is a fun thing to consider on one’s 500th viewing of the movie.

I thought about Jan, briefly, after I watched “Gravity” this weekend. Sandra Bullock plays mission specialist (read: not a full-time astronaut) Dr. Ryan Stone. Stone is stranded in space after her crew’s mission gets bombarded by space debris and alien poop.

OK, not alien poop.

The last hour of the movie, basically, is just Bullock/ Stone trying to survive. Without giving away too many character developments, it struck me afterward–once I came back to earth (buh dum chi) from the pure visual and sonic joyride “Gravity” whips you around on–that it was interesting that the movie followed a female astronaut.

Having a man save himself seems like a more obvious writing choice, especially in 1) a major blockbuster and 2) a movie about space. Everyone knows girls don’t like science!

Sexual tension between Bullock and co-star George Clooney is nill. Refreshing.

Dr. Stone’s sadness, of which we learn about in the most unclumsy of ways, stems from a very human, universal experience of loss, one both a man and a woman could feel. Her trauma is not related to a sexual relationship with a man. Refreshing.

“Gravity” is also not a Girl Power promo piece. No one and nothing preaches “I’M… YEAH ME OVER HERE!… YEAH, I’M AN ASTRONAUT… AN ASTRONAUT WITH A VAGINA!!!!!!!” It’s just an awe-some human story told with a woman. Gender held no gravitas. Say it with me: Refreshing.

I love the dual role fictional characters’ lives, stories, worlds play. When done well they are at once the greatest of escapes but agents for social, cultural change. They help you forget about yourself for a few hours but, if you’re willing to listen, reveal parts of your person previously unearthed.

Even Sandy.