Thursday Spotlight: Deniz Ayaz On the “Unpredictable Nature” of Watercolor and More

Whimsical, precise, and meditative, Deniz Ayaz’s illustrations and watercolors may make you hungry. She often creates tempting portraits, though her skills reach far beyond illustrations of food. Deniz has had works featured in leading outlets including The New York Times, Print Magazine, and more, and below we get to know the Greenpoint artist who dishes not just on her drawings but her favorite places to get baos, ice cream, and more.

Greenpointers: You mentioned you’ve lived in the neighborhood for a few years! Any favorite spots? How has Greenpoint treated you?
Deniz Ayaz: I remember the first time I went to Greenpoint. It was a small field trip with my illustration class to Pencil Factory in 2011. Meeting some of my favorite illustrators there was very inspiring and I can say that this neighborhood has always treated me well. I’ve met inspiring people (including my husband), discovered new spots, and never felt like I was not in a concrete jungle. 

Some of favorite spots in the area are Lot Radio for Saturday afternoons, Baoburg for yummy baos in the backyard, Polka Dot for homemade apple pie, Van Leeuwen for coffee ice cream, Maha Rose for soundbath, and Magick City for dancing, which I’ve recently discovered and been amazed by the space and events.

You dabble in a few different mediums: watercolor, ink… any favorites, and why?
I love the fluidity and unpredictable nature of watercolor. In the past, I’ve painted with various mediums including oil, acrylic, and gouache and it was great to experiment with all of them before finding the “one.” I enjoy creating abstract patterns in watercolor and most of the patterns I like tend to be the ones that are less structured.

Nowadays, it’s quite common to see people planning every second of their lives and try to control every little thing. As a result, it becomes hard to enjoy spontaneity. For me, painting with watercolor is a great way to let go, and it’s quite meditating. 

You had a piece in The New York Times — can you elaborate on that specific project?
It was for an op-ed article about nuclear wars in Iran. I was working with the illustrator and designer Mark Pernice when he received this project. We only had three hours to read the article, come up with a concept, and, by noon, we sent out the sketch to the art director and she liked where it was going. We’ve created this illustration digitally, listening to Atlas Sound in the background. It was a fun collaboration.

I love your food and drink illustrations. You seem to do a number of those. Is that something you’ve always enjoyed drawing?
I got commissioned work for various independent publications to create food and cocktail illustrations. I’ve also illustrated a map of Istanbul called Urban Metabolism which depicts a connection between body and city parts. Organic shapes, living products, and their life processes inspire me.

You’ve also designed handbags/totes/prints. How’d you get into that?
Few years ago, I took some silkscreen classes and I’ve hand-printed my patterns to tote bags and pouches. I’ve sold some of them, and gifted the rest to friends and family. I have a strong interest in patterns and see them around all me, mostly in nature.

Any upcoming projects you’re excited about?
I got involved with a small snowboard company based in Portugal and I’ll be designing a pattern for their next collection. I can’t wait to see my designs on an actual snowboard. Lastly, I am working on a collection of patterns in watercolor and ink and I’ll be printing these patterns to silk scarves. I’m planning to launch my own brand early next year. Stay tuned 😉

About Billy McEntee

Billy McEntee has been fortunate to work for arts non-profits in Boston, Denver, Berkeley, and now New York. His writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Brooklyn Magazine, Indiewire, HowlRound, Eclectica Magazine, and others. He's usually getting wine at Dandelion or eating cookies at Archestratus.

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