TheArtists3

The Artists

We usually do these interviews with one person, but when you’re talking arts and music, words like “usually” just don’t feel right. This time around, we put three people from three unique artistic disciplines on our cover, all of whom happen to live or keep shop in Hudson County. Meet Ron, Jennifer, and Paul — a celebrated POPaganda artist, a Broadway dancer, and a puppet maker, respectively. They each got the same eight questions. Hope you love the answers as much as we did.

 RON ENGLISH, Artist / Pop Iconoclast / Visual Satirist

HD: In twenty words or less, give a description of what you do for a living.

RE: Most of my income comes from selling paintings, the rest from designer toys, tee-shirts, music, comic books, personal appearances and things like that.

HD: Give us a brief run-down of your creative process. How do you get started? 

RE: I start with an idea, then I decide the best medium within which to realize the idea. I also have to consider the intended audience and what I ultimately want to achieve. Recently I did parodies of sugary breakfast cereals, so I created boxes of cereal with more honest packaging and reverse-shoplifted them onto supermarket shelves. I also made cereal premium parody toys like the ones that come in the box.

HD: If you had to pick one moment or period of your life from which you draw creative energy, what would it be and why? 

RE: Childhood. I had a pretty active imagination back then but lacked the skill set I developed later. I often feel like I am helping my inner child realize his vision. I’m stealing candy from my inner child.

HD: What is the role of your audience? Do you want to make things accessible for them, or do you expect them to have to think about your work? 

RE:  I like things to be as accessible as possible without limiting the expanse of my vision. I don’t want to pander, but what good is a joke that nobody gets? People are a lot smarter than the creativity community gives them credit for.

HD: Describe a professional achievement you’ve experienced that was a state of total bliss. 

RE: I liked being a character on The Simpsons. I felt for a brief moment that I really exist.

HD: “The arts” is used pretty liberally as an all-encompassing term. How would you define it? 

RE: A medium that has no other function beyond the transmission of an idea or feeling. You shouldn’t be able to fix your car with art.

HD: How often, if ever, does your work feel like a job, in that “oh man, it’s Monday” kind of way?

RE: I love Monday!

HD: What fosters your creativity? What impedes it?

RE: I don’t know. Maybe it’s like asking someone why they breathe. I guess my hands need something to do, just like my lungs need something to do. It’s unimpedible.

popagenda.com

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TheArtists2JENNIFER RIAS, Dance Captain / Swing / Performer in the Broadway Show Rock of Ages

HD: In twenty words or less, give a description of what you do for a living.

JR:  I sing, dance, act and help bring a Broadway show to life…eight shows a week!

HD: Give us a brief run-down of your creative process. How do you get started?

JR:  Inspiration is always at the base of my creativity. Whether it be an amazing theatrical experience, a song that moved me, or the sun shining outside. I think it’s so important to stay open to everything around us, so we can stay in touch with what affects us, and what makes each of us shine. Before every show I give myself a back story so I can feel like I’m creating a new point of view and keeping my performance fresh every night.

HD: If you had to pick one moment or period of your life from which you draw creative energy, what would it be and why?

JR:  I always reference a picture my Dad took of me from when I was 5 in ballet class.  I had on purple tights, a teal leotard, black shoes, my large head of curly hair and the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. Let’s just say everyone else was in pale pink with a bun!  When I look back at this time in my life, I am reminded that I have always had a strong sense of self and individuality. I draw creative energy from the fact that I’ve been able to stay true to myself, and make it a big part of the performer I am today.

HD:  What is the role of your audience? Do you want to make things accessible for them, or do you expect them to have to think about your work?  

JR: Both. I think sometimes as human beings we like to enjoy entertainment with no expectation or responsibility, but sometimes it is nice to have to use your head and stay engaged in a certain storyline or plot. Luckily, with the show I’m in now, audiences get a bit of both, and I think that balance really pays off.

HD: Describe a professional achievement you’ve experienced that was a state of total bliss.

JR:  I’ve worked hard my entire life, trained to be the best I could be, moved across the country from California to NYC, and lived on Top Ramen, just to have a chance to be in a Broadway show.  So, last year when I booked my first Broadway show, ROCK OF AGES, it was an achievement that I will forever be proud of. From the night I made my Broadway debut nine months ago until now, it’s been a state of “total bliss!” I am so grateful.

HD: “The arts” is used pretty liberally as an all-encompassing term. How would you define it?

JR: I would say the “Arts” to me stands as a term defining expression in whatever facet speaks loudest and clearest to you and your soul.

HD: How often, if ever, does your work feel like a job, in that “oh man, it’s Monday” kind of way?

JR: I am one of the very lucky ones who gets to do what I love for a living, but I would be lying if I said some days I didn’t know how I was going to get through the show! While I have the time of my life on that stage, it is exhausting doing it eight times a week. We do five shows in one weekend, and by the end of it, it feels like we’ve just run a marathon…that we have to come back and run all over again! That being said, once we walk through the stage door every night, we are instantly reminded how lucky we are, and we get pumped up to bring the audience to their feet once again!

HD: What fosters your creativity? What impedes it?

JR: Happiness fosters my creativity. I am a very positive person, and when I surround myself with people and things that make me feel supported with good energy, the sky is the limit.

On that same note, negativity and pessimism close me off and don’t allow me to be the best person I can be.

rockofagesmusical.com

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TheArtists1PAUL ANDREJCO, Owner, Puppet Heap / Puppet Maker 

HD: In twenty words or less, give a description of what you do for a living.

PA: We make puppets.

HD: Give us a brief run-down of your creative process. How do you get started?

PA: We usually have some sort of character type or personality in mind which we play around with on paper in the form of little pencil sketches. But, of course,  puppets express themselves both visually and through movement, so we then prototype and play with it until it seems to be doing what it should—embodying the character or story. Then comes the process of finishing the details—sculpting the features, stitching the costume, that sort of thing.  But it all starts very roughly with simple sketches, cardboard and tape.

HD: If you had to pick one moment or period of your life from which you draw creative energy, what would it be and why?

PA: I think it would have to be this moment.  Right now. There is so much that is uncertain, so much opportunity, so much change and fragility. It’s a transitional period. I think that is what inspires me the most — that place or period in between things, of becoming or falling apart.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Anything can happen.

HD: What is the role of your audience? Do you want to make things accessible for them, or do you expect them to have to think about your work?

PA: Both, for sure. Our work is relatively commercial and seeks to entertain above all, but I would not consider it successful if it didn’t stick with you in some way—some striking image or thought provoking idea.

HD: Describe a professional achievement you’ve experienced that was a state of total bliss.

PA: Well, two somewhat related events come to mind actually.  About a year ago I went to Poznan, Poland to show and speak about our films in a festival there called ANIMATOR FESTIVAL.  They were very well received by an audience of filmmakers and aficionados.  It was such a pleasure to spend a few days in that old city discussing film and reconnecting with friends and mentors I hadn’t seen for twenty years. Later that same year, some of our films were included in another festival called BAMcinematek: Puppets on Film. Not only was our work included among a roster of some really brilliant work by heroes and colleagues, but also alongside some examples of  the early work of Jim Henson which has been and continues to be a big inspiration for us. The audience of colleagues, kids and families seemed to really enjoy the films, so all in all, it was the best of what one hopes for when creating a thing—definitely a peak experience.

HD: “The arts” is used pretty liberally as an all-encompassing term. How would you define it?

PA: I accept it in its liberal and all-encompassing sense, with a lowercase “a.” I think too often we think of art and artists as somehow separate from our daily experience or outside of regular life. Art is really what happens when we put to purpose the world around us and create meaning where it otherwise would not exist.  People do that naturally everyday.

HD: How often, if ever, does your work feel like a job, in that “oh man, it’s Monday” kind of way?

PA: Pretty often. I own a studio called Puppet Heap, which serves a number of clients in the entertainment industry. We employ quite a few people and it takes a lot of resources, effort and organization to keep it going.

HD: What fosters your creativity? What impedes it?

PA: A good night’s sleep, a clear head and a hot cup of tea are good starts—cookies if it’s getting late. But seriously, I find collaborating in an open and experimental environment to be really exciting. I love it when an idea suddenly surprises us and just clicks. I suppose the impediment to that is a lot of premature criticism and negativity. Of course, all work must be analyzed at some point with a thoughtful, critical eye, but if that happens too early in the process it can really shut the door on those truly inspired amazing ideas no one saw coming.

puppetheap.com